The Pro Bowl is back. The showcase of stars returns after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sunday's iteration, for the very first time, will be played in Las Vegas at the newly built Allegiant Stadium. After completing the longest regular-season in NFL history, the participants selected from the AFC and NFC were as deserving as ever.
Here are four things to watch for in the 2022 Pro Bowl:
- No kickoffs! The NFL has used the Pro Bowl in recent years as an opportunity to experiment. The innovation continues in 2022. There will be no kickoffs Sunday, with the winner of the opening coin toss instead having the option of spotting the ball anywhere on the field while designating direction, or choosing whether to start on offense or defense from the designated spot. The loser of the toss will have first choice between the two privileges to begin the second half. It’s called the "Spot and Choose” method and was brought forth to the Competition Committee last year by the Baltimore Ravens. With player safety always a priority, this rule could eventually be implemented for all NFL games.
- What will Deebo do? The 49ers star transformed into a supernova this season, scorching opposing defenses with his hands, legs and even his arm. Deebo Samuel became the first player in NFL history to top 1,400 receiving yards and 300 rushing yards in the same year. He was just as potent in the postseason, topping 100 all-purpose yards in all three games. But the beauty of Samuel isn’t in the numbers. It’s the madness of his methods. He lines up everywhere, darts past, around and through defenders like a student driver and traffic cones, and is a threat to take every touch to the house. It all makes him the ideal participant in an all-star setting. The case can be made that Samuel is the top skill player in football.
- Diggs vs. Diggs: This is the first pro meeting between the star siblings. Beyond their blood relation, their respective games set the stage for highlights galore, assuming they square off on some snaps. Trevon Diggs is known for taking gambles, which would be a particularly risky proposition versus the technically sound Stefon Diggs. The Bills wideout had a career year in 2020, just as his younger brother broke in as a rookie corner for the Cowboys. This year belonged to Trevon, whose 11 interceptions were the most in a season in 40 years. That’s more than the career-high 10 touchdowns Stefon caught in 2021. Any passes thrown their way are often caught. The question Sunday will be which Diggs will come down with them.
- New blood at QB: Kyler Murray looked like the MVP through seven weeks. Justin Herbert looked like a future MVP for the second straight year. Neither ended the 2021 season how they wanted, but their respective futures couldn’t be brighter. Perhaps they’ll take out some of their playoff angst on the Pro Bowl. The presumptive starting QBs possess immense physical talents, share a flair for downfield dimes, and frustrate defenses sometimes with their legs more than their arms. And they’re both under 25. The league is in a great spot as it pertains to young QBs, and Herbert and Murray are two of the best examples.