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To America, for Screwing the Patriots on Pro Bowl Selections, Please Accept My Thank You

If I've learned anything from sitting in the front row of the theater in 3-D glasses watching a Dynasty play out over two decades, it's that it's not always easy for the people involved to stay humble. To keep that edge about them. 

As a matter of fact, it goes against every facet of human nature. At our most primitive, primal level, we are motivated by our needs. We're hardwired to want to lay around in our caves, sleeping, eatin, taking dumps and making little cave babies. It's the fact that we can't do those things without getting off our lazy asses, gather wood for fires, make spears and hunt mastodons that drive us. And once we've gotten all those needs fulfilled and have everything we could ever desire, the hardest thing in the world is to defy our nature and keep working hard. 

That's true in all sports. It's rare that any team stays at the top long enough to qualify as a dynasty. That's especially true in football, thanks to the short professional life span of these guys and the roster turnover that every single successful franchise has to endure. So in order to stay great, you need something more. Some extra motivation. And the Patriots have long enjoyed a big one no other great team has ever had: Disrespect. 

At times in the past they've had to manufacture it. The Patron Saint of "Nobody Believes in Us" will forever be Rodney Harrison who was able to pick up the faint signals of negativity like a SETI operator picking up the radio signal of a dying star a million light years away. Even in 2003-04 as his team went 34-4 and was probably favored in all 38 games. 

But most of the time, no one in the organization has had to make up the disrespect because the world was creating it for them. And this season might be the best example yet. It's been a constant, steady stream of it. A Barrel Full o' Monkeys of doubt ("Brady's done"), outrage (Antonio Brown), dismissiveness ("The Dynasty is over") and cheating accusations (Spygate 2: Spy Harder) all linking arms. And this Pro Bowl voting is just another plastic monkey in the chain. 

Not that I or any Patriots fanboy honestly cares, because the only seasons that count in New England are the ones where no one's available for the Pro Bowl. But just so I have this straight: An 11-3 team, the No. 2 seed in the AFC and the defending Super Bowl champions have three players in the game. None of whom, by the way, were voted in by fans. Not even Stephon Gilmore, the presumptive Defensive Player of the Year. Not Matthew Slater, who's been playing at this level all season:

The statistically best defense the NFL has seen since 1991 has two representatives. Two. Not JC Jackson, who as I said yesterday, has played 14 games worth of quarterbacks and held them to a passer rating lower than the eighth worst performance by any QB all season:

Not even Jamie Collins, who actually once did make a Pro Bowl. But this season he's not good enough. Despite the fact that he's been one of the most versatile, impactful, game-changing, disruptive defenders in the league all year. Do you know what you get when you search all the players in the NFL with 6 sacks, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 7 passes defensed? The entire list looks like this:

And he's padded his resume with 8 tackles for loss and 8 QB hits. Which the Pro Bowl selection committee will keep on file in case there's another opening sometime in the future and they'd like to thank him for his time.

On the other side of the ball, sure, the Patriots offense has underperformed. That's self evident. But there's a case to be made for one guy who has begun getting discussed in terms of his Hall of Fame worthiness and was called the best at his position by the best ever at his position. And he's having the best season of his career. But it's not enough.

Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, welcome. Julian Edelman, sorry. There's no room at the Pro Bowl inn. 

And as I said in the headline, thanks, America. From the bottom of my dark, cholesterol-laden, Masshole heart, thank you. The 12-2 Ravens have 12 players going to Orlando, the Patriots have three. And for the first time since the year he tore his mighty ACL in the 1st quarter of the 2008 season, one Patriot is not among them. Which is the best of all things because it just so happens the one guy who's been most driven to greatness by the disrespect and doubt all these years:

As Terrell Suggs said to the Patriots in 2012, "Have fun at the Pro Bowl!"