How to improve the Pro Bowl? Consider Noodle Wars, a 'ManningCast' and prop bets (2024)

One of the more interesting nuggets to come out of Tuesday’s meeting of NFL owners in Atlanta is that the league is considering changes to the Pro Bowl.

It’s an all-star game in name only, because the actual Pro Bowl produced is a watered-down product that isn’t all that fun to watch. Players don’t want to risk injury, and football isn’t fun when it’s played at half speed and with only half-hearted attempts at defense.


Indeed, it’s time to rethink the entire event. Here is my five-step process to fix the Pro Bowl and turn it into an event worth watching:

1. Start with a skills competition

Think field day, but bigger, stronger and faster. Elements of this are already baked into Pro Bowl week, with dodgeball, a one-handed catch competition and a quarterback accuracy challenge. Those events, held in the days before the Pro Bowl, are just as entertaining as the game itself.

Insanely competitive athletes playing kids games? Yes, please. The NFL should just ditch the auspice of actual football and lean into the fun.

Keep the dodgeball, for sure, as well as the quarterback passing competition. Add a three-legged race, a game of HORSE and a 40-yard dash to finally determine just who is the NFL’s fastest man.

Who doesn't love Dodgeball at the Pro Bowl?

📺: 2022 #ProBowlSkills Showdown — Thurs. Feb. 3, 7pm ET on ESPN

— NFL (@NFL) January 27, 2022

My kid’s elementary school had something called Noodle Wars. Four teams, each with a different color noodle. Whack opponents until you are the last team standing. The kindergarteners loved it, and if you think I wouldn’t spend 15 minutes watching Aaron Donald, Trent Williams and Josh Allen smack the crap out of each other with pool noodles, you must be new here.

Could we add an “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle course? Incorporate some football elements — footwork drills, pushing a sled, catching and throwing — make it a race and see how quickly 250-pound edge rushers can scale a 14 1/2-foot warped wall.

How many times have you heard anecdotes about how wildly competitive NFL players are? That they hate to lose in checkers or pool or table tennis or Connect 4?

Here’s a chance to prove it.

2. Turn it into a telethon

We know people are watching the Pro Bowl. Even with a significant ratings dip in 2022, the game still drew about 6.7 million viewers.


So if fixing the Pro Bowl starts with making it fun, next is doing something good with it, and the league doesn’t have to dig too far into its history to see how it could work.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the league to hold a virtual draft in 2020, the NFL used one of its broadcast channels for “Draft-a-Thon,” and wound up raising $7 million for COVID-19 relief.

The NFL might not be able to match that level of donations during the Pro Bowl, but this event would provide a large platform to raise money for any number of charitable organizations, large and small.

Players will certainly want to be paid for their appearance at the Pro Bowl — the only thing that motivated players to even try to tackle in the first place was the larger check for the winning team. But what if they could also raise money for their favorite causes or for their own foundations?

How to improve the Pro Bowl? Consider Noodle Wars, a 'ManningCast' and prop bets (1)

What could be better than a Pro Bowl “ManningCast” with Peyton and Eli? (Kent Nishimura / Getty Images)

3. Let the Manning brothers host it

I don’t believe there is anyone in NFL history who loved and appreciated the Pro Bowl more than Peyton Manning. He viewed it as an honor to be selected, sure, but he used the week as time to bond and talk football with coaches and players from around the league. It was one of his favorite places to pull pranks, enjoy a few Bud Lights (league sponsor, of course) and pick the brains of other smart football people.

Now, let him bring that enthusiasm to a “Pro Bowl-a-Thon” telecast.

ESPN discovered magic by pairing Peyton and Eli Manning for a “Monday Night Football” simulcast last season. That informal format, with a mix of analysis, celebrity interviews and brotherly banter, would be perfect for a non-traditional Pro Bowl broadcast.

We’d love to see Peyton’s disappointment when the quarterbacks struggle in the passing challenge, and look forward to Eli’s dry humor while breaking down the dodgeball game.


And they have the cachet to bring in major guests, from retired NFL stars to actors like The Rock or musicians, to assist in the fundraising efforts.

4. Get the fans involved

Who wouldn’t love a good old-fashioned Pros vs. Joes-style affair?

NFL Pro Bowlers will make all these games look easy. But let’s allow some fans in to remind us all how freakishly strong, fast and skilled these players are.

So before we watch Russell Wilson attempt to defend his precision passing title from the 2022 skills challenge, let’s see a 34-year-old accountant from Denver try.

Want to see Tyreek Hill and DK Metcalf in a 40-yard dash? Let’s line up a 28-year-old math teacher from Miami and give him a head start.

The NFL might have to take out quite a hefty insurance policy, but let’s throw a few fans into the Noodle War or dodgeball, just to see what happens.

5. Let us bet on everything

Let’s assume the NFL wants to keep the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas. (And it should, for the weather alone.)

Now, make every element of the Pro Bowl something we can gamble on, from pre-event prop bets for dodgeball MVP to the winners of every skill position challenge to live odds from the Noodle War. Let us bet on how many Bud Lights Peyton Manning will drink or how many times Eli will accidentally curse live on television.

Even if the NFL opts to keep more of the traditional elements of the Pro Bowl, whether that’s a scaled-down version of a real game or a flag-football tournament, the league needs to find a way to incorporate live gaming into it to keep the millions of fans who do tune in engaged.

