Scattered stats and thoughts regarding the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl (stop groaning)…
NFC 62, AFC 35
Adjusted Yards per Play: 7.34 – NFC, 3.00 – AFC
AY/P Projected Point Totals: NFC 38.80, AFC 14.36
1. Call me crazy or, more likely, desperate for meaningful football, but I thought most players involved with the Pro Bowl last night gave a portion of a crap and that’s all you can really ask for. Of the four major professional sports in America, football is clearly the worst-suited for the entire concept of an all-star game. For starters, it’s the sport with the greatest emphasis on team unity, so throwing together 45 or so guys together to play a game on one week’s notice is going to make The Room seem meticulously planned and well thought out by comparison. You may have also heard that football is very violent. Those rumors are true and the likelihood of the players involved going full speed and risking serious harm to their careers in an exhibition game is about as high as the likelihood of Seth MacFarlane getting asked to host the Oscars again after the trainwreck that’s forthcoming in February. And when you dial back the intensity level a thousand notches from a sport that depends on that intensity for its very basic sense of excitement, you typically get a substandard product. The MLB All-Star Game is essentially a normal baseball game, only with way more pitching changes (excluding Tony La Russa-managed games, of course) and the wide-open natures of the NBA and NHL all-star games at least encourage more showmanship and dazzling athletics displays out of their sport’s greatest stars, which is the only real point of having an All-Star game in the first place. The poor Pro Bowl is forced to rely on Tweet stations and trick kickoffs from Phil Dawson to manufacture that showmanship. Not quite the same as LeBron going airborne for a dunk, if you were to ask me.
2. So we’ve established a fact. The NFL is the greatest sport in America currently yet somehow owns the worst all-star game in America, by far. What an incredible contradiction – a contradiction that would require thousands and thousands of words for proper analysis if the Pro Bowl were really a subject worth poring thousands and thousands of words out over. It of course isn’t, so I’ll just say that despite all my misgivings about the game, I did in fact watch most of it last night and was actually moderately entertained. Much of that entertainment was supplied by Al Michaels, who spent much of the evening passively-aggressively jabbing the sheer absurdity of the whole event without ever actually saying, “The Pro Bowl is a piece of crap.” Wait a minute, he actually did say that at the end of the game. My mistake.
3. As stated at the beginning of the post, however, the players involved took Peyton Manning’s impassioned plea from earlier in the week to heart (“Look, you guys. I love Hawaii, but I’m too cheap to pay for my own vacations. If Goodell pulls the plug on this game because some of you weren’t running your Levels routes at game speed, I swear to God, I will hunt you down and I will kill you. Even you, Demariyus.”) and played a game that at least resembled the sport we all know and love. We were all treated to a series of wonderful Manning Faces from Eli, who seemed utterly stoned whenever he was on camera. Matt Schaub reminded Texans fans why they’re so enamored of him with an interception to the Falcons’ William Moore. Fellow Texan J.J. Watt bloodied up his finger real good under orders from Peyton as proof for the world that, hey, we really do care about this, guys! And for his part, Andrew Luck engaged Peyton in some of the most painfully awkward small talk ever captured on tape (for the record, Peyton believes Cooper’s children are 9, 7, and 5 years old, respectively). The magic of the Pro Bowl,everyone.
4. If you’re looking for interesting subplots to watch for during the game – and Lord knows you have to make some up to get all the way through this facsimile of a game – one reliable one is noticing how the veterans react to the youngsters making their first appearance in the game. If nothing else, you can sometimes figure out the attitudes and feelings the old guard harbor for the next generation. Last year, for example, the AFC defense couldn’t be bothered to move more than three feet at a time for most of the game, but suddenly found the energy to crank out a playoff-level pass rush once Cam Newton entered the game. The lesson: veterans don’t like Cam Newton. This year, I thought it was interesting how often Drew Brees and Eli Manning targeted Kyle Rudolph, a guy who averaged 5.3 Yards per Target this year and looked to my eyes like an enormous stiff for most of the year. Now after seeing Rudolph get 122 yards and a touchdown on five catches yesterday, I’m wondering how much that stiff-like appearance was due simply to the odious nature of one Christian Ponder. Seems to just lend more credence to the theory that quarterbacks make receivers way more often than the other way around. Either that or I’m reading way too much into action that occurred during the Pro Bowl. Probably both.
5. J.J. Watt at wide receiver turned out to be a bit of bust – Peanut Tillman knocked the ball out of his hands on the opening series (a delightful play for my sanity’s sake, even if it’s just a meaningless exhibition) and Jason Pierre-Paul made his first impact play in three months when he outjumped Watt for an Andrew Luck lob at the end of the game. With all of that said, however, seeing J.J. on offense yesterday gave you some ideas for next season, Gary Kubiak. As Herm Edwards might say, “NO BETTER CURE FOR RED ZONE ISSUES THAN PLAYING A 6’6” DEFENSIVE LINEMAN ON OFFENSE.”
6. And, finally: yes, I will start previewing the Super Bowl tomorrow. This game can’t come fast enough.