Before the big game, there is the insignificant one. The game that rewards the good players of the NFL despite a poor record or a shortened playoff run. I am talking of course about the NFL Pro Bowl. The talent in the NFL this season was top notch, filled with break out stars, hard hitting defenders and laser precise quarterbacks. And all these players will be rewarded with a trip to Glendale, Arizona and put up against one another after being selected in a fantasy draft by either Hall of Fame receivers Michael Irvin or Cris Carter. Here is my take on which team will have position edges and who will take home the dub!
Position Edge: QUARTERBACK
Team Carter, with the first pick in the School yard style draft, selected Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. He starts in front of Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, and Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Team Irvin decided to follow the Luck pick with a quarterback of his own, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. He followed Romo up with Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
Tony Romo had one of the best seasons of his career, finishing with a career best 82.7 QBR. Despite a somewhat significant back injury, Romo lead the Cowboys to a second half of the season comeback, surpassing the Philadelphia Eagles to take the NFC East crown. Both Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and can throw the deep ball accurately. That could be dangerous with the amount of talent Team Irvin has at wide receiver.
As I said before, I believe Andrew Luck was the best quarterback available to the Pro Bowl. He finished the season with 4,761 passing yards, and accounted for 43 touchdowns, 40 through the air. Drew Brees’s season was not too shabby however. Brees was only 48 passing yards away from eclipsing 5,000 for the miserable season the New Orleans Saints had. Brees threw only one less touchdown that Romo at 33. Andy Dalton was a little bit more inconsistent, throwing for 3,398 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. But Dalton has experience with receiver Team Carter’s third pick A.J. Green, and this connection could spell success for Team Carter.
Although Team Carter has the best quarterback this game has to offer, I believe Team Irvin has a more consistent threat behind center. The threat of a deep ball from the backups, plus the smart play from Tony Romo is enough for me to give Michael Irvin the first edge of the Pro Bowl
Follow us after the jump to see the rest of our Pro Bowl preview as well as a prediction on the winner.
Team Irvin has the three headed beast of team captain Demarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys, Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints and C.J. Anderson of the Denver Broncos. Team Carter countered with Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Forsett of the Baltimore Ravens, and Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins.
Of course Murray is the best player in the lot. Him being a team captain is a testament to this fact. He led the NFL in rushing with a 1,845 yard season, averaging 4.7 yards per rush. He also finished with a career high in touchdowns with 13. Mark Ingram, coming into a contract year, may have forced his stock way up with his performance. He finished with a career high 964 yards from scrimmage on 4.3 yards per carry. C.J. Anderson really had a break out year, helping out an aging Peyton Manning. He finished the season with 849 yards in his second year, scoring 8 times on the ground and twice via Manning. He averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry.
Jamaal Charles averaged a high 5.0 yards per carry, to go along with his 5.5 yards per carry average. Charles finished the season with 1,033 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also caught an extra 5 touchdowns and 291 receiving yards. Justin Forsett was this years feel good story. Forsett was a journeyman who bounced around the NFL for 5 seasons until he found success this season filling in for Ray Rice. Forsett finished with a career high in attempts, yards and touchdowns. He finished the season with 1,266 yards on 5.4 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns. Alfred Morris picked up the slack let out by the quarterback situation in Washington. He finished the year with career lows across the board, rushing for 1,074 yards on 4.1 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns.
This matchup is as close to even as it can get in my opinion, but the edge ultimately goes to Team Carter. Although Team Irvin’s backfield is stacked with talent, Team Carter has the more versatile and quick backs. I believe these three backs can use their speed and receiving talents to offer more than the bruisers Team Irvin drafter. Edge: Team Carter
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Team Carter has decided to go with team captain Antonio Brown of the Pittsburg Steelers, A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals, T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, and Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers at receiver, with Martellus Bennet of the Chicago Bears and Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers at tight end.
Team Irvin countered with Odell Beckham, Jr. of the New York Giants, Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers, Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos, Golden Tate of the Detroit Lions at receiver, with Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys at tight end.
The receiver and tight end talent is a push for me. Although Antonio Brown led the NFL in receiving yards and receptions, the talent on the other side is there too. Odell Beckham, Jr., launched himself into the limelight with “The Catch”, Cobb had yet another good year in green and yellow, and Sanders and Tate have the ability to get open down field if their quarterbacks can find them. A.J. Green is becoming an absolute star out in Ohio, Hilton can go get anything thrown his way and Nelson just has an ability to find the end-zone.
Jimmy Graham did not have his best season in New Orleans, but there is no denying he is a massive target with the athleticism and hands of a wide receiver. Martellus Bennet too is a big target with the ability to get open near the goal line. Witten will be paired with his starting Cowboy’s qb Tony Romo, so they could quite possibly have a chemistry aspect that makes the pairing more effective. And Greg Olsen can go get the ball with the best receivers.
I cannot give an edge to either team. This matchup is a must see for every football fan.
The defense of both teams will have to play as a unit if either team wants to win. In a game that usually has way more than usual the amount of touchdowns, here are the players I see making a difference during the game.
Let’s start first with the captains: defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans for Team Carter and cornerback Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns for Team Irvin. J.J. Watt is a threat on all sides of the ball as creative Texans coach Bill O’Brien has shown this season. I wouldn’t be surprise to his line up as a tight end, or act as a fullback if he so pleases. Haden is an unbelievable ball hawk. When going up against some of the best receivers and quarterbacks, corners that can make plays on the ball can be the difference between a team throwing up 70 points and losing by 70 points.
But lets be honest here, in a game the features little to no defense, can the players on defense truly make a difference? If the players actually play the game instead of worrying about personal injuries, here are some players I can see making a difference. Joining Watt on Team Carter are the scary three defensive linemen, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, all from the Buffalo Bills. They can apply a ton of pressure to the quarterback. Linebacker C.J. Mosely, who has a good shot at winning the defensive rookie of the year, out of Baltimore, can use the front four to get after the qb as well. Finally on Team Carter, corner Patrick Peterson is an amazing athlete and plays the ball as well as anyone else in the league.
Team Irvin features a scary good front seven. Rams teammates Aaron Donald, who is also in a good position to win defensive rookie of the year, and Robert Quinn are joined by Jet d-linemen Sheldon Richardson and Dolphin’s Cameron Wake. The linebackers for Team Irvin consists of Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers and Luke Keuchly of the Carolina Panthers. The front seven will be absolutely deadly, stopping the Team Carter running backs dead in their tracks.
Edge: Team Irvin
Despite Team Carter’s deadly stable of running backs and talented receiving corps, the defensive front and quarterback play will lead Team Irvin to a 28-24 victory in Glendale. This new format has produced lower scoring games and a higher level of competitiveness and intensity. For example, last year with Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders as the team leaders, Team Rice won 22-21 on a two point conversion. The last three seasons the NFL had an AFC versus NFC matchup the scores were as follows: 62-35 NFC, 59-41 AFC and 55-41 NFC.
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