joe thomasThe first year of a new Pro Bowl setup will probably give football fans and casual sports fans an added reason to check in on the NFL’s annual All-Star game. Will the different arrangement of the participating rosters create a competitive context and a more attractive product? If the answer is no, this game could soon become extinct.

The 2014 edition will feature a new format in which the players are drafted. Former coaches Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will help make draft selections for each team when they face off on Sunday, Jan. 26 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The current odds have the game listed as a pick-’em. Before you bet on the Pro Bowl, keep in mind the advantage that each team holds.

Quarterback Comparison: Edge to Team Rice

The quarterbacks just happen to be neatly divided into established veterans and young quarterbacks who are still trying to establish themselves in the NFL. The Team Rice quarterbacks are Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. The Team Sanders quarterbacks are Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Nick Foles.

In a game involving this mixture of players, the veterans are more likely to be able to work with receivers and their other offensive teammates. It’s true that this game isn’t played with the same intensity of the regular season, but it is also true that quarterbacks can still make slight adjustments and create a rapport with their receivers. During the week of preparation for this game, quarterbacks and receivers need to get on the same page. It is much more likely that the veteran quarterbacks on Team Rice will make these adjustments to a greater degree, paving the way for victory.

The other thing to point out is that Newton will play against his coach, Ron Rivera, who is leading Team Rice in this game. That’s going to be psychologically tricky for Newton, and it could harm his performance.

Expect (Some) Effort from Team Sanders

Team Sanders has a few more of the kinds of players who are likely to play hard in this game, giving it an advantage in terms of motivation and mindset. There are the young quarterbacks like Newton and Foles, who’ll want to show they belong. There are also first-timers like Kyle Long, Paul Posluszny, Dez Bryant, Brent Grimes, Greg Hardy, Eddie Lacy and Cordarrelle Patterson, all of whom will be happy to measure themselves against the league’s best players.

When a veteran has played in this game a couple of times, the effort is likely to fade. Team Sanders has a number of key players that will be making their first trip, so the effort should be there.

Examining the Betting Total

If you’re looking at the NFL total for the over-under in this game, keep in mind that they tend to be high-scoring games. We’ve seen one of the two teams score 55 or more in three straight games with an average combined score of 97.7 in that span. This year’s total is 82.5.