The quest for the coveted Lombardi Trophy has almost been decided as we finally know the teams that will compete for its honor. Both the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven that they are worthy of such an honor, as both teams have been in this position on numerous occasions in the past.
Who better to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl than the Green Bay Packers, whose legendary ex-coach, Vince Lombardi, has the Championship Trophy named in his honor? Now on the other hand, who better should represent the AFC in the Super Bowl than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the most Super Bowl wins in the NFL with six?
This Super Bowl has all the makings for a good old fashioned, hard nosed struggle between two of the NFL’s greatest franchises.
However, it was no easy road to the Super Bowl for either team, as both the Packers and Steelers had to overcome some sort of adversity to get where they are today.
Adversity for the Steelers began right from the word "go" as starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first six games of the regular season for his off-field actions during the offseason. The suspension was later reduced to four games and Pittsburgh managed to survive without Roethlisberger at the helm, as the Steelers only lost one of the four games without their starting quarterback.
Green Bay, on the other hand, had its backs against the wall late in the season as starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out with a concussion during a Week 14 matchup with the Detroit Lions. The Packers were in the thick of the playoff race and needed a win against the struggling Lions, but Detroit ended up winning 7-3, which put a hurt on the Packers' chances at making the playoffs.
The Packers then had to go on the road the following week to face the New England Patriots with backup quarterback Matt Flynn stating for the injured Rodgers. Flynn almost did the unthinkable in upsetting the Patriots, but the Packers fell short for the second straight week, 31-27.
This was a tough pill to swallow as the Packers' playoff hopes were slim to none, but sometimes circumstances change, and that’s what happened as the New York Giants blew a huge fourth quarter lead against the Eagles to give the Packers new life in the playoff race.
The Giants had to travel to Green Bay to face the Packers in Week 16 with both teams knowing that the winner of the game could very well earn the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. Luckily for the Packers, they had starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers back in the driver’s seat, and Green Bay ended up winning its final two games over the Giants and Bears to solidify the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.
The Packers were on a hot streak and would continue it throughout the playoffs by winning three straight road games against the Eagles, Falcons and Bears. The Steelers also entered the playoffs with some momentum of their own as they beat out the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC's two seed and took care of business at home with playoff wins over the Ravens and Jets.
Both the Packers and Steelers have two of the best defenses in the league, as they rank in or near the top 10 in every category. Pittsburgh is ranked first in points allowed with 14.5 points per game, and Green Bay ranks second with 15 points allowed per game.
Now don’t get me wrong, as both teams have great defenses, but I believe this Super Bowl is going to be an offensive shootout between two great quarterbacks in Roethlisberger and Rodgers.
We all know what Roethlisberger is capable of, considering he has already won two Super Bowls in his career, but the question remains: How will Rodgers handle the spotlight in his first Super Bowl appearance?
I believe that Rodgers might come out cold to start, but he will heat up considering he has one of, if not the best, receiving core in league with guys like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Green Bay is very explosive on offense but its one weakness is in the running game. Green Bay only averages about 100 rushing yards per game, while the Steelers average around 120 rushing yards per game.
I give the edge to Pittsburgh in that department, as Rashard Mendenhall is a very tough and physical runner who can explode for big chunks of yardage when Pittsburgh needs them the most.
Despite the Packers' lack of a running game, they have been better recently with their rushing attack and can still keep Pittsburgh honest in guarding against the run. This will open up the playbook for Green Bay to use some play action and burn the Steelers for some big play opportunities.
Although I do believe the Packers have an advantage on the offensive side of the ball, I wouldn’t sleep on the Steelers offense quite yet, as they too have the big play threat with speedy receiver Mike Wallace and their clutch players in Hines Ward and Heath Miller. Plus, you can’t rule out the playmaking ability of Roethlisberger, who can avoid pressure and make nothing into something rather quickly.
However, I do believe that it will all come down to how well Aaron Rodgers performs. If Rodgers plays like he has in his previous playoff games, the Steelers defense will have a long night ahead of them.
If that happens, people in Green Bay are going to start saying, Brett Favre who?" Personally I think the people in Green Bay have already forgotten about Favre, and who could blame them? Rodgers has been dominant this postseason with a completion percentage of over 70 percent and six passing touchdowns.
Super Bowl XLV will be one for the ages, but who in their right mind would pick against the Steelers, who have won six out of their seven Super Bowl appearances?
Call me crazy, but I am going with the Packers to beat the six-time champs, 34-30.