Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rambling Gambler: Pick Six Super Bowl Sunday

By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA 

And just like that, we're already at the end of the season. It feels like I was doing my regular season O/U predictions yesterday and that surely there must be at least half a season left or so. Alas, there is not, but I'm certainly going to enjoy the final game of the year. We're primed for one of the better matchups in the past decade, with a line of 1.5 and a game that truly looks like either team can win. Both teams have made it this far with dominant defense, effective pass rushing, and quarterbacks who are able to survive leaky offensive lines and make plays. However, don't let all of the media hype fool you; this game will be about defense. If anything was proven last week, it's that both of these offenses can be stopped. Green Bay was never in serious danger of losing, but Chicago held them to 21 points and forced a couple of interceptions. Pittsburgh's dominant first half against the Jets gave way to a second half meltdown which very nearly cost them the game. For both teams this week, the opposing defense has not gotten any easier. Ben Roethlisberger will likely be standing behind a battered o-line, down three starters, and facing the best pass rush in the league, while Rodgers will be facing the league's best rushing defense and defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu. It should be a fantastic defensive battle and will probably come down to the last possession. Luckily, the spread is less than a field goal, so you should be fairly safe just picking your winner. Speaking of picks, lets get on to the last pick of the year...

Green Bay -1.5 over Pittsburgh
Under 44.5

There it is, your winning Super Bowl two-teamer. I'm much less confident in the over/under than I am in the Packers, but wanted to throw it in there anyway.
Personally, Pittsburgh losing Pouncey locked this pick in for me. To me, the impact is pretty obvious... Pouncey went down in the first quarter. Mendenhall ran for 95 of his 121 yards in the first half. In the second half, with Pittsburgh up 24-3, he was only able to run for 26 yards. The Steelers could not run the ball at all, and that was with a substantial lead. It really seemed like the Jets were able to find a way to exploit Pouncey's absence in the second half and completely dominate the offensive line. Granted, the Steelers only had 4 possessions the entire second half, but credit goes to the Jets defense. They produced two sacks, an interception, a safety, contained the run game, and came that close to stealing a win. In the Super Bowl, a game so evenly matched and likely to be a defensive contest, play on the line of scrimmage will be even more critical.
Some members of the last Packers team to win the Super Bowl
I realize it's a small point to base this decision on, but quite honestly, when looking at the positions for each team, it's a dead heat. Quarterback, Rodgers or Roethlisberger? Jennings/Driver/Jones or Wallace/Ward /Sanders? The only clear offensive edge to me would be Rashard Mendenhall over James Starks, but I think Mendenhall will be in trouble behind his line. Green Bay may have a healthier line, but they're facing the toughest run defense in the league. In the end, you're left with two quarterbacks who will need to throw all day long against a great defense. And speaking of defense, it's tough to say the Steelers have a clear cut advantage there. Green Bay has played great throughout the playoffs, beating Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago while allowing only 5 offensive TDs and holding Lesean McCoy, Michael Turner, and Matt Forte to a combined 155 yards rushing in those games. They've been just as dominant as the Steelers in my opinion, at least for the playoffs. When it's all said and done, how you play in the playoffs is really all that matters. I believe the Packers are finally becoming the team everyone predicted them to be. It didn't happen instantly, far from it actually, as it looked like they may even miss the playoffs entirely. However, now we're looking at a Green Bay team that can dominate on both sides of the ball, and I think they'll take advantage of the chips in Pittsburgh's armor. Final score, 24-17, Green Bay.

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