Pro Bowl debate: Did Paul Posluszny or Kiko Alonso deserve it more?
Based on feedback I've received from Buffalo Bills fans, the general consensus goes something like this:
Paul Posluszny is a stiff. Kiko Alonso is a legend.
The NFL community disagreed Monday night, when former Bills captain Posluszny and not Alonso was sent to the Pro Bowl as the second alternate at inside linebacker.
Posluszny replaced injured San Francisco 49ers captain Patrick Willis. Hours earlier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson replaced the 49ers' NaVorro Bowman.
That means the Pro Bowl system didn't rate Alonso at least the sixth-best inside linebacker. Willis, Bowman, Luke Kuechly and Vontaze Burfict were voted in originally. Kuechly and Burfict are healthy and expected to play Sunday in Honolulu.
When we consider Alonso received the most fans votes at his position and the fourth-most among all NFL defenders, it's clear players and coaches -- the other two-thirds of the Pro Bowl selection process -- didn't think so highly of Alonso.
Players cast their ballots by positional committees that comprise 32 team ballots. Position groups vote for their competing opposites, except for special-teamers. For instance, the Bills' offensive linemen decided who the Bills nominated league-wide on the defensive line. Players cannot vote for their teammates.
The NFL clearly respected Buffalo's defense. Pass-rusher Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and safety Jairus Byrd were original Pro Bowlers. Marcell Dareus replaced injured 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith on Monday.
It would seem a stretch for a 6-10 team that struggled to stop the run would send five defensive players -- four of its front-seven starters -- to the Pro Bowl.
But Alonso did have a sweet season.
Because we know them both so well, let's take a closer look at which Bills second-round draft choice deserved the Pro Bowl more.
First point of order is this reminder: Tackles are not an official NFL stat. This is important when comparing linebackers.
The NFL posts tackle numbers on its website based on box scores from each game. But teams keep track of tackles internally while analyzing the coaches' film after the game. The Bills stopped sharing their numbers this season.
Posluszny led the league with 121 solo tackles on NFL.com (only seven players had more than 95 solos) and finished second to Burfict with 161 total tackles.
Alonso finished third in total tackles, but his ranking was reinforced by a league-leading 72 assists. Alonso was tied for 14th in solo tackles.
Tackles for losses also are unofficial, and teams record them differently. The Green Bay Packers, for example, don't track them at all. The Miami Dolphins count half-sacks as full tackles for losses. Other teams will credit half-TFLs.
Alonso had 10 tackles for losses and five pass breakups according to the box scores. He officially had four interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries.
Posluszny was credited with seven tackles for losses and eight pass breakups. He recorded three sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), a forced fumble and a recovery.
Based purely on those stats, some of which aren't certified, a spirited debate could be delivered for either season.
Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com suggested neither player deserved Pro Bowl recognition. It rated Alonso the NFL's 10th-best inside linebacker, while Posluszny finished 42nd.
However, Posluszny ranked No. 1 in PFF's "run stop percentage" metric and eighth in its "tackling efficiency" metric. Alonso was 18th and ninth, respectively.
Another analytics site, AdvancedNFLStats.com, ranked Alonso second to Bowman among all linebackers, including outside linebackers, in its "win probability added" metric. Posluszny was eighth.
Then there's the dreaded "popularity contest" argument.
The Pro Bowl is a subjective honor. Just as Alonso generated a mountain of fan votes, Posluszny almost certainly was helped by the fact he has been in the NFL seven years and has finished among the top three in unofficial tackles three times in the past four seasons.
Alonso, meanwhile, was a rookie. Often, rookies must wait.
Veterans have to wait, too, sometimes.
Former Bills linebacker London Fletcher is deeply respected throughout the football community. He was 34 years old at his first Pro Bowl.