2007 Pro Bowl Betting Strategy? Flip a Coin
by Trevor Whenham - 02/09/2007
The Pro Bowl, as a football game, is a total and complete waste of time. It's boring, it's poorly played and it is, frankly, a mystery why the game even exists at all. There are two things that make the Pro Bowl worthwhile, though. First of all, it helps us transition from the football season to the end of football season gradually. It's easier to quit smoking if you use the patch, and it's easier to get over your football addiction if you can go from the real football of the Super Bowl to the fake football of the Pro Bowl instead of having to stop cold turkey. The second reason the game is worthwhile is, of course, that you can bet on it. Betting can make even the most mundane, ridiculous sport interesting. In this case, the AFC is favored by four in this epic showdown that no one cares about.
The Pro Bowl has been played in its current format 36 times, and the teams have split them evenly - 18 wins apiece. The NFC won 23-17 last year, but the AFC has won seven of the last 10 games. We could spend more time looking at trends and statistics, but if that seems like a good idea to you then you are definitely over thinking this game. The coaching staffs and the rosters are completely different every year, and you can never be sure of the motivation of the players on either side, so applying long-term trends to handicapping this game is about as useful as applying astrology.
The champs from Indianapolis will be represented by five players, led, as usual, by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. As is always the case with the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl winning players arrived later than the rest of their teammates, and were met with the sincere but jealous well wishes of all the other players. Less triumphant upon their arrival were the Bears players. Those Bears players that made it, that is. Olin Kreutz, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs all came up with mysterious and convenient injuries that saved them the embarrassment of having to look at Peyton Manning again so soon after the big game.
The most likely source of some drama in this game was rather disappointingly resolved early in the week of practices. AFC coach Bill Belichick and San Diego running back and NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson had traded barbs in the press over the behavior of the Patriots after their playoff win in San Diego, but, sadly, the men have kissed and made up. The only remaining hope for real interest is that Miami defensive end Jason Taylor and San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman will get into a brawl. The relations between those players will be tense after Taylor was openly critical of Merriman over his positive steroid test. The NFC doesn't provide nearly as much intrigue, mainly because coach Sean Payton seems like a nice guy that opposing players would struggle to say something bad about. Payton should be able to avoid any controversy among his players. As long as he doesn't make Tony Romo hold for the kicker, that is.
When the NFC has the ball, the one thing you can be pretty sure of is that they are going to be looking to pass a lot. There are few quarterbacks in the league who like to toss it up as much as these three quarterbacks - Drew Brees, Marc Bulger and Tony Romo. Steve Smith and Donald Driver are the starting wideouts, so the pivots should have no problems finding a target, especially given the typically lax defense in the game. The other aspect of the game that you can virtually guarantee is that Tiki Barber, on the field for the last time in his career, will be given plenty of opportunities to go out in style. Frank Gore is the starting running back, but he will happily give the veteran his due. If the AFC defense decides to put in any effort then it could be formidable. The unit has an embarrassment of talent, with Taylor and Merriman being joined by five Baltimore players. Those seven players alone could give any offense nightmares. Champ Bailey is one player that will be at full throttle. He needs just one interception to set the record for most career Pro Bowl interceptions.
Peyton Manning holds several Pro Bowl career records of his own, but he likely won't sped a lot of time trying to pad them. He is starting for the AFC, but, given his last week, he likely won't play as long as he is entitled to. That will mean more playing time for Carson Palmer and Vince Young. It could be very exciting to see what kind of magic Young can create against a lax defense. It will be overwhelming for those QBs to decide what to do with the ball. They have a great receiving corps with players like Harrison, Chad Johnson and Andre Johnson, but it will be hard to resist the temptation to hand it off on every play with both Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. The spiritual leader of the NFC defense will likely be Derrick Brooks. He's only a reserve this year, but he was the MVP of the game last year, and he seems to care about this game more than most players.
That, in a nutshell, is how the game sets up. When it comes to handicapping the game, there is really only one thing to do - just flip a coin. That approach is as effective as any in this silly game. If, for some crazy reason, you actually decide to spend your Saturday night watching the game there is just one thing to remember - bad football is still better than no football at all, so appreciate it while you can.