The American Football Conference vs. the National Football Conference
4:30PM Eastern Time
Parity: Mission Accomplished (cont’d.)
February 4, 2009
Weather: It’s Hawaii already – how bad could it be? Well, it won’t be cold, but it will be raining: isolated rain showers with a temperature in the 70’s.
Injuries: As usual, players love to be elected to the ProBowl but many don’t end up participating due to injuries that they need to rehab before the 2009 season. The NFC offensive line now has Flozell Adams, the Bucs’ Davin Joseph and New Orleans’ Jammal Brown as injury replacements. Seattle’s Julian Peterson, Ronde Barber and Al Harris join the NFC D. On the AFC side, Favre is replaced by Kerry Collins as reserve QB while rising Texans’ star TE Owen Daniels will replace Antonio Gates. Marshawn Lynch comes aboard at RB, rookie Jake Long gets the nod at Oline and Denver’s Casey Wiegmann will replace veteran Kevin Mawae at Center. Of note is the fact that all original members of the AFC defense are still on the roster as of Wednesday. Look out NFC offense!
NFC Offense versus AFC Defense: Starting QB Kurt Warner won’t have any rust since he just played last week – and with no blitzing he should enjoy the chance to throw balls to his very own WR’s Boldin and Fitzgerald. I expect the passing game to be clicking as long as he’s in the game. Plus, they’ll benefit from having Adrian Peterson at running back, who will find himself open due to the receiving threats posed by the Cards’ ballcatchers. Backups Brees and Manning will be throwing to Steve Smith (the Carolina one) and Roddy White – no slouches, but not their regular guys. So we’ll see more running in the second half out of the NFC. The AFC D will feature some of the biggest bodies on the NFL on the middle of that Dline – which will be a fun matchup against Peterson in the first part of the game. Look for Ray Lewis to go hunting TE’s and slot receivers since he won’t be blitzing. I anticipate that Ed Reed will get a pick and that Polamalu and Chris Hope will cause some havoc in the secondary – remember that Hope used to be Troy’s bookend before he went on to a more lucrative deal in Tennessee, so these two know how to work together.
AFC Offense versus NFC Defense: Don’t miss your last chance to see Peyton Manning before August – it’s a show never to be missed. And that’s just BEFORE the snap! He won’t get to throw to his favorite Reggie Wayne, since Wayne is a reserve – but it should be fun watching #18 go deep to Brandon Marshall and the always wonderful Andre Johnson. This Oline is a particularly diverse group, so I don’t know how well they will work together, and whether or not Nick Mangold is ready to be Manning’s Center. Then again, he just came off a season with Brett Favre – hmmmm. I will be interested to see how well Thomas Jones, Ronnie Brown and Marshawn Lynch run against an NFC Defense sporting Kevin Williams, DeMarcus Ware and Lance Briggs. I’d bet we’ll see more passing than running from the AFC Offense – gee what a shock. That is, unless it’s pouring down rain.
Coaching: Once again I am forced to deal with Andy Reid in a coaching matchup. Even as a rookie, John Harbaugh showed more flexibility offensively than Reid – although with Kurt Warner to run his West Coast schemes, Andy should have success. Defensively for the NFC, will Jim Johnson be on the sidelines for the NFC now that he’s battling cancer? Harbaugh will feel like a kid at Christmas with Peyton Manning in the first half and might even showcase that flexibility with some trick plays. Slight edge to the AFC.
Special Teams: Let’s hear it for the old guys: punter Jeff Feagles and PK John Carney are not only the oldest players in the league; they are definitely the oldest players in the ProBowl – probably EVER! These guys have kicked everywhere and shouldn’t be fazed by anything. Of course, AFC punter Lechler is also “mature” and has had to deal with punting in Oakland; he’ll be so happy not being the centerpiece of the offense that he’ll have a good day too. I give return man Washington the nod over Clifton Smith of Tampa Bay and we should see the diminutive Leon streaking up the field for the AFC on kickoffs and punts. Advantage: AFC.
Bottom line: I think the NFC will jump out to an early lead with Warner and his guys, but the heavy AFC defense should prevail in the second half. The key will be how much of a lead the NFC can acquire and whether Peyton Manning can throw up enough points early to stay close.
Straight Up: NFC – mostly because I always cheer for the conference that did not win the Super Bowl.
Spread: NFC-2.5 – Well if they’re going to win, they’ll probably cover.
O/U: 64.5 – There’s no blitzing in the ProBowl and traditionally, this is a very high-scoring game. However, this year’s defensive squads are pretty awesome and the weather favors the running game.
and this is the only pick I feel strongly about.
Enjoy the very last drop of football joy for this season and tune in to my new blog in March for the latest in off-season free-agency frenzy
ProBowl February 8, 2009