Packers Pro Bowl projections

The AFC and NFC squads for the annual Pro Bowl will be announced by the National Football League on Tuesday. PackerReport.com's Todd Korth offers his projections of which Packers will make the NFC squad.

Brady Poppinga was asked the other day in the locker room which of his teammates deserves to be named to the NFC squad this year. The AFC and NFC teams will be announced by the league next Tuesday and a handful of Packers deserve the right to travel to Hawaii in February to participate in the all-star game.

"I think Nick Barnett will get his first Pro Bowl shot," said Poppinga about his fellow linebacker. "If I'm wrong, I'd be very surprised."

Poppinga then went on to list just about all of the starters, except himself, on defense before realizing that it's not very realistic.

"We could have a whole all-star team, just here in the locker room," Poppinga said with a smile. "… There are a ton of guys who are eligible by the way they play. When you win, obviously, it helps out."

Green Bay's successful season will enable the Packers to have a few more representatives eligible for the free trip to Honolulu, but probably fewer than Poppinga and others might think. Last year, defensive end Aaron Kampman and wide receiver Donald Driver were named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. The Packers also had a number of players who were named as alternates, including cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, offensive tackle Chad Clifton and Barnett.

This year's NFC Pro Bowl squad probably will have a few more Packers on each side of the ball. Here's a projection on which Packers probably will be named to the NFC squad and others who may be on the outside looking in.

OFFENSE

PRO BOWL LOCKS
Quarterback Brett Favre:
Obviously a fan favorite across the nation, Favre led all players in fan voting. He is having his best season since 1995 and is a shoe-in to be selected to the team for the eighth time in his career. Whether he plays or not for the first time since after the 1996 season remains to be seen, but he at least will have the honor.

Offensive tackle Chad Clifton: The eighth-year pro should be named to the NFC squad for the first time in his career on Tuesday. He has started all 13 games for the Packers this season and has done a great job of protecting Favre's blind side.

Detroit's Jeff Backus and Philadelphia's Jon Runyan are other top candidates, but are playing on teams that have had much less success this year than Green Bay.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver: Both have been great complements to each other this season, but they probably will be passed over in a numbers game. Because Favre has spread the ball around so effectively this year, the numbers, which count a lot in Pro Bowl voting by fans, players and coaches, for Jennings and Driver are down a little. Driver leads the Packers with 73 catches for 936 yards and two touchdowns, but he hasn't caught a TD pass since Sept. 23. Jennings has 11 TD catches, but 46 total catches for 812 yards.

Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and St. Louis' Torry Holt each have 80 or more catches and more than 1,000 yards receiving. New Orleans' Marcus Colston, Seattle's Bobby Engram and, of course, Terrell Owens are having solid years.

Driver might sneak in after making the team last year, but it doesn't help that he only has two touchdown catches.

DEFENSE

PRO BOWL LOCKS
Defensive end Aaron Kampman:
It would be a shock if Kampman is not named as a starter for the second straight season. He is fifth in the NFC with 11.0 sacks and has 77 tackles.

Seattle's Patrick Kerney, Philadelphia's Trent Cole and Osi Umenyiora of the New York Giants also are in line to make the team, but look for Kampman's name to be called on Tuesday.

Middle linebacker Nick Barnett: Barnett is having one of his best seasons as a Packer and should finally be named to the Pro Bowl team, ahead of Chicago's Brian Urlacher. Barnett leads Green Bay with 135 tackles. He also has 1.5 sacks and five passes defensed.

Urlacher has been a perennial favorite at middle linebacker, but he hasn't had the best of seasons, and the Bears are struggling this year. That should be enough for Barnett to make the NFC squad for the first time, probably with San Francisco's Patrick Willis, who leads the league in tackles.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Cornerback Al Harris: Harris lacks all-star numbers with three interceptions and no sacks. Yet, he has all the respect in the world from players across the league because he often covers the opponents' best receiver. For the most part, Harris has been outstanding this year, but he struggled against Terrell Owens on Nov. 29 in front of a NFL Network audience. That game may have hurt his chances of making the team more than anything this year.

Cornerback Charles Woodson: Like Harris, Woodson has been a valuable asset to the Packers' defense. He has four interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown to seal a victory at Kansas City.

But like Harris, Woodson's numbers are down compared to other cornerbacks in the league like Seattle's Marcus Trufant (seven interceptions) and Dallas's Anthony Henry (five interceptions). Arizona's Roderick Hood and the Cowboys' Terrence Newman also are in the running for a spot in the Pro Bowl.

Either Harris or Woodson might sneak in, but not both players. It will be close but they probably will be on the outside looking in.

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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