Thursday, February 3, 2011

2 comments Super Bowl Picks

The Super Bowl is finally here. After months of guesses and hype about the Super Bowl, we can finally see who the best team in the NFL for 2010 really is. I am very much ready for the Super Bowl. I don't like the week that comes between the championship games and the Super Bowl. Of course there isn't much I can do about that because I think the NFL enjoys having that week between games. I just hope the Super Bowl is close and is fun to watch.


I'll go ahead and say it right off the bat: I don't think Super Bowl experience matters. The amount of turnover among NFL rosters destroys any idea of past team success. Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP, is gone. Willie Parker is no longer a featured back. The offensive line has 4 new guys. The defense, on the other hand, is relatively the same. Yet the last time they played, Kurt Warner had his way, passing for 377 yards. So what did they take out of that game? Don't play that badly. Luckily for Green Bay, they'll probably have that mentality anyway.

Every game leading up to the Super Bowl has the same thing on the line. While the prize of the Super Bowl is clearly greater, the nerves are only greater at the beginning. For anyone who has played in any game of consequence, nerves dissipate after only a few minutes. Players are used to playing on an NFL stage, where millions are watching anyway. The added pressure, in my opinion, will not make the difference.

Although I have already defended Big Ben once, but I've recently noticed something to poke a hole in his shining post-season armor. In every Super Bowl season, the path has been handed to him on a silver platter. Ignore your opinion on Big Ben's success as a result of the team or the individual. Regardless of who deserves the credit, opponents must be taken into consideration. In 2006, Pittsburgh took out then Pro Bowl Carson Palmer by tearing his ACL. Pittsburgh only scraped by Indianapolis in the next round due to a Big Ben arm tackle and the most accurate kicker in NFL history's inability to nail a game tying field goal. In the AFC Championship game, they faced a weak Denver team, lead by the immortal Jake the snake. And then in the Super Bowl, they faced quite possibly the weakest #1 seed of all time, the Seattle Seahawks. In 2008, they squeaked out a divisional round victory despite Phillip Rivers tearing apart their defense for over 300 yards passing. In the AFC Championship game, they lucked out again, facing a rookie Joe Flacco. And in the Super Bowl, they took on the defensively and runningly challenged Arizona Cardinals. This season, while impressively defeating the Baltimore Ravens, they managed to avoid the Pats and Colts, instead getting the ideal home matchup against the Jets.

I do not mean to take away credit from the Steelers accomplishments. A win in the post-season is a win in the post-season, no matter whom you play. But it's unfair to heap praise on a team that has, for the most part, escaped the Indianapolis' and New England's during their Super Bowl runs.

Anyway, back to the game at hand. In my mind, momentum plays a greater role than any other tangible factor. As Bengoodfella's final score demonstrates, this is a close game on paper. No matter how you grade each player or each set of positions, neither team's victory will send shock waves throughout the NFL. This is no Giants/Pats, Saints/Colts matchup. This is clearly a matchup of two of the best teams in the NFL. And in a matchup of great players, it comes down to the Quarterbacks. Big Ben clearly has the ability to win a big game, consistently making plays when it counts. But just because Aaron Rodgers has not made those plays does not mean he cannot. When we discuss the best QBs in the NFL, ultimately they are the same ones who are the most clutch. The question is, therefore, which way the correlation runs. To me, it's that greatness leads to ability in the clutch.

Big Ben has never faced a QB and a team of this caliber before in the Super Bowl. Even though 2008 saw him faceoff against HoF caliber Kurt Warner, the defense could not match his offensive prowess. The Green Bay defense, however, is every bit as good as the Packers' offense. Whereas Big Ben could rely on the rest of the team to pick up the slack, don't expect that this time around. In terms of pure Quarterbacking ability, I'll take Aaron Rodgers. As clutch as Big Ben may be, we'll be crowning a new elite and clutch NFL QB by the time this one is over.

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-20.


I hate the bye week before the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is barely football; all these ridiculous rules to avoid injury, no reason whatsoever to watch it. Everyone basically has to sort of pretend football doesn't exist for a week in order not to burn out on over analysis. Only around now can we really think about the game itself. The pinnacle of the season, and we have to awkwardly avoid the topic like it was a deformed child. It seems entirely plausible to me that one day we're gonna forget to talk about the Super Bowl entirely because we don't want to start talking about it too early. "Is now ok?...Or like now?" How is this a good thing for the NFL?




