2011 Week 15 Wednesday notebook: Players of the week, Pro Bowl vote update

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski charges into the end zone on a two yard run in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on December 4, 2011. The Patriots defeated the Colts UPI/Matthew Healey

New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who set the NFL single-season tight end touchdown reception record, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who blocked a potential game-tying field goal in the final seconds, were part of the NFL’s players of Week 14, which leads off the Wednesday notebook for Week 15.

AFC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski (offense), Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs (defense) and Denver kicker Matt Prater (special teams) were named the AFC players of the week for Week 14.

Gronkowski had six receptions for a career-high 160 receiving yards with two touchdowns in the Patriots’ win at Washington. He broke the NFL record for TD catches by a tight end with a 11-yard reception in the first quarter and later added a 37-yard TD reception in the third quarter.

Suggs had five tackles, three sacks and tied a club record with three forced fumbles in the Ravens’ win over Indianapolis. His six forced fumbles this season is tied for the league lead with Cliff Avril. It is the fifth career award for Suggs, and the second one this season.

Prater made a 59-yard field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter and a 51-yard FG in OT in the victory over Chicago. His three OT field goals this season is tied for the most in NFL history. This is the third career award for Prater.

NFC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (offense), New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (defense) and Seattle special teamer-wide receiver Doug Baldwin (special teams) were named the NFC players of the Week for Week 14.

Ryan threw for 320 yards with a career-high-tying four touchdowns and a 120.5 passer rating in the Falcons’ win at Carolina. He led Atlanta to 24 unanswered points in the second half as the Falcons overcame a 16-point deficit to the Panthers. It is his second POW award.

Pierre-Paul had eight tackles, two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal in the Giants’ win at Dallas. His sack for a safety gave the Giants a 2-0 lead, and his block of the Cowboys’ game-tying field-goal attempt preserved the victory. It is his first POW award.

Baldwin blocked a punt, had a 37-yard kickoff return and downed a punt at the 6-yard line in the Seahawks’ win over St. Louis. He also had seven catches for 93 yards and a TD and became the first NFL player to block a punt and catch a touchdown pass in the same game since 2000. It is his first award.

RODGERS LEADS PRO BOWL BALLOTING: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with 1,263,045 votes, leads all NFL All-Stars in balloting for the 2012 Pro Bowl. Pro Bowl voting will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones by going to NFL.com/probowl through Monday, Dec. 19.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (1,149,721 votes) leads all AFC players and ranks second overall, while Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (953,575), Saints quarterback Drew Brees (908,864) and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (896,198) round out the top five on NFL.com.

Balloting will conclude following the conclusion of the Week 15 Monday Night Football game (Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers).

Nine members of the undefeated Packers lead their respective NFC positions, the most in the NFL. Baltimore, currently in a group of four AFC teams battling for the conference’s top seed at 10-3, has a AFC-high six players leading their respective position groups.

LOOKING FOR 80: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham leads the NFC with 80 receptions, while Saints running back Darren Sproles (74) ranks third in the conference. According to the NFL, if Sproles catches six passes at Minnesota, they would be the first pair of TE-RB teammates in NFL history with at least 80 receptions apiece in the same season.

YOUNG PASSERS LOOKING FOR RECORDS: Two rookie quarterbacks — Carolina’s Cam Newton and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton — can move up the NFL’s all-time rookie passing leaderboard in Week 15.

Newton has 3,573 passing yards this season. With 167 yards this Sunday against Houston, Newton can surpass Peyton Manning (3,739 in 1998) for the single-season NFL rookie record.

Dalton (2,833) needs 167 passing yards to become the fifth rookie in NFL history to reach 3,000, which would also make 2011 the first season in NFL history with two 3,000-yard rookie passers. Dalton also leads all rookies with 18 touchdown passes this season, which is already tied for fifth on the NFL’s all-time single-season rookie list.

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