Yesterday and today, there has been a collective gasp across Broncos Country that the Chiefs--yes, the lowly and wretched Kansas City Chiefs, whom Denver will host on Sunday to close out the regular season--placed five players on the AFC Pro Bowl team.
The thinking seems to be that a 2-13 team can't possibly deserve such honors. After all, if their players were any good, they'd have a better record. While there's certainly some truth in that line of thinking, and the Pro Bowl has largely become a game for divas, as they say in Spain, "no sé qué," which, roughly translated, means "Kansas City has good barbeque." In other words, it's not always so crazy when you scarf meat from bone and get into the details.
Before we take a look at whom the Chiefs actually put into the Pro Bowl, though, we should recognize that a lot of things influence a team's record. Just because the Chiefs are 2-13 and the Broncos 12-3, it's not necessarily always a reflection of better play at specific positions.
A lot of this stuff is random (fumble recoveries) and a flick of the switch at quarterback (Peyton Manning) instantly makes the entire line eligible for Pro Bowl consideration. Further, as we all know, a crappy offense actually benefits certain positions, as Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski have shown for a decade.
Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look the Chiefs who made the 2013 Pro Bowl, and measure their worthiness:
Dustin Colquitt - Punter
This doesn't come as a complete shock, does it? If your team is completely average, your punter is going to have plenty of opportunities to get his leg into a few punts (as did the Broncos' own Britton Colquitt last year). According to Pro Football Focus, Dustin Colquitt has been the seventh highest-rated punter in the league.
He's also placed the second most balls inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Combine this with a respectible average of 46.2 yards per kick, and you have a punter who makes a decent case for getting to the Pro Bowl.
Jamaal Charles - Running Back
Let's face it, the Chiefs are terrible at the quarterback position (it's one of the places I'd honestly consider if I were Tim Tebow). So the Chiefs absolutely have to rely on their running game.
Jamaal Charles, by anyone's account, is one of the best backs in the league; further, he's faced so many seven- and eight-man fronts, it's almost shocking that his average is 5.4 yards per carry (second only to C.J. Spiller in the AFC).
And now that he's cracked the 750-carry threshold, Charles has far and away the highest per-carry-average in NFL history, with more than half a yard on Jim Brown, the prior record holder.
For a speed guy, he averages 2.3 yards after contact per carry. That ain't too shabby. Charles is certainly Pro Bowl worthy.
Derrick Johnson - Inside Linebacker
Again, here's a player whose Pro Bowl status is a reflection of the Chiefs' dog-vomit offense. Johnson has been nothing less than a tackling machine this year. He has registered 99 tackes and has a league-leading 68 stops.
Clearly, Johnson benefits from playing in a 3-4 defense, where your inside linebacker had better be tough, but the idea that Johnson isn't qualified for the Pro Bowl because of the Chiefs' record is a bit of a stretch.
Tamba Hali - Outside Linebacker
It's not a shock to me that an outside linebacker for the Chiefs made the Pro Bowl (similarly to Derrick Johnson, in the 3-4, all linebackers are going to get plenty of opportunities for tackles), it's that the wrong Chiefs outside linebacker was chosen. Justin Houston has been to the Chiefs what Wesley Woodyard has to the Broncos, although Houston was a third-round pick with a much higher grade (the guy smoked weed before the combine and was downgraded).
According to PFF, Houston is graded only behind Anthony Spencer and Clay Matthews as 3-4 OLBs and a full thirteen spots ahead of Hali. On tape, Houston's coverage skills are second to no other linebacker currently in the league.
Should Hali have made the Pro Bowl? Probably not. Does that mean the Chiefs should't have placed Houston? I don't think so.
Eric Berry - Safety
Here is where the disgust should begin and end. Berry's rookie year, versatility, and reputation got him the nod, and although Berry is one of the most talented safeties in the league, he didn't deserve entry to the Pro Bowl this year.
I could go on and on about how the Chiefs use Berry in every position (free and strong, man-to-man like a corner wide, in the slot, blitzing like a extra linebacker), but there's just two words I need to say: Eric Weddle. Weddle yesterday likened his own omission from the Pro Bowl to a "slap to the face." In the case of Eric Berry, I'd certainly agree.
Perhaps all of this is a reminder to Broncos fans--even if the Pro Bowl is a big joke, the Chiefs actually do have some talent, specifically at running back and on defense. Unlike the Cleveland Browns of last week, the Chiefs carry a real threat into this Sunday's game.