NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are sending five players to the 2019 Pro Bowl during what’s been an up-and-down season as the team looks to make a playoff push and clinch the NFC East.
The five Pro Bowl-bound players are: running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, offensive guard Zack Martin and offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
Coming off a shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Cowboys can still clinch the NFC East on Sunday with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the New York Giants in the regular season finale.
It was a rough first half of the season for Dallas as they started 3-5 with fading playoff hopes. However, the team seemed to find their groove as they went on a five-game winning streak to bring them to the top of the NFC East. During that streak, they beat the Philadelphia Eagles twice, the red-hot New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins.
Jones and Lawrence led the stellar defense to key victories in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
Elliott leads the NFL in rushing yards with 1349, which is 98 more yards than the second-leading rusher in Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley.
The NFL released the rest of the Pro Bowl roster that includes some obvious names.
The Los Angeles Chargers placed seven players in the Pro Bowl, including safety Derwin James, one of six rookies across the league to make the game.
James, a first-round draft choice, will be joined on the AFC squad by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive end Melvin Ingram, center Mike Pouncey and special-teamer Adrian Phillips for the game, which will be played Jan. 27 in Orlando. James and Phillips are the only starters, though.
Rivers is a backup to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, one of 29 first-time Pro Bowlers. That, of course, includes all the rookies: James, Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Seahawks punter Michael Dickson, Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, Indianapolis guard Quenton Nelson and Cleveland cornerback Denzel Wads. Lindsay is an undrafted player.
New England’s Tom Brady is the other AFC quarterback, making it for the 14th time. Noticeably missing is the Colts’ Andrew Luck.
New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees, and Chicago joined Dallas in leading the NFC with five players each. Brees is the starter, backed up by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and the Rams’ Jared Goff.
Buffalo, Oakland and Tampa Bay had no Pro Bowl selections.
Pittsburgh and Kansas City each had six players chosen, including such first-timers as Steelers running back James Conner and Mahomes, both having breakthrough years.
Cleveland has a first overall draft choice in the game — not Baker Mayfield, but 2017 top pick Myles Garrett at defensive end.
“Football is a team game and you can’t do it on your own,” said Garrett, who leads the Browns with 12½ sacks. “I’m happy to be able to share this experience with Denzel because this honor is really a testament to our entire defense.”
Among the perennial AFC choices returning to the game are Houston DE J.J. Watt, Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown, Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda and safety Eric Weddle, Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins and Denver LB Von Miller.
“To get recognized by your peers, the coaches and the fans, it means a lot,” Weddle said. “It’s always special to put in the hard work and to try your best and then get recognized. The Pro Bowl is something I never take for granted, and I’m pretty stoked about it. Each year you just work hard and try to play your very best. To receive recognition for what you do on the field, even if it may not show up in other areas, is awesome.”
For the NFC, frequent repeaters include Atlanta WR Julio Jones and C Alex Mack, inside LBs Luke Kuechly of Carolina and Bobby Wagner of Seattle, Arizona CB Patrick Peterson, Rams DT Aaron Donald and Bears LB Khalil Mack.
One of the newcomers, Chicago DT Akiem Hicks, sounded overwhelmed by the honor.
“I have played the game of football my entire life and this is the greatest accolade I’ve ever achieved,” he said.
There will be a brother combination at center for the AFC as Maurkice Pouncey of Pittsburgh is the starter ahead of Mike Pouncey.
The Jets, despite a 4-10 record, have three Pro Bowlers in safety Jamal Adams, kicker Jason Myers and return specialist Andre Roberts — all first-timers.
Pro Bowl coaching staffs will be from the losing teams in the AFC and NFC divisional playoffs with the best regular-season records. Each player on the winning Pro Bowl team receives $67,000, while each player on the losing squad earns $34,000.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)