Six Baltimore Ravens players turned in their tickets to Hawaii Monday after besting the New England Patriots 28-13 — running back Ray Rice, fullback Vonta Leach, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, guard Marshal Yanda, safety Ed Reed and kick returner Jacoby Jones. As a result, four of those positions have been filled by AFC East players. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)
If that wasn’t enough, two more Patriots have canceled their trips to Honolulu due to injury: quarterback Tom Brady and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. That brings New England’s absentee list to five and means only linebacker Jerod Mayo and special teamer Matthew Slater remain as representatives of the division champions.
Here’s a breakdown of the additions:
Running back C.J. Spiller (Bills, first appearance)
Rice’s vote over Spiller’s was a head-scratcher to begin with from a pure statistics standpoint, so Bills fans can now say that justice is served. Spiller gained 100 more yards than Rice (1,244) on 50 less carries (207) and averaged 6 yards per touch, an NFL best alongside Adrian Peterson. He was the crux of the Bills’ offensive production throughout the season.
Guard Richie Incognito (Bills, first appearance)
Incognito punches his ticket after starting all 16 games on a line for Miami that blocked for more than 1,300 total rushing yards (112 per game) and allowed 37 sacks. The eighth-year lineman from Nebraska gave up just six quarterback hurries all season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensive tackle Randy Starks (Dolphins, second appearance)
Starks will take over for New England’s Vince Wilfork on the interior of the defensive line, where he started all 16 games, as well. The nine-year vet tallied 27 tackles on the season, including 4.5 sacks and an interception. Starks joins teammate Cameron Wake in the pass rush for the AFC, with the pair totaling nearly 20 sacks for the Dolphins during the regular season.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Bills, second appearance)
Williams was a force for the defensive front of the Bills, tallying 46 tackles (27 solo) and five sacks. The seven-year pro also had two pass deflections, though he may have snuck by Titans’ tackle Jurrell Casey, who had more tackles and two forced fumbles to his name but fewer sacks (3).
Safety Jairus Byrd (Bills, second appearance)
Byrd’s absence from the starting roster was a straight robbery, at least compared to Reed’s stats. He had one more pick than Reed this season (5), which was tied for a league-best, and nearly 20 more total tackles. Byrd also forced four fumbles along the way, recovering two. His pick is well-deserved.
Brady was replaced by Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck.
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