ALAMEDA – The Raiders hope none of their players participate in the Pro Bowl. That would mean they’re competing for an NFL championship the following week.
Should they fall short, the Silver and Black will be well represented in the NFL’s annual All-Star game.
The Raiders had seven players elected to the Pro Bowl, the NFL announced on Tuesday evening, the team’s highest total since 1977.
The list is long and well deserved, including three-fifths of the offensive line, quarterback Derek Carr and edge rusher Khalil Mack.
Left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson made it from the AFC’s best offensive line. Receiver Amari Cooper and safety Reggie Nelson were also elected.
The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 29, 2017 in Orlando – a week before the Super Bowl -- and culminate a week of festivities honoring the league’s top players. After choosing sides with a school-yard pick ‘em, the AFC and NFC will square off in a game that is typically light on defense.
The Raiders were represented by six players in last year’s game, but Mack, Charles Woodson and Marcel Reece were the trio elected on the first ballot. Carr, Cooper and running back Latavius Murray were added as alternates.
These types of rewards typically go to good teams, and the Raiders have been one of the best during an 11-3 record with two games remaining.
Their offensive line and skill players have garnered great respect. Carr is an MVP contender and Mack is among the favorites for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
This is Penn’s second Pro Bowl nod and Osemele’s first. Osemele and Penn have been virtually impenetrable on the left side. Osemele's reputation as an intimidator has grown this season, his first as a Raider, and he is widely considered among the NFL’s best offensive guards. Hudson has been a quality center all season.
Cooper has exceeded 1,000 yards already and Nelson has four interceptions this year.