Preview: NFC at AFC
Preview: NFC at AFC
Preview: NFC at AFC
Thu, Feb 8, 2007
By Associated Press
The AFC was widely considered to be superior to the NFC this season, and the Super Bowl only further proved that. It's hard to say if the Pro Bowl will do the same, particularly considering how the Super Bowl MVP sounds.
"There won't be a lot of motivation going on out there," Peyton Manning said. "This will be a cruise-control kind of week."
Finally winning a title has made Manning take his seventh trip to Hawaii a lot less seriously, though he will add to many of his Pro Bowl records on Saturday as he returns as the AFC starter to cause more problems for an NFC defense.
Manning has more attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdown passes in this game than any other player in its 36-year history. The 2005 Pro Bowl MVP would often show up early on game day and work very hard in practice, but that might not be the case this time around.
He and four Indianapolis teammates were the last Pro Bowlers to arrive in Hawaii following their 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Manning was 25-of-38 for 247 yards and a touchdown as he and the Colts fought through a rainstorm, something that never seems to be a problem at Aloha Stadium.
"I wouldn't say I'm very well-rested, but it's the kind that you like," Manning said Wednesday, shortly after his flight during which the Colts watched their championship victory for the first time.
The man to coach Manning is the same one that lost to him in the AFC title game, with New England's Bill Belichick on the sidelines.
"Bill even said that - as much as he hated to say it - congratulations," Colts center Jeff Saturday said.
Belichick's Patriots were one of three AFC teams to go unbeaten in four inter-conference games this season, part of the AFC's 40-24 record versus the NFC. No NFC team went unbeaten against the AFC, and only Chicago had more than 10 regular-season victories.
All four AFC division champions won more than 10, led by a San Diego team that went 14-2 and has 10 Pro Bowlers - not including injured quarterback Phillip Rivers.
Another reason many felt the AFC was so much better this season - star power. The AFC passing game alone is impressive, with Manning joined by Colts wideouts Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, as well as Cincinnati standouts Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson, and the league's top tight ends in Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.
The NFC does have MVP runner-up Drew Brees, but even he isn't so recognizable and the conference's wideouts besides Steve Smith certainly aren't - Donald Driver, Anquan Boldin and Roy Williams. The backup quarterbacks are Marc Bulger and Tony Romo.
While the AFC's running backs include record-setter LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson, who finished 1-2 in the league in rushing, the NFC's only one not appearing in Hawaii for the first time is Tiki Barber.
This game serves as a final send-off for Barber, who announced earlier in the season he was retiring. Though San Francisco's Frank Gore is starting for the NFC, Barber is sure to see plenty of carries in his final game in uniform following a career in which he finished 17th all-time with 10,449 rushing yards.
"While I'll miss the season, the guys, the competition, coming out here and playing the Pro Bowl, I'm ready for (retirement)," Barber said. "So I'm not really sad. It's a celebration in many ways."
An added bonus for Barber is he's joined on the NFC roster by twin brother Ronde, the Tampa Bay cornerback.
Bucs teammate Derrick Brooks, the MVP of last year's Pro Bowl, will be making his 10th straight appearance. He only made the team as an injury replacement for Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who joins teammates Brian Urlacher, Olin Kreutz and Tommie Harris as players who had to give up starting jobs for the NFC due to injuries.
Chicago, however, will still be well represented on Saints coach Sean Payton's squad, with three of the conference's five special teamers. That group includes Devin Hester, who returned the Super Bowl's opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Re: Preview: NFC at AFC
Feb 7th , 2007 - There’s One NFL Wager Left at betED.com
The big one’s over, but the next – and last – one is on tap this weekend.
