USA Today Sports
With DeflateGate dominating talk during opening-week festivities leading into Super Bowl XLIX, some of the top players not participating in the NFL title game hope to put the attention back on the field. A team of players assembled by Michael Irvin looks to defeat a roster put together by fellow Hall-of-Fame receiver Cris Carter as the Pro Bowl takes centre stage Sunday night in Arizona. This marks the second year in a row the league has opted for a player draft format.
The controversy surrounding whether the New England Patriots purposely deflated their footballs in last week’s one-sided AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis has effectively overshadowed what has been another rash of Pro Bowl withdrawals. Roughly a dozen players have opted out of the game due to injury, thinning out the talent field considerably. Last year’s game was a classic, as Team Jerry Rice escaped with a 22-21 win over Team Deion Sanders.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: The line opened Team Carter -2, with a total of 77.5.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “There will likely be a bigger decision on Pro Bowl total compared to the spread, as 92 percent of cash & 91 percent of bets are on the over 68, which was our opening total. Team Carter opened a 2 point favorite and 59 percent of bets & 61 percent of cash are on Team Irvin.” – Mike Jerome from TopBet.eu
ABOUT TEAM IRVIN: It should come as no surprise that Irvin, who spent his entire playing career with the Cowboys, loaded up on Dallas players – choosing six for his offensive roster alone, led by quarterback Tony Romo and League rushing champion DeMarco Murray. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford round out the QB carousel, while the receiving corps is led by electrifying New York Giants rookie Odell Beckham, Jr. And in a final fitting choice, Team Irvin will be guided by Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
ABOUT TEAM CARTER: It would have been understandable for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to bow out of Sunday’s spectacle, which comes just one week after the most disheartening loss of his young career. But Luck will be in Glendale, as will wide receiver teammate T.Y. Hilton. Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will lead Team Carter, and he’ll have an embarrassment of riches to work with on offense – including New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown.
* Last year marked the first time since 2006 that the total came in below 50.
* The winning team has averaged 45.8 points over the past five Pro Bowls.