FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)Tom Brady. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(* = starters)
Peyton Manning, Denver*
Tom Brady, New England
Matt Schaub, Houston
Arian Foster, Houston*
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Ray Rice, Baltimore
Vonta Leach, Baltimore*
A.J. Green, Cincinnati*
Andre Johnson, Houston*
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Rob Gronkowski, New England*
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
Joe Thomas, Cleveland*
Duane Brown, Houston*
Ryan Clady, Denver
This is probably the most competitive position on the offensive side. Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning is a debate that’s raged for over a decade and will certainly not be resolved today. Manning wins here solely because no one — NO ONE — recovers from the type of surgery he had that quickly and that productively. They had similar seasons statistically (4,659 yards passing with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for Manning; 4,827 yards passing with 34 touchdowns and 8 interceptions for Brady). With such parity, the injury recovery becomes the determining factor.
Arian Foster (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Running Back: Arian Foster
No one in the AFC had a better season at the position statistically. He played all 16 games and had 351 carries for 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns. No one meant as much to his offense. No one close helped put his team in the playoffs. If he were in the NFC? He’d be relegated to third fiddle behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. In the running back-starved AFC, however, he makes the list.
A.J. Green and Andre Johnson (Photo Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson, A.J. Green
The biggest surprise here is Johnson (112 catches, 1,598 yards, 4 touchdowns), who some thought coming into the season was basically done as a #1 option in an elite offense. The lack of touchdowns aside, Johnson filled a huge need for a play-making receiver to compliment the obviously run-centric Texans offense. A.J. Green was just dominant, like Randy Moss reincarnate, only he blocks actively. Green had more TD’s than Wayne and Johnson combined (11 vs. 9).
Reggie Wayne, who shocked everyone by returning to the Colts (and not joining Peyton Manning in Denver), gets an honorable mention here too. He was Andrew Luck’s go-to target and should make the list based on his game in week 5 against the Packers alone (13 catches, 212 yards). But add to that one of the most significant touchdowns of the entire season (a 4-yard game winner with 35 seconds left just days after Chuck Pagano announced he had cancer), and you have an all-pro moment for sure.
Rob Gronkowski (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski
Had he not suffered an injury, he would have been the same otherworldly talent he was last year. Even with the injury though, he had the best season of any tight end in the AFC (55 catches for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns in only 11 games).
Joe Thomas (Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Offensive Line: Joe Thomas and Ryan Clady (Tackles); Logan Mankins and Wade Smith (Guards); Maurkice Pouncey (Center)
Not a lot to say here other than no quarterback would ever have to worry about their front or back side when throwing behind this line. They are big, mean and unrelentingly athletic and as good at road grading as they are at finesse pass blocking. If there was ever a group that could stand up to the fearsome front 7 of the NFC, this is it. the tackle position, where Thomas and Clady could end up as two of the best of all time when it’s all said and done, are particularly formidable. There’s a reason that Peyton Manning stays upright.