Three In, One Missed

Three Vikings were named to the Pro Bowl team Wednesday, but there should have been a fourth. While taking nothing away from the NFC cornerbacks who made the team, Antoine Winfield should have joined them.

The Pro Bowl has taken on a different aura in recent years. What used to be considered an honor has taken on a different light, as some of the game's top players -- including the Vikings' Randy Moss -- have begged off of the game.

But it is still an honor to be selected by fans, peers and coaches to play on the team. Three Vikings got named to the Pro Bowl squad Wednesday. Daunte Culpepper got it on numbers. Matt Birk got it on reputation. Kevin Williams got it because he was too dominant to ignore. Randy Moss didn't make it because players and coaches vote.

But, what might well be missed in the entire picture is who wasn't named to the team -- Antoine Winfield. With all the gushing and professions of man-love that accompanied Winfield to the Vikings, there were many who said "prove it" when he was signed to a record contract for a free agent outside the organization. Winfield has lived up to billing and then some. But, in the numbers game, not every deserving candidate gets picked.

Do the Eagles deserve nine Pro Bowlers? If so, losing T.O. shouldn't matter that much. While the fans have done a solid job of not letting team loyalty sully the voting, apparently not enough people saw what Winfield does from drive to drive and play to play. That's disappointing.

THURSDAY NOTES
* There has been a lot of talk in the Twin Cities (and Packers-based) media about the Vikings giving up 178 yards in the fourth quarter to the Lions. By that same logic, the Patriots must suck for giving up as many yards to the hapless Dolphins Monday night. Funny, the sky isn't falling in Boston -- where the Red Sox have personified fan skepticism for generations.
* Both Onterrio Smith and Terrance Shaw have been victimized by a flu-like virus that has run through not only the team but the Minnesota area in general. Neither is expected to miss Friday's game.
* As it stands now, Shaw will start at cornerback with Winfield serving as nickel back. Expect that rotation to change before halftime.
* Of the six teams that have clinched division titles, they have a combined record of 71-13 -- the best winning percentage of division leaders since before the AFL-NFL merger.
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