It’s not every year that you stumble across a Super Bowl with this tight of a line. The Packers are 2.5 point favorites. Pretty surprising line for me for a couple of reasons. If you were one of these degenerates who like betting blind futures, you would have been laying points with the AFC all year. And, now with an NFC wild-card in the game and one of the AFC powers (and a public team), the NFC team has become a favorite. Says something about the momentum the Packers have built up. But, regardless of who is the favorite, these two teams come in not only with similar talent levels but also similar styles.
Throw the ball, play defense. Maybe that is what the NFL is becoming. We always try to fit teams into two categories. There are offensive minded teams who try to outscore everyone, and then there are “old school” teams that win with defense and like to “pound” the ball. The Steelers have always been a classic example of the latter, but this year they don’t come with their usual running game. Their strength on offense seems to be in the passing game and the mismatches they can cause with their receivers. Green Bay certainly isn’t a running team. The Saints won last year with their defense and an army of receivers, the Pats dynasty teams used the short passing attack and an underrated defense. Defenses still bring home titles, but the best way to compliment them is always in flux, and right now if you have a little explosiveness on offense it takes a bit of pressure off the defensive unit, and they don’t have to be perfect.
That said, I think pressure will be on the defenses in this game. I would expect maybe a few more points than you might imagine, and the Steelers defense in particular is going to have their hands full. Pittsburgh shuts down the run beautifully, but that should hardly faze the Packers. The Pack should take heart in a team like New England putting up 39 on the steel curtain. It’s proof that it can be done, and it was done throwing the ball. Green Bay’s defense might come into the game playing better, and with their corners they could be better equipped to shut down Pittsburgh’s big play threats. I’m not sure if the Steelers could win this thing if it ventured into shootout territory, and it’ll be up to their defense to keep the score within reach.
Overrated Game Factor: The Dome. I’ve heard a lot about Green Bay playing like a dome team on offense. People want to make the stadium a big plus in their favor, but the last I checked the only thing that really hinders a passing game is a gale force wind. Forget about the dome.
Most Important Packer: Aaron Rodgers. It’s his level of play that has taken Green Bay this far. It’s slightly odd to me that Ben is the QB with the 2 Super Bowls, but I’d take Rodgers for this game every time. Every single time.
Most Important Steeler: The O-Line. I think the Steelers will need some balance on offense, so they’ll need to run the ball with some effectiveness. But, they’ve got to give Big Ben time to make plays. I think the Packers will be bringing plenty of pressure and relying on their corners.
Unlikely MVP Candidate: Rashard Mendenhall. No team in the playoffs has committed to and pulled off a successful running game against Green Bay to this point. Yet, their run defense is supposed to be the weakness. If the Steelers get an early lead…you never know.
Suisham vs. Crosby: You hate to see any game come down to kicking, but this one certainly could. Not sure where you want to go here. Suisham was 14/15 this year for Pittsburgh, but his career has been a horror show. Crosby is steady? Not an ice man to be sure. From 45 yards who’d you rather for the win? Ugh, better score TDs.
Tomlin vs. McCarthy: I think Mike Tomlin might be slightly overrated. That said, I’d take him every time over Mike McCarthy. Tomlin has been there, he doesn’t have the game management stigma, it feels like one less way the Steelers can lose this game.
My Favorite Prop: Will a punt hit the Big Screen? Yes (+640). Now, this hasn’t happened all year. But, I think some balls have come close and what better stage for a punter to make a name for himself. 6.4 to 1? Special teams can be fun.
All right, I’m done meandering through this game. All the analysis goes up in flames on Sunday anyway.