Patriots' Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler selected to Pro Bowl


Tom Brady, 11th Pro Bowl selection: No Patriots player has ever been selected to more Pro Bowls, as this is Brady’s seventh straight nod. The last time he didn’t make it was in 2008, when he tore his ACL in the season opener. Brady enters Week 16 action leading the NFL with 4,405 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes.

Malcolm Butler, 1st Pro Bowl selection: What a story -- from undrafted free agent who had a tryout before he was signed to Super Bowl hero, and now first-time Pro Bowler. The cornerback from West Alabama has started every game this season, played more than 98 percent of the defensive snaps, and has two interceptions and a team-leading 15 passes defended.

Jamie Collins, 1st Pro Bowl selection: The linebacker missed four games with an undisclosed illness, but voters overlooked his absence to focus on his on-field impact -- Collins is tied for the team lead with 76 tackles to go along with 5.5 sacks, one interception, four forced fumbles and a blocked extra point in which he leaped over the line in a “how-did-he-do-that?” type of moment.

Stephen Gostkowski, 4th Pro Bowl selection: Now in his 10th NFL season, the kicker has gotten better with age, as this is his third straight selection. He enters Week 16 action with an NFL-leading 139 points. His game-winning field goal against the Giants on Nov. 15, from 54 yards out at the end of regulation, was one of the best kicks of his career.

Rob Gronkowski, 4th Pro Bowl selection: Widely viewed as the best tight end in the NFL, Gronkowski enters Week 16 with 66 catches for 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the only tight end in NFL history with three 1,000-yard and double-digit touchdown seasons and the first tight end to ever record five 10-plus touchdown seasons.

Chandler Jones, 1st Pro Bowl selection: The fourth-year defensive end has totaled a career-high 12.5 sacks while playing in every game, but it’s been his steady and reliable play against the run that has been specifically noted by Bill Belichick. Jones’ ability to disrupt a game was seen this past Sunday against the Titans with a strip sack that was recovered for a touchdown.

Matthew Slater, 5th Pro Bowl selection: With his fifth straight Pro Bowl nod as a special teamer, Slater regularly draws extra attention from opponents, which can open opportunities for others. He is tied for the Patriots’ lead with 12 special-teams tackles this season.


Dont'a Hightower, LB: It’s hard to argue when one of the linebackers for the AFC is teammate Jamie Collins, but a case could be made for Hightower as well -- 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two passes defended and one fumble recovery. When he’s been out of the lineup, the run defense has suffered. He’d be in the discussion with Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, Carolina’s Luke Kuechly and San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman.

Devin McCourty, S: His ability to cover so much range as a deep center fielder is critical for the defense, and he’s a “glue” type player in terms of making sure everyone is aligned correctly. His 56 tackles are fifth on the team, and he has one sack, one interception and five passes defended. He’d be in the discussion with Oakland’s Charles Woodson, Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson, Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor and Kansas City’s Eric Berry.