Today is the big day as the Packers and the Steelers finally do battle. It feels like forever since both teams won their way to the Super Bowl, plus while the hype of the Super Bowl is there because it's Green Bay and Pittsburgh, there hasn't been much created in terms of these two teams, aside from Ben Roethlisberger's redemption. Quick question, what has taken place in the past two weeks that made you remember that the Packers are in the Super Bowl? Couldn't think of anything, did you, besides maybe Troy Polamalu over Clay Matthews for the Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite that, let's make sense of this game, which unlike Fox who will take four hours before the game to make sense of it, I'll just use about 10 minutes of your time. Which is plenty for you to watch Caps/Pens, Celtics/Magic and to go to or set up your own party for tonight. Here are the five things to look for as you watch this game, and none of those five include commercials or the Black Eyed Peas (sorry, no alternative halftime viewing recommendations by me, though I know people love the Puppy Bowl).
1. The Packers defense not only plays like the Steelers defense, they are actually better. The reason; because the Packers have Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, the best trio of CB's in the NFL. Add Nick Collins and it will be hard for Big Ben to throw against Green Bay. And that's not including Matthews, B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins, who can give Roethlisberger as much trouble as James Harrison, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons can give Aaron Rodgers.
2. However, if Troy Polamalu is healthy and active, that advantage swing right back in the Steelers favor. I've used this space to show my praise for Polamalu, hell, he was my Defensive Player of the Year strictly because his presence makes the Steelers better. He hasn't played well through his injury, but the Steelers have been winning despite this because the Ravens and Jets both have inferior offenses and the games were played in Pittsburgh. Switch to a game with a great offense like the Packers with two weeks to study the Steelers defense on a neutral site and indoors, which the Packers play better, and Polamalu must be more than just on the field. If he is the game changer that you watched against the Ravens in Baltimore or the Cincinnati game, the Steelers will stop Rodgers from having another game like against Atlanta.
3. The kicking game swings the special teams advantage to the Packers. Tim Masthay had a great game against the Bears, and he needed to considering they have Devin Hester returning punts. Mason Crosby is one of the top kickers in football and he gets to play indoors. Shawn Suisham hasn't been bad, and though I'd worry about him outdoors, indoors he should be fine. However, Jeremy Kapinos is an injury replacement and isn't that good. Meaning the Steelers will need to set up punts from around midfield to avoid short Green Bay possessions.
4. Until proven otherwise, the Steelers are the better running team. James Starks has been great for the Packers this postseason, and if he plays well in the Super Bowl, this possibly be a performance like Timmy Smith (hopefully it translates into future seasons). However, the Steelers have a great run defense (despite no Aaron Smith) with the LB's mentioned earlier and LaMarr Woodley, plus Casey Hampton in the middle and Brett Keisel at DE. As for the Steelers, Rashad Mendenhall ran wild against the Jets two weeks ago, but the Packers are better in the front seven than the Jets because of Matthews and Raji. Steelers will also miss Maurkice Pouncey, but they can run right behind Flozell Adams, yes, that Flozell Adams, the Human Penalty Flag. So, yes, the Steelers can run, but if the Packers defense plays well, it won't be a great advantage.
5. The QB matchup is a wash. The reason, Big Ben's experience. Rodgers has the advantage in terms of dealing with the weaker secondary and gets to play indoors. However, if the Steelers get pressure on Rodgers, that advantage is taken away. Meanwhile, while the secondary will be tough for Roethlisberger, he still has Heath Miller to go to as a fallback look. Green Bay, while I think have the better WR's, are about even when you include the TE's (mainly because of no Jermichael Finley). The question is, what do you believe in more, Big Ben's 10-2 playoff record and two titles or this being the year Aaron Rodgers ascends to the top of the list of best QB's in football, like Drew Brees last year.
Prediction: I love Aaron Rodgers indoors, he seems to have control of the offense and their receivers benefit from a fast track. Meanwhile, I think Big Ben will have trouble against the Packers corners, particularly Charles Woodson, who will right things after losing in the Super Bowl as a Raider back in 2003. The Packers will 34-27 and the score is closer because the Steelers get a late TD to make it only 7. Otherwise, enjoy the Super Bowl.