What are the Green Bay Packers' chances of winning the Super Bowl? Well, according to the oddsmakers and the betting public they are pretty good: Despite being a No. 6 seed heading into the playoffs, they were installed as favorites, and the Super Bowl odds have been bet up as many as three points in some places since then.
There's a word of caution to go with that line movement, though: The actual number of bets has been split almost evenly between the two teams. That suggests that there have been some large bets placed on the Packers, but it also means that there hasn't been enthusiastic embracing of the Packers that the movement might suggest.
In other words, if you like the Steelers, you don't have to question yourself too much.
I'll be honest and say that I like the Steelers in this game. That being said, I have all sorts of respect for the Packers; they were actually my preseason Super Bowl pick. I do think Pittsburgh will win, but it certainly won't be easy, and Green Bay's chances to win the Super Bowl are far from insignificant. Here are five reasons why:
Rodgers has established himself as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league this year, and he has mostly been hot in the playoffs. I wasn't particularly impressed with his performance against the Bears—he made a couple of mistakes I really wished he wouldn't have made.
What impresses me so much about him, though, is that you can visibly watch him learn whenever he does something wrong. A lot of guys, including his opponent in this game, pout and show their frustration when something goes wrong. Rodgers just seems to think about what went wrong and what he'll do different next time. That is an important and positive trait when combined with his competitiveness.
A win here would really cement Rodgers' position among the elite, and he is certainly capable of earning that position.
Low Expectations of Run Game
Most people don't expect Green Bay's inconsistent running game to be able to do much against Pittsburgh's spectacular run defense. James Starks has been a big story in these playoffs, but he'll have a hard time running here. That's a negative, but I also see real positive elements, too.
First, because they aren't expected to be able to run, there will be no pressure for them to do so. They will likely try to establish something early on, but anything they can do on the ground will just be a bonus. That really puts the pressure on Pittsburgh—they have to stop them on the ground because everyone knows they should be able to.
The low likelihood of run success also allows Green Bay to focus on what they really do well: the passing game. That also corresponds with the biggest weakness the Steelers have on defense: their secondary.
The Super Bowl always seems to come down to a couple of factors, and Woodson is one of those factors. The guy just knows how to perform at the highest level—and he has a Heisman Trophy and a Defensive Player of the Year Award to prove it.
He's a ridiculously intense competitor and the perfect inspirational figure for a relatively young defense to rally around in this game. He's 34 now, so his window is getting smaller, and he knows it. These games are often won by a player making an exceptional play, and Woodson certainly could fill that position.
There are a lot of players to get really excited about on this front seven—Matthews, Hawk, Raji, Pickett. Pickett's older, but the other three are young, and all seem to be a little bit unhinged. They love eating quarterbacks for lunch.
In the Super Bowl they'll be lining up against at least two backups on Pittsburgh's offensive line. The Steelers were far from the best team in the league as it was at protecting their quarterback, and that's not going to be made better by the injury issues.
The best way to disrupt Roethlisberger is to keep him on his heels and fighting for his life, and there's a good chance that this defensive front can have a big day in the big game.
There is a certain X-factor that surrounds winning teams—they might not measure up on paper, but when they need to step up and get it done they do it. The Saints had it last year, and Green Bay has it now.
One good example was the special teams battle against the Bears. On paper the Bears should have had a clear edge on special teams. Green Bay ignored that, though, and went out and owned that part of the game.
They aren't bothered by what should be or what is—only by what they need to do. If they can keep that magic going for another game then they will be able to win this game —even if they have some shortcomings in the matchup.