If you sign up for the Doc’s newsletter, you are guaranteed a starting spot in this Sunday’s AFC-NFC Pro Bowl!
OK, that’s obviously not true, but it seems that hardly any players of value want in for this year’s Pro Bowl, which of course is not in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl -- as has been the case since 1980 -- but instead in Miami the week before the big game at the same site. This will mark only the second time the championship game and the Pro Bowl have shared the same city (yawn!). Supposedly the game is sold out, but they have been basically giving tickets away.
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Let’s first talk about who isn’t playing. Of course no Saints or Colts are – the NFL would never risk injury to a Super Bowl-participating player the week before, and the teams would never allow it anyways. Brett Favre begged out due to injury, and so did Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, the AFC Pro Bowl QBs are now a joke: Houston’s Matt Schaub (he deserves it), Tennessee’s Vince Young (didn’t start until Week 8) and Jacksonville’s David Garrard (had 10 interceptions and fumbled 14 times, losing eight of them, and was called a “middle-tier” QB by his own coach). Apparently there were no options from a team outside the AFC South. And Tim Tebow was tied up this week.
So if you want to simply go by quarterback star power, take the NFC and its trio of Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb (replacement for Drew Brees), and Tony Romo (in for Favre). As of this writing, there have been a Pro Bowl-record 29 replacements named because of injuries or Super Bowl obligations.
For what it’s worth, the NFC has won the past two games handily – easily covering the spread. It leads overall 20-19. The conferences alternated wins the previous five years. There will no doubt be prop bets released on Pro Bowl MVP soon. Quarterbacks have won 16 MVP awards, while wide receivers are No. 2 with eight – including Larry Fitzgerald last year (he will also sit this year due to injury). Since this game went to the AFC-NFC format, only former Raiders QB Rich Gannon has repeated as Pro Bowl MVP. Only one defensive player has won it since 1989 – the Bucs’ Derrick Brooks in 2006. If you want my choice for this season, it would be the Titans’ Chris Johnson, who seems to enjoy making publicity whenever he can and might be the most motivated player on the field.
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Teams tend to take the game fairly seriously once the fourth quarter hits, if only because players on the winning team get $45,000, while each on the losing team get $22,500. The NFL is actually making the Pro Bowl members of the Colts and Saints participate in pre-game introductions and other festivities to receive a full share – something that Colts president Bill Polian harshly criticized as disrupting his team’s Super Bowl preparations because the Indy players were supposed to have the weekend off. Apparently the Colts players will fly back to Indy at halftime (halftime!) and then return to South Florida on Monday. New Orleans’ seven Pro Bowl picks also will fly home on Sunday night and return to South Florida with their teammates Monday.
This will be the last year the NFL experiments with the Pro Bowl coming before the Super Bowl. It’s clearly not working.