If you’ve grown tired of the Pro Bowl, a game that no one involved seemingly wants to be playing, then let me turn your attention towards the NFL Skills Showdown, a series of mini games in which you can watch players catch footballs dropped from drones, kickers play the wonderfully named “Kick Tac Toe”, a bunch of athletically gifted dudes play dodgeball, and so forth.
The 2018 Pro Bowl Skills Challenge will air Thursday, January 25, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. That means you can watch a live stream via WatchESPN if you have a cable log-in, but if you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the event online, on your phone or on another streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services. They cost a monthly fee but all come with a free trial:
DirecTV Now: There are four main channel packages, and ESPN is included in all of them. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and once signed up, you can watch ESPN on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app
Sling TV: ESPN is included in the “Sling Orange” base package. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial right here, and then you can watch ESPN on your computer via the Sling website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app
PlayStation Vue: There are four main channel packages, and ESPN is included in all of them. You can sign up for a free 5-day trial right here, and then you can watch ESPN on your computer via the PS Vue website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the PlayStation Vue app
Always a seemingly popular event (albeit a fairly poorly publicized one, at that), the Skills Challenge was done away with in 2007 before finally returning as the Skills Showdown last year. And a bit unsurprisingly, it was met with positive reception.
“We received tremendous feedback from our fans and players about last year’s Skills Showdown, which became one of our most popular Pro Bowl Week events,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Senior Vice President of Events. “With new competitions and special surprises this year, we are raising the bar even higher for both teams and are excited to see which conference ends up victorious.”
Here’s a list of events that Pro Bowlers will compete in during this year’s Skills Showdown:
Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball: Patches O’Houlihan once told us to “pick the bigger, stronger kids for your team.” Well, it doesn’t get much bigger and stronger than a bunch of NFL players, which is what makes it so entertaining.
Kick Tac Toe: This one is new to the event this year. It’s a kicker competition, so it’s hard to tell if it will be nearly as popular as the other games, but kickers are people, too. Let them play, too.
Gridiron Gauntlet: Five players from each team competing in a relay race, which includes a 40-yard dash with an inflated parachute.
Best Hands: Per NFL.com, “four receivers–two from each conference–will catch a series of passes at a sequence of downfield targets as quickly as possible. Designated targets require a specific style of catch–diving, one-handed, over the shoulder, etc.–which must be executed before the receiver can move on to the next target.” I’m not sure forcing players to dive is the best offseason activity, but it should still be entertaining.
Precision Passing: The ol’ classic: Quarterbacks throwing footballs at things.
Drone Drop: It’s exactly what it sounds like. A drone drops balls from increasing heights, and players have to catch it. Last year’s event was actually pretty fun.
Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson will captain the AFC squad, while Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn captain the NFC team.