To say that 2020 was a bizarre year for sport would be an understatement and with the 2020 NFL season now drawing to a close, things aren’t going to revert to being normal just yet. Our NFL Pro Bowl 2021 preview will explain it all but, in a nut shell, the exhibition game is actually going to be played out virtually.
NFL Pro Bowl 2021 Preview
What is the Pro Bowl?
Before we dive into the NFL Pro Bowl 2021 preview we want to touch on what it is. Hardcore NFL fans will know all about it but, given the head turning approach that’s being taken, it’s likely to attract attention from a wider circle this year. The Pro Bowl is an end of season showpiece game that sees the best talents of the AFC and NFC go head-to-head. The selection process of who qualifies as ‘the best’ is defined through a selection process. Players, coaches and fans all cast votes with equal weighting.
What’s different this year?
The 2021 Pro Bowl was cast into huge doubt as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world. There was lots of talk about cancellation but instead the NFL came up with a crazy-come-genius solution; they teamed up with EA Sports to push the Pro Bowl down a virtual route. That’s right, the Pro Bowl will be played out on Madden. It does feel bonkers but, at the same time, you can see why they’ve done it. The NFL obviously pulls in phenomenal viewing numbers, e-sports have made colossal strides over the last couple of years and Madden 21, a computerised version of the NFL, sold somewhere in the region of 120m copies. Don’t worry though, it’s not just a one-off game on a games console.
Instead, it will be a week-long spectacle. It kicks off with player highlight reels being played out in a knockout-style competition courtesy of a recently announced partnership between the NFL and Verzuz. We already know that two-time Super Bowl champion Deion Sanders will be joint host of the Verzuz component of the Pro Bowl week with plenty more big names expected to appear. The EA Sports/NFL mash up was announced several months ago with the collaboration promising to bring together the current stars, retired legends and a range of celebrities. The idea is that these players and celebs will take control of the Pro Bowl rosters within Madden as they face off against one another.
The names of those involved had been kept very close to the chests of those organising but recent developments reveal that you’ll see the likes of the Texans’ Deshaun Watson and Cardinals man Kyler Murray potentially go head-to-head in a five minute Madden quarter. Equally, Murray might end up facing Snoop Dogg who has been confirmed as an AFC representative whilst Bubba Wallace is a teammate of Murray in the NFC.
So far, the names known to be in the Madden mix are both Watson’s, Murray, Snoop Dogg with Jamal Adams, Keyshawn Johnson, Derrick Henry and Marshawn Lynch. Given the way the release of these details has been managed, you can expect a few more names to leak over the coming days too.
Who made the Pro Bowl rosters?
The Pro Bowl consists of 88 players, with 44 taken from each conference making the cut. Ordinarily, the two teams who reach the Super Bowl won’t participate in the action with the season finale taking place a week after the Pro Bowl. This year, that’s different. As the Pro Bowl is virtual, there is no risk of injury or fatigue to the star names and therefore we’ll see the full range of players with their names up in lights.
We’ll give the AFC selection a once over first. Nearly a third of their Pro Bowl roster is made up of players from the Chiefs and the Bills with just three sides – the Jets, Bengals and Jaguars – not represented. The star name is, of course, that of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. On top of that, the Bills and the Steelers each have five players featuring, which is a pretty impressive haul.
Where the NFC is concerned it’s a similar story of a few teams dominating the Pro Bowl picks. The Packers and the Seahawks have seven each with the Saints sitting at five selections. The Panthers and Cowboys meanwhile are the only two NFC teams where a single player failed to receive the nod whilst the Super Bowl underdogs, the Buccaneers, are only represented by outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul; that means there is no place for Tom Brady!
So, there you have it, our NFL Pro Bowl preview 2021. You can expect skills, laughs, banter and, with the likes of Jalen Ramsey named a starter, probably a fair bit of trash talk too.