Line: Green Bay -2.5

Pick: Pittsburgh 27-20

The line is wrong

Did I miss something? Is Ben Roethlisberger dead or something? It's actually very close to -3 here, which would be generous to the Packers even if they were playing in Lambeau. The Steelers won more games, play in the better conference, play in a better division, have won two Super Bowls in the last 5 years, are 11-2 in their last 13 playoff games, have the better running game, have the better defense, have the better special teams, have the better coach and are healthier. Pittsburgh were 7-1 away from Heinz this year, Green Bay, including the playoffs, are 6-5 out of Wisconsin. What the hell is going on here? I grant you, if the Jets had made it this would have been a no brainer to pick the Jets. Rodgers only has four guys to throw to and must throw to Jennings (can't afford to one yard Reggie Wayne it) and Revis is just better. No way the Pack could have moved the ball there. Pittsburgh is a better matchup for them, but still, this pick is the easiest I have made in these playoffs (even easier than Ravens@Chiefs). Could the Packers win this game? Absolutely, of course. Should they be favoured? Obviously not.

The Steelers defense is better

Much like Jules Winfield in quoting bible verses, Pittsburgh has been doing this shit for years. Green Bay have been a good defense for quite a while but Pittsburgh quite simply is the defensive gold standard in the NFL (in three of the last four years they have been first or second in both yardage and points conceded). And it's not just a matter of looking to the past, Green Bay cannot stop the run (4.7 ypc against this year). If Indianapolis had numbers like that people woud never shut up about it, Green Bay has them and they are put up as a potentially league leading defense. Again, am I missing something? Tier 1 defenses are the Steelers and Jets in my mind, then Baltimore a little behind, then a messy Tier 3 with Chicago, Green Bay and maybe San Diego, Miami and the Giants hovering around. Good defense? Yes. Pittsburgh level good? No.

Speaking of the rushing game

What happens if Green Bay can't run. Like at all. Sure, we know if they get 50 odd yards, fine, just enough to set up the play action you may say. But at what point does the lack of a ground game just take Green Bay completely out of this game? 25 yards? 15 yards? What about single figures? I remember Detroit a few years back rushed for negative 18 yards. At that point, I don't know if Green Bay even can win. Pittsburgh held ball carriers this year to 3.0 ypc. The next closest was San Diego with 3.5. Unbelievably good run defense. During the season, they faced Michael Turner (42 yards on 19 carries), Chris Johnson (34 on 16), Ray Rice (20 on 8, 32 on 9 and 32 on 12), Darren McFadden (14 on 10) and Shonn Greene (39 on 12 and a good game last week to be fair with 52 on 9). Now they face...James Starks (Green Bay was 25th in the league in yards per rush with 3.8ypc). Who has averaged 2.97 ypc over the last two weeks, but to be fair, he has had Joe Buck riding his nuts the whole time so it can't be easy.

Green Bay's offense

Been the story of the playoffs right? Call it what you want; explosive, scintillating, big play, fine. I tell you one word you can't use to describe it.


This is an incredibly predictable offense. The amount of times it was just Rodgers to Jennings for 21, 22, 20, 22, 23 yards last week was ridiculous. Especially on first down - 4 of the five 20+ Jennings catches were on first down and he was targeted deep another time on first down. You know exactly what they'll do, and it's not even just "pass" but the kinds of passes they throw and the players they throw it too. When Jennings wasn't going deep (generally across the middle) for 20 yard catches, he was running a quick slant inside. Backs and tight ends had 35 yards receiving against the Falcons, but were even worse last week, with just 28 yards. Pittsburgh eats predictable offenses for breakfast.

The NFC sucks

The first round of picks I made I noted "I said earlier I think the NFC is shit, and I do. Chicago is a middling team, Atlanta is neat and organised but far from exciting. New Orleans seem clearly exhausted in getting here, Seattle are Seattle." I stand by that comment (admittedly it was made in the midst of a firey tirade picking Philly to beat Green Bay). The NFC was shit this year. Any conference that delivers you Chicago and Atlanta as top seeds is having a rough year. Sure, Green Bay finished behind Chicago largely due to injuries, but those players are still out. Green Bay's victories over Philly, Atlanta and Chicago don't rate nearly as highly in my opinion as wins over the Ravens and Jets. This is a sixth seed in a conference I don't rate, against a second seed in a conference full of teams I love (and where Miami and San Diego - who had the #1 offense and defense this year remember- couldn't make it). Green Bay did play a better schedule than most NFC teams (NFC and AFC East and also drew the Falcons) but even so, to be consistant I basically have to pick Pittsburgh.


