Football fans starved for a game as they wait for Super Bowl Sunday can watch the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl streaming live online, as the National Football League presents the 47th game in the Pro Bowl series that began in 1970 when the NFL merged with its upstart rival American Football League to become the AFC and NFC, and top players from each conference met the week following the Super Bowl in an annual all-star contest.
Prior to 1970, the NFL held an annual all-star game, also called the Pro Bowl, starting in 1950, that pitted stars from the NFL’s East Division against stars from the West. The league held seveal all-star games before that, dating back to 1932, but those games did not use the name “Pro Bowl” and used a format in which the NFL champion team would play against a team of stars from the rest of the league.
The AFC vs. NFC format ran from 1970 until 2013, when the NFL attempted to revive interest in the game, which had always struggled to find an audience, by naming two honorary captains and allowing them to “draft” players from a single pool of Pro Bowl players.
The league first tried to make changes in 2010, when the NFL moved the Pro Bowl from the week following the Super Bowl to the week prior, with all players chosen from the two Super Bowl teams exempted from the game.
For the 2016 Pro Bowl, the honorary captains are Hall of Fame wide receivers Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin.
Irvin had the first overall pick in the Pro Bowl draft and used it to select Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Rice then used his first pick to take New York Giants signal caller Eli Manning.
The following video contains an in-depth rundown and the 2016 Pro Bowl roster.
To find out how to watch the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl live online, see the streaming links at the bottom of this article. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, January 31. That kickoff time translates as 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 4 p.m. Pacific.
The 2016 NFL Pro Bowl may be interesting for an unusual reason — rather than acting as a showcase for the top players in the NFL, this year’s game has turned out to be more like a “Futures Game” with the spotlight on the league’s young, up-and-coming talent.
The reason is that a record number of Pro Bowl players bowed out of the game this year for one reason or another — including all seven members of the New England Patriots who were picked for the game. That means, for example, no Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski. And on Saturday, the one Patriots player who was still committed to play, last year’s Super Bowl hero cornerback Malcolm Butler, also withdrew citing a knee injury.
RELATED STORIES: Aaron Rodgers Pulls Out Of Pro Bowl: Replaced by Raider's Derek Carr Dallas Cowboys Star Jason Witten Snubbed By NFL Pro Bowl Pro Bowl Rosters: Cam Newton, Tom Brady Lead Latest NFL Pro Bowl Teams Dallas Cowboys Protecting Russell Wilson At Pro Bowl Arian Foster On Pro Bowl: You're Not Going To See 100 Percent Effort
Of course, superstar quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will be absent because their teams will meet on February 7 in the Super Bowl.
In all, the NFL was forced to select so many alternates that a total of 133 players can call themselves Pro Bowl picks this year — the highest ever, topping the 119 Pro Bowlers picked for the 2009 game.
To watch the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl game — Team Irvin vs. Team Rice — live online from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, use the stream provided by WatchESPN at this link.
Fans who do not have credentials to log in to WatchESPN can watch the Pro Bowl game via the Sling TV internet package at this link. The package, which comes with a variety of channels — including ESPN — costs $20 per month and can be accessed on mobile devices with the Sling TV app, as well as on computers and some set-top devices, including the Roku and Amazon Fire. But Sling TV offers an option to watch the game free, with the seven-day introductory trial offered to new subscribers, who can choose whether or not to keep the service after they watch the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl game streaming live online.
[Featured Photo By Christian Petersen/Getty Images]