Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson set career-highs in catches (68), yards (1,167) and touchdowns (nine) this season.
Peter Read Miller/SI
I think we could argue about this for a while -- particularly at outside linebacker, wide receiver and the offensive line -- but below is the All-Pro team I submitted to the Associated Press this morning.
I am one of 50 voters for the team, and I differ in only one way from what the AP wants. I don't choose an extra running back. I believe if there are two wide receivers, there should be one running back. Now, on defense, because some teams play a 3-4 and others a 4-3, I can see naming four defensive linemen and four linebackers, which I do.
One other note: When important, I name players to their directional positions. Left tackle, right guard, for instance. But on defense, I don't usually do that because of how commonplace it is for, say, outside linebackers to move from one side to another in a given game. (The asterisked honors mean they're not a part of the voting, just my attempt to give credit where it's due.) Here goes:
WR Vincent Jackson, San Diego.
He's very slightly more consistent and just as game-breaking as Andre Johnson.
LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland.
Lost in the badness, Thomas is a powerful drive-blocker and deft pass-blocker.
LG Logan Mankins, New England.
Terrific all-around tactician and power-blocker.
C Nick Mangold, Jets.
Rapidly becoming the Cadillac of centers.
RG Jahri Evans, New Orleans.
Sean Payton can fill your notebook about Evans almost as enthusiastically as he can about Drew Brees.
RT Vernon Carey, Miami.
Good idea by the Dolphins in not forcing him on the left side and allowing him to find a home here.
TE (tie) Dallas Clark, Indianapolis; Antonio Gates, San Diego.
Love 'em both, because their Pro Bowl quarterbacks would be lost without them. Seriously.
WR Wes Welker, New England.
Very tough to leave Reggie Wayne off this team, but it'd be tougher for me to leave the best slot receiver of this era off too. Welker led the NFL with 123 catches despite playing, in effect, 13 games with the early season-ending injury Sunday in Houston.
QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis.
While leading the Colts to 14-0, he had his most accurate season ever, and second-most productive in yardage and touchdowns.
RB Chris Johnson, Tennessee.
This year, he added some toughness to his electricity, as well as the sixth 2,000-yard rushing season ever.
FB Lousaka Polite, Miami.
Not many teams use a pure fullback much anymore, and no team has as physical a blocker as Polite.
DE Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis.
He had 35.5 sacks and pressures while having his snaps monitored to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
DT Tony Brown, Tennessee.
It takes a lot to not put Kevin Williams here, but how many defensive tackles get 24 quarterback pressures?
NT Vince Wilfork, New England.
For his versatility (he played some end) and how well he held the point in run-defense.
DE Jared Allen, Minnesota.
Allen would tell you he should have played better down the stretch, but through 12 weeks he was peerless. I'd listen to arguments for Robert Mathis here.
OLB Anthony Spencer, Dallas.
Upset special here. No outside linebacker has been as disruptive when the games were biggest: six sacks, six tackles for loss, 14 quarterback pressures in the last six weeks.
MLB Ray Lewis, Baltimore.
Had his most tackles since 2004 at age 34. How about this for consistency: Starting in Week 4, he had 14, 10, 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, 9, 7, 9, 9 and 12 tackles.
ILB Patrick Willis, San Francisco.
Everything but the beady eyes says he's learning well from Mike Singletary.
OLB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas.
Two strip-sacks of Drew Brees three games ago were vital in the Cowboys' biggest win of the decade, at unbeaten New Orleans.
CB Darrelle Revis, Jets.
State-of-the-art cornerback. Can play physical, can play off, can run with the speed guys. And he's only 24.
CB Charles Woodson, Green Bay.
Second to Revis in my defensive player of the year thinking. He and Ed Reed are best secondary playmakers in football.
FS Darren Sharper, New Orleans.
Amazing first six games. While the Saints started 6-0, Sharper had six picks, three touchdowns and an amazing 317 interception return yards.
SS Adrian Wilson, Arizona.
Shined in coverage as much as hitting people, with career highs in interceptions (five) and passes broken up (13).
K Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland.
Didn't miss a field goal inside the 45-, hit a 61-yarder, and sent a third of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
P Shane Lechler, Oakland.
Best punting season in history.
KR Josh Cribbs, Cleveland.
Scariest returner in the game -- and he adds to it by being a pushing hitter on other kicking units.
PR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia.
"Shouldn't the NFC get an extra guy because he's the [all-pro] return man and a receiver?'' Andy Reid asked me the other day. Good question.
Special Teams Player Blake Costanzo, Cleveland.
No player can match his production on teams this year: 14 tackles, two forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis.
One of his best two or three seasons ever, with a new coach and a shakeup on offense -- and again a poor run game.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati.
Norv Turner, Jim Caldwell or Sean Payton could have won. I give to Lewis for remaking the Cincinnati psyche, for whitewashing the Steelers and Ravens (4-0 versus them) and for winning a division I was convinced was totally out of his grasp. Great coaching job.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee.
Aided by five bulldozers up front, Johnson threatened Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 rushing yards for a season.
Darrelle Revis, Jets.
Revis played Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Steve (Carolina) Smith, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Terrell Owens, Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco a total of 10 times this year. None had more than 35 receiving yards in a game. The average game: three catches, 27 yards. Revis was the only cover man in football to allow a sub-40-percent completion percentage on balls thrown in his area.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota.
The classic game-breaker the Vikings were hoping he'd be, though not as impactful for a full season as I thought he'd be. Six TDs from scrimmage, two more on kick returns. Baltimore tackle Michael Oher and Cleveland center Alex Mack also were top rookies.
Brian Cushing, Houston.
Edges Clay Matthews and Jairus Byrd because of an excellent all-around season: four sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, 10 passes broken up, four interceptions. Sorely tempted to split the vote with Matthews, but Cushing's wire-to-wire consistency won it in my mind.
Tom Brady, New England.
Not just because he rebounded from knee surgery, but because he played with a bum finger on his throwing hand, sore shoulder and rib injury through most of this year and still had one of his best two or three years.
Ted Thompson, G.B.
This has to go back to his faith in Aaron Rodgers in June 2008, when Brett Favre wanted to come back and Thompson said no. But recent drafts of Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, and the free-agent signing of Charles Woodson hit its zenith this year.
Mike Zimmer, defense, Cincinnati.
To have the Bengals in the top eight in the league in scoring defense and yards allowed, and to do it with no superstars, and to do it after being a sieve for the last few years (decades?) on defense, and to do it while mourning the shockingly unexpected death of his wife Vicki in October and becoming the mother and father to three overwhelmed kids ... all I can say is that Zimmer's not only the coordinator of the year, but also the hero of the year.
Bill Callahan, assistant head coach (and basically the running game coordinator), Jets.
You play the Jets, and you know what's coming -- the running game. New York can't trust Mark Sanchez yet. And without an uber-talented back, Callahan drew up run plays to have the Jets lead the league in rushing.