This year's Pro Bowl will go down as the most declined invitation in history. A total of 133 players have been selected for the game, meaning it's really a "Replacement Bowl" more than anything else.
But Sunday night at Aloha Stadium, 86 players will take the field for team captains Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice. Remember, in a desperate attempt to spice up arguably the most useless all-star game in professional sports, the NFL decided two years ago to name two Hall of Famers as Pro Bowl captains. Irvin and Rice drafted their teams in a primetime special on ESPN Wednesday night.
The first pick on Irvin's club was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who's available to play in the Pro Bowl for the first time since his rookie season. Wilson enjoyed his greatest year as a professional in 2015, posting a league-best 110.1 QB rating and throwing for 4,024 yards with 34 touchdown passes. It's not hyperbolic to say Wilson has had one of the greatest starts to his career in NFL history, which is why it's time to recognize him as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Team Rice's quarterback is Eli Manning, who was also taken with the first pick. Manning will be with teammate Odell Beckham Jr., who's caught 187 passes in his first two years in the league.
"I told Odell not to feel any pressure to draft me in the Pro Bowl. If he doesn't I said don't expect any balls next season." - Eli Manning— New York Giants (@Giants) January 27, 2016
Though the Giants finished below .500 for the third consecutive year, Manning produced arguably the best numbers of his career. He threw a career-high 35 touchdown passes and also posted a QB rating of 93.6, which is the best mark of his career as well. With Ben McAdoo installed as Tom Coughlin's successor and Beckham firmly implanted as a superstar, Manning seems primed to have another big season as he nears his late 30s.
As far as other skill positions are concerned, Team Irvin is loaded at wide receiver, with Julio Jones and A.J. Green headlining a strong group. Jones was arguably the best receiver in football this season, leading the league in receptions (136) and yards (1,871).
Perhaps the biggest area of strength for Team Rice is running back, as the depth chart features Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Chris Ivory. Ivory enjoyed a breakout season with the Jets, who carried the ball 247 times and averaged 4.3 yards per run.
On the defensive side of the ball, Team Irvin has some big personalities -- unsurprisingly so -- in Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman. The secondary for Team Rice features Eric Berry, who beat cancer and went on to dominate the NFL this year. The soon-to-be retired Charles Woodson was taken with the last pick in the draft and will play for Rice as well.
The excitement surrounding the Pro Bowl is almost non-existent, but the fact remains that it gets better ratings than almost every MLB, NBA and NHL playoff game. Maybe nothing embodies the NFL's cultural dominance more than that.
How to Watch
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Aloha Stadium
Commentators: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden