Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl XLV, or die!

Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) vs Green Bay Packers
Or can we call it the team of the '70s vs the team of the 60's? So much of history between these two franchises. While, the Cowboys are generally called America's team, a legit case can be made for either of these two teams to be called America's Team. (Here is the case made for the Packers by Gene Wojciechowski).

The Steelers might be the most successful franchise in the super bowl era: starting from the Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw days through Bill Cowher and now onto the Mike Tomlin era. The Packers are probably the most successful franchise ever, with the most NFL Championships (when including the pre-Super Bowl era). Their storied history dates back to the days of coach Curly Lambeau, through Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr; and then after a setback in the 70s and 80s, the Packers came back to NFL prominence with the Brett Favre era, which now (in)famously transformed into the Aaron Rodgers era.

And here is Rick Reilly talking about why people without a horse in this race should root for the Packers.

Packer Game Plan

The game is being played indoors at Cowboys Stadium (with the roof closed). Which means Aaron Rodgers will get to wear his favorite shoes. And, more importantly, the Packers offense can showcase its speed.  The one thing the vaunted Steelers defense might be susceptible to is when opposing teams spread things out.

Proof? Tom Brady and the Patriots did it in their meeting against the Steelers in this year's regular season. The Packers themselves did in Week 15 of the 2009 season against the Steelers. Its no gimme. But, being indoors in a controlled weather will be a perfect setting to try exploit that chink in the Steeler D. The big key here, that I keep stressing every week: The Packers WRs should hold on to balls thrown at them. A couple drops (due to lack of concentration that happens a lot to both Jennings and Jones) could cost them the game and title.

The Packers should also not give up on the run, and they will not. Mike McCarthy has always maintained that, even if it is not productive, he will call 25-30 carries a game. That's just how their offense works. Going one dimensional with the pass only plays right into the hands of what the Steelers want you to do.

A lot has been made of Pouncey's (Steelers rookie Pro-Bowl Center) injury. Even if he plays healthy (very unlikely), the Packers D line has the other four linemen to attack, who are not all that good. BJ Raji and Cullen Jenkins will have to generate pressure up the middle. Woodson and Walden (if healthy, or Zombo), will have to spy on Big Ben, making sure he is contained in the pocket. As you might have heard a zillion times these past two weeks, the last thing you want is Big Ben making plays outside the pocket.

The most important thing will be to stop the Steelers from running the ball. If the Steelers start moving the chains pounding the rock, its going to be a long day for the Packers D. The Packers secondary is more than capable of handling the Steelers passing offense. They will need to be on their toes though, because those young Steeler wide outs are quick. And the indoor turf will only help them more. I would not mind having Sam Shields (our fastest CB) on Mike Wallace. Shields is most equipped to run around with Wallace all day long.

Finally, the most damage on defense will be done only based on scheme rather than any individual performance. So Capers will need to do his thing here.

I'm also a little nervous about special teams. Crosby has been good. But of late, he has not been tested much. The Packers never attempted a FG against the Bears in the NFC Title game or against the Eagles in the Wild Card round. Against the Falcons, he missed a 50 yard FG (which hit the left upright) and barely made a 42 yarder. Kick off and punt coverage is still a big concern. Masthay has been punting light out and I expect him to bring his A game.

Steeler Game Plan

The Steelers on offense will want to establish the run. Their aim will be to control the clock and keep Rodgers and the high octane Packers offense off the field for most of the game. With their patch-work offensive line, its going to be a challenge. Luckily they have Big Ben as their QB. He's the only QB in the league that I think can survive behind that horrific line. The onus will be on him to make plays outside the pocket, often on the run, to keep drives alive.

They know very well the Packers will try to spread them out. So pressure on Rodgers will be their key. They have to consistently get to him; and get to him fast. Polamalu, if truly healthy, will have to play a lot inside the box. The Steelers special teams might be better than the Packers' unit. But not all that better (Hello Kapinos!). I'd call it a wash.

The X-Factor: Aaron Rodgers' health. HE took a beating against the Bears in the NFC Title game. The shoulder and the hit to the head were the biggest. He did have two weeks to rest up. But, how healthy is he really?

My Pick:
Outright Win: Packers
v/s the Spread: Packers [-2.5]

Championship Week:
Outright Win Record: 2-0
v/s the Spread Record: 1-1

Playoff Record:
Outright Win Record: 7-3
v/s the Spread Record: 6-4

Regular Season Record:
Outright Win Record: 161-95
v/s the Spread Record: 123-118-8

No comments:

Post a Comment