Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

I thought this was a baseball blog, too…

Posted by dannmckeegan on December 31, 2010

Herein be musings on the NFL Pro Bowl, the post-season football all-star game. Also known as the most worthless spectacle of the four major Anglophone North American team sports. The idea, of course, is to bring the sport’s best players out onto the field at the same time (well, four times – offense, defense, kicking, receiving). But the only reason players used to go was because it was a free trip for their families to Hawai’i, the former permanent host of the Pro Bowl. But economic times got hard, even for the league’s billionaire owners (*cough cough horseshit cough cough*). And so they decided to spice up the week off between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl by placing the Pro Bowl in the Super Bowl’s host city and playing it on that open Sunday.

A few problems arise here. First, the Super Bowl is a week away. That’s still going to draw all the hype. The super-squads are still small potatoes, interest-wise. Related to the scheduling is the actual makeup of the rosters, which were announced earlier this week. With the playoffs still happening, the winners (i.e. Super Bowl teams’ players) and losers (reps from the other playoff teams) either can’t make it or have little incentive to try. The increased risk of injury, also, is a deterrent. Especially with an upcoming Super Bowl scheduled for the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey (in February), players see an exhibition contest with little effort put in as a trap: it is easy to pop a knee or tear a muscle on any surface at any time, just so long as one is playing football.

So with all this in mind, what can we expect from the 2011 Pro Bowl?Let’s begin by taking a look at the quarterback position.

AFC: Tom Brady, NE (starter); Philip Rivers, SD; Peyton Manning, IND

Brady’s Patriots have cemented home field through the AFC playoffs and are widely expected to reach the Super Bowl. If the Pats are upset, it will likely be because of an injury, large or small, to their MVP quarterback. He’s out. Philip Rivers will not be making the playoffs this season, but there remains some question as to whether he’ll “opt to rest nagging injuries” rather than waste an extra five days of his off-season in Dallas-Ft. Worth. Peyton Manning’s playoff life comes down to a week 17 matchup with a reeling Titans team. A win puts them in, though they have a Garrard-less Jags’ matchup with the disappointing Texans to help them in, as well. With Mike Sims-Walker and MJD questionable, Trent “not good enough for the bleeping Bills” Edwards is nominally second on the depth chart and ready to step in. Let’s assume that Peyton’s playoff streak continues in 2011.

NFC: Michael Vick, PHI (starter); Matt Ryan, ATL; Drew Brees, NO

Three QBs from three of the four top teams in the NFC – all playoff-bound and all with a very real opportunity to reach the Super Bowl. Vick has suffered some nagging injuries as well as those broken ribs this year, and the beatings he takes as a running quarterback add up. Win or lose in the conference playoffs, he will likely not be making this Pro Bowl appearance in Jerruh’s Temple to Football Excess at Arlington. Either Brees or Ryan will be out before the conference title game (unless the Panthers do the unthinkable and the Bears beat Green Bay, in which case Chicago is the #1 and the South is up for grabs depending on the Saints/Bucs game). That should make one of them free for the Pro Bowl. I would think that either would like to at least show up as the #3 and not play if he loses in the NFC Title game. So I guess we have at best two (2) NFC QBs as well.

Potential Replacements – AFC:

This has not been a great year for individuals at the QB position, despite the overall strength of the passing game. Out of necessity, Denver’s Kyle Orton has put up highly impressive numbers, but he has sat in favor of rookie and Christ figure Tim Tebow these past weeks due to injury. He’s out. Another possible candidate is playoff-bound, as well. That’s Matt Cassel of the Chiefs, whose connection with Dwayne Bowe has been as magnificent as a rainbow after a heavy rain. Let that one sink in for a second. There you go. But after an appendectomy, it would be wise for him to rest after the Chiefs are knocked out of the playoffs. The small incisions have big effects on the lower abs, and a combo of rest and rehab is called for. In the North, Pittsburgh’s Big Ben the Rapist and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco are winning QBs who are somewhere between game managers and game changers. Matt Schaub of Houston is another guy with numbers on a bad team, but really not that impressive.

A few teams just don’t have the continuity at the position: Oakland with Campbell and Gradkowski; Cleveland with Delhomme, Wallace and McCoy; Tennessee with Young, Collins and Rusty Smith. And then we have the mediocre-to-poor QB play of Cincy’s Palmer, Buffalo’s Brainiac, and the tame trio of Chad, Chad and Tyler in Miami.

Potential Replacements – NFC:

Eli Manning has thrown 25 picks and counting this year for the Giants. Jon Kitna replaced injured Tony Romo in Dallas. McNabb lost his job to Sexy Rexy in DC. Favre/Jackson/Webb has been brutal in the Twin Cities…and wherever else the Vikings have been shuffled around to. Stafford/Hill/Stanton resembles Cleveland’s situation, except Detroit’s first stringer is actually competent between injuries. Carolina is just…yeah, might as well make Andrew Luck of Stanford their candidate. The entire West can be summed up as follows: Troy Smith, Alex Smith, David Carr, Matt Hasselbeck, J.P. Losman, Derek Anderson, and John Skelton are likely not competing for playoff berths, whereas Charlie Whitehurst and Sam Bradford (15 combined NFL starts) are likely to be in their teams’ respective driver’s seats. Who’s left? Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Tampa’s Josh Freeman are both still in the hunt for the #6 seed in the NFC and have both had pretty darn good years, though less for Rodgers than what many predicted. And Jay Cutler has built on last year and become a much more effective QB. He also is sure to be the #2 seed, with a snowball’s chance in Prince Nana’s palace in Ghana of being #1 in the NFC.


So who will actually be the QBs at the Pro Bowl, once all of the real candidates pull out? One has to think that the Commissioner’s office will be on the phone day and night begging and pleading with the actual Pro Bowlers to show up this year. There is simply not enough positional depth (largely because of injury and attrition, resulting in incomplete seasons to match poor stats) to absorb the kinds of rejections the league has felt in the recent past.

For the AFC: Philip Rivers will start, backed up by Peyton Manning and… … …Schaub?

For the NFC: Whoever doesn’t make the playoffs out of the Packers and Bucs, that guy goes. Bradford likely goes for the PR it offers, especially to a struggling market like St. Louis. And either Brees or Ryan sticks around to start.

Fun times, right? Let’s play two, if we can just get through the first one.


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