The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will meet in Super Bowl XLV, in Dallas, Texas on February 6th, 2011.
I cannot wait for this game; neither can the players, coaches, and fans of NFL football, in general.
After taking an early look at this game, one key thing stands out the most. This is the ability for each team to have success running the ball.
Most people will look at this matchup and instantly look at the quarterbacks, and rightfully so. When those quarterbacks are named Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, I would expect nothing different.
But this game will come down to the success of the running game and the ability to keep the opposing team's quarterbacks off the field. This game will come down to the success of the two teams offensive lines and running backs James Starks and Rashard Mendenhall.
For the Green Bay Packers, they have their work cut out for them in going up against the NFL's best rushing defense.
To put what the Steelers run defense is done in perspective is a difficult task. They've allowed only 62.8 yards per game in the regular season. They gave up 35-yards to Ray Rice and the Ravens, and 70 yards to the Jets.
I am one that always says stats are for losers, but these stats speak volumes about how good this Steelers defense is.
The Packers just went up against the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL, the Chicago Bears, who give up an average of 90.1 yards during the regular season. So they know what it's like to go up against a tough rush defense.
The Packers were able to beat the Bears after rushing for 120 yards, while Aaron Rodgers had a sub-par game. He threw for 244 yards, was 17-of-30, and threw two interceptions.
Statistically speaking, both Caleb Hanie and Mark Sanchez had better games from the quarterback position. I hate the QB rating stat, but the two winning quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, combined for a 90.9 QB rating. Mark Sanchez had a rating of 102.2.
The Packers will have difficulty running the ball, but the Steelers will have an easier job because the Packers rushing defense gives up an average of 144 yards per game. They gave up 82 yards against the Bears on Sunday.
There are going to be many keys to this game, and the fundamental way of winning a football game will not change. Just like any other game, it will come down to execution and mistakes.
If you execute better than the other team, and if you make fewer mistakes than your opponent, then you will win. And a win in this game means you will hoist the Lombardi Trophy and add another chapter to your team's storied football history.
But that doesn't change the fact that running the ball will go a long way in determining if the Super Bowl Champion will be in Pittsburgh or Green Bay come February.
Teams will need to run the ball to gain control of the game, as well as keeping the other team's quarterback off the field.
Now, if a team is going to win without having success running that ball, it is going to be the Green Bay Packers. Especially if Aaron Rodgers plays like he did against the Falcons in the Divisional Round.
The amount of rushing yards won't necessarily be the key, those numbers can sometimes be skewed by something like a long run on third and long, or a long run to end the first half.
The key is rather the team's ability to be able to have success running the ball. And if you call a running play you feel confident that you will be able to pick up the yards needed. This is especially true on third-down, goal-line situations, and potential fourth-downs throughout this game.
This will be a great game, and running the ball will be a major key in determining who hoists the Lombardi Trophy.