Well, I'm quite happy that the NFL is back to making sense for me. After a tough Divisonal playoffs round, I'm happy to say that I've redeemed myself in the Conference round. I nailed those predictions flawlessly - being right on both accounts getting the exact difference that the Packers would defeat the Bears and was two points off of the Steelers' victory over the Jets.But now, this leaves the hardest prediction I've had to make all season - who will win Super Bowl XLV? First my observations from last week:
- Jay Cutler has faced a lot of controversy after the Bears' 21-14 loss yesterday for people questioning his "heart" and "character". I'm no lover of Jay Cutler but c'mon, give the guy a break. No one was on the sidelines to know the extent of his injury and Lovie Smith has said multiple times after the game that the decision to bench Jay was the decision of the medics and training staff, not Jay's. I'm sure Jay Cutler wanted to be out there as much as anyone else to try to help the Bears get to the Super Bowl.
- Having said the above to defend Jay, his play in that game was beyond awful even before the injury. In the half he started, he led the Bears offense to score a whole zero points. While third-string Caleb Hanie was able to score 14 against the Packers in the second half.
- While the Packers won the game, it really wasn't as pretty as I thought it would be. Fact of the matter is, the Bears bent down and defeated themselves pretty much.The Packers also made a bunch of uncharacteristic stupid mistakes in all facets of the game. Muffed balls, poor throws by Aaron Rodgers for interceptions, break-down of some coverages defensively, lack of taking advantage of easy-scoring opportunities... sure they won, but they can't be happy with their play. It might be just the conditions of Soldier Field, but it might not.
- The Steelers almost made the same mistake the Ravens did: Give up after the second half. Sometimes, getting an early lead can be a curse more than it is a blessing in the NFL. The worst thing one can do in a football game is lose focus and celebrate before a win is secured. After getting a 24-0 lead in the first half, the Jets scored 19 unanswered points on the Steelers. That's really not acceptable for a Super Bowl team.
- Despite this, the Steelers defense held when they needed to (4th down on the goalline, even if their offense gave up a Safety a play later), and their offense got the final 1st down when they needed to to clinch the game.
- The injury to Steelers Center Maurkice Pouncey is HUGE. Pouncey, a rookie this season, has easily been the Steelers' best offensive linemen and an absolute beast at the Center position. When he went out of the game, we saw some sloppy offensive line play and a couple of aborted snaps. The Steelers began to really struggle to run the football, too. When he came back on crutches at the end of the game, that really didn't seem like a good sign to me. The Steelers better hope he can recover and play in the Super Bowl, they'll need him against Green Bay's devastating defensive front. Although the rumor is Pouncey will be out for this game.
- Rex Ryan slamming his headset into the ground angrily at the end of the game after realizing his team blew it felt so good to me. I hate Rex Ryan and the Jets. Just sayin'.
- Decided to include American Football Simulator predictions for this post too - seemed interesting. Don't know why I didn't include them in the regular season, oh well.
Prediction accuracy for Last Week: 2-0 (100.00%)
Overall prediction accuracy: 127-77 (62.25%)
PRO BOWL: AFC vs NFC: AFC by 7. Yeah, I guess I'll predict the Pro Bowl too. Why not, ya know? I'd hate to only give you guys one prediction this week. As far as hard to predict games go, the Pro Bowl is easily the hardest game to predict. I mean, you never really know who will actually attend and who will actually show up to play and who won't. Having said that, the potential combination of Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha for the AFC seems far too devastating to pass up in my opinion. Especially when the AFC has pass-rushers such as Cam Wake, Ray Lewis, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Haoli Ngata to limit the amount of time the NFC Quarterbacks have to get rid of the football. Assuming those guys actually play, of course. AFS Prediction: AFC 29, NFC 28
SUPER BOWL: Green Bay (13-6) vs Pittsburgh (14-4): Pittsburgh by 3. First, let me say this is likely the hardest prediction I've made all season. I like Green Bay. I like the adversity they fought through all season. I like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Mike McCarthy, and just about every one of their players. I will be rooting for the Pack with zeal in this game. Despite all this, I'm going to pick against them. While there is no doubt Green Bay is hot right now, in the NFC Championship against Chicago, a lot of Green Bay's weaknesses were exposed and I look for Pittsburgh to exploit them in this game.
Green Bay offensively: While James Starks has had a pretty awesome post-season, the Pittsburgh defense is on a whole different level than that of Philadelphia, Atlanta, or Chicago. You just don't run the ball against Pittsburgh and honestly Starks' success in the post-season has been grossly exaggerated. He only had more than 4 YPC against Philadelphia, after all. If the Packers are forced to get one-dimensional, I feel that Aaron Rodgers will make some plays, but so will the Steelers defense as Chicago's did. If Aaron thought Chicago's defense was relentless, he better get prepared for a cruel awakening against the new-age Steel Curtain. While Rodgers can excel when scrambling out of the pocket, the pressure did force two interceptions from Rodgers against Chicago. I have a feeling Pittsburgh will bring a similar gameplan, and the Steelers have a better defensive secondary than the Bears. Troy Polamalu is a monster for every offensive player, plain and simple. If the Packers can get to the redzone, I think they will score touchdowns as opposed to field goals... the Packers have been very efficient in the redzone this season. If there were ever a time for Aaron Rodgers for him to prove that he deserves to be in the same conversation as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady (or Brett Favre), now is the time.
Pittsburgh offensively: Pittsburgh will not have a walk in the park against Green Bay, either. A lot of people forget due to Aaron Rodgers' huge numbers that Green Bay's defense is also elite under Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers. The Packers had the 5th overall ranked defense, 2nd in points allowed. A huge reason for that is their relentless defensive front. The Packers finished 2nd in Sacks in the regular season (just one below the leader, the Pittsburgh Steelers), their ability to get after the Quarterback is phenomenal. Add the fact that the Steelers do not have a great offensive line, and you begin to see the problem. Much like the Packers, the Steelers will struggle to run the ball against Green Bay. Although I think Reshard Mendenhall will be capable of breaking free for a couple decent runs, though. The key for Ben Roethlisberger will be to avoid sacks with his strength and make good decisions, not giving Packers Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams a chance to make plays on the ball. Due to the amount of pressure that the Packers front seven produces, the Packers finished 2nd in the regular season in Interceptions as well, earning 24, and finished 2nd in defensive touchdowns with 3. Still, Pittsburgh has already proven this post-season, against both the Ravens and Jets, that they are more than capable of moving the ball against elite defenses. While it won't always be pretty, I think we can expect the Steelers to score points.
Bottom line: Two top-ranked defenses going at it usually equate to a low-scoring game, but we must not forget we are talking about two of the better NFL Quarterbacks too in Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. I fully expect both offenses and defenses to make plays. The final score? I think I'll lean to 24-21, Pittsburgh. AFS Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Green Bay 21
Results of Last Week's Poll
Last week, I asked my readers "Which Super Bowl would you most like to see?" between Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears vs New York Jets, Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers, or Green Bay Packers vs New York Jets?
Good news my readers - it appears that 56% of you got what you wanted - a Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl! The other two runners up, Chicago Bears vs New York Jets and Green Bay Packers vs New York Jets only had 22% of the vote each (with no one wanting to see the Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers). Judging by this data, we can also view which individual teams people most wanted to see in the Super Bowl:
Green Bay Packers: 78%
Pittsburgh Steelers: 56%
New York Jets: 44%
Chicago Bears: 22%
So overall, happy day for most of my readers (and me, I voted Packers - Steelers myself)!
This week's special two-week poll is obviously "Who will win Super Bowl XLV?" between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers?
Vote on the right-sidebar of my blog!