Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Preview

After 10 postseason games, 254 regular season games, and even 65 preseason games, we've finally arrived at the only one that truly matters. The Super Bowl. Forget the hype, forget the pagentry, and even forget the weather. Steelers-Packers promises to be a classic for all-time. When was the last time you really considered the Super Bowl a toss-up? Both teams are so evenly matched, don't be surprised if we see the best Super Bowl ever played. Here is the position-by-position breakdown plus the pick for the game:

Big Ben has been here before. He has done an admirable job of dealing with all the questions regarding his checkered past leading up to the game. He led one of the great game-winning drives in NFL history two years ago in Tampa. He has the potential to do it again here. And you know for a fact he will produce a huge play or two on improvisation alone. On the other side is a pure passer with scrambling skills, Aaron Rodgers, whom as I have stated before, is better than his legendary predecessor. I expect him to put up huge numbers on a fast turf, indoor weather, and a mediocre Steelers secondary. Take your pick here. Edge: EVEN.

Running Backs
Let's not go there with Green Bay's running game producing much against the Steeler D. Don't expect many KUUUUUUUUUHN chants, either. One of the keys for the Steelers to win this game is Rashard Mendenhall. If he can produce a 100-yard plus game with efficiency the way he did against the Jets, Pittsburgh will have a chance. Big Ben can make the big plays, but Mendenhall has to set him up. Edge: STEELERS.

Wide Recievers
Like Mendenhall, Mike Wallace will also have to make a couple of big plays. Let's not forget that Hines Ward is a former Super Bowl MVP, so expect some key catches from him. Ditto rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. With the potential absence of a running game, Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to his big play recievers all night long. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and co. will be very busy Sunday night, and don't be surprised, if the Packers win, one of Rodgers' recieving corps will win MVP honors instead of him. Edge: PACKERS.

Tight Ends
Heath Miller just may be Big Ben's favorite target. Not to mention he is one of the most underrated tight ends in the business. Andrew Quarless has filled in nicely for the injured Jermichael Finley, but don't be surprised if Finley's absence has an impact. Edge: STEELERS

Offensive Line
All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey has officially been ruled out for the Steelers, creating a huge void in an already depleted O-line. Doug Lagursky will make his first NFL start at center. No pressure. Flozell Adams is returning to the place he called home for more than a decade, so expect some extra motivation from him. The bottom line is, Green Bay's O-line is three times as healthier than Pittsburgh's, and if they neutralize the Steeler pass rush, it could be a long night for Pittsburgh. Edge: PACKERS

Defensive Line
Aaron Smith will not play for the Steelers, but they have survived without him. Caveman Brett Kiesel, Ziggy Hood, and Casey Hampton are all capable of wearing down the Packer O-Line with their relentless physicality. With the depleted Steeler O-line, expect B.J. Raji to be the X-factor for Green Bay. Just hope he doesn't pull one of his ridiculous dances. Edge: EVEN

James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons. The four horsemen. Pick your poison, Green Bay. Clay Matthews alone makes the Green Bay linebacking corps a force. His containment of Rashard Mendenhall and rushing of Ben Roethlisberger are vital to the Pack's success. A.J. Hawk will help as well. Edge: EVEN

Defensive Backs
Troy Polamalu is a household name. Ryan Clark ain't bad either. But if the mediocre Steeler cornerbacks can't cover the Packer recievers, the Steelers may have to engage in a shootout, something they probably are not built for like the Packers are. The Packers have three, possibly four household names in their secondary: Charles Woodson, breakout stars Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, and Nick Collins. The Steelers recievers have their hands full. Edge: PACKERS

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham is still questionable in a big spot. The coverage team, especially on punt returns, is suspect. Tramon Williams or Sam Shields are capable of bringing one to the house. Either way, neither unit is anything to write home about. Edge: EVEN

It's been there, done that for Mike Tomlin, coaching his second Super Bowl at only age 38. Mike McCarthy should probably have won Coach of the Year honors for the way he kept his team together through a litany of injuries to key players. The matchup between defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers is very fascinating. Both coached together in the 90s with the Steelers, and are very good friends. Edge: STEELERS

The Pick (2-0 Championship Sunday, 27-27 overall)
The one major prediction other than the winner is that for the first time in Super Bowl history, the game will go to overtime. You read it here first. This is such a great matchup historically, logistically, and player-wise that it will only be fitting that a game made for the state of Texas will be even bigger. The keys to the game were listed above. The Steelers must run the football, and the Packers must make plays through the air. Two big plays per team on both sides of the ball will be made, and at least one team will score a defensive touchdown. A late field goal will push the game to overtime, where I believe the big game experience of Big Ben and his teammates will prevail over the young, promising Packers. The greatest Super Bowl ever played ends with the final score of..........................

STEELERS 26, PACKERS 23 (OT); PIT +2 1/2

Enjoy the game, folks!

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