Super Bowl XLV Preview (Part I)

The crowning of an NFL Champion…love it!  It’s time we begin to breakdown this edition of Super Sunday and see if we can have some foresight into who will win the game.  Each team has marched a long desolate road to get here and each is deserving of becoming a world champion.  The question is who will rise to the occasion and who will just miss on their attempt at becoming a world champion.  Today let’s take a look at offensive backfields…

Packers RB: Aaron Rodgers has had some assistance lately with the emergence of James Starks.  Along with Brandon Jackson these two were effective in the first half of the NFC Championship against Chicago. Starks is a bruising back who slashes into the hole yet runs upright which makes me uneasy against a top flight defense.  I’m smelling forced fumbles.   He usually carries the ball in one hand away from his body.  Brandon Jackson may really prove affective on screens in this game to slow down the pass rush.

During these playoffs they have averaged 3.8 yards per carry as a group with Stark’s 70 carries for 263 yards for 3.8yds per carry supplemented by Jackson’s 6 carries for 28 yards respectively. However a closer examination shows that nearly 47 % of Stark’s yards came in the wildcard against the Eagles.  Hmmm, so that means on his last 47 playoff carries he’s rushed for 140 yards or a meager 2.9 yard average.  That’s supposed to get it done against a defense giving up an average of 60 yards per game?  Can they run effectively on James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Palamalu (defenisive player of the year), and company?

Steelers RB: Is it me or does Rashard Mendenhall epitomize Pittsburgh football with his running style?  He fits in a way that “Fast” Willie Parker did not in replacing Jerome Bettis.  His pad level is extremely low and he runs with power. Mendenhall is a violent runner who has fleet feet and can make yards on his own if there isn’t a hole.  He’s adept at catching a flare or screen pass and can possibly break a big gain against a nervous tackler early in this game.

Now we do have a greater body of work to go off of with Mendenhall.  A season in which he rushed for 1,279 yards on 324 carries while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. We watched this kid rip off an 80 yard touchdown in a Rose Bowl when his Illinois team was behind and the lights were brightest.  What is often not talked about is his ability to block which is paramount going against Clay Matthews coming off the edge or catching an A.J. Hawk coming up through the middle.

Advantage:  Steelers…big advantage and key to the game.  Don’t forget that Dom Capers, the Packers defensive coordinator spent several years in Blitzburgh drawing up zone blitz schemes.  He knows of the injuries to the Steeler offensive tackles and possibly missing Pouncey at center.  He will come after Big Ben. Rashard Mendenhall may have his coming out party where he’s welcomed into the realm of the best backs in the league period. His running and blitz pickup are vital to the outcome of this game.  The New York Jets were unable to come after Ben Roethlisberger when Mendenhall was running well.

The other half of that equation is; how will the Packers run on a Steelers defense that is allowing about 60 yards a game?  That’s one of the best in league history. Does Green Bay turn the trick? I don’t think so.  They are coming at a defense without speed to get to the corner. They run north and south and that’s right into the teeth of the Steelers D.  Not good…

Packers QB:  Aaron Rodgers has had a field day though much of this year’s playoffs. He had a rough go of it in the second half of the NFC Championship Game, but that was due to the Bears defense playing up to their potential.  His electrifying performance against Atlanta, 31 of 36 for 360 yards with 3TDs will be the signature game of his career.  Well, at least until he wins a Super Bowl game.  His accurate passing from the pocket and on the run is the best seen in the NFL for a long time.  If they would have allowed 4 more defenders on the field for the Falcons I still don’t think they would have slowed him.  Showed he is in the upper echelon of today’s quarterbacks with 3 straight 4,000 yard seasons. Ok, we’re giving him 85 yards….yet I digress.  Here he goes again back indoors for this Super Bowl game where he has produced 42 and 45 points in playoff games for the Packers respectively.

Steelers QB:  Two Super Bowl wins and counting for Ben Roethlisberger one in which he threw the most dramatic touchdown in Super Bowl history.  Big Ben is creeping into the realm of the all time greats in terms of winning playoff games with a 10-2 record.  He plays a different brand of football where it’s from his gut more than X’s and O’s.  I am one reluctant to give way to that sandlot style of play because you can’t base your game on the broken play. Yet there is no substitution for guts when the game is on the line or when you’re alert enough to throw the right pass at the right time.  See the last two passes to close out the Jets two weeks ago or that heave against the Ravens to rookie Antonio Brown for 59 yards on 3rd and 19.  It was a thing of beauty.  He comes alive when defenses start getting nervous near the end of games.  He knows he can take some chances with the Steelers defense behind him.  He did throw for 503 yards and score 37 points on the Packers at the end of the 2009 regular season.  I know that was at Heinz Field yet can he do that again?

Advantage: Packers slightly.  Rodgers is coming in as the hotter quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is still the sly like a fox, do what must be done to get the first down type player he’s been for years.  Rodgers will have to have a game similar to the Falcons game for his Green Bay Packers to pull this off.  He’s indoors and is playing the best football of his career.  What better time than now?

As for Big Ben the game has to get away from the Steelers or the Packers defense will get nervous when the score is 23-20 and he takes the field late in the game.  Aaron Rodgers will have to gun down the Steelers to make the clock tick down because the Packers won’t be able to just run the ball to run time off if they are ahead.  So analyzing the quarterbacks…Rodgers gets a slight advantage.

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