The Football betting season comes to a massive close when the best from the NFC collides with the AFC's top team in Super Bowl XLV. The Green Bay Packers, winners of the NFC crown, are 2.5-point favorites against the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and those teams will meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on February 6.
The 2.5-point spread, which fell from its opening of a field goal, is the shortest NFL pointspread for a Super Bowl since the 1-point line for Super Bowl XVI between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals in 1982. Oddsmakers are giving the points to Pittsburgh after watching Green Bay run through the best the NFC had to offer.
The Packers picked up their third straight road playoff win (3-0 ATS) with a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears as 3.5-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game last Sunday. It was the same old song for the Cheeseheads, who blanketed the opposing passing game with tight coverage while hounding the rival quarterback.
Green Bay limited the Bears to 218 yards passing and one touchdown while snagging three interceptions and knocking out Chicago QB Jay Cutler with a knee injury in the third quarter. The Packers managed to get to the quarterback twice, using a mix of zone blitzes to keep Chicago’s offense guessing.
Green Bay has been especially stingy through the air this postseason, allowing an average of just under 213 passing yards per game while holding opponents to a total of three touchdowns. The Packers have also been playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, picking off six passes and forcing four fumbles – two of which have been eaten up by the Green and Gold.
If the Green Bay stop unit isn’t getting enough credit for those wins, it’s because of the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The six-year pro has put his name among the NFL’s elite pivots with his performance this postseason. Rodgers boasts a passer rating of 109.2 over his three playoff starts and has shown a toughness and maturity with opposing defenses keying on him.
Rodgers didn’t have a great day versus the Bears, connecting on 17 of 30 throws for 244 yards and two interceptions, but he has struggled against Chicago in the past. If his most recent performance versus the Steelers is any indication of what to expect on Super Bowl Sunday, Pittsburgh’s secondary could be in for a long day. Rodgers went 26 for 48 for 383 yards and three scores, as well as a rushing touchdown, in a 37-36 loss to the Steelers in Week 15 of last season.
The only player on the field who was better than Rodgers that December Sunday was Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is playing in the third Super Bowl of his seven-year career. Roethlisberger lit up the Packers for 503 passing yards and three touchdowns in their previous meeting, finding wideout Mike Wallace for the game-winning score as time expired.
Roethlisberger’s numbers are a little more modest this postseason – as they have been for his career. He passed for 133 yards and two interceptions in the Steelers’ 24-19 win over the New York Jets as 4-point favorites in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday; however those picks were deflected off receivers and into the defender's arms.
Roethlisberger won’t be rattled by the big-game experience on Feb. 6. He did show some jitters in his first Super Bowl appearance against the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, going just 9 for 21 for 123 yards and two INTs (and also running for a 1-yard TD) in a 21-10 win as 4-point chalk. But Big Ben bounced back in his next Super Bowl stop, passing for 256 yards (21 for 30) with one score and an interception – including the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left – to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in 2009.
Roethlisberger’s clutch arm is just one of the weapons Green Bay will deal with in two weeks. The Packers’ biggest concern might be running back Rashard Mendenhall, who put Pittsburgh on his back in the AFC title game. Mendenhall rolled over the Jets’ high-powered defense for 121 yards and a touchdown while adding another 38 yards receiving to his stat line.
Running the ball and stopping the run have been the trademarks of Steelers football for many years, and 2010-11 is no exception. The Pittsburgh stop unit hasn’t given much to rival running backs, allowing only 105 total yards in its two playoff victories while forcing four fumbles. The Steelers finished the regular season ranked tops in the NFL in rushing defense and limited Green Bay to 60 yards on the ground back in December 2009.
The extra week off should allow Pittsburgh to get its key defensive cogs healthy, namely safety Troy Polamalu, who has been visibly slowed by an Achilles injury. The bye will also benefit Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who says he is playing in the Super Bowl despite a high ankle sprain suffered this weekend.
The Super Bowl XLV total is set at 44.5, coming down from as high as 46 points in the days following post. The Packers are 1-2 over/under in the postseason and 10-13 o/u on the year. Pittsburgh has played over the number in both its playoff games and boasts an even 11-11 over/under mark this season.
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