Green Bay Packers v. Pittsburgh Steelers

1. I think the dumbest thing I have read this week concerns the Packers running game and whether they should even try to run the ball against the Steelers. Sure, there may be some data that supports throwing the ball a lot against the Steelers may be beneficial, but any game plan that pretty much cuts out the passing game is a flawed game plan in my mind. Why make your team one-dimensional before the game even begins? Green Bay is 5th in the NFL against the pass and I doubt the Steelers are going to try and give up on the passing game. The Steelers are 1st in the NFL in rush defense, but the Jets ran for 70 yards against the Steelers and they were pretty much playing catch up in the second half. Like every team, the Steelers can be run against with the right play calling. If the Packers defense is on top of its game and doesn't spot the Steelers a lead, then absolutely the Packers should try and run the ball. Granted, Green Bay's offensive game plan is focused on trying to throw the ball well, but there is nothing wrong with running the ball some. The Steelers are great against the run, but the Packers passing game should make the running game successful...or at least give it a chance at success.

2. On defense, the Steelers are going to try to need to focus on the Packers receivers and make sure they don't leave the middle of the field open like the Falcons and Bears seemed to do. The Packers love running quick slants when Rodgers sees a blitz coming, so disguising their blitzes will help the Steelers tremendously when it comes confusing Aaron Rodgers. That's really what it is all about too...confusing Aaron Rodgers. If he is comfortable in the pocket then he is going to be able to have his way passing the ball, which will lead to a Packers victory. Having said the Packers still have to run the ball, but it wouldn't shock me to see them take a play out of the Cardinals playbook from the 2009 Super Bowl and try to sling the ball around early. The Cardinals didn't as much success in that game when they tried to run the ball and gave the Steelers a chance to blitz at will. Once Warner was able to drop back sling the ball around and get Larry Fitzgerald into the game, the Steelers had trouble stopping the Cardinals. The absolute strength of the Steelers are in the linebackers. When the Steelers blitz there could be open passing lanes if the blitz is picked up. The Steelers linebackers make the secondary's job much easier by getting pressure on the quarterback. There is no blueprint to solve the Steelers zone blitz scheme, except identifying where the pressure is coming from and blocking the blitzers. When the Packers are on offense the game is going to revolve around the chess game of Rodgers identifying blitzers, the offensive line blocking these blitzers and then the Steelers either correctly disguising the blitz or the Packers picking up the blitz. If Aaron Rodgers is comfortable the Packers can win, if he is feeling pressured and rushed in the pocket then the Steelers linebackers are going to have sacks and put the Packers in tough third down situations...which is really when the blitzes can be dialed up.

3. I see the Packers using a sort of inverted offense. Rodgers will try to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid the blitz and use the short passing game as the running game. I think the Packers will use the actual running game as a way of keeping the linebackers honest and now allowing them to drift back into passing lanes. I think the Steelers defense can get to Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line hasn't faced a defense like the blitz-heavy Steelers but once this year, which was against the Jets, and they only scored 9 points in that game. I expect Dick LeBeau to show Rodgers a few blitzes he hasn't seen quite yet this year on tape. As good as the Packers offensive line has played, the Steelers defense has the ability to control the first 7-8 yards off the line of scrimmage no matter how good the opposing offensive line is. Knowing this, the Packers should not abandon the running game, but the Steelers also need to be aware that the Jets had success throwing the ball in the second half against their defense, so the Packers very well may come out trying to sling the ball around the field in the hopes of slowing down the Steelers blitz and scoring some early points. As a result of this, I wouldn't doubt the Steelers could come out and possibly not blitz as much as they usually do believing the Packers will come out throwing...or they may do the opposite. Either way, at some point the Packers offensive line is going to get hit with well-disguised blitzes.

4. Defensively, the Packers are no pushover. They have done well in the playoffs beating a scrambling quarterback, a typical pocket quarterback and a gunslinger-type quarterback (though you may have heard something about Cutler being injured early in this game). The Packers defense is on a roll, while the same can be said for the Steelers running game. They gashed the Jets in the first half with Rashard Mendenhall. While the Jets were 3rd in the NFL against the run, the Packers are only 18th against the run. So the Steelers on offense may end up going old-school and trying to run the ball on the Packers. The Packers got out to early leads in all three games they have played so far, so I can't help but wonder if teams can run the ball on them in a close game. It is incredibly obvious, but the Packers have to get to Ben Roethlisberger. He is like a magician in the pocket, how he seems to get out of being sacked when it seems he is in the defender's grasp. The Packers probably like the matchups they have in the passing game, even when the Steelers put Mike Wallace in the slot against Sam Shields. Shields can keep up with Wallace, but I still think if those two are matched up it favors Wallace due to Shield's relative inexperience. The Packers seem to have a secondary that on paper could match up with the Steelers passing game, but if Roethlisberger can buy time in the pocket and run around the field at will then the Packers aren't going to be able to cover the Steelers receivers that entire time.