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Re: Preview: NFC at AFC
2007 Pro Bowl Betting Strategy? Flip a Coin
by T.O. Whenham - 02/09/2007
The Pro Bowl, as a football game, is a total and complete waste of time. It's boring, it's poorly played and it is, frankly, a mystery why the game even exists at all. There are two things that make the Pro Bowl worthwhile, though. First of all, it helps us transition from the football season to the end of football season gradually. It's easier to quit smoking if you use the patch, and it's easier to get over your football addiction if you can go from the real football of the Super Bowl to the fake football of the Pro Bowl instead of having to stop cold turkey. The second reason the game is worthwhile is, of course, that you can bet on it. Betting can make even the most mundane, ridiculous sport interesting. In this case, the AFC is favored by four in this epic showdown that no one cares about.
The Pro Bowl has been played in its current format 36 times, and the teams have split them evenly - 18 wins apiece. The NFC won 23-17 last year, but the AFC has won seven of the last 10 games. We could spend more time looking at trends and statistics, but if that seems like a good idea to you then you are definitely over thinking this game. The coaching staffs and the rosters are completely different every year, and you can never be sure of the motivation of the players on either side, so applying long-term trends to handicapping this game is about as useful as applying astrology.
The champs from Indianapolis will be represented by five players, led, as usual, by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. As is always the case with the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl winning players arrived later than the rest of their teammates, and were met with the sincere but jealous well wishes of all the other players. Less triumphant upon their arrival were the Bears players. Those Bears players that made it, that is. Olin Kreutz, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs all came up with mysterious and convenient injuries that saved them the embarrassment of having to look at Peyton Manning again so soon after the big game.
The most likely source of some drama in this game was rather disappointingly resolved early in the week of practices. AFC coach Bill Belichick and San Diego running back and NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson had traded barbs in the press over the behavior of the Patriots after their playoff win in San Diego, but, sadly, the men have kissed and made up. The only remaining hope for real interest is that Miami defensive end Jason Taylor and San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman will get into a brawl. The relations between those players will be tense after Taylor was openly critical of Merriman over his positive steroid test. The NFC doesn't provide nearly as much intrigue, mainly because coach Sean Payton seems like a nice guy that opposing players would struggle to say something bad about. Payton should be able to avoid any controversy among his players. As long as he doesn't make Tony Romo hold for the kicker, that is.
When the NFC has the ball, the one thing you can be pretty sure of is that they are going to be looking to pass a lot. There are few quarterbacks in the league who like to toss it up as much as these three quarterbacks - Drew Brees, Marc Bulger and Tony Romo. Steve Smith and Donald Driver are the starting wideouts, so the pivots should have no problems finding a target, especially given the typically lax defense in the game. The other aspect of the game that you can virtually guarantee is that Tiki Barber, on the field for the last time in his career, will be given plenty of opportunities to go out in style. Frank Gore is the starting running back, but he will happily give the veteran his due. If the AFC defense decides to put in any effort then it could be formidable. The unit has an embarrassment of talent, with Taylor and Merriman being joined by five Baltimore players. Those seven players alone could give any offense nightmares. Champ Bailey is one player that will be at full throttle. He needs just one interception to set the record for most career Pro Bowl interceptions.
Peyton Manning holds several Pro Bowl career records of his own, but he likely won't sped a lot of time trying to pad them. He is starting for the AFC, but, given his last week, he likely won't play as long as he is entitled to. That will mean more playing time for Carson Palmer and Vince Young. It could be very exciting to see what kind of magic Young can create against a lax defense. It will be overwhelming for those QBs to decide what to do with the ball. They have a great receiving corps with players like Harrison, Chad Johnson and Andre Johnson, but it will be hard to resist the temptation to hand it off on every play with both Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. The spiritual leader of the NFC defense will likely be Derrick Brooks. He's only a reserve this year, but he was the MVP of the game last year, and he seems to care about this game more than most players.
That, in a nutshell, is how the game sets up. When it comes to handicapping the game, there is really only one thing to do - just flip a coin. That approach is as effective as any in this silly game. If, for some crazy reason, you actually decide to spend your Saturday night watching the game there is just one thing to remember - bad football is still better than no football at all, so appreciate it while you can.