The newspaper headline following Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV will read either “Vindication!” or “Dynasty – The Next Generation.”
Will Green Bay’s decision to switch quarterbacks from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers following Favre’s “retirement” following the 2007 season result in a Packers Super Bowl win in Rodgers’ third season as starter, vindicating that decision that was so unpopular received by Green Bay’s loyal fans?
Or will the Pittsburgh Steelers capture their third Super Bowl win in six seasons, thereby supplanting the New England dynasty from the first half of the new century’s first decade, a generation removed from the Steelers’ earlier dynasty in which the Men of Steel won 4 Super Bowls in 6 seasons from 1974 through 1979?
The culmination of the 2010 NFL season occurs in Arlington, Texas on Sunday as Cowboys Stadium hosts Super Bowl XLV between the NFC Champion Green Bay Packers, seeking their fourth Super Bowl title and the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, seeking a record seventh.
On paper this is as evenly matched a Super Bowl as there has been in many years, an opinion echoed at the Sports Books of Nevada and worldwide.
Green Bay is a pretty solid 2½ point favorite as of Monday morning although there appears to be some upward pressure that could cause the line to move up to a FG. The prevailing thought is that a FG line would be short lived as those who prefer the Steelers are waiting for that critical number 3 to appear and are ready to scoop up the trey as soon as it appears.
Another prevailing thought is that such opportunities should appear, likely in mid to late week, as “public” money starts to pour in on the Packers. Even though Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls in the past 5 seasons, Green Bay has been the more popular team, especially in the Playoffs as the Pack rewarded their backers with three wins, and covers – all on the road – to become the first sixth seeded team from the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl.
Actually both teams had winning point spread records this season. The Packers are 12-7 ATS and have covered their last 4 games dating back to the end of the regular season and 5 of their last 6. In fact, after covering their first two games of the season Green Bay then lost 4 in a row to the spread. But since that 2-4 ATS start the Packers have been a money making machine, going 10-3 ATS.
Pittsburgh started the season with 3 straight covers en route to their current 12-6 ATS mark. They enter Super Sunday with 4 straight covers and 6 of 7. This will be their fifth game of the season in which they are underdogs. They won 3 of the previous 4 straight up, falling only at New Orleans 20-10 as 2 point pups.
Should this line close at under a FG it would be the most competitively priced Super Bowl in nearly 30 years. Back in Super Bowl XVI San Francisco was a 1 point underdog when they defeated Cincinnati 26-21.
The betting action on the total has been rather interesting. One of the earliest lines was posted at the Las Vegas Hilton, shortly after the Steelers had beaten the Jets to become the Packers’ opponent.
The Hilton opened the total at 45 and within 12 hours had risen to 46 and 46½ at some books. But within a couple of days the total began to drop and over this past weekend had pretty much settled into a range of 44 to 45 with 44 ½ being the most prevalent number.
There has been some speculation, based in large part on historical patterns, that the total will begin to creep up again as Sunday approaches as the public loves to play “Favorite and Over” much more often than not. The total is likely to cross over 45 and might well go above 46 with the upper threshold thought to be 47.
Some have expressed the opinion that after the early upwards push some sharp money started the ball rolling to the UNDER with the intention of playing OVER when the total reached its bottom, perhaps 44. Once the Total moves up again the thought is that the same sharp money will take an even greater position on the UNDER, perhaps at 47, and having a nice spread of 44 to 47 working in their favor.
And although no single total points result occurs nearly as often as do key numbers when it comes to margins of victory, the collective grouping of 44 through 47 total points has historically occurred 10.58 percent of the time over the past 30 years, making that a pretty significant “key range.”
And a projected score of roughly 24-21, falls right in the midst of that range at 45 total points.
The major injury concern for either team surrounds Pittsburgh starting center Maurkice Pouncey, their first round draft choice last April who made the Pro Bowl this season as a rookie. The 18th pick overall from Florida, Pouncey was injured in the Steelers’ AFC Championship game win over the New York Jets. His loss was felt immediately as a fumbled snap between his replacement, Doug Ligursky, and QB Ben Roethlisberger, resulted in a safety.
Although it’s more than likely that Pouncey will not play, having two weeks to work on the center-QB exchange the loss of Pouncey – while creating some hesitation to Pittsburgh’s backers – should lessen those concerns. It’s not unusual for issues that arise from injuries during a game to be somewhat resolved once backups have had sufficient time to work in practice with the starting unit.
Green Bay had a greater rankings edge on offense, ranking tenth in scoring, ninth in yards gained and sixth in offensive yards per play. The Steelers’ ranks were 12, 14 and 11.
When these teams met late in the 2009 season the offenses combined for 973 total yards – 848 through the air – in Pittsburgh’s 37-36 home win. That was Pittsburgh’s second highest scoring game of the season (had scored 38 points earlier) and was the most points they had allowed in a game that season (28 points was the second most allowed).
Not so for the Packers who had twice allowed 38 points earlier in the season and would go on to allow 51 points at Arizona when they were eliminated in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. And in the three games following the loss in Pittsburgh the Packers would score 48, 33 and 45 points.
But this is a different season and this game is being played in far different circumstances than that meeting nearly 14 months ago.
The greatest statistical edge of note comes on defense and it deals with the running game. Pittsburgh allowed a league low 63 rushing yards per game, a full 27 yards fewer than the second best team, Chicago. Green Bay allowed 115 yards per game, right on the league average.
The playing surface tends to favor speed. In recent years NFL teams have tended to place a greater emphasis on speed on the defensive side of the football.
Pittsburgh arguably has a slight edge in overall team defensive speed although the Packers might be given a slight edge in overall bulk.
Both defenses are extremely physical and thus the defenses are likely to set the tone for this game, especially with two weeks to prepare.
Each team has an outstanding player with Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu. Polamalu’s value to the Steelers has been well documented and it should be noted that he missed the 2009 game between these teams due to injury.
It would not be a surprise if either team wins and clearly each team is capable of mounting comeback drives. In the end the call is for Pittsburgh to win their third Super Bowl in six seasons, 23-16. PITTSBURGH / UNDER.
As far as the proposition bets, from the full game to the more esoteric props that involve Super Bowl action vs. results in college, pro basketball, the NHL and European soccer there are hundreds if not thousands of ways for you to “test your smarts” against some of the brightest and most creative bookmakers on the planet.
Or at least bettors have numerous ways to see how lucky they can be.
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