The NFL Pro Bowl is this Sunday but from the Super Bowl site in Glendale, Ariz., instead of the usual spot in Hawaii. It's your only live NFL option this week, but is it worth to even bet on the game?
Team Carter vs. Team Irvin
The NFL seemed serious when it announced following the 2013 Pro Bowl that it was thinking of ditching the game because it was clear the players weren't giving much effort at all -- especially the defensive guys. They were usually moving at half-speed and barely tackling guys to avoid injury.
Instead, the NFL changed its format to a fantasy football-type draft system rather than splitting up the players by conference. It's what the NHL has done for a couple of years with its All-Star Game, which also happens to be this Sunday. Last year Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders drafted the players fantasy style. The game was more competitive with Team Rice beating Team Sanders when Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Kansas City's Alex Smith late in the fourth quarter and then Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert scored the game-winning two-point conversion for the 22-21 victory. The game wasn't perfect as it was raining in Honolulu and that helped lead to eight turnovers. But there were some big hits, including by normal NFL teammates on one another. Philadelphia QB Nick Foles was named the game's Offensive MVP -- he was the only QB not to throw an interception -- and Kansas City's Derrick Johnson was the defensive MVP.
This season the alumni captains are Hall of Fame receivers Michael Irvin and Cris Carter and they will select their teams on Wednesday night. Coaching in the Pro Bowl will be the staffs of the Baltimore Ravens (Team Carter) and Dallas Cowboys (Team Irvin). Irvin has Murray and Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden as his captains, meaning those two are automatically on Team Irvin. Carter has Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. The captains were determined by being the players receiving the most votes among those no longer playing after the divisional round who are still healthy enough to play in the game. Carter will get the first overall pick in Wednesday's draft. I'm sure he takes a quarterback.
As usual, there have been numerous stars pulling out. Of course members of the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks can't play in the game. And the quarterback depth chart has taken a beating as Andy Dalton, who most definitely didn't have a Pro Bowl season, was named the seventh alternate to the active roster Tuesday. Yes, seventh alternate. Of the original six chosen as Pro Bowl QBs, only the Colts' Andrew Luck and Cowboys' Tony Romo are set to play. Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers dropped out due to injury. First alternate Drew Brees replaced Big Ben. Second alternate Philip Rivers was asked to replace Manning, but Rivers declined as he was recovering from an injury. No. 3 alternate Russell Wilson is in the Super Bowl. No. 4 alternate Matthew Stafford is taking Manning's spot. The Patriots' Tom Brady was an original Pro Bowl pick but also is in the Super Bowl. Fifth alternate Matt Ryan took his spot. Then when Rodgers had to pull out, No. 6 alternate Joe Flacco declined because his wife is about to give birth. That left Dalton.
What to Bet?
I expect some sportsbooks to release some draft props prior to Wednesday. I can all but guarantee you that Team Irvin picks the Cowboys' Romo with the No. 2 overall pick considering Irvin was a Cowboy (and then Dez Bryant next), Murray is a Cowboy and the team is coached by Dallas' Jason Garrett. Carter will take a quarterback first, likely Luck.
The actual NFL odds for the game won't be released until the rosters are finalized. The spread is going to be less than a field goal because it always is. Last year Team Rice was a 1.5-point favorite and the total was a whopping 89.5 points. Last year's game was the lowest-scoring since the one following the 2005 season, a 23-17 NFC win. The last AFC-NFC format game two years ago saw 97 points scored.
NFL Free Picks: Expect a much lower total this year as sportsbooks overreact to last season's score, but remember that weather won't be a factor at University of Phoenix Stadium as it was last year. If Carter gets Luck that team would be my NFL pick because Luck doesn't know how not to care about winning, much like Manning. Plus Team Carter has the most unblockable defensive force in the league in Watt.