Raiders lead the Pro Bowl line

3 of­fen­sive line­men among 7 picked from Oak­land; Atlanta tops NFC with 6

The Denver Post - - OFF & RUNNING - By Simmi Buttar

new york» The Oak­land Raiders lead the NFL with seven play­ers se­lected for the Pro Bowl.

Quar­ter­back Derek Carr, wide re­ceiver Amari Cooper, cen­ter Rodney Hud­son, de­fen­sive end Khalil Mack, safety Reg­gie Nel­son, guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Don­ald Penn were picked from the Raiders, who are in first place in the AFC West go­ing into Week 16.

The Raiders had three play­ers se­lected from their of­fen­sive line, a big rea­son the team has fi­nally ended its long play­off drought.

“It means a lot. It’s a great honor to be rec­og­nized for what you do,” Hud­son said. “It’s very hum­bling. I give a lot of thanks to our team­mates be­cause you can’t do any of it by your­self.”

Six mem­bers of the Atlanta Fal­cons were se­lected, most among NFC teams. Out­side line­backer Vic Beasley, kicker Matt Bryant, run­ning back Devonta Free­man, wide re­ceiver Julio Jones, cen­ter Alex Mack and quar­ter­back Matt Ryan were cho­sen from the NFC South lead­ers.

De­spite miss­ing the first four games of the sea­son be­cause of his “De­flate­gate” sus­pen­sion, New Eng­land quar­ter­back Tom Brady was picked for the 12th time in his ca­reer. Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas and Ari­zona wide re­ceiver Larry Fitzger­ald were se­lected for the 10th time.

Twenty-six of the 32 teams had at least one player picked. Twenty play­ers were cho­sen for the first time, in­clud­ing three rook­ies: Ezekiel El­liott and Dak Prescott from Dal­las, and Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill.

Among the no­table omis­sions was Detroit quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford. The first-place Lions, who lead the NFC North at 9-5, did not have a sin­gle rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Carolina’s Cam New­ton, last sea­son’s NFL MVP, was not picked, ei­ther. Other star quar­ter­backs left out were New Or­leans’ Drew Brees and In­di­anapo­lis’ An­drew Luck.

Af­ter the Raiders and Fal­cons, the Cow­boys, Steel­ers and Ti­tans were next with five play­ers each.

In ad­di­tion to Prescott and El­liott, of­fen­sive line­men Travis Fred­er­ick, Zack Martin and Ty­ron Smith were picked from Dal­las.

For the Steel­ers, run­ning back Le’Veon Bell, wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown, guard David DeCas­tro, cen­ter Mau­r­kice Pouncey and quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger were se­lected. Roeth­lis­berger, Pouncey and Brown were all cho­sen for the fifth time.

For the sur­pris­ing Ti­tans, tied with Hous­ton for first place in the AFC South, it’s their most play­ers picked for the Pro Bowl since they had six in 2008.

Run­ning back DeMarco Mur­ray leads the group. He has 1,224 yards rush­ing, sec­ond in the NFL be­hind El­liott. Left tackle Tay­lor Le­wan earned his first Pro Bowl honor in his third sea­son, while line­backer Brian Orakpo earned his fourth Pro Bowl trip over­all and first since sign­ing with Ten­nessee in March 2015. Tight end De­lanie Walker and de­fen­sive line­man Jur­rell Casey were both elected to start for the first time in their sec­ond ca­reer ap­pear­ance.

The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 29 in Or­lando, Fla.

The game will re­turn to the NFC vs. AFC for­mat af­ter three years. For­mer stars Jerome Bet­tis, Tony Gonzalez, Ray Lewis and Charles Wood­son will serve as “Leg­ends Cap­tains.”

Oak­land’s Amari Cooper and Derek Carr, two of seven Raiders se­lected to the Pro Bowl, cel­e­brate af­ter con­nect­ing on a TD pass. Marcio Jose Sanchez, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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