Over the last few years, the NFL Pro Bowl has experienced a free fall in popularity due to poor play on the field and a lack of interest leading up to the Super Bowl.
With the ratings on the decline and the possibility of the game getting the axe, the league decided to shift the rules and team makeup this year. With unconferenced teams and rule changes including two-minute warnings in each quarter and a shortened play clock, the Pro Bowl should be more exciting than ever.
For example, Drew Brees will be throwing to Josh Gordon while Cam Newton could be running the read-option with Jamaal Charles. The unconferenced teams take away from playing for conference rights, but it was never about that in the first place in the Pro Bowl.
Here is the full roster of the two teams, game information and predictions for MVP for the Sunday matchup between Team Deion Sanders and Team Jerry Rice.
TV Channel: NBC
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Odds: Team Sanders -1 (according to Vegas Insider)
Over/Under: 93.5 points
Time: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Team Rice 56, Team Sanders 48
Team Sanders: Jamaal Charles
The new Pro Bowl format is meant to bring fantasy football to the gridiron. And anyone who has played fantasy this season knows that Jamaal Charles was easily the best all-around player in the game this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs running back can not only run the ball with authority, but his hands out of the backfield make him an MVP candidate any time he touches the field. Akbar Gbajabiamila of the NFL Network believes Charles will be the No. 1 overall player drafted next season by fantasy owners:
With over 2,000 total yards, 19 touchdowns and an average of five yards per carry, Charles will be a brute force out of the backfield for Team Sanders. The three quarterbacks of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Nick Foles can all look to him when on the field to make an impact.
As the offensive captain of Team Sanders, look for Charles to make a huge difference out of the trio of backs on his team.
Team Rice: Josh Gordon
When it comes to explosive wide receivers, Rice clearly knows how to pick 'em.
Who has a better shot at MVP?
With a receiving corps that includes breakout stars Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery to go along with Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall, it's difficult to pick which offensive playmaker will be the most dynamic on Sunday.
Hence the reason why I predicted Rice's team to win the game.
But when looking at which player could experience a huge game, Gordon seems like the most likely candidate. The receiver not only led the NFL in receiving yards and caught nine touchdowns in just 14 games this year but also did so with a not-so-stellar quarterback situation.
The Twitter account NFL Philosophy points out that Gordon was still consistent with three starting quarterbacks that threw for a combined 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions:
Heath Evans: "Josh Gordon was inconsistent this year." 11 of 14 games of 70+ yards with Hoyer/Weeden/Campbell throwing to him. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) January 23, 2014
The Cleveland Browns receiver was one of the biggest stars for fantasy owners this year and could do the same for Rice on Sunday. With his playmaking ability and great hands, Gordon could prove to be the MVP for Team Rice if it ultimately pulls out the win.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: