Inevitably, there was going to come a time where I could get beyond the Jets loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game. I’m not about to say that time has come yet, but it will. Hopefully. I still can’t watch more than 5 minutes of super bowl coverage or read an ESPN football article, which for me is the equivalent of Mel Kiper Jr. going the same period of time without a comb. Writing this article forces me to confront something that I have no interest in confronting. Nonetheless…
The Jay-Cutler-MJD-Angry-Media-Injury-Faking-Team-Quitting Issue is focusing on the wrong matter. Now, I don’t know whether Jay Cutler could have played the second half of that game or not. I’m not a professional football player nor a medical doctor so I’m in no position to say what Cutler should have done given his play or lack there of. I have a bigger problem with Cutler’s body language. If he was injured enough to not play, that’s fine, but he was healthy enough to at least encourage his teammates. What type of message does it send when Cutler waits on the side of the bench, head down, while the other 45 players on the team are strategizing, playing, and attempting to handle the void that their starting quarterback left when he departed from play. I mean, they were down to their third stringer, Caleb Hanie, and literally had nobody left on the depth chart. If Hanie went down, the Bears would have been running the wildcat for the duration. But I guess that’s just the type of player Cutler is. We’ve seen this before. “I’m not happy and everyone else can go to hell.” Quarterbacks should be tough. Quarterbacks must be leaders.
Way back in September, the Packers were my pre-season pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl (I also predicted the Jets would lose in the AFC championship game, but that doesn’t fill me with the same level of fondness). Green Bay has looked like the best team in the NFC for a significant portion of the season, but somehow managed to nearly miss the playoffs. They are a 2 ½ point favorite, which is shocking considering they are a 6 seed. If the Packers want to win, here’s 3 ways they can do it:
Exploit Pittsburgh’s Unimpressive Cornerbacks
Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden should never, ever be confused for overly skilled corners. They’re not. In fact, I think they are often downright terrible. But, they have quite a bit going for them. The newly appointed defensive player of the year plays behind them and an ex-defensive player of the year does the same in front of them. This is along with the most talented group of linebackers this league has seen in some time. Meanwhile, Driver, Jennings, and the rest of the Green Bay wide receivers are very consistent and often underrated. They should be able to thrive against the most mediocre area of an otherwise supreme defense. I think we’re going to see a lot of 15 yard curl routes from Green Bay, much like they did against the Bears in the NFC title game. This would limit Polamalu’s impact and put most of the coverage responsibilities on the corners. This is truly the must critical part of Green Bay’s game plan. Without a combined total of at least 150 yards from Driver and Jennings, I just cannot see them winning. This said, I believe the two will eclipse that benchmark.
Don’t Try to Sack Roethlisberger
That does not mean they should drop everyone in coverage. Pressure is terrific and expect Clay Matthews (who barely lost to Polamalu in the DPOY voting) to be very much in Big Ben’s face. However, the key is containment. The Steelers have a very susceptible offensive line, especially without pro-bowl center, Maurkice Pouncey. Green Bay will be able to penetrate the offensive line with relative ease, but they must remain disciplined. If they crash inside to early and try to sack Ben, he has a better chance to escape and make a typical throw-him-down-duck-under-him-roll-right-roll-left-roll-right-again-and-hit-the-receiver-in-the-middle-of-the-field-and-walk-away-with-a-broken-bloody-face type play. Green Bay must stay on the edge of the pocket with its rushers and not collapse in until the absolute last moment.
Make it a Shootout
I cannot see Green Bay winning this game without eclipsing the 28-point mark. Roethlisberger and the rest of this team are too good in low scoring grudge matches. We saw a perfect example of this in their 13-10 victory against the Ravens on Monday Night in early December. If Green Bay plays sloppy offensively and tries to win the game with their defense, Big Ben will make 1 big play on the final drive to win it for the Steelers. Whether that play is a 10-yard scramble, a deep bomb to Mike Wallace, or this crazy play, with the game on the line there may be nobody better than Big Ben. Green Bay has to start scoring early and often with the ultimate goal of not giving the Steelers the opportunity to win it on the last drive.
There are 2 great teams playing for the Super Bowl and I anticipate a highly competitive, high scoring affair. Rodgers is a fantastic quarterback but has not faced a defense like that of the Steelers all season and certainly not a unit even close to it this postseason. My heart says the Packers but my brain says the Steelers. I’m going with the brain. Steelers will walk away with yet their 7th Super Bowl title, winning a great one over the favored Packers by a score of 38-33.