Pro Bowl looks to draw more fans with Skills Showdown, dodgeball game

Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford (9) during the first half of the NFL Football Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The NFL has struggled to keep the Pro Bowl relevant in recent memory. The former Hawaii All-Star Game is now being branded as an entirely different beast.

Thursday, Jan. 26, ESPN will televise the first-ever Pro Bowl Skills Showdown at 7 p.m. ET, pinning conference friends and foes against each other in a thrilling competition. Much like the NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities which include a celebrity game, a skills contest, a dunk contest, and a three-point shootout, the NFL is trying to remain relevant and exciting.

After three seasons of un-conferenced Pro Bowl play, the league is also returning to the original AFC versus NFC format. For the skills challenge, Jerome Bettis and Ray Lewis will captain the AFC while Tony Gonzalez and Charles Woodson will lead Team NFC out to battle.

According to a press release on NFL.com, the competition will include quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

The competition will consist of a dodgeball game branded as ‘Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball’, a timed relay race referred to as the Power Relay Challenge, a self-titled precision passing drill and “Best Hands,” where a QB and wideout tandem from the respective NFL teams will show off their skill sets.

Pro Bowl voting closes Tuesday with the 88 Pro Bowlers being determined by the fans, players, and coaches, respectively. Dec. 16 will be the voting period for the latter two. NFL Network will announce all the players chosen for the weekend during a primetime special on Dec. 20.

The Pro Bowl itself will be played Sunday, Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fla. at Camping World Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.

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