Clifton, Matthews on All-Pro Team

Longtime NFL writer Len Pasquarelli gives a tip of the cap to veteran left tackle Chad Clifton and NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews.

Just like tweets, and those always insightful "so how do you feel?" questions from sideline and postgame reporters, midseason All-Pro teams have become part of the NFL media coverage landscape.

Fine, we'll take the bait, even though no contract we know of includes a bonus for being named to a midseason team, and there are no awards involved.

A few things to note about The Sports Xchange team: First, they're more timely than most such fictitious teams, coming after Week 9 of the season. Most media outlets choose their midseason clubs after Week 8, which technically speaking, isn't midseason. Then again, neither is ours, since 130 games from the 256-game schedule have been played to date. Then again, 130 games is a lot closer to the 128-game halfway point than 117, which was the total following Week 8. Yeah, it's picking nits, we admit.

Second and perhaps more important: With only a few exceptions, The Sports Xchange chooses its all-pro squad the way teams line up to play. So, no easy way out such as picking two left tackles because the right tackles in the NFL are deficient, or a pair of free safeties, because they usually have better numbers than their strong safety counterparts.

So, have at it, detractors and debaters. It won't be tweeted, because the only Twitter with which this columnist is familiar is my wife's quiet laugh when she's reading a good book. And, please, no inane queries asking the awardees how they feel about being a part of The Sports Xchange team. Here it is, with appropriate comments when necessary:


WR Roddy White, Atlanta.

WR Brandon Lloyd, Denver: Now that he's quit moping about being an afterthought much of his career, Lloyd is posting big numbers. Very consistent for a guy who basically runs nothing more than vertical routes.

TE Antonio Gates, San Diego: Bout with plantar fascia injury has slowed him recently, but at age 30 and in his eighth season, Gates is averaging a remarkable 16.6 yards per catch. That's better than all but one of the 21 wide receivers with 40 or more catches for the season. And he's tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions.

LT Chad Clifton, Green Bay.

LG Carl Nicks, New Orleans: Catching up with right guard/partner Jahri Evans as a powerful in-line blocker and solid pass-pro guy.

C Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh: Sure, he's a rookie, but the Pittsburgh first-rounder has already proved himself worthy of the Mike Webster-Dermontti Dawson-Jeff Hartings lineage. After quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he might be the Steelers' most irreplaceable offensive player.

RG Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay.

RT Marshal Yanda, Baltimore.

QB Philip Rivers, San Diego: A few weeks ago, good friend Pete Prisco of CBS Sports glanced down press row at Lucas Oil Stadium as Peyton Manning hit passes to a bunch of no-names and noted, "He could throw to the three paisano guys here -- me, Pasquarelli, and (Vic) Carucci -- and somehow make it work." True enough. But how about Rivers this year? He's played the entire season without Vincent Jackson and still leads the NFL in attempts, passing yards, touchdowns and average gain per pass. His leading wide receiver, Patrick Crayton, wasn't even with the Chargers in training camp. And raise your hand, please, if you've got Legedu Naanee, or Seyi Ajirotutu on your fantasy team. Yeah, thought so.

RB Darren McFadden, Oakland: Regarded as a first-round bust entering the season, the former Arkansas star is just 100 yards shy of surpassing his rushing total for the first two years combined of his NFL career. McFadden has four 100-yard outings and is tied for the league-high in 40 yard carries (three).

FB Vonta Leach, Houston.


LE Haloti Ngata, Baltimore: Arguably the league's best unknown front seven player, an immovable force against the run and getting much better as a rusher, as evidenced by the fact he's already tied his career high for sacks (5.0).

DT Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta.

NT (4-3) Tommy Kelly, Oakland: Very active, and can get into the gap as a rusher. Probably better versus the pass than the run, but should not be overlooked.

NT (3-4) Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland: A load, and he makes it tough to run against an underrated Cleveland defense. Provides the Browns a young anchor around whom to build. One of the primary reasons Cleveland has surrendered a league-low one rushing touchdown this season.

RE Osi Umenyiora, N.Y. Giants: Good thing he didn't carry through on those posture-driven summertime retirement threats, huh?

SLB Clay Matthews III, Green Bay.

Clay Matthews
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
MLB (4-3) Ray Lewis, Baltimore: Sure, he's a half-step slower than when he was in his prime, but he is just as fearsome and menacing. At age 35 and in his 15th season, Father Time might be gaining a little on him, but opposing runners aren't.

ILB (3-4) Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh: With apologies to San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo of New England, Timmons has simply been a better all-around player in what appears to be a breakthrough season.

WLB James Harrison, Pittsburgh.

CB Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay.

CB Brandon Flowers, Kansas City: Good bloodlines are just part of the story for the emerging cover defender. The cousin of former standout NFL corner Patrick Surtain makes plays on the ball and plays more physical than many people credit him for.

FS Earl Thomas, Seattle: Taking nothing away from Kansas City first-rounder Eric Berry, who has been key to the Chiefs' reversal of fortunes, Thomas is really quick and gets involved in a ton of plays. Plus he's got four interceptions. Already established himself as a defensive interior force versus the pass.

SS LaRon Landry, Washington: Since first-year coordinator Jim Haslett moved him closer to the line of scrimmage, and quit trying to shoehorn him into the free safety spot, Landry has been a tackling machine and the big hitter is making some big plays as well.

Special teams

K Rob Bironas, Tennessee: Incredibly strong leg and has converted 15 of 16 field goal tries, including all four attempts from beyond 45 yards. Also has a respectable 12 touchbacks for the year.

P Shane Lechler, Oakland: Going for his fourth straight season with a net average of more than 40 yards. Will outkick his coverage at times (8.8-yard average return against), but has only three touchbacks.

Return specialist Stefan Logan, Detroit: Returns kickoffs and punts and he's dangerous on both.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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