Cameron — If you were to tell me the Green Bay Packers would be the team representing the National Football Conference at the beginning of the playoffs, I probably would’ve told you there’s a better chance of me forgoing delivery and walking to DP Dough to get my Roni Zoni. The Pack has awed us during their miraculous postseason run, which has included wins over the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears. There is no question a huge part of this run has been in part due to the dominant performances of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has passed for 780 yards this postseason to go along with eight total touchdowns, two rushing, and a whopping 104.90 quarterback rating. However, he would be the first to tell you that it helps when you have arguably the best wide receiving core in the league. Rodgers’ favorite target this postseason has been Greg Jennings, who is coming of an eight reception, 130-yard performance against the Bears. With other targets like Pro Bowler Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, defenses have been having a tough time getting Rodgers’ unit off of the field.
When they haven’t been on the field, Green Bay’s defense has held its own. Like Rodgers leads the offense, it is no question that the Pack’s defense feeds off of the play of their super sophomore linebacker Clay Matthews. With speed, size and grade-A flow that would make anyone jealous, Matthews has been giving opposing offenses migraines.
Another player who has really come up big as well in this postseason is big defensive tackle BJ Raji. Raji has been a big reason why the Packers have only allowed 70 yards rushing per game this postseason and will be a big factor in stopping Rashard Mendenhall Sunday.
While the Steelers are a great team and have knocked off superior American Football Conference teams en route to their Super Bowl berth, I think that the Cheeseheads from Lambeau Field are on a hot streak that will ride with them until they hoist the Lombardi Trophy late Sunday evening. The Packers will win 24-17.
Chris — The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the more potent teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball. The offense is built around a steady balance of run and pass and is led by the pride of Miami University, Ben Roethlisberger. On the other side, the defense is very reminiscent of Chuck Knoll’s Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s. “Bad Boy” Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion and has experience over Rodgers that could surface late in the game. However, Big Ben is going to be forced to deal with an extremely inexperienced and inconsistent offensive line. To add to the sketchiness of the O-line, the best and most solid lineman, second team all-pro rookie Maurkice Pouncey, is likely out with an ankle injury. This will limit Roethlisberger’s time in the pocket and will prevent the deep ball to Mike Wallace. Problems on the offensive line could also eliminate their run game, hurting the Steelers’ balanced offense. Roethlisberger will be forced to come up with the amazing magic to fend off the hungry Raji and determined Matthews.
When I watch Troy Polamalu play, I feel that I am watching a Samoan version of Thor play. He is a versatile game changer and gives Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau so many options. Lebeau can send him on a blitz from any part of the field, and he can cover tight ends and wide receivers with the best of them. Along with Thor, the Steelers have four scary linebackers led by LaMarr Woodley and a defensive line led by Brett Kiesel. Combined, they post the league’s top run defense. Rodgers will have to put on a big belt to succeed on Sunday.
This game looks to be a defensive battle with the top two scoring defenses going against each other, but I think the Pack will pull this one out 28-24.