The Falcons have a league-high nine players on the Pro Bowl roster and as practice begins this week in Hawaii AtlantaFalcons.com begins a breakdown of each player on Atlanta's roster on hand for the league's all-star game, who they're playing with and some of the interesting matchups that present themselves within the game.
Defensive ends:With just three ends on the roster, the NFC Pro Bowl squad will hope the premier pass rushers in the conference can get to the AFC quarterbacks with regularity.
Atlanta's John Abraham was the NFC's leading defensive end sack-artist (13) and the Giants' Justin Tuck was tied for second among defensive ends with 11.5. Chicago's Julius Peppers didn't have as impressive of a statistical year as his two Pro Bowl peers, registering eight sacks on the season, but he was critical to the Bears' defensive resurgence this season. Peppers run defense was stout helping put Chicago at the top of the conference in run defense.
Abraham and the others will face AFC tackles Joe Thomas from Cleveland, D'Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets and New England's Matt Light. Thomas is the leader of a line that allowed the seventh fewest sacks in the AFC this season. Ferguson, a first-round pick in 2006 helped lead the Jets into the playoffs with his pass-blocking and run blocking. Ferguson's Jets allowed the fourth fewest sacks this season in the AFC. Light anchored a line that allowed 25 sacks this season of quarterback Tom Brady, second fewest in the AFC. Light leads his tackle cohorts with three Pro Bowl trips.
Cornerbacks:An injury to starting Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel and Green Bay's appearance in the Super Bowl (Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams were named from the Packers but will not play) opened the door for Atlanta's corner Brent Grimes to make his first appearance at the Pro Bowl.
Grimes is joined by Washington's DeAngelo Hall and Minnesota's Antoine Winfield. Both of the latter corners are making their third Pro Bowl appearances, with Winfield appearing in three straight.
Winfield is a model of consistency at the corner position, not allowing a pass completion of over 27 yards all season. His interception numbers were down but that was due in part to not being tested by other teams. The league recognized Winfield's solid play with his Pro Bowl honor. He's also a strong run defender.
Hall was tied for second in the NFC with six interceptions, due in part to a monster game he had in Week 7 against Chicago where he grabbed four picks.
Grimes emerged this season as one of the better and perhaps more underrated players in the entire league. His five interceptions put him in a tie for third in the NFC and his 28 passes defended were tops in the Division.
The three will be responsible for covering an AFC wide receiver group that features a variety of skills. Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne is a superb route runner and intelligent receiver who uses smarts as much as athletic ability. New England's Wes Welker is a shifty slot receiver who has made a name for himself with his catches in the middle of the field. Bowe emerged this season as a physical receiver who can battle anyone for jump balls. Lloyd had a banner year keeping the Broncos' offense moving up the field. Seventy-two of his 77 catches went for first downs this season.