Rodgers, the Packer quarterback, will be largely responsible for a win over the Steelers.
Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers is quickly approaching.
One of the main storylines during the lead week is how the Packers, unexpectedly or not, snuck in the playoffs and ascended from the No. 6 seed in the NFC to earn their spot in Sunday's grand stage in Dallas at palatial Cowboys Stadium.
The only thing left to break down is whether they can topple the mighty Steelers, who have won two of the last five Super Bowls and are as close to a dynasty as the NFL has witnessed since the New England Patriots of several years ago.
I'm here to tell you that the Packers can, and will, win the Super Bowl on Sunday. Their late-season rise is no coincidence, and preseason predictions putting them in the Super Bowl that looked foolish just a month ago are now validated.
Here are 10 reasons why the Pack will prevail over the Steel crew in their Texas showdown.
Woodson's stabilizing presence in the secondary cannot be overstated.
Woodson is Green Bay's top corner and probably most vital defensive player overall. The Packers have been extremely strong against the pass all year long, which can be attributed largely to his shutdown capability on the opposition's top receiver.
I was reading another Bleacher Report writer discussing Woodson, saying that he makes everybody on the Packer defense better. I agree with that statement, as Woodson's experience and ability to handle receivers without help allows everyone else on the defense to focus on their responsibility without having to split their attention.
That's an intangible that will make a huge difference against a struggling but experienced QB in Ben Roethlisberger.
The gargantuan nose tackle will be called upon to control the line of scrimmage against whoever plays center for Pittsburgh. Starter Maurkice Pouncey was declared out last week, but is now making strides during the week off and could play.
Either way, Raji will be playing with an advantage over Pouncey and his broken foot or backup Dan Legursky. After his first career interception and touchdown return against the Bears in the NFC title game, Raji is playing with sky-high confidence.
The last thing the Steelers want is an opposing player who is feeling it at a critical position where they have a weakness. It appears that no matter who plays, Green Bay will have the upper hand in the trenches.
The best-kept secret throughout Roethlisberger's playoff success is his ugly interception count.
Twelve and 10 are the numbers. Can you guess what they refer to? Well, I'll tell ya...
Ben has uncorked 12 interceptions in 10 career playoff games. His turnover numbers are surprisingly unimpressive, as are those turnover totals. Take that stat with a grain of salt, however, because he is 8-2 in the playoffs with two Super Bowl rings.
The numbers are pretty bad, objectively speaking. They speak for themselves, but so does Pittsburgh's success in the playoffs with White Mamba commanding them.
The looming question, then, is have the Steelers won in the playoffs in spite of Ben, or because of him? After all, the Steelers' two championships have come against the NFC West, the undeniable worst division in football for several years running.
That question will come into focus on Sunday as Ben hones in on his third Super Bowl against a team that is much better than the teams he's faced before on this stage.
Given everything about Roethlisberger on the last slide, an appropriate reason that the Packers will win on Sunday is the way they capitalize defensively on opponents' mistakes.
Green Bay ranked sixth in the NFL in takeaways and second in interceptions. With Roethlisberger's bizarre playoff turnover issues, this could be a major gamebreaker. Suppose the Packers pick Roethlisberger off and return it for a touchdown. In a game with such a small margin for error, that could be fatal for Pittsburgh.
The Pack also get the job done up front, with 47 sacks on the season, good for second in the league (behind Pittsburgh, interestingly). If Pittsburgh's O-Line is compromised, especially at center, Roethlisberger could be running for his life all afternoon under pressure from the talented front seven of Green Bay.
Matthews' versatility on defense allows Green Bay to get him different looks to rush the quarterback.
Don't be deceived. Matthews may look pretty here at media day, but he gets nasty on the field.
His 13.5 sacks this season show that he can get to the quarterback, and his one interception and four passes defended show that he is capable in pass defense. He is always a threat to make a big play, regardless of the situation, run or pass.
Jennings is the Packers' undisputed No. 1 receiver, though his playoff numbers don't tell that story. He's caught 17 balls for 239 yards in three games with no touchdowns. Hardly the numbers for an impact player, right?
