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NFL Match-Up Mania: Pro Bowl Edition

I heard the groans from the Student of the Game Studios in Orlando, Florida when people noticed that this was a piece on the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and not some preadolescent Super Bowl XVLIII hype where I observe the talented and vociferous CB Richard Sherman got suspiciously quiet when he was asked about QB Peyton Manning after NFL Conference Championship Sunday.  The reaction of “meh” to the Pro Bowl is not one I can condemn — I’ve been guilty of the same in the past — but another act I’m guilty of is falling for the NFL’s latest gimmick to draw interest to this exhibit.

In the most fantastic of fantasy football scenarios, the NFL’s Greatest Player of All Time, Jerry Rice (that’s right, I said it) and Hall of Fame phenomenon, Deon Sanders will each serve as captains who will choose from the pool of NFL All-Stars.  An occurrence that will lead to a player level Match-Up Mania like no other.  These are the match-ups I’m most focused on as I’m excited to watch this spectacle for the first time in years.

QB Drew Brees (Rice) vs. DE JJ Watt (Sanders)

Sanders and Rice were given opportunities to select 2 players as offensive and defensive captains.  After winning the opening coin toss, Rice opened the festivities by selecting the veteran signal caller Drew Brees to lead his offense while Sanders picked the best defensive player in the league currently, JJ Watt, as the top man on the other side of the ball.  Considering defense is an afterthought as blitzing is minimized, the best chance to slow Brees with backfield pressure is Watt. Captain vs. Captain potential right off the bat where only an offensive tackle stands between the 2 of them.

RB Jamaal Charles (Sanders) vs. DE Robert Quinn (Rice)

Knowing that Deon Sanders is all about flash with the Primetime persona of his playing days, there’s little shock in his selecting Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles as the offensive captain for his roster.  It’s quite likely that at some point when he runs the ball, he’ll come across DE Robert Quinn, the defensive captain for Team Rice.  Like Watt and Brees, these 2 captains may just see each other in the field of play and only one will demonstrate why they were picked so early in the festivities.

OG Ben Grubbs/Jahiri Evans (Rice) vs DT Gerald McCoy (Sanders)

Likely at the urging of offensive captain, Drew Brees, 2 of the guards selected by Jerry Rice were Ben Grubbs and Jahiri Evans, who are on the same Saints roster as Brees.  As comfy and familiar as that seems for Rice’s unit, familiarity can also come with an element of intimidation.  The subject in this case, Bucs DT Gerald McCoy.  Whether it be on a passing or running play, McCoy will be doing battle against a divisional rival 1 on 1 for future bragging rights.

QB Andrew Luck (Sanders) vs. LB Robert Mathis (Rice)

During the regular season, the Colts’ Robert Mathis forced a fumble when he sacked Broncos QB Peyton Manning in his Indianapolis homecoming.  Mathis had an opportunity to do what few NFL defenders can boast in hitting a QB that they’ve practiced against.  Now, Mathis may get a similar opportunity facing off against the Indy QB, Andrew Luck.  Twice in the same year, the veteran may make contact on a player previously untouchable to him.

QB Andrew Luck (Sanders) vs. CB Brandon Flowers (Rice)

While Deon may have been thoroughly confident in Luck’s skill, Andrew’s luck regarding opponents in Hawaii isn’t what I’d call fortunate.  We’ve addressed the Mathis situation, but now I note another defensive player with plenty of incentive to upset the rhythm of the 2014 Pro Bowl’s youngest QB.  Brandon Flowers was served a playoff loss in a game where we was forced to leave early due to a concussion.  After that exit, Luck took the colts from being down 38-10 to pulling off his 11th career comeback.  I would be shocked if Flowers wasn’t attempting to plant a seed in Luck’s head that the outcome may have been different if he didn’t have to leave that postseason game early.

OT Brandon Albert (Sanders) vs LBs Justin Houston/Derrick Johnson(Rice) 

While this may be a routine occurrence for some of these players, we as fans observing this new method of picking the Pro Bowl teams will see teammates facing off against each other for the first time in this event.  Chief LBs Justin Houston and Dexter Johnson will be pursuing Team Sanders offensive captain and roster mate Jamaal Charles in the ground attack where Kansas City teammate, OT Brandon Albert, will have to face off against them at some point in what fans hope will be more than a simple day at the practice facility.

CB Tim Jennings vs WRs Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall

In another instance of inner-squad civil war, the Bears bring the world of passing to the forefront.  Both members of Chicago’s 1-2 punch from the WR position, veteran Brandon Marshall and rising star Alshon Jeffery, will inevitably cross paths against the CB who is the Wind City’s top specimen in coverage, Tim Jennings.  No matter how uncomfortable this feeling may be for Jeffery and Marshall, the strangest thing for the Bears’ receivers will likely be throwing a block on Jennings to help a Packer RB in Eddie Lacy gain yards.  A Bear helping a Packer advance the football is not only something you wouldn’t have seen before the 2014 edition of this game, but is hard to find anywhere in history surrounding the game’s oldest rivalry.

QB Philip Rivers vs. S Eric Weddle

While Pro Bowl coaches Ron Rivera and Chuck Pagano will surely prove to be an intriguing contest of minds, the on-field chess match between Charger QB Phillip Rivers and S Eric Weddle whets my appetite for X’s and O’s.  As respective on-field heads of their squads during the game, it will be entertaining to see these 2 seasoned players scheming against each other.


Written By:

Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter

Founder and host of The Student of the Game show

VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network

COO and NFL Contributor for The Sports Chronicles

Special Contributor for Pro Player Insiders






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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game
Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST
Writer for NGSC Sports
Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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