(Top photo: Jeff Speer / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How to improve the Pro Bowl? Consider Noodle Wars, a 'ManningCast' and prop bets (2)How to improve the Pro Bowl? Consider Noodle Wars, a 'ManningCast' and prop bets (3)

Lindsay Jones is a senior writer for The Athletic covering the NFL. She previously wrote about the NFL for USA Today and The Denver Post, and covered high school and college sports at The Palm Beach Post. She is a native of Ft. Collins, Colo., and a graduate of Emory University. Follow Lindsay on Twitter @bylindsayhjones

How to improve the Pro Bowl? Consider Noodle Wars, a 'ManningCast' and prop bets (2024)


What was the best pro bowl game ever? ›

The NFC defeats the AFC, 55-52, in the highest scoring Pro Bowl of all time on February 8, 2004 following the 2003 NFL season. Seahawks players who made the Pro Bowl that year included Steve Huctchinson, Alex Bannister, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, and Matt Hasselbeck.

Why is the Pro Bowl flag football? ›

With flag football introduced last year in an effort to reduce the chances of injuries and increase competitiveness, players appeared to buy into the idea on Sunday, with the stars of the NFL wowing with athleticism and precision, like they'd been doing all season.

Do Super Bowl players play in the Pro Bowl? ›

A crucial rule stipulates that players from the two teams advancing to the Super Bowl since 2010 are ineligible for the Pro Bowl. Instead, alternates fill their spots. In the 2024 Pro Bowl Games, with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ersSuper Bowl-bound, alternate players and replacements joined the rosters.

How are Pro Bowl players selected? ›

Player selection

Players are voted into the Pro Bowl by the coaches, the players themselves, and the fans. Each group's ballots count for ⅓, or 33.3%, of the votes. Fans vote on their preferred players at

Is there an actual pro bowl game? ›

This is the second year of the NFL's revamped Pro Bowl format, which continues to take place in Orlando. It's a two-day event that began Thursday and will conclude Sunday. The 2024 Pro Bowl Games will be capped off with a 7-on-7 flag football game between NFC and AFC Pro Bowlers.

Where is the Pro Bowl 2025? ›

Conversation. The 2025 NFL Pro Bowl Games are not the only football events Florida Citrus Sports is working to draw to Orlando's Camping World Stadium.

What was the biggest blowout in the Pro Bowl history? ›

The NFC defeats the AFC 55-52 in 2004, marking the highest scoring Pro Bowl of all time. Watch the highlights here!

What is the lowest scoring Pro Bowl game? ›

Fewest Points, Both Teams—16, AFC 10, NFC 6, 1987.

What teams have no pro bowlers? ›

The Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Washington Commanders are the only teams to not have any players named to this year's Pro Bowl Games.

Who has the most pro bowls in NFL history? ›

1. Tom Brady. With an impressive 15 Pro Bowl selections, Tom Brady has made NFL history.

What team has the most pro bowlers in 2024? ›

The San Francisco 49ers are sending 9 players to the 2024 NFL Pro Bowl, the most in the league. The 49ers are followed by the Baltimore Ravens (7), Dallas Cowboys (7), Miami Dolphins (6), and Philadelphia Eagles (6) in team Pro Bowl selections.

How much do Waterboys in the NFL make? ›

NFL waterboys actually make a fairly decent salary. Typically speaking individuals earn around $35,000 per year. Those who have been in the game for an extended period of time, however, can earn significantly more, with some even reported to be starting well above $50,000.

Where will the 2024 Pro Bowl be held? ›

How does the NFL decide who plays in the Pro Bowl? ›

Fan votes determine the Pro Bowl squads. The NFL has announced the respective NFC and AFC rosters. Some players may miss out, depending on whether they play in the Super Bowl. The NFL will call up the Pro Bowl alternates to fill the rosters in that instance.

Is the Pro Bowl scripted? ›

After Eli Manning coached the NFC to a 64-59 victory over Peyton Manning and the AFC on Sunday afternoon, his nephew suggested the game was rigged. “You know the refs won the game,” Marshall Manning told Eli at midfield. “It's scripted.

Why is there no tackling in the Pro Bowl? ›

The N.F.L. announced on Monday that it would turn the Pro Bowl, its annual all-star game, into a flag football game and drop the tackle game entirely. The shift comes as participation and interest in the exhibition has dwindled in recent years, despite the league's efforts at modifying it.

What is the point of the Pro Bowl? ›

The NFL Pro Bowl is popular for attendees primarily because it offers a unique opportunity to see the league's top players from different teams compete together in a relaxed atmosphere.

How much are pro bowl tickets in 2024? ›

Buy tickets, which start as low as $45, at to experience the excitement live at Camping World Stadium.

Where is the Super Bowl 2024? ›

Super Bowl LVIII will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, February 11, 2024. Throughout Super Bowl Week, enjoy events such as Opening Night and Super Bowl Experience with immersive experiences for fans of all ages.

What is the difference between AFC and NFC? ›

Both conferences were created as part of the 1970 merger between the National Football League, and the American Football League (AFL). All ten of the AFL teams, and three NFL teams, became members of the new AFC, with the remaining thirteen NFL teams forming the NFC.

What is the most famous bowl game? ›

What Is the Most Popular Bowl Game?
  • Rose Bowl. Often referred to as 'The Granddaddy of Them All', the Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game and is part of the College Football Playoff. ...
  • Orange Bowl. ...
  • Sugar Bowl. ...
  • Fiesta Bowl. ...
  • Citrus Bowl. ...
  • Outback Bowl. ...
  • Peach Bowl. ...
  • Alamo Bowl.
May 31, 2024

What is the biggest win in bowl history? ›

Share this story

Update: Georgia defeated Florida State 63-3, breaking their own record for the largest winning margin in a bowl game in history.

What was the greatest game ever played in the Super Bowl? ›

It was the first NFL playoff game to be decided in sudden death overtime. The Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 23–17 in what soon became widely known as "the Greatest Game Ever Played".


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