Free NFL Pick: Green Bay Vs Pittsburgh Super Bowl XLV

February 5, 2011


Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers (Dallas)

Sunday February 6th, 2011 6:29 PM EST

Line: Green Bay -3


The past few Super Bowls have been spectacular. Last minute drives that will live forever in football lore have become a regular occurrence in the Super Bowl. That being said, the lines on those Super Bowls have not been nearly as close as this one. Super Bowl XLV is expected to be a close game. When the Steelers took on the Cardinals, virtually everyone believed it was going to be a blowout. The Giants were huge underdogs when they took on Tom Brady and the undefeated Patriots.

This game is going to be close. Even if the game were at an even line, Las Vegas would likely get a heavy amount of betting on both sides. The Super Bowl is supposed to feature the two best teams in the NFL, theoretically. For the first time in a very long time, I believe it actually does. The Green Bay Packers may be a six seed, but they took out the best team in the NFC and the winner of their division to get to where they are today. It is clear that the Packers deserved the opportunity to represent the NFC in the playoffs.

The Steelers come in a bit more battered, as they had to square off against two of the most physical teams in the entire league, the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are no stranger to the Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger spoke about the traditions the Steelers take part in in every Super Bowl they attend. The fact that they have Super Bowl traditions speaks to their dominance, but I digress. Let’s take a look at the Keys to the Game.

Keys to the Game

  • Aaron Rodgers has to have a good game for the Packers to win. Conversely, Roethlisberger might not necessarily need to put forth a dominant effort for the Steelers to win. The entire Packers offense is predicated off of the dominance of Rodgers. They have an elite receiving corp, with Greg Jennings leading the way, and their running game has picked up, but the reason they are in this position is because number 12 has been playing lights out. He’s completed over 70% of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 109.1 throughout the playoffs. If he falters, the Packers simply will not be able to move the ball.
  • Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, and Heath Miller are the most pivotal players on the Steelers when it comes to field position. In a perfect Steeler world, this game would come down to the run game, field position, and defense. The three aforementioned players are key when it comes to moving the chains. Mendenhall can be a home run hitter at times, but look for all three players to serve as prime options in third down situations. Keeping from getting in third and long situations has been a strong point in the Steelers offense all season long, and they are a big reason why.
  • Ben Roethlisberger has to play cautiously. There is no doubt that he is going to be under fire. The Packers, in my opinion, have the best secondary in football. They have an elite cornerback tandem in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams and a big time playmaker in Nick Collins at safety. Trying to force the ball into tight windows is going to have adverse effects. There is no shame in throwing the ball away and living to play another down. Roethlisberger’s experience in big games comes into play here.
  • Aaron Rodgers has to know where Troy Polamalu is at all times. There are players that require you to know where they are at all times. Polamalu is one of those players. He comes right up to the line and becomes a glorified linebacker at times. Other times, he serves as a centerfield safety. The Steelers were +17 in the turnover department this season. Polamalu’s seven interceptions had a lot to do with that.
  • The Packers have to run the ball. They don’t necessarily need to be successful at running the ball to have the run serve its purpose. By keeping the Steelers honest, it creates mismatches more readily throughout the entire game. Too often teams completely abandon the run when playing the Steelers, which makes them that much more effective.
  • The Steelers can lull a team to sleep, but lax coverage on Mike Wallace even for a second could spell six for the Steelers. He is one of the most dominant deep threats in the entire league. While the Packers can feel confident in their corner situation, Wallace consistently produces game changing performances on only a few receptions. Limiting him to two or three catches won’t be good enough. The Packers have to completely eliminate him from the game.
  • James Farrior and James Harrison are the most important players on the Steelers defense, aside from Polamalu. The linebacking corp as a whole is probably the best in the NFL, but Farrior and Harrison command the line of scrimmage and dictate the flow of the game. Farrior is the unquestioned emotional leader of the Steelers and Harrison is a game changer coming off the edge. We all saw just how explosive he can be in his Defensive Player of the Year campaign two years ago. Harrison came up big with the longest play in Super Bowl history. The Steelers constantly call upon both players to make big plays, and they almost always answer the call.

Key Matchups

Flozell Adams Vs. Clay Matthews

  • Flozell Adams used to be a Pro Bowl tackle. He is no longer. The Steelers have to address the tackle position in the offseason, as they struggle to find consistency at either tackle position. That being said, Pittsburgh has to rely on Adams’ veteran experience for the time being. Roethlisberger is the most sturdy quarterback in the NFL. The shots he survives while stationary are nothing short of incredible, but allowing Clay Matthews tomake his presence felt in the pocket is not conducive to good quarterback play.
  • Matthews was robbed of the Defensive Player of the Year award. Not saying Polamalu is not worthy of the award, or even that Matthews deserved it more. He had a dominant year and was the odds on favorite to win the award, so coming up short puts an even bigger chip on his shoulder coming into this game. He is versatile enough to attack the Steelers from either side. He is unlikely to see resistance on the left or right side, so look for the Packers to get creative in how they send Matthews. He has the ability to completely take over a game and we could see it here.

Doug Legursky Vs. B.J. Raji

  • It is unclear whether or not Maurkice Pouncey is going to start. The unquestioned leader of the offensive line, Pouncey has been instrumental to the Steelers’ success in his rookie campaign. He broke his ankle, so the Steelers have to evaluate when he becomes a liability by being in the game. They may have come to that conclusion already, but keeping the Packers guessing for as long as possible is beneficial to their efforts.
  • Doug Legersky is a huge dropoff from Pouncey. Even so, when one player goes down, another has an opportunity to shine. Legursky faces an uphill battle in going against one of the league’s best in BJ Raji. Raji Vs Legursky is a one sided battle, but Legursky will likely see a heavy amount of guard support. As dominant as Pouncey is, his loss is not a disaster for the Steelers. While his leadership and line calls will be sorely missed, the Steelers have lived through worse this season (the Big Ben suspension comes to mind).

Dom Capers Vs. Dick Lebeau

  • It’s no surprise to see either one of these guys in the Super Bowl. They are among the most innovative and dominant defensive coordinators in the entire NFL. Not only has their creativity launched their defenses into a state of dominance, they are among the league’s best in altering game plans mid game.
  • It is going to be exciting to see the different sets they try to confuse the opposing offense with. They both face elite quarterbacks and offenses that pose serious mismatch problems. There is an abundance of coaching experience on both sidelines, which makes this game even more exciting. This game could very well turn out to be a defensive game, at which point we will see these two masters at work.

Wrap Up:

I think this game will feature dominant defensive play, but won’t be low scoring necessarily. Both teams could make their case for being favored, but the current line has the Packers taking it by three. The Steelers are on the verge of becoming a dynasty once again, yet they are considered the underdog. Does Aaron Rodgers lead a Packer team that is that dominant or is it all smoke and mirrors?

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