With the Saints and Colts opening 14 roster spots on the Pro Bowl teams, we had the addition of Panthers' C Ryan Kalil to the NFC's Pro Bowl roster. Given the physical NFC championship game, several Vikings have already withdrawn and several more look likely to pull out of "the big game". So who else among the Panthers might be named to the squad? (And hey, if David Garrard gets a roster spot, anyone can make it.)
- Travelle Wharton - This is the one position where we've got a legitimate chance. Wharton has been a dominant blocker in both the running and passing games for the past two seasons at the LG position. His rare combination of mobility, size, intelligence and effort put him among the elite in the league at his position. Unfortunately for him, he was listed at LT on Pro Bowl ballots because that's where he played the last third of this season. And since he was drafted, and played, at the LT position out of college before converting, he's not as prevalent on the NFL radar screens as he deserves to be. On a positive note, there's a good chance that Vikings OG Steve Hutchinson may withdraw in the next day or two, and if the people who choose the reserves from this point forward have actually watched film, then they'll know who ought to fill that open spot.
- Chris Gamble - A very long shot at this point. Even with Charles Woodson and DRC out with injuries, replaced by Antoine Winfield who also has had to pull out due to injury, the roster seems a little more final now than it did this morning. Gamble's had his best season, finally living up to his "shutdown corner" contract and living down his "stone-hands" reputation for dropping interceptions. I'd put Gamble up against either of the two Cowboy CBs who are in as injury replacements, and I think he looks a lot better. Working against him, though, is the animosity he engendered in some circles around the league after his comments about Randy Moss. Things like "history" and "facts" and "the tape" prove him right, and Darrelle Revis's comments this past week only confirm what he'd said. But that might not be enough to get him in until he really starts taking over games and taking away receivers week-in and week-out in the way that Revis is doing now.
- Jon Beason - Barring injury, he's not going. With Vilma out, London Fletcher got his long-overdue Pro Bowl roster spot and he's not giving it up for anybody. Looking at this practically, Patrick Willis is going to be a Pro Bowl starter for the next decade, and Beason will compete for the backup position with whoever else has a good season. Make no mistake, Beason is the best MLB in the NFL not named Patrick Willis. But he's in a small market on a .500 team this year, and we all know that not playing in the NFC East means that the national media isn't going to pay nearly as much attention as they should. So this year is London Fletcher's year, and this is the last year there's no room for The Beast.
- Brad Hoover - This is really just a dream of mine, not something I ever expect to see. Hoov's been such a fantastic fullback for so long it's easy to forget how important he is to our offensive success until he goes down for a game or two and our offense becomes lifeless. He's a True Fullback. He's not a short-yardage back in the mold of Mike Alstott or Le'Ron McClain. He's an occasional dump-off option, but not a weapon in the screen game the way that Leonard Weaver is. So if he gets in, it'll be on the strength of a long career and a series of thousand-yard rushers, the way that Lorenzo Neal did. Will it happen before her retires? I doubt it. But there's no one else who more richly deserves to go if Weaver pulls out than our own beloved Hoov.