So it's almost here—Super Bowl XLV.
Soon our televisions, computer screens and possibly our newspaper pages will be filled with news coming out of Dallas. Soon, we'll have Media Day and all the madness that comes with it, and all the hype and hyperbole leading up to the six-hour pregame show and the actual kickoff.
You can guess one of the biggest questions and debates surrounding Super Bowl week will be who is the better quarterback, Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger?
Rodgers is on fire entering the Super Bowl, while Roethlisberger is making his third Super Bowl appearance and looking to win his third ring.
Both are two of the better quarterbacks in the game, but will Rodgers outplay Roethlisberger Sunday?
During the Playoffs, Rodgers has been on fire. Save for the National Football Conference Championship Game, he's been pretty close to perfect. He's completing more than 70 percent of his passes, leads all playoff quarterbacks in passing yards and has six touchdown passes. He's been dissecting defenses with precision and his confidence has grown with every throw, as has the Packers'.
Roethlisberger's passing numbers haven't been superb, but they haven't been awful either—possibly because they haven't had to be. Rashard Mendenhall is the second leading rusher in the Playoffs (behind Green Bay's James Starks), and while Pittsburgh's offensive numbers are down, it's because they've faced two much better defenses in the Ravens and Jets than what Green Bay has faced.
If you look at where the Packers' season turned around, you can look to the last five games—or rather, when Joe Buck became the Packers' personal play-by-play man. Buck has called all three playoff games and the last two regular season games for the Packers. The Packers won all five and Rodgers was phenomenal in four of them.
And Fox is broadcasting the Super Bowl, which means Buck will call the game. Coincidence. I think not.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Aaron Rodgers might be the battle of who has the better beard. While Rodgers has a very full beard that works for someone like him, Roethlisberger's beard is a great fit for someone who is the Steelers' quarterback. Not to mention, for someone who played with a broken nose, seeing that sight with that beard is a very intimidating look.
Regardless of what you think about Roethlisberger and what allegedly happened in the offseason in Georgia, he's had to deal with those questions all season. That's only going to become more and more amplified during Super Bowl week. Columnists are already lining up the pro and anti-Roethlisberger columns, and even though he might say it doesn't bother him, it has to come to a head at some point.
Then again, Rodgers will be asked about you know who. Fact is, it's the Packers first Super Bowl since No. 4 was flinging passes to Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks, and a win would be the first since the Texting Wonder ran around with his helmet in his hand in the Superdome. So all the questions about replacing Favre, will be back in some form this week. And Rodgers will have to deal with that as well.
No offense to the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs, especially Troy Polamalu, but the Steelers can be beaten through the air. Tom Brady proved as much earlier this season. Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden are going to have a hard time being able to contain the Packers' wide receivers, and while they have played phenomenal defense this postseason, Rodgers is by far the best quarterback they've faced since Tom Brady.
But lest we forget last season, when these two had the Game of the Year. Roethlisberger and Rodgers threw the ball up-and-down the field, with Rodgers throwing for 383 and three touchdowns. But Roethlisberger did him one better, throwing for 503 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Mike Wallace with no time left on the clock. He's beaten these Packers before, he can do it again.
Aaron Rodgers is completing passes the last few weeks at a clip that's almost outstanding. He does it by being a great pocket presence and sense of where the ball needs to be and when it needs to be thrown. Rodgers is very good at standing in and delivering a strong ball. His throws are always on a rope and he's extremely accurate, which makes him very tough.
In this case, I'm using lucky as a compliment. Don't get me wrong, Roethlisberger is very good. But he creates his own luck. His strong body and his ability to extend the play and outlast the pass coverage makes him very tough. Roethlisberger makes good throws, but he's very much like Tony Romo. He's best and he has the most success when he can extend the play, get out of the pocket and exploit the broken coverage to make a play. It's not the best-looking scheme, but it works.
This is so tough to call because both these quarterbacks are near the top of the league and both have the propensity to put up monster games.
Rodgers will be under the worldwide stage for the first time, and while I don't think he would be rattled by that type of pressure, the Super Bowl is a different animal and he'll have more eyes on him than ever before. It may be somewhat cliche, but it can't be discounted either.
Meanwhile, for all this talk about how Roethlisberger is one of the best ever with a win, take a look at his actual numbers in his two Super Bowls:
Super Bowl XL: 9-for-21, 123 yards, two interceptions
Super Bowl XLIII: 21-for-30, 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Combined those numbers read out to 30-for-51 (58 percent completion percentage), 379 yards, one touchdown and three picks. Not exactly stellar.
That being said, I've learned in big games, it's hard to bet against Roethlisberger, who just seems to find ways to win. So with that being said, expect Aaron Rodgers to outplay Roethlisberger stat-wise, but expect Big Ben to get his third ring.