Another year, another underwhelming Pro Bowl. Among major American sports, the four biggest being the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL, the NFL’s Pro Bowl competition for the league’s Pro Bowl players, the NFL’s term for all-star, squarely ranks last in popularity among the four all-star games. The NBA All-Star Game happens mid season, showcasing the best players in the league before the remainder of the season and playoffs commence. For sports with less contact, namely the MLB and NBA, the wear and tear of a physical season aren’t nearly as prominent in their All-Star games. For example, several injuries in the NFL, along with players simply stating they have no desire to play in the Pro Bowl, have led to multiple alternative players being enlisted by each side. The classic AFC versus NFC has been lost by time, as players are afraid of sustaining serious injury in a game that only grants the winners a paycheck bonus.
Looking over the Pro Bowl roster that competed in comparison to the hand selected process, shows the disappearance of two teams. The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, contributing a combined six Pro Bowlers, pulled their players out of the contest in preparation for Super Bowl LIII.
Outside of the injuries and Super Bowl players, some athletes simply choose to sit out of the game as it is an inconvenience. The result isn’t even the two best built rosters competing for an hour of game play. It’s difficult to blame the players for not wanting to hurt themselves or their opponents in a game without merit, which would only result in recovery time and an undesirable off season for them to recover. In an effort to combat such issues, the NFL introduced a Pro Bowl Skills competition, which takes place over the weekend before the Pro Bowl itself. Players are asked to complete challenges, such as a skill competition for kickers in a massive game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
For this years’ Pro Bowl, the AFC took home the victory for the third consecutive year with it’s 26-7 win over the NFC. This years’ regular season MVP, Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, started in his first Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter, and threw for 150 yards and a touchdown before Houston Texans starting quarterback Deshaun Watson stepped in. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Casey Hayward shined for the AFC defense that only allowed one score. Hayward recorded one and a half sacks out of the seven the team managed to rack up. The AFC defense smothered all day, allowing only 148 total yards, paling in comparison to the AFC’s 416. Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and New York Jets safety Jamal Adams all had interceptions from different quarterbacks, emphasizing how difficult it was for the NFC to move the ball.
While bringing together the best rosters in the NFL for each conference, the one sided affair leaves much to be desired, which may lead to the league rethinking its Pro Bowl structure in the years to come.