It’s that time again. The 2013 NFL Pro Bowl game will yet again fill the void between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
But will anyone be watching?
The intrigue and anticipation for Super Bowl XLVII has captivated the football nation. It’s all over the front page of every sporting news outlet in the country.
We’re ready for the “Super Baugh,” the “Har-Bowl” or whatever trendy nickname pops up next.
But before then, there’s still a game to be played in Hawaii. It’s a game that has lost its meaning over the years, but will still feature some of the best athletes in the game competing in a fun and loose environment.
Let's take a look at some surprises in this year's NFL All-Star game.
Gerald McCoy, DT, NFC
Gerald McCoy joined teammates Ronde Barber, Vincent Jackson and rookie Doug Martin in Hawaii as four representatives of a resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
His selection didn’t come without some criticism, even in local Tampa area media. Former Bucs offensive lineman Ian Beckles, co-host of WDAE 620’s Ron and Ian Show, said McCoy didn’t perform at a Pro Bowl caliber. He cited the team’s pass defense struggles as a reason for inflated stats and noted that McCoy’s weren’t even above the norm (h/t brsoundingoff.blogspot.com).
McCoy played his first complete season in his still young three-year career.
Russell Wilson, QB, NFC
The young standout QB from Wisconsin made his mark early in the preseason and continued to reward Pete Carroll for taking him with a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Not many initially put much stock in the 5’11” signal-caller. NFLDraftScout.com, a reputable NFL draft ranking company, rated him as the seventh-best QB in the 2012 draft class.
That’s why he’s a huge surprise here in Hawaii. He joined Andrew Luck as an alternate, filling in for injured QB Matt Ryan, who withdrew after sustaining a shoulder injury during his team’s NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco.
C.J. Spiller, RB, AFC
C.J. Spiller finally made the Buffalo Bills happy for taking a risk on the allegedly undersized running back. He was rewarded by voters too by being added as a Pro Bowl alternate for Ray Rice after the Baltimore Ravens earned a Super Bowl appearance last weekend.
Spiller nearly tripled his rushing-yard production from a season ago while not even doubling his touches. He nearly doubled his receiving yards this season while only catching five more passes than he did last year.
The most impressive feature of Spiller’s game continues to be his explosiveness. He had to share the workload with Fred Jackson and work through injuries, and he still put up career numbers and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl (albeit as an alternate).
Eric Berry, S, AFC
Eric Berry wasn’t expected to ever be the same, at least initially, after suffering a torn ACL last season. The third-year pro missed virtually all of 2011 after the injury, but came back stronger than ever in 2012.
He didn’t make as many big plays in the passing game early on as he did in his rookie season, but was an adept pass-defender, knocking down 10 passes. He benefited from a slow start by being moved up more frequently into the box, recording 10 stuffs and finishing with 86 tackles.
The biggest positive for Berry was his finish this season. Eight of his 10 pass deflections and both of his 11-tackle games came in the second half of the season.