Friday, February 4, 2011
Super Bowl picks: Our experts weigh in
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Can Ben Roethlisberger lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to their third Super Bowl title in six years (and seventh overall)? Or will Aaron Rodgers and the high-flying Packers passing game soar to Green Bay's first NFL title since the 1996 season?
How do our experts see it? The Packers are big favorites, but it's far from unanimous. The only thing we know for sure is that everyone has an opinion on the game.
As was the case in a one-point Pittsburgh victory over Green Bay in 2009, the Steelers' Super Bowl experience will give them the edge. Ben Roethlisberger will need a fourth-quarter drive to win the game.
Kevin Seifert: Packers, 27-19
The indoor conditions are ideal for a Packers team that has won five consecutive "elimination games." Aaron Rodgers is ready to take this team the rest of the way.
James Walker: Steelers, 27-24
Maurkice Pouncey's ankle injury is a concern. But I still have trouble picking against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and his 10-2 postseason record.
Mike Sando: Packers, 27-13
Let's go with Green Bay on the theory that Aaron Rodgers might pull a Steve Young with a breakout Super Bowl performance, casting his own legacy after following a legend.
Matt Mosley: Steelers, 27-24
It's not Aaron Rodgers' time yet. The Steelers become a dynasty as Big Ben throws the game-winning touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
Michael Wilbon: Steelers, 28-24
As great as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been for an entire decade, I think "Big Ben" and Aaron Rodgers are now the two best quarterbacks playing in the league. Roethlisberger is still underrated by his peers and the people who watch football, and we're going to be reminded of that Sunday.
Greg Garber: Packers, 27-20
Aaron Rodgers and those dangerous wide receivers (and, suddenly, the hint of a running game) on a fast track: Even the Steelers' stout defense will have difficulty containing the Packers.
Rick Reilly: Packers, 24-16
Aaron Rodgers is MVP. Brett Favre is ignored. It's the equivalent of the girlfriend burning all her ex-fiance's stuff while her new boyfriend drinks his scotch.
Matt Williamson: Steelers, 23-20
This is going to be a very close game and a Super Bowl for the ages. Pittsburgh's experience on this stage will pay off heavily in the first half. The Steelers' defense will be very difficult to come back against, especially once it forces the Packers to be one-dimensional without a running game. But Aaron Rodgers will get the game to overtime, where defense will rule. After a grueling battle, Pittsburgh squeaks one out; RB Rashard Mendenhall is the game's MVP.
Jeffri Chadiha: Packers, 31-28
The Steelers have more Super Bowl experience but the Packers have the momentum. Unless Aaron Rodgers sustains an injury or Dom Capers loses his touch in mixing up his blitz packages, Green Bay is the team to beat.
More expert picks
I'm tying this prediction to games played against the AFC East. The Steelers were two lucky bounces from getting swept in the regular season, while the Packers shut out the Jets at the Meadowlands and nearly beat the Patriots in Gillette Stadium without Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers gets his moment in the sun and Ted Thompson gets vindication. A new generation of cheeseheads says, "Brett Who?''
These two teams, led by two of the elite QBs of our time, are going to give us a tremendous show. In a bruising battle, I say the last defense on the field wins.
Green Bay will do better harassing Big Ben than Pittsburgh will do bothering Aaron Rodgers, and that will be the difference. Picked the Packers in the preseason, have to see them through.
I have no idea if an injured rookie center can be the razor-thin difference in a battle of two seemingly evenly matched teams. But judging from all the questions asked about Maurkice Pouncey's status this week, you'd think it was as big as losing Ben Roethlisberger.
Choice reason: The Packers were my preseason pick; if they win, I can pretend to know more than I actually do. Score reason: 23-20 was the most common NFL outcome this season.
The Steelers have 29 players on their roster who have won a Super Bowl. The Packers have none. If Caleb Hanie's junior high 'stache almost beat Green Bay, I shudder to think what Brett Keisel and his Chewbacca chin will do to this band of green neophytes.
One of these teams will win behind a young, mobile quarterback and an aggressive defense led by a stout linebacking corps backed by its star defensive back. If only I knew which team. But I'm told I need to make a prediction, so I'll say uh Steelers? Sure. It's a guarantee.
