Originally Published: December 21, 2016 6:02 a.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — After more than a decade as the NFL’s black hole, the Oakland Raiders are back in the playoffs and filling up the Pro Bowl.
The resurgent Raiders, enjoying their first winning season in 14 years, lead the league with seven players selected for next month’s all-star game.
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 occupy first place in the AFC West going into Week 16.
The Raiders (11-3) had three players selected from their offensive line, a big reason the team has finally clinched its first playoff berth since losing the 2003 Super Bowl.
“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 (9-5) 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 honored for the 10th time.
Fitzgerald’s 10 Pro Bowl selections are the second-most in NFL history by a wide receiver. Only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (13) has more.
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 selected.
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 also were selected.
Another high-profile player chosen was wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of four New York Giants picked along with safety Landon Collins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and special teams player Dwayne Harris.
Beckham is tied for third in the NFL with 85 receptions and 10 touchdown catches, and is fourth with 1,173 yards receiving. He became the first Giants player to be voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls since guard Chris Snee from 2008-10.
“It is exciting,” Beckham said. “It is cool to be on a team with multiple Pro Bowlers, so it is a huge accomplishment for myself and my teammates.”
The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 29, in Orlando, Florida. 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.”