SUPER BOWL PREVIEW
The Packers have essentially won five straight playoff games, dating back to a pair of must-win games in the regular season. Green Bay is 5-1 ATS in its past six games, including a 21-14 win and cover over the Chicago Bears in last week’s NFC Championship.Â Though the offense gets most of the attention, the defense remains the constant of the team. Green Bay has allowed more than 17 points just three times in the past 12 games, surrendering just 12.9 points per game in that span. Despite hitting the road three straight times in the postseason, the Packers gave up just 16, 21 and 14 points-including a pair of games against Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. Green Bay has been a big-play machine during the postseason, racking up 10 sacks and eight takeaways. Several players have made names for themselves, including cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields and defensive tackle B.J. Raji. The run “D” was supposedly a concern, but Green Bay has allowed just 69 rush yards per game during the playoffs.Â The offense needs little introduction. Aaron Rodgers has solidified himself as one of the three or four most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL, and returning to some nice weather and a turf surface for the Super Bowl will only make him better-in two career indoor playoff games, Rodgers has completed 76 percent of his passes while throwing for 789 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. He’s added two more touchdowns on the ground. Throw in a suddenly competent rushing attack, and the Packers look unstoppable.
Pittsburgh is riding a four-game winning streak, both straight up and against the spread. The Steelers’ 24-19 win over the Jets improved the team to 8-1 in its past nine games.Â The Steelers have averaged 30.7 points over their last four games, though they were shut out in the second half against New York. The brightest spot was Rashard Mendenhall, who busted out of a major slump with 27 carries, 121 yards and a touchdown. He added two catches for 32 yards and looked as explosive as ever. Pass protection remains a major issue, though, as Ben Roethlisberger was chased around time after time. He needs a little more time to find Mike Wallace. The explosive receiver has just four catches for 26 yards in the postseason; he had 60 catches for 1257 yards and 10 scores during the regular season.Â The defense gave up some points and yards to the Jets in the second half, but it was largely part of the plan; Pittsburgh gave New York everything it wanted underneath but protected against the big play. That was enough to kill the clock. The Steelers also got a huge goal line stop in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh remains stout against the run, but there were signs of weakness in the secondary, as Santonio Holmes was wide open on a 45-yard touchdown catch.Â Pittsburgh and Green Bay didn’t play this year, but they enjoyed a wild one in 2009. Rodgers and Roethlisberger combined for 886 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 37-36 Steelers