NFL Pro Bowl 2013: Rosters, Spread Info, Line and Predictions
A yearly source of controversy due to the consistent string of players pulling out with various excuses, ranging from ACL tears to the NFL equivalent of "the dog ate my plane ticket," the Pro Bowl is not to be taken seriously whatsoever.
It's not indicative of which conference is better; it's just a fun game played for television ratings, revenue and a vacation.
However, for those who love offensive football, the Pro Bowl is a yearly treat. Last season's inception hit triple digits in total points for the second time in NFL history, and it's hard to see 2013 falling short of that number.
With that in mind, let's take a look at everything you need to know about Sunday's Pro Bowl matchup.
Where: Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii
When: Sunday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. ET
Stream: Pro Bowl All-Access
Pro Bowl Rosters
For a complete look at the 2013 AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters, head to NFL.com.
Spread: AFC -1 (via Vegas Insider)
After opening with the NFC favored by three, the line slowly moved down in the AFC's direction and for pretty good reason. In exhibition settings, quarterback play means just about everything. Teams rarely (if ever) pound the ball more than a few times with a running back, and most of the time the game turns into a glorified seven-on-seven contest.
Which team will win on Sunday?
Unfortunately for the NFC side, it's seen a ton of shuffling at the most important position. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III have all dropped out due to injury, as have pass-catchers Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Tony Gonzalez.
That leaves the NFC without each of its three initial selections at quarterback, along with the starters at both wide receiver and tight end. The depth at those positions is admittedly deep, but no one can feel comfortable with 2012-13 Eli Manning taking a third of the snaps.
Meanwhile, the AFC has seen far fewer departures. New England Patriots Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski are all out with various ailments, but the roster is largely unchanged minus the obvious Baltimore Ravens absences.
With the AFC mostly complete offensively and the NFC in shambles, one point seems like a pretty low bar. Take the AFC for a relatively big victory on Sunday.
Over/Under: 83 (via Vegas Insider)
If there's one tried and true rule of betting on the Pro Bowl, it's that you always pick the over. Players have become so scared of being injured and hurting others over the years that defense is essentially optional.
Each of the past two Pro Bowls have hit over 95 points, with last season's hitting the hallowed 100-point mark. Guys can feign interest in trying harder, and the NFL can sell a more competitive game all it wants, but this game is one serious Peyton Manning injury away from going the way of the dodo.
It's obviously that way in all other All-Star formats as well, but it's infinitely more noticeable in the NFL. Take the over while it's still (relatively) low, because it will probably be bet up to at least 85 by kickoff.
AFC Player to Watch: A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Speaking of Mr. Manning, there may be no happier man on this planet come Sunday than A.J. Green. The Bengals star goes from getting thrown passes by Andy Dalton this season, and oftentimes bailing out his young quarterback, to one of the five greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Essentially, Green is going from a Dodge Caravan to a Lamborghini Aventador on Sunday. While the Caravan got him where he needed to go for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Green will be in heaven taking passes from Manning.
With Green lining up alongside Andre Johnson in the starting lineup, it's unquestionable that the younger receiver will get some beautiful downfield passes from Manning.
Even when the Broncos quarterback eventually leaves the contest, Green should continue to see balls thrown better than he has all season. Both Andrew Luck and Matt Schaub are a step up from Dalton, which should lead to a pretty stellar game.
One more player to keep an eye on early: Reggie Wayne. His and Manning's relationship has obviously spanned over a decade, and Wayne was Luck's top target during the regular season.
With passes flying all over the field, it wouldn't shock me to see Green or Wayne win the Pro Bowl's top honors. Considering he's younger, starting and about to see his best quarterbacking of the season, smart money is on Green.
NFC Player to Watch: Russell Wilson (QB, Seattle Seahawks)
If the NFC wants to somehow come away with victory on Sunday, one of its quarterbacks is going to need an ascendant performance. Drew Brees has never been one to adore the Pro Bowl since dislocating his elbow in Honolulu in 2007, and Eli Manning's second-half splits don't impress anybody.
That leaves Wilson, who is somehow the sole representative of the NFL's read-option movement. Robert Griffin III's ACL tear obviously prevents him from making a trip to Honolulu, and Colin Kaepernick wouldn't have been selected even if the Falcons would have eliminated the 49ers.
If there's anything to symmetry in the NFL, it only stands to reason that a read-option guy—especially one who is as brilliant in the pocket as Wilson—would have a solid game.
He's also someone who doesn't seem to have the ability to turn off his competitive juices yet. Wilson was a fighter and a fierce competitor dating back to his days at N.C. State, and it will be hard to tell him how little this game ultimately means.
With lax pass rushes and simplistic defensive sets, Wilson is exactly the type of quarterback who should thrive in the Pro Bowl. It's highly unlikely we actually see any read-option looks, but Wilson could definitely make hay scrambling outside of the pocket.
It's that type of dual-threat ability that led the Seahawks to a brilliant run down the stretch and could do the same for the NFC on Sunday.
While the obvious answer is some sort of vague variation on "it will be a high-scoring game," someone has to make a prediction around these parts.
Look for the AFC to top 60 points en route to a huge win over its offensively depleted rivals.
Final Score Prediction: AFC 63, NFC 42
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