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|Finally, the game we've all been waiting for. The Pro Bowl.|
This is your Pregame Flyover for Week 21 of the NFL season, a week dedicated to the Pro Bowl and those players who played great in 2010 -- and yet not so great that they'll be playing in Week 22. No, the Pro Bowl is reserved for those folks who won't be participating in the Super Bowl. In other words, it's the consolation bowl, a time for players from also-ran teams to purge themselves of any lingering violence and for fans of those teams to watch their favorite stars go through the motions and hopefully come out unscathed. For fans of the two teams who aren't sending anyone to the Pro Bowl, it's an opportunity see how good football players operate at half-speed, as opposed to what you're accustomed to seeing, which is bad football players operating at full speed.
So who's going to win the Pro Bowl, the AFC or the NFC? The only one who knows that for certain is Biff Tannen, who will undoubtedly have action on this game. Before we discuss more about this year's contest in lovely Hawaii, let's test your knowledge with a quick-hitting quiz. If you answer every question correctly, we'll fly you to Honolulu for the game and allow you to take 136 people with you on an all-expenses-paid trip.
1. Which two NFL stars played in a record-setting 14 consecutive Pro Bowls?
a. Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones.
b. Merlin Olsen and Bruce Matthews.
c. Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston.
2. Players from this team have won the most Pro Bowl MVP awards.
3. For many years prior to 2010, the coaches of the AFC and NFC teams were determined by what?
A. The two coaches who could find the cheapest Travelocity packages to Hawaii.
B. The coaches of the losing teams in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.
C. No one knows.
4. From 1951 to 1972 (and once again in 1979), the Pro Bowl was held at this iconic venue.
A. The New Meadowlands Stadium.
B. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
C. No one knows.
5. This former Buffalo Bills star won MVP honors in 1993.
a. O.J. Simpson.
b. Steve Tasker.
c. Scott Norwood.
6. This coach filled in for then-Jets head coach Bill Parcells and guided the 1998 AFC Pro Bowl team.
A. Sal Alosi.
B. Bill Belichick.
C. Flash Gordon.
7. This "idiot kicker" holds the record for most point-after tries in one Pro Bowl.
A. Jeff Reed.
B. Mike Vanderjagt.
C. Sebastian Janikowski.
8. There have been only three of these in Pro Bowl history.
A. Good games.
9. This quarterback holds the career records for most Pro Bowl completions, passing yards and touchdown passes.
A. Shane Falco.
B. Peyton Manning.
C. Ryan Leaf.
10. Fill in the blank below by correctly solving the Hodge conjecture.
Answer key: The answer to every question -- except No. 10 -- is B. If you answered them all correctly, congratulations; you're not only going to Hawaii, but you just solved a major unsolved problem in algebraic geometry, one that entitles you to $1 million from Clay Mathematics Institute. So ya got that going for ya, which is nice.
Raiders punter Shane Lechler has the most Pro Bowl selections (six) of any player on the 2010 team. Congratulations, Shane, you'll undoubtedly get elected to the Hall of Fame right after Ray Guy.
In years past, the coaching staffs of the teams that lost the conference title games would also coach the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl squads. But starting last year, when the postseason all-star game was moved from one week after the Super Bowl to one week before, the duties were given to the coaches of the teams with the best records that lost in the divisional round. In short, they were passed off to the teams that fell the farthest short of postseason expectations. This season that refers to the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, the respective No. 1 seeds that flamed out quickly. Kudos to Bill Belichick and Mike Smith, who are living proof that failing spectacularly in the NFL has its privileges.
The Patriots have an AFC-high eight players in the Pro Bowl, while the Falcons have an NFL-high nine players in Hawaii. If those teams had made the Super Bowl, those 17 players would have had to be replaced by alternates from non-Super Bowl teams. But thanks to losses by New England and Atlanta, the sanctity of the Pro Bowl roster was less impacted. As it stands, 10 players (four from Pittsburgh and six from Green Bay) had to be replaced due to the Super Bowl conflict. If the Seahawks had faced the Jets in the Super Bowl, only three players would have needed to be replaced -- all from the Jets.
Due to an injury to Richard Seymour of the Raiders, Kyle Williams of the Bills was named to the Pro Bowl, giving Buffalo its lone representative. And thanks to Chad Clifton's advancement to the Super Bowl with the Packers, Donald Penn of the Bucs becomes Tampa Bay's lone representative. The Bengals and the Seahawks are now the only two teams that didn't have a player elected to the Pro Bowl or named as a replacement, a distinction they'll retain unless some Pro Bowlers get hurt between now and Sunday, perhaps while surfing.
As it stands, players are allowed to wear their own team helmet, but not their own uniform, because the NFL thinks it'd be confusing for players to figure out who's on which side unless teammates wear the same colors. Confusing or more interesting? I think it's debatable.
Next week the Pregame Flyover will tackle many Super Bowl-related topics, including a preview of the game, the possibility of paying $900 for a parking spot at Cowboys Stadium, and how the lack of cheerleaders from the Steelers and Packers is going to put undue pressure on TV cameramen to scan the crowd at the Super Bowl in hopes of finding beautiful women who can be shown as we go to commercial breaks. (Those cameramen deserve combat pay.) Plenty is going on in the NFL beyond the Pro Bowl and the Big Game, however, including...
Chad Ochocinco (née Johnson) was supposed to pair with Terrell Owens and lead the Bengals to the playoffs again this season on the strength of their Batman and Robin routine. The duo starred in "The T.Ocho Show," which provided an inside look at how football players point fingers when their team wins four games. Ochocinco still has one year remaining on his contract, but the prospects of his returning to Cincinnati dimmed considerably when (a) the team retained Marvin Lewis as head coach, and (b) Ochocinco said he and Lewis need to wrestle before next season starts. If throwing down the gauntlet didn't garner much attention, Ocho's announcement that he's changing his name back to Johnson might keep his name in the wind for a few more news cycles. If not, maybe he should file retirement papers and wait until training camp before announcing that he wants to play for the Browns. This kind of tack has been known to work for attention-starved football players on the downside of a career.
Saturday's Senior Bowl features many of the players hoping to go high in this year's draft, including Von Miller, Gabe Carimi and Jake Locker. The South team will be coached by the staff of the Buffalo Bills, while the North team will be coached by the staff of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bills and Bengals have the third and fourth picks respectively in this year's draft, and players at the Senior Bowl are in danger of performing well and attracting unwanted interest from two of the worst franchises in the NFL.
With nine children by eight different women, Antonio Cromartie is obviously reading his share of children's books these days, so it came as no surprise that a literary reference crept into his ongoing war of words with the leadership of the NFL Players Association. Responding to criticism of him from fellow players Ray Lewis and Darnell Dockett, Cromartie wrote on Twitter, "I don't give a who about Ray Lewis or [Darnell Dockett] talking about what I said."
Cam Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CameronDMartin.
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