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NFL has finally figured out a winning Pro Bowl formula

Pit the Manning brothers against each other and make high scores inevitable. It’s actually entertaining.

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2024 NFL Pro Bowl Games Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Once again Peyton Manning lost to his brother Eli in Sunday’s high-scoring Pro Bowl Games as the AFC came up just short on a defensive stand at the goal line.

But everyone was a winner as the NFL seems to have finally figured out a successful formula for the reimagined Pro Bowl.

While the 7-on-7 flag football game is just not the same as real pro football, the competitive spirit is high - as evidenced by the coaches’ play call sheets (yes, they really have plays) and the frequency with which Manning and his defensive coordinator Ray Lewis argued with the refs.

And the atmosphere is just fun.

No, it’s not nearly as great as the Pro Bowls of yesteryear where true All-Star players faced off in a relatively competitive game of actual football the week after the Super Bowl to celebrate the end of the season.

But it’s far better than many of the NFL’s attempts in recent years to make this game watchable. Remember doing away with AFC v. NFC and having a fantasy draft with alumni captains? Ugh.

Even moving it to the week before the Super Bowl took away much of the hype - which was weird because it was kind of anti-climatic a week after the big game. I think we were all just still wanting to cling to some more Sunday football, we’d watch anything.

But here we are and it is what it is. We can’t go back to competitive football and we can’t seem to get rid of it as the NFLPA keeps voting to keep it (players like that cred, after all).

Two years ago, I wrote that the Pro Bowl was stupid and should be eliminated (I even suggested getting the Manning Brothers involved...genius!)

And I still kind of feel that way, but I appreciate that the NFL recognized the game had become a sham, nothing more than a pillow fight, and leaned into it.

And the result is really not all that bad. The lack of defense is annoying but if you’ve ever played flag football, you know that actually pulling off that flag is legit hard to do.

So I’m cool with a 50-34 flag football score and looking forward to the AFC actually winning the whole thing next year.

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