The Steelers get an early lead, then Dom Capers attacks Big Ben and the Steelers' O-line can't hold. Rodgers-to-Driver TD in the final moments to win.
After the win, Aaron Rodgers will stand on stage and say, "We won it for the players on IR."
Think the defenses are almost a push. Think Rodgers gets a congratulatory postgame call from Obama and Favre.
I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl before the season started, so there's no sense in stopping now. The dome-like conditions favor the Packers and their passing game.
Green Bay blew out Atlanta in the playoffs and at that time Aaron Rodgers commented on how much he loves playing indoors -- which is where Sunday's game will be played.
I just know I'm not going against Aaron Rodgers indoors. Not this year, anyway.
A classic matchup, so why wouldn't we have a one-point game? Late heroics on both sides.
The big five becomes the big six, with Aaron Rodgers finding his rightful home among the elite quarterbacks.
In a close one, the Steelers win. Too much defense and too much Big Ben in the clutch!
Big Ben makes the late throw to win it.
I think Aaron Rodgers and the receivers will be able to do enough against the Steelers' secondary.
Defenses dominate the first half, yet get worn down in the second. Bulk of scoring will be done with the Packers' defense finding a way to get to Ben Roethlisberger and force turnovers.
The Lombardi Trophy goes back with the team that he once coached. Why not?
Aaron Rodgers', Dom Capers' and Mike McCarthy's finest hour.
The difference will be in Green Bay's offensive line, its ability to protect.
The Green Bay Packers will say to the Lombardi Trophy, "There's no place like home, Vince."
On paper, I see so many areas where the matchup favors the Packers, like Clay Matthews on Flozell Adams or the Packers' ability to put five legitimate wide receivers on the field. Green Bay is set up with a great opportunity to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.
Green Bay hasn't had to make up any kind of large deficit this season and it doesn't have the Super Bowl experience the Steelers do. The Packers also haven't faced the kind of defense they will face Sunday.
I'm expecting big things from Aaron Rodgers, and Clay Matthews is every bit as handsome as Fabio.
A defensive powerhouse show. Aaron Rodgers has a lot of people to prove wrong.
Quarterback duel is a draw. Packers defense actually comes up big in this one.
Aaron Rodgers has the time to throw and will spread out the Steelers' defense.
I expect both to play their best and if that's the case, that's the score.
Scott Van Pelt
A low-scoring game. Teams with better records who are underdogs are 15-3 in the Super Bowl. (I might have made that up but I think I read it someplace.)
The Steelers are so good against the run, but the Packers just don't run the football, and they're not going to here. They're going to spread the Steelers out and make Troy Polamalu as ineffective as he's been in any game because when he's in coverage, it's a problem.
These are two well-coached and fundamentally sound teams that have a lot of similarities in styles. The Packers have a fast-track offense and with perfect conditions their passing game will be the difference.
The defenses from both teams will definitely show up for this game, and with the two defensive coordinators basically canceling each other out, it will come down to which QB has a better game. Aaron Rodgers will come through in the end and pull this one out for the Packers.
It would appear the Packers have the more explosive offensive threats, but if they can't run the ball effectively the Steelers can load up with a variety of pressure packages to negate Green Bay's passing attack. This contest will be determined in the trenches. If the Packers' offensive line can keep Aaron Rodgers upright, Green Bay takes home the Lombardi Trophy.
ESPN.com NFL editors
Hard to believe that winning or losing a game could turn on a center. But with Maurkice Pouncey sidelined for the Steelers, the Packers get the nod in a close thriller.
The last time these teams met, a 37-36 Steelers win in 2009, there were no turnovers. That won't happen again. A late Packers rally falls short.
Clay Matthews ends up having a bigger impact than Troy Polamalu. He may not be the MVP, but he's the M-V05-P.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby, whose father played at UTEP, boots one from greater El Paso to win it in the final minute.
Believe it not, the Packers' 13th NFL title will actually accelerate the healing process among fans loyal to either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. "I think I'll always be loyal to Green Bay, but I don't have to be here to be loyal." Remember who said that? Here's a hint. He said it upon leaving Green Bay in 1968, and the trophy the Packers will restore to its rightful home bears his name.
After Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers will have just as many Super Bowl titles as Brett Favre. Rodgers and Co. will spread things out and make plenty of plays against a Steelers secondary that hasn't seen anything quite like this Packers passing attack.