The NFL will learn if the newest version of the Pro Bowl pays off on Sunday night as Team Jerry Rice takes on Team Deion Sanders at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This year Pro Bowlers won’t be sworn to defend their respective conferences, with players divvied up by Sanders and Rice school-yard draft style earlier this week. Full rosters are here.
Recently dispatched from the playoffs and making his eighth Pro Bowl appearance, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees starts under center for Team Rice after passing for 5,000-plus yards for the third straight season.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck enters his second straight Pro Bowl in as many pro years for Team Sanders, three weeks removed from guiding Indianapolis to a 28-point comeback victory over Kansas City in the AFC’s Divisional.
The new format will specifically pit teammates against each other, and it will be interesting to see if Luck’s teammate and regular season sack leader in defensive end Robert Mathis tries to soften his hits on the young passer.
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Same goes for Cleveland defensive back T.J. Ward on receiver Josh Gordon, or San Diego safety Eric Weddle letting a bad pass from quarterback Philips Rivers go incomplete rather than intercepted.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles will also have to watch for teammates in linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, along with defensive lineman Dontari Poe.
Kansas City and San Francisco were tied for the most players named to the Pro Bowl with eight apiece. However only one 49er, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, will attend, with others nursing both minor and serious injuries or in need of rest.
Sunday will also mark the final pro game of any kind for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. The 37-year-old will make a record-tying 14th appearance in the all-star game before retiring with the second most receptions and fifth most receiving yards in NFL history.
Betting Odds: Team Rice -1.5
Over/Under: 93.5 points
Time: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Live Online Info: NBC Live Extra here
Prediction: Team Rice 47, Team Sanders 40