Just by being a threat, Jennings has opened up the passing lanes for Rodgers to accurately hit his teammates. Check out the numbers for Rodgers and his receivers in the playoffs:
Rodgers: 66-93, 71 percent completions, 790 pass yards, six touchdowns, two INT, 109.2 rating
Jordy Nelson: 12 catches in 14 targets, 146 yards and one touchdown
Donald Driver: 12 catches in 18 targets, 141 yards and no touchdowns
Jennings' presence has allowed Rodgers to hit on 71 percent of his passes, which has enabled the Packers to stay on the field and complete long drives (50 percent conversion rate on third downs with the second-most attempts).
Jennings will have a definite impact on the game, and even more if he's catching passes.
The Steelers needed a huge second half rally to escape the Divisional Round against Baltimore.
Two games is hardly enough to establish a pattern or trend, but the Steelers have not been impressive in either of their playoff wins. They've developed a peculiar tendency to play only half of a game well, from the second-half comeback against the Ravens to the second-half swoon a week later against the Jets.
Coming off a bye in the Divisional Round, the Steelers took Heinz Field against Baltimore and took an opening half beating. They went to the locker room trailing 21-7 on their home field and coming off a bye week.
The second half was a different story. White Mamba led the offense out to 17 straight points to take a lead as the defense matched the rise in intensity that the offense brought. Baltimore scored just three second-half points as the Steelers won on a late TD run by Rashard Mendenhall.
Against the Jets in the AFC Championship, the Steelers played the inverse of the week before. Mike Tomlin's crew jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first half, completely dominating the Jets in all facets. This looked like the team that would simply not accept losing another game.
Then, after a field goal as the first half expired, the Jets flipped the script and owned the second half. Unfortunately, their second half shutout of the Steelers was not enough to leave Heinz victorious, in spite of some really shoddy play by the home team.
The problem with the Steelers is their propensity to lapse for long periods of time. In that regard, they are the Lakers of the NFL: supremely talented, well-coached, experienced and maddeningly temperamental. It seems like they have an airtight squad, but with that one fatal flaw that could unravel their title hopes.
The question is, can they weather the storm of their inconsistency one more time to earn the Lombardi?
James Starks is the poster child for a team that is jelling in a timely fashion.
An intangible advantage that the Packers have is that they are putting all facets of the game together at the perfect time. What else can explain back-to-back-to-back road playoff wins in Philly, Atlanta and Chicago? That's an impressive streak for a beat up team that hasn't had a chance to rest yet.
If you gave me a choice between a supremely talented roster with matchup advantages at many spots, or an underdog with a lot to prove that is playing up to its potential, I'd take the hot team playing at its best. The Packers beat at least two out of three teams that were "better" than them on paper and playing at home, but the hotter team prevailed in each case. The Steelers scratched out two wins at home in games that they should have won going away. You pick.
That is the power of the hot team.
The Packers are like the Little Engine That Could.
To borrow from my sportswriting hero Bill Simmons, the Packers have serious "Nobody Believes in Us!" potential. This describes a team that comes from behind, gets perpetually overlooked or discounted in the media all year, makes a run in the playoffs against superior teams, then reaches the ultimate game as an (perceived) underdog.
The Packers inexplicably opened as a 3.5-point favorite in Super Bowl XLV, which is one of the more egregious lines I've seen all year. It seems to completely ignore what the Steelers have done and the depth and talent on their roster.
To me, the Packers are the decided underdog against Pittsburgh. A 10-6 record against a 12-4 record. A six-seeded Wild Card team playing its fourth game in a row on the road with lots of injury issues against a well-rested team with no huge injuries and all kinds of championship experience. Need I go further to convince you that the Packers are underdogs?
In "Nobody Believes in Us!" situations, it is necessary that the favorite takes their opponent too lightly or underestimates their potential. I think the Steelers are well-coached and grounded enough that that won't happen, but the Packers still have that underdog feel and a chip on their shoulder.
The fate of the Pack rests in Rodgers' hands.
Aaron Rodgers has vaulted himself into the top three in most "Who is the best QB in the NFL right now?" debates. He has poise and experience beyond his years, possesses championship instincts and decision-making and is hungry to reach the top of the NFL mountain for the first time.
He's ready, he's capable, he's guiding a ship bound for treasure.
He's the Packers' best player, the basket that all their eggs are in and has the most say in determining their fate. He is, in short, the most important player on the field for Green Bay.
What more needs to be said?