Sunday, February 6, 2011

NFL Playoffs- Super Bowl Prediction

It's been two weeks since any real football action (no Pro Bowl, you don't count) and after going 1-1 in the Conference Finals (6-4 overall) we get to see which team rises to the top.  It's a tale of two legendary franchises, steeped in tradition going back over generations.  By the end of the the night either Title Town or the Steel City will be celebrating in the street.  So who wins: Pittsburgh or Green Bay?

Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, February 6th, 2011 6:30pm

Cowboys Stadium- Dallas, TX

The last time these two teams met it was a a game for the ages.  Over 800 yards in offense and the Steelers were down to the very last play, down by six.  Three seconds on the block.  Ben Roethlisberger took the snap and took a five step drop.  As he hopped around waiting for a receiver he saw rookie Mike Wallace streaking across the end zone.  He set, he fired.  Toes down, statue.  Mike Wallace touchdown.  The kick was good as one of the most entertaining games on the 2009 season, and what Steelers play by play voice Bill Hillgrove called the best regular season game he'd called, was over.  The Steelers won 36-35.

Aaron Rodgers
After a regular season marred by injuries to key players like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers (10-6) took over their pre-season mantle of popular Super Bowl pick.  They got hot in their last few games and squeaked into the playoffs as the number six seed.  Since entering the playoffs they have played like everything but a six seed, beating the Eagles, dismantling the Falcons, and cruising over their rivaled Bears to reach the Super Bowl.

It's no secret the way the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) started their season.  The issues began in early 2010 when Ben Roethsliberger was accused of sexually assaulting a girl in a small town Georgia bar.  It caused him to miss the first four games of the season.  Through fantastic defensive play and solid back up work from Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch the Steelers were able to over come this and start the season 3-1 before Roethlisberger's return.  From there they were consistently one of the best teams in the NFL until where we stand now, the teams third Super Bowl in six years.

Don't let the #6 next to the Packers fool you, this is the match up of two of the best teams in the football.  The only team that can make the case for being here instead of someone else is potentially the New England Patriots.  The Wild Card designation for the Packers is only brought about by the previously mentioned injuries where as the Steelers have been strong and steady all year long.  This is largely due to two things: defense and quarterbacking.

Troy Polamlau
The defense is one of the headline makers and understandable.  Both teams run a 3-4 defense.  As it happens, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is a former Steelers defensive coach who learned everything from Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.  Both are ranked in the top three over all in the league and they are number one (Steelers) and number two (Packers) in scoring defense in the regular season and lead by long haired quarterbacks Clay Matthews Jr. and Troy Polamalu (who was not in the game last year).  In the end this won't matter.

Both Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. While they're both surrounded by solid talent (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings for Rodgers and Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and Heath Miller for Roethlisberger) they both have skill to spare.  Both have big arms that can launch the ball deep.  Rodgers is more accurate but Roethlisberger can keep the play alive longer than anyone else in the NFL.  They both give their teams a large advantage that few teams enjoy when they take the field.

What this game will come down to is the match ups.  While both teams are fairly even there are two rather major differences between the two teams, both stacked against the Steelers.  Perhaps the biggest weakness the Steelers defense has is their secondary.  For a high powered passing attack like the Packers, this is perhaps the worst possible match up for them.  If they want to contain the passing game they have to knock Rodgers around early and often.

RJ Raji
The other mismatch is the likes of BJ Raji and the Packers front seven against the Steelers injury riddled and patch work offensive line.  The loss of Pro Bowl rookie Maurkice Pouncey is huge here. Back up center Doug Legursky has had two weeks to practice at center but no matter which way you slice it he's at least a step down from Pouncey, weakening the already patchwork line in front of Ben Roethlisberger and limiting the chances for Steelers running back Rashard Mendenahll.

The defenses will be nullified with familiarity.  Both quarterbacks will have a field day on the other side.  In the end it comes to match ups and while the Steelers may have the experience, it's no where near enough of an advantage to make up for the pains that will come from their weaknesses.  Aaron Rodgers will look to be lifting his way out of Brett Favre's shadow and bringing the Lombardi trophy back to "Titletown".

Packers 31 Steelers 27

MVP: Aaron Rodgers

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