Playoffs set up Lavonte David, Logan Mankins for Pro Bowl
There's still no official word from the NFL, but the way the playoffs have unfolded, it's all but certain that Bucs linebacker Lavonte David and guard Logan Mankins, both alternates for the Pro Bowl, are now headed to Hawaii.
It'd be a long-awaited break for David, who's never been to the Pro Bowl, and a seventh trip for Mankins, who went six times with the Patriots. History doesn't distinguish whether a player is voted to the Pro Bowl or goes as a replacement.
That's what's extremely likely to happen in both cases -- there are only six outside linebackers on the Pro Bowl roster, and four of them are still alive in the playoffs. Now that the Pro Bowl is the week before the Super Bowl and not the week after, a team playing in the Super Bowl isn't about to have its best players in Hawaii. So it doesn't really matter whether Denver -- with Pro Bowl OLBs Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware -- or New England, with Pro Bowl OLB Jamie Collins, wins this weekend. Either way, someone can't go and an alternate (David) will get the call.
Along similar lines, the six Pro Bowl guards include Carolina's Trai Turner and Arizona's Mike Iupati, who go head-to-head in the NFC championship game and would create an opening for Mankins as alternate.
Those two would join running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, already headed to Hawaii as part of the initial selection process. The four Pro Bowlers would match the most by any Bucs team since the Super Bowl in 2002 had seven -- Tampa Bay had four in 2003 and again in 2008.