For years the NFL has tried to make the Pro Bowl more competitive, much to the angst of viewers who tune in only to see lackluster, half-speed play, and the league will repeat its mix-and-match of the NFC and AFC’s best with Team Michael Irvin vs. Team Cris Carter.
But the NFL is also using this this year’s Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium to experiment with a new replay system and perhaps appease some of their biggest sponsors.
According to ESPN, the league will have referees use Microsoft’s Surface tablets and Bose headphones to review close plays. It’s a long way from the “Wizard of Oz”-like replay system currently in place, in which an official ducks behind a curtain and dissects the play from an old-fashioned monitor.
Players and coaches, the report states, will also be allowed to check out the replays using the tablets and headphones on the sidelines.
While trying to make the exhibition all-star game more competitive, the NFL may also try to get the players more familiar with the high-tech gadgets, as many struggled using them at the start of the regular season.
And considering how many games throughout the postseason were decided by replay reviews, the NFL may be signaling to fans that more technology will translate into better calls by officials.
In the NFC’s Wild Card round, the Detroit Lions and their fans felt officials botched a defensive pass interference call on the Dallas Cowboys and it resulted in their postseason loss.
Dallas endured their own heartbreaker after receiver Dez Bryant appeared to make a sensational catch against Green Bay in the NFC Divisional round the following week, only to have officials rule he never maintained possession.
As for the game, Dallas’ Tony Romo will start at quarterback for Team Irvin, and Indianapolis Colts star Andrew Luck leads Team Carter under center.
The matchup is known for its lack of hard play, but Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly poignantly expressed the conundrum players face during the Pro Bowl.
"You've got to respect guys' careers," Kuechly said to USA Today. "You can't go out there and try to smoke everyone. You've got to understand guys are here to have fun, but at the same time guys are competitive and that's going to come out. The bottom line is you've just got to respect each other."
The full rosters for Team Irvin and Team Carter can be found here.
Start Time: 8 P.M. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting Odds: Team Carter -2.5
Over/Under: 67 points
Prediction: Team Irvin over Team Carter, 54-40