The NFL season is coming to a close, and with one game remaining, I will assess both remaining teams, and predict the winner of the 45th Super Bowl from Dallas, Texas.
Before we get to the overview, first, let’s just point out some random tidbits you might want to know.
1. Playoff winning percentage
The Packers are first, winning 63.6 of the playoff games they’ve played in, with Pittsburgh right behind them, with a 63.5 winning percentage.
2. This is in Jerry Jones’ house
Yeah, that house. Cowboys Stadium, where, as ESPN.com writer Jim Caple writes, costs $200 to watch the Super Bowl, outside the stadium on a big JumboTron. Oh, did I mention you have to pay for 4 people at a time?
3. No cheerleaders for the first time in Super Bowl history
Oh well, not like I’d rather watch/listen to cheerleaders over the actual Super Bowl game. Not like some folks, I’m sure.
4. White jerseys
The last 6 Super Bowl winning teams have worn white jerseys. You can look it up. Thanks to another ESPN.com writer, Paul Lukas, in this Super Bowl Preview.
Sure, it’s February, but who thought that it would snow in Dallas the week of the Super Bowl? Not me. Anyway, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it), Cowboys Stadium has a retractable roof. Curse you, Jerry Jones! Now I have to wait until 2014 to see a cold weather Super Bowl, in New York!
Without further ado, let’s get started, shall we?
Offense: In the passing game, Aaron Rodgers had the better regular season, although Ben Roethlisberger did miss the first four games. In the running game, the Steelers have a huge edge, and Rashard Mendenhall was key against the Jets in the AFC Championship Game, running for 121 yards in the 24-19 win. In the receiving corps, though, this is pretty equal. Although Donald Driver is 36, he’s still a pretty effective receiver, and Greg Jennings is very good as well. For Pittsburgh, Hines Ward will be his own big game tough guy self, knocking around defensemen, and don’t overlook Mike Wallace. The rookie can catch and run. His 4.33 40-yard dash time is no fluke, and the speedy receiver will be a tough task for the Packers secondary. The offensive lines for both teams aren’t stellar on paper, as the Steelers’ Offensive Line gave up the 8th most sacks in the NFL in the regular season. For the Packers, they gave up the 11th most.
Defense: The Steelers defense has always been the heart, soul, and pride of the team. It is no different under defensive mastermind Dick Labeau. The Packers, their defense much improved, a lot in part to the emergence of long-haired linebacker Clay Matthews, who lost to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu in the Defensived Player of the Year award running. Green Bay came in second to Pittsburgh in sacks totaled on defense. The defensive line that belongs to Green Bay boasts Matthews, inside linebacker Nick Barnett, and nose tackle B.J. Raji. The Steelers match that with James Farrior, Larry Foote, James Harrison, and Casey Hampton. The Steelers’ tough and proven defensive line give them the slight edge over the younger Packers in that area. In the secondary, the Steelers have arguably the greatest safety in the NFL, Troy Polamalu. The Packers’ duo of Atari Bigby and Nick Collins are no match for Polamalu and Ryan Clark. The cornerbacks are a completely different story. William Gay and Bryant McFadden are both above-average cornerbacks, and Charles Woodson is getting older by the second. But now, Green Bay has some other good cornerbacks. Both Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have come up big all season long, and I don’t expect a sudden change Sunday.
Coaching: The Steelers have a young but extremely experienced head coach in Mike Tomlin, who has already won a Super Bowl and should be prepared for another. The real question is about Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. He’s never been past the NFC Championship Game, and although he has been flawless thus far, you never know with first time Super Bowl quarterbacks. I think he’ll be fine, but the edge here goes easily to Tomlin, because, unlike McCarthy, he’s been here, done that. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCarthy perform well and make no mistakes.
Mason Crosby was 22 of 28 this season with a long kick of 56 yards. The Steelers’ kicker situation is a little stickier. They picked up Shaun Suisham in the middle of the season after releasing longtime kicker Jeff Reed. Suisham was 14 for 15 in limited action during the regular season, but missed a 43-yard field goal in the divisional round, marking the first time since 2002 that a Steelers kicker missed a field goal in the playoffs. That is going to be something of a worry for Pittsburgh, and Suisham has missed game-winning field goals before for the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. In the kick and punt returning game, kick returner and cornerback Sam Shields is average, at best. The Steelers have wide receiver Antonio Brown at both kick and punt returning. Cornerback Tramon Williams, whose long return this season is 52 yards, but surprisingly failed to score a touchdown. Brown scored 1 kick return touchdown and 0 punt return touchdowns.
Green Bay: 27
Why: I’m just going to say this. This Super Bowl will be the best Super Bowl we have seen in a couple of years, probably since the Steelers’ win over the Arizona Cardinals in the last minute. But, this game has a chance to be a fantastic game, or, the Packers choke on the big stage and end up making fools of themselves in a blowout nobody is going to want to watch. I’m guessing that it turns out more like the first, but with the Steelers’ great defense against the Packers’ strong passing attack, this one could go either way. I’m predicting Mike Tomlin wins his 2nd Super Bowl, and the Steeler win in a nailbiter in Super Bowl 45.
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, Texas
What channel: FOX
What time: 6:29 Eastern Time, Sunday, February 6th.