With Patterson limited by new-look Pro Bowl, are you tuning in Sunday?
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Many television advertising hours have been committed to priming the NFL community for the major format changes to Sunday's Pro Bowl. Chief among the alterations is the blending of conferences into a draft pool, selected to teams by Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice.
Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was named to the event as a 'return specialist,' was drafted onto Sanders' team Wednesday night. Patterson will be the only Vikings player in the game on Sunday as Adrian Peterson had surgery to repair his injured groin this week.
Seeing Patterson work with quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Nick Foles, who will all lead Sanders' team, would've been more of a treat, even in a loosely-played exhibition. But in addition to his limited role, kickoffs were eliminated in the Pro Bowl makeover, so Patterson will hold down punt return duties throughout Sunday's game and begin drives for teammates like Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy and Dez Bryant.
But with Patterson likely seeing just a handful of plays, will you watch?
The decline in popularity for this All-Star event is a battle of perception against reality. In a time of the year where the NHL, NBA and college basketball are all deep in midseason, people annually make the Pro Bowl the most-watched sports event of the weekend leading up to the Super Bowl. The 2011 game peaked TV ratings for the event since 2000, spurned by a move back to Hawaii after a one-year stint in Florida.
Ratings dropped by eight percent in 2012 to an average of 12.5 million viewers for NBC, still beating out the MLB All-Star game, which averaged 11 million viewers the year before on FOX. The NFL now hopes these changes will produce a similar reinvigoration of its already massive viewership on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. CT.