The day is finally here, as the Packers take on the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Here's my take and game prediction:
The game is going to come down to what the Packers' offense can do against the Pittsburgh defense, period. I think the Steeler offense/Packer defense is a relatively even matchup that the Packers will get the upper hand in. Unlike most, I don't think the Pouncey injury is going to make any more impact on the Steelers line than what they've already had to deal with this season. The Packers will be able to get penetration, but to be honest, not having Eric Walden is going to be just as much of an impact as Pouncey. Frank Zombo is the master of almost getting to the quarterback in time, and that will be the great equalizer in this matchup.
In the end, you can count on a couple of interceptions by the Packer secondary, but the damage that the Steelers will do will be on the ground: either with Mendenhal on the ground or with what Rothlisberger can do with his feet. The pressure is going to be on the Packers to stuff the run, contain Big Ben, and let the secondary do its work.
I think the Packers will allow between 15-20 points on defense, with the potential for more point to come on special teams or by the Steelers' defense. However, the defense will do their job and open the door for the Packers' offense to win the game.
Aaron Rodgers will have the weight of the world on him, as I don't think Starks is going to do any consistent damage in the run game. The more the Packers go away from the run game (especially if the simply give up on it altogether, as they've done many times this season, the worse it will be for the Packers in the long run.
The Packers need to gain at least 70 yards on the ground on around 20 carries or so. They don't have to dominate the ground game, but they need to establish a commitment to it, even if it is a consistent 2-3 yards per carry. The Packers' record in post-season games with a running game under 50 yards is bleak.
In the end, though, it still will come down to the pressure the Steelers' front seven will place on Aaron Rodgers. I will go on record that Rodgers will throw one interception (or have a turnover of some kind today), and the Packers will be able to absorb it because of the strength of their defense. But they won't be able to survive two interceptions without some heroic plays to make up for it.
I am not a fan of the Big Five formation, and do believe that it only works against teams that aren't expecting it. With all the talk about the set these past two weeks, there's little doubt that the Steelers will be ready for it. I do think that a four-wide formation will have some impact on the defense, but the Steelers will allow a five-receiver set to go with a minimal zone coverage and bring six against Rodgers. It won't end well.
Instead, look for the Packers to continue to use the play-action and look for three receivers in the progressions. Rodgers has to play smart, both with his arm and his legs. This is the biggest variable in the game. Rodgers can dominate or end up like he did against the Bears, allowing the defense to dictate the game and punting it away, hoping the defense will bail the offense out.
I am going to change my X-Factor in this game from Andrew Quarrless (as I predicted on Cheesehead Radio) to James Jones. Now, I really do think Quarrless will be an x-factor, but Jones is going to be the biggest variable in the game. He will (I repeat, will) have at least one incredibly frustrating play today...a drop, missed route, maybe even a turnover, but he has the ability to more than make up for it with an incredible play. Against a tough Steeler defense, Jones will have to make that spectacular long play for a touchdown...and to be honest, it might be the only long play the Packers' offense has all day.
My Packers game prediction:
The Steelers will score two offensive touchdown, and will add another on special teams or defense. Tack on a field goal and they will finish with 24 points.
The Packers will get two touchdowns through the air by Rodgers and one on his feet. What will spell the difference in the game is the ability for the offense to get Crosby in field goal range at the end of the game. I am going to say that the Packers will have two attempts for Mason, and he will kick one late in the game that will end up spelling the difference in the game.
The TundraVision Super Bowl Game Prediction: Packers 27 Steelers 24