5. This seems like a fairly even matchup between two quality teams. Regardless of whether Maurkice Pouncey plays or not, the Steelers offensive line always looks much better because Roethlisberger can evade the rush so well. I look for Dom Capers to dial up some creative blitzes this week and try to get at Roethlisberger, while containing him in the pocket. The Steelers offensive line isn't a sieve, but it also isn't solid. The key is pressure up the middle with pressure up the side as well. This keeps Roethlisberger from having a lot of places to run. The Packers are going to want to treat him the way they did Mike Vick and close him in. I think the biggest player on the Steelers offense may end up being Heath Miller. The Packers have done a good job on tight ends in the playoffs and if Miller is able to rule the middle of the field then it will force the Packers to dedicate a safety or cornerback on Miller, which will open up other matchups across the field for them. I believe the Packers are going to be able to get at Roethlisberger, and if they do, they have to bring him down. This is much easier said than done.

I don't know if it is a secret who I am cheering for. I want Aaron Rodgers to get a ring and make the people of Green Bay to forget about Lord Favre. I have nothing against Steelers fans, but since North Carolina feels like Pittsburgh-South it wouldn't hurt my feelings to have the local terrible towel twirlers to be denied Super Bowl ring number seven. In the end, it doesn't matter what I want because Pittsburgh is going to run the ball well and Dick LeBeau will find ways to get at Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are a good team, but the Steelers have a good enough offense to hold the Packers in check and are smart enough offensively to take advantage of the Packers aggressive defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) over Green Bay Packers 28-24.


Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

you are totally wrong about roethlisberger. They would have beat the bengals anyways even if palmer stays healthy - unless carson could play defense and stop the steelers from scoring 17 points.

they squeaked by the colts? i guess you never watched the game. the steelers absolutely dominated for the first 45 minutes and were up 21-3 at one point. the only reason the game was even close was because of the most bullshit call in playoff history - apparently catching the ball, keeping possession, rolling around for two whole seconds, then kneeing it out and recovering it out on the way up is an incomplete pass, not an interception and fumble. and then the only reason that the colts were in position to score was because of a fluky goal line hit that happens once in a 1000000000 goal line plays. seriously go watch the game again roethlisberger completely and utterly outplayed peyton.

i'm not sure how you can say that the seahawks were the weakest number one seed ever. they had the best offensive line in the game, the mvp at running back, an elite quarterback that season, one of the most efficient offenses of the past 20 years, and a top-ten defense. but yeah other than that they were weak.

the steelers "squeaked" by the chargers to the tune of an 18 point win and gave up half those passing yards in garbage time when they were already up double digits. say what you want about their opponents in 2008 but given how well the steelers played defense that season I have no doubt that they would have destroyed the pats or the colts in the super bowl that year.
i feel like your coming to conclusions about these games based on your predetermined opinion rather than what actually happened in those games.

Dylan said...


I think moment in a game when your QB goes down is a huge factor. When a defense is pressing and knows that it can't give up any points, that's when it plays at its worst. I think that game is definitely a win for Cincy if Palmer stays healthy.

I did watch the Colts/Steelers game. I cannot disagree with you that Pittsburgh dominated the beginning of the game. And yes, that call was at best questionable.
But in the end its the score what counts. It was no guarantee that Pittsburgh would score. Before the fumble, Bettis was stopped for a 2 yard loss. And they only held on because the most accurate kicker in history missed.

Regarding the Seahawks, statistics do not tell the whole story. They still played in the NFC West, which was just as awful then. Hasselbeck was what he always was that season. An efficient passer. They won games because of Alexander, not Hasselbeck. My point is that, compared to most #1 seeds, they were not that strong.

The Chargers game was the strongest win of all those games. But to claim that the passing game came in garbage time is untrue. It was a Willie Parker TD with 5 minutes to go that sealed it. Rivers only had 60 yards and a TD in garbage time.

I think regardless of my stances on these specific games, I'm just trying to point out that Big Ben has had quite the luck in terms of opponents. He has almost completely avoided Brady and Manning and any of the hottest or best teams. I have defended Big Ben before and I will again. He's a great QB, and I think he's elite. But Pittsburgh has a team has had easier playoff roads than most.