Athlon's Rob Doster offers his insight from Pro Bowl weekend.
In his typically long-winded, eloquent manner, Bill Belichick summed up the Pro Bowl: “It is what it is.”
What it is is a bad joke masquerading as a professional football game. Yesterday’s 55–41 NFC win featured eight turnovers, dozens of disinterested participants and 49,338 fans who had to be wondering why they had paid money to watch the comedy of errors. The game wasn’t even as close as the score would suggest, as the NFC built a 42–0 first-half lead and cruised.
Unlike the NBA All-Star game, which is a defense-free showcase of athleticism and offensive genius, the Pro Bowl featured plenty of offensive ineptitude. Peyton Manning threw an interception on his second pass of the game. Matt Cassel did likewise. In all, AFC quarterbacks threw it to the guys in blue five times.
Just how incompetent were the offenses? The MVP of a game that saw 96 points and 854 yards of offense was a defensive player: Washington’s DeAngelo Hall, who had an interception and returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown.
Can we all agree that it’s time to take this sideshow out back and shoot it? The good people of Hawaii paid the league $4 million to give their fans an NFL showcase, and this is what they get?
The Pro Bowl’s unfortunate spot on the calendar — unlike every other major sport, the NFL holds its all-star game after the season — has always made it the stepchild of professional all-star games. The inherent injury risk, the reluctance of many top players to take part, the poor quality of the game itself — all combine to make the Pro Bowl a monumental irrelevancy.
With all that said, and as if you care, I will tell you that there’s a new Pro Bowl scoring king. David Akers passed his mentor, Morten Andersen, to become the game’s all-time scoring leader with 52 points.
The Main Event
Now that the undercard is mercifully over, it’s time for the real show. It’s Super Bowl Week, and here are some early thoughts:
• Pittsburgh will need to run the ball successfully to win, a task made more difficult by the absence of injured center Maurkice Pouncey. Watch Rashard Mendenhall’s carries and yards as the game progresses.
• The Packers will need to put Ben Roethlisberger on the ground. Hitting Big Ben is not enough; he’s the king of sloughing off sacks and turning losses into big plays.
• Aaron Rodgers will have to continue his magical run. It seems unlikely that the Pack will have much success on the ground, so the onus falls on Rodgers to make plays through the air. He’s facing a defense that’s effective against the pass, but not elite; the Steelers allowed 214.1 yards per game through the air, 12th in the NFL. This is Rodgers’ opportunity to stamp himself as the game’s best quarterback.