Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV

The day has finally come - February 6, 2011. Super Bowl XLV. Despite a relatively boring week leading up to the game, the Steelers and Packers are sure to give us a good one. The roof is closed, so the bizarre weather will be snow problem (ha HA). Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the two Super Bowl contenders.

Quarterback: PACKERS
Both Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are among the game's elite quarterbacks. Ben has been great for several years, while Rodgers has recently emerged as one of the top passers in the game. And both are coming of very impressive (though slightly abbreviated) regular seasons. The edge here goes to the hot quarterback - in the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 790 yards with 6 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 109.2. Big Ben, though leading in overall Sexual Assaults Alleged Against, has a passer rating of only 75.5 this postseason.

Running Backs: STEELERS
This one is no contest. Rashard Mendenhall was out-of-his-mind good this season, rushing for 1,273 yards and 13 TDs. The Packers were forced to turn to running back by committee after Ryan Grant went down with an early injury. You know it's bad when your quarterback is tied for the team lead in rushing TDs (...with 4).

Wide Receiver/ Tight End: PUSH
It's hard to go wrong here. The Packers had the misfortune of losing TE Jermichael Finley to a midseason injury, but still boast a very impressive receiving corps, consisting of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson, among others. On the other side, Pittsburgh has experience and reliability in Hines Ward and Heath Miller. And don't forget the most rapidly emerging receiver in the NFL, Mike Wallance, who is scary fast and always a threat to go deep.

Offensive Line: PACKERS
Neither team has an extremely impressive O-line. The Packers allowed 38 sacks this season, which sure could be a problem when guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are trying to bust through. But the Steelers were worse (43 sacks allowed) and now have to play the Super Bowl with a depleted line, as Maurice Pouncey was ruled out, then declared himself 75% to play, then was ruled out again.

Defensive Line: STEELERS
B.J Raji has been a force for the Packers and came up with a pivotal pick six against the Bears. But the edge here goes to Pittsburgh. The Steelers D-line is a big part of a defense that ranked first in rush yards allowed per game (a mere 62.8).

Linebackers: STEELERS
The Steelers and Packers have the two best linebacking units in the NFL. The Packers start A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden, and - of course - Clay Matthews, who is rapidly emerging as one of the best linebackers in the game. The Steelers, however, boast skill and experience, with James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons.

Defensive Backs: PACKERS
A tremendous amount of pregame hype has gone towards safety Troy Polamalu - and rightfully so. He's one of the game's most dynamic players, stopping the run, defending passes, and forcing crucial turnovers. But Polamalu has taken attention away from some weaknesses in the secondary. Even though the Steelers have allowed the fewest points and rush yards of any team, they have a middle-of-the-pack pass defense, ranking 12th. The Packers, on the other hand, have a more complete secondary, led by Charles Woodson and and Nick Collins. The Packers rank 5th, allowing less than 200 pass yards per game.

Special Teams: PACKERS
If the game came down to a field goal, I'd certainly take Mason Crosby over Shaun Suisham. The Steelers had plenty of kicking woes with Jeff Reed, and although Suisham has been better, I wouldn't say he has ice water running through his veins. The punters are comparable (separated by less than 2 yards per kick) and neither team has had much success returning kicks (1 TD for Pittsburgh, 0 for Green Bay).

Madden '11 Says: Packers 35-33. 

Super Bowl XLV Champions: I picked the Packers back in September, and I'm sticking to my guns. Green Bay Packers, 34-27. You heard it here first, and then here again.

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