Today is the start of NFL Superbowl week. Sunday will see the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers face each other in one of the most evenly matched contests of recent time.
Boasting the number two and number one ranked defenses, respectively, the pair bear witness to the old tenet that defense wins championships. Linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson are the big names on the Packers, but the likes of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have five interceptions in post-season play this year.
The Steelers’ defense isn’t short of big-hitters either with OLB James Harrison’s 3 post-seasons sacks just a 0.5 short of Matthews and Lawrence Timmons chipping in 19 tackles. And that’s not even mentioning impact Safety, Troy Polamalu who led the team with 7 regular season interceptions. Harrison and OLB LaMarr Woodley combined for 20.5 sacks in the regular season, which means Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers will need all of his pocket presence to stay upright long enough to pick out an open receiver.
Yet neither teams’ offense can be ignored. Rodgers’ is the heir apparent to the Brett Favre legacy. He’s nimble enough to get outside the pocket and extend the play long enough for the likes of receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to find an open field. Whilst Steelers’ QB, Ben Roethlisberger, is a less polished passer he is no slouch. Gunning for his third Superbowl ring Roethlisberger’s bear-like frame means he can withstand sack attempts that would floor fewer men. The willingness to hang in there until the last moment, despite the barrage of blitzes, was key to the dramatic last gasp touchdown pass he hurled to Santonio Holmes for the game-winning touchdown that beat the Arizona Cardinals on his last Superbowl appearance.
Weapons abound on both sides of the ball then. With special teams perhaps being a weakness for both teams it would not be a surprise for the key play to come from a morale-boosting kick return or fumble.
It’s been far from the perfect build-up to the game for either side though. The Packers’ are in the midst of a self-inflicted row over who ought to be in their team photograph and the Steelers learned they will be without starting center, Maurkice Pouncey, who broke an ankle during their AFC Championship game win over the NY Jets.
So, who are we rooting for? The Packers. Ok, so I’m biased that way anyhow. I just think of the two teams there’s more upside to their game than the Steelers. If they can overcome their – wow look ma I’m at the Superbowl – moment then they have the sharper, more potent offense. The re-appearance of a running game in the shape of James Stark and John Kuhn after the injury to Ryan Grant can only help that.
Similarly, the absence of starting center, Pouncey, can open the middle for Matthews and co. to harry Roethlisberger into mistakes that Williams and Shields can feast upon.
My tip is a 33-17 Packers’ win; perhaps boosted by a late pick-6 from the Packers’ secondary.