Around the NFL: Pro Bowl  


Five things to watch in the 2015 Pro Bowl


PHOENIX -- The 2015 Pro Bowl kicks off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, when the elite, best of the best will face off at University of Phoenix Stadium.

For the second consecutive season, the Pro Bowl went nonconference, with players chosen by Hall of Fame captains Michael Irvin and Cris Carter. Let's get right to what you should watch for Sunday:

1. J.J. Watt

It's pretty simple: Any time the behemoth is on the field, it's worth watching. The MVP candidate caused havoc lining up alongside superstars in last year's Pro Bowl and made breathtaking plays this season. For this Pro Bowl, he could also see time on offense. (Who isn't throwing him the ball when he's on the field? J.J. Watt is no man's decoy.) Heck, Watt even practiced kicks this week and bandied about the idea of taking a few snaps at quarterback. I say let him do it all. J.J. Watt: MVP of everything.

2. Teammate vs. Teammate

With the new format, some players will go against players from their regular-season squads. Last year, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson met teammate Jamaal Charles on one play and lit up the running back in the hole. The teammates to watch this season are receiver T.Y. Hilton and cornerback Vontae Davis. The Colts have been talking some smack since the draft about who will win the matchup. When they line up across from each other it should be a good duel with Hilton's speed and shiftiness versus Davis' physical style. We could also see C.J. Anderson try to run over Aqib Talib or Sam Shields shut down Randall Cobb.

3. Trick plays

The Pro Bowl should be about fun. We hope to see coaches John Harbaugh and Jason Garrett allow the players to uncork some of the good stuff. Reverse passes, fake punts, random hook and ladders, The Annexation of Puerto Rico, etc. Let it all hang out.

Justin Houston said Harbaugh told Team Carter that, "during the Pro Bowl we are going to do everything we think about during the regular season that we can't do." Let's hope the coach sticks by that philosophy.

4. Cowboys continuity

I'm interested to see if Irvin's strategy of compiling a bunch of Dallas players pays off by getting six Cowboys on the field together. It might or might not work out, but it's a strategy -- one that harkens back to the pre-draft era. The practices were a juxtaposition in philosophy. Team Irvin ran a more normal walk-through style practice for the most part working on plays, while Team Carter ran more relaxed sessions. (For anyone who cares, I'm picking Team Irvin to win.)

5. Celebrations and cheerleaders

I keep harping on this, but the Pro Bowl should be about players enjoying their time on the field. When they have fun, they play harder and the game becomes more enjoyable to watch. So I hope all players bust out their best celebrations after a sack, touchdown or big play. Let Jimmy Graham dunk on the goal post, let Antonio Brown fall to the ground with the spinning ball. Who cares about penalties this week.

Oh, and did you know that each team with cheerleaders sends their own Pro Bowler? It's true. You can check them out here. Come to think of it, cheerleaders don't get enough coverage. I'm volunteering for that beat next year.

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