For the last several years, viewership for the annual Pro Bowl has been declining. Despite that it outperforms all other all-star games & other programs around the same time slot, it has room for improvement.

A few years ago, commissioner Roger Goodell made a change with the airing of the Pro Bowl by moving it to air the week prior to the Super Bowl rather than right after. Although longtime fans of the Pro Bowl weren’t pleased with the change, it has been much more positive to catch fans still interested in watching football.

The Super Bowl is, for just about everyone, the end of the football season until August, so it stands to reason that the Pro Bowl can’t compete if it’s directly following the Super Bowl as everyone’s interest has waned.

This year is the start of a lot of brand new changes to the game itself:

For one, it’s not an AFC vs. NFC contest, but instead two teams picked by two Hall of Famers. This year, both Deion Sanders & Jerry Rice picked the teams by using the rosters that were selected by fans for both conferences.

(Our selected Ravens all went on Deion’s team, who must still have loyalty to the team that he played for last. Here’s a clip of two of his interceptions, one run for a touchdown for the Ravens.)

For the issues that the recent Pro Bowls have had, notably the lack of interest for players & the high scoring, there are rule changes also in place for this game.

For this game, in addition to the 2nd & 4th quarters, there are 2 minute warnings for both the 1st & 3rd quarters!  Since there are quite a lot of secondary starters on both teams, this will give the currently playing members a high-octane playing atmosphere before they’re done for the day. The possession also switches after the end of each quarter, so teams have to manage the time wisely.

Also during the two minute warnings, there’s a interesting rule where the clock will stop if the offense doesn’t get at least 1 yard on a down. This is done to encourage large gain attempts during plays, as well as more effort than simply kneeling down to end the game/half/quarter.

However, if a pass falls incomplete, the clock will start again after the referees give the signal (except during the 2 minute warnings and final 5 minutes of play). Normally the clock stops no matter what after an incomplete pass.

The play clocks will be shortened to 35 seconds, down from the standard 40 seconds. This will easily create an uptempo game, instead of a game with players slowly taking their time to get it over with.

Also, and this is important, defenses are allowed to use different formations to defend, rather than a standard 4-3 alignment with man coverage.  You can see how this will change the strategy for offenses, as they can’t just rely on play-packages designed to attack the standard base defenses.

For the rosters, you can check here for Deion’s team and here for Rice’s team. Judging by what you can see, Deion preferred more AFC players and Rice favored the NFC players. They have mix-n-matched from both conferences, of course, with Rice grabbing some Browns on offense and Deion grabbing two NFC quarterbacks.

I personally hope that next year, if Goodell decides to continue with the Pro Bowl, that there be a contest to decide two NFL fans who would then pick the teams (instead of Hall of Famers). That way, they can increase the interest even more!

I am actually interested in watching this year (Sunday on NBC 7:30pm) as this has the potential to be quite a quality game.  Hope you do the same if you can.

Enjoy the weekend and enjoy the game!