Around the NFL  

 

What to watch for in Sunday's Pro Bowl game

Print

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The classic conference vs. conference Pro Bowl has returned, capping off a week where the Skills Challenge also made a comeback here in Orlando. Goofy and Mickey Mouse have been waddling around the Wide World of Sports complex all week. Players, on Friday, took a parade through Magic Kingdom. But all the while, two coaching staffs -- Kansas City and Dallas -- spent the week actually putting a shoestring playbook together in hopes of not getting embarrassed by the other on Sunday night. It's not a vacation for everyone.

Here's what we're watching for...

1. Will Mike Evans really go all out? In previous years covering the Pro Bowl, I've seen players figure out that the winning team makes $32,000 more than the losing team in the fourth quarter (one player, back in 2014, asked his coach to go back in upon finding out). Evans, who was fourth in the NFL with 1,321 receiving yards and tied for second in touchdowns (12) understands this from the get-go and has promised reporters down here in Orlando a show.

"I just realized it's double the money if you win, so I'm going hard," he said.

2. Some crazy trick plays are on the horizon. Chiefs offensive coordinator Brad Childress watched one of his play calls during a Friday practice devolve into what can only be described as a four-player lateral throwback with no clear end in sight. His expression seemed to indicate that this was not the intended play. Still, with Jarvis Landry, a pass-happy DeMarco Murray and T.Y. Hilton looking to gain a leg up on the NFC's very good cornerback lineup, I would not be surprised if that play sees some shine in the waning moments of Sunday's game.

3. Tolbert Time. Mike Tolbert, the Toldozer, showed up to practice Friday covered in wrist bands, with his jersey tucked in and the bill of his cap flipped straight up in the air. Consider it some peacocking with a purpose. Earlier in the week, Tolbert and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott flipped places in the backfield, putting the NFL's brightest young star at fullback and Tolbert seven yards deep behind the center. Aside from risking Elliott's health by having him as a lead blocker on an Iso play, the strategy is pretty brilliant (Garrett will probably just leave Elliott out altogether). Should the NFC get any sort of lead on Sunday, who the hell is going to want to arm-tackle a 250-pound Mike Tolbert? Marshall Faulk set the record for most rushing yards in a Pro Bowl game back in 1995 with 180. Little did he know that a few years later, Tolbert Time would come and wipe it all away.

4. Will Michael Bennett play wide receiver? Probably. Bennett, like that kid on your youth soccer team whose parents sent him to practice with soda instead of water or Gatorade, could not be contained by traditional means during practice this week. At one point, he swapped shirts with Ezekiel Elliott so he could play tailback. He also emerged from the sideline to run a deep route when Kirk Cousins couldn't find an open receiver. His hyperactive display of child-like wonder might end up paying off for Team NFC. Last year, it was teammate Richard Sherman insisting he should go in as an offensive player. Now, it is Bennett who wants to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

5. Can Prescott break a record? I honestly would not be surprised to see Dak Prescott make a run at Peyton Manning's record for completions in a game (22) or even total yards gained in a game (342). He knows Dallas' offense better than anyone, and is far more likely to see increased minutes when the other quarterbacks are Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, who is currently not under contract. Garrett had said the Cowboy-heavy week down in Orlando (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Dez Bryant, Elliott and Sean Lee are also here) has helped ease some of the sting that accompanied a 34-31 loss to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. What better way to keep the good times rolling than to have Prescott safely light up the scoreboard?

Print

Fan Discussion