Pro Bowl hype: Vikings' Blair Walsh

The most-discussed place-kicker in the NFC North these days is the Green Bay Packers' Mason Crosby. Commotion about the veteran's extended slump -- he has missed an NFL-high 12 field goals -- has overshadowed what could be a record-setting performance by another specialist in this division.

Minnesota Vikings place-kicker Blair Walsh drilled three field goals of at least 50 yards in last Sunday's 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams, making him eight-for-eight from that distance this season. As the chart shows, Walsh has tied the NFL record set by Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson for 50-plus yard field goals in a season and has two games remaining to break it.

Andersen, Hanson and Walsh are tied together by at least one common thread -- indoor home games -- but let's not let that fact dilute this accomplishment. After all, Walsh has actually been a better long-distance place-kicker than the more-celebrated Greg Zuerlein -- a.k.a "Legatron" -- of the St. Louis Rams, who also play their home games in a dome.

Walsh, in fact, has missed only three of 32 field goal attempts this season, and his 29 conversions are tied for third in the NFL. Mix in his 64.3 touchback percentage on kickoffs, the NFL's third-best, and you have a strong Pro Bowl candidate for the NFC North's only rookie place-kicker.

Some of you know I'm down on the entire concept of the Pro Bowl, but many of you are not. So as time permits over the next week or so, I'll try to highlight some of the NFC North's deserving but perhaps unnoticed candidates. The teams will be announced Dec. 26.