2010 Season NFL Football Past Picks

February 06, 2011

This pick was released to clients on December 31, 1969 at 9:00PM ET.

06

Pittsburgh at Green Bay

Sunday 02/06 06:30 PM Eastern

3 units on Green Bay (moneyline) (risk 3 to return 3)  RESULT: win

4 units on 1st ¼ UNDER PICK (risk 4 to return 4)  RESULT: loss

It is hard to believe the Superbow is now 45 years old. The hype machine keeps running and getting stronger. Last year's game was the top-rated ever, and this year could surpass that. It is the Title Town Green Bay Packers vs. the storied Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers started the season with a four game suspension for Ben Roethlisberger. Many thought that suspension would derail any hopes of a Super Bowl for this team, but after a 3-1 start without Big Ben, all that was an afterthought. They relied heavily on their defense for the early games, which carried over all season long. The bets on this  game initially came in on Pittsburgh but they have evened out and are currently evenly split. All indicators for this game are a close matchup and my computer matchup agrees, calling for a small Packers victory. But what do I think will happen? Diving below the surface tells us one team has an edge here...

How many points will Green Bay score? Pitt finished as the top ranked stop unit in the NFL, allowing just 14.5 points and 277 yards per game. They gave up just 62.8 yards a game rushing and you have to go back to the 2006-07 Vikings (61.6) and the 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens (60.6) to find teams that did it better. The Steel Curtain has been even better in the post-season allowing just 52.5 ypg to the Ravens and the Jets (the fourth best running team in the league). I decided to go back and see just how well (or poorly), these big run-stop units fared in the Super Bowl. I looked at teams that finished the season ranked #1 - #3 in fewest rushing yards allowed per game. I was amazed at my findings. Since the 1998-99 Superbowl there have been nine such teams. If we throw out the 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens and NY Giants (they played each other), the other seven games saw the great run defense team go 1-5-1 ATS in the Superbowl. The next step was to see if it was because they gave it up on the ground, or other reasons. These great rushing defenses gave up over 100 yards in five of the seven games and 92 in another one, for an average of 114 ypg! So while many expect Pittsburgh to shut down the Packers on the ground, there's reason to believe that won't necessarily happen and topping the century mark is certainly possible. Green Bay has gotten a lot of mileage out of James Starks. He gives them a better option in the backfield than they had all season. He falls forward on every carry and has made Green Bay's previously anemic running game respectable. He will at the very least keep the Pittsburgh defense honest and I do believe he'll have a positive impact. But it isn't Green Bay's running game that is the concern for Pittsburgh here. Emerging Hall of Famer QB Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular this season and seems to be getting better. Since week eight, Rodgers has thrown 22 TD passes to just 4 INT's, and three of those came in two games vs. the Bears. Versus the rest of the league he went for 21 TD's and just 1 INT. In warm weather, on turf, he can rip you apart (see the Falcons game a few weeks ago). The Steelers great defensive stats this year were helped along by some luck. They really only faced two elite quarterbacks this season (Drew Brees and Tom Brady). In their other 16 games, they faced teams that were average or below average in passing (not one ranked better than 13 in passing). Against the two elite passing teams, Pitt gave up an average of 29.5 points per game! So don't be suprised if Aaron Rodgers has a big game here. On the intangibles front, Troy Polamalu just doesn't seem right. He's nursing a sore achilles that kept him out of two December games. It's lingering as he missed two practices last week. He's supposed to be fine but he just didn't seem his normal impactful self vs. the Jets last game. Versus great defenses like Pitt's, the Packers averaged around 20 points per game. Against offenses like Green Bay's, Pittsburgh's defense allowed an average of 15 points per game. So, that would indicate around 18 points scored by the Pack in this game. Let's turn to Pittsburgh...

How many points will Pittsburgh score? When you think of defense in this game, which team comes to mind? Yeah, the Steelers. I mean they own the #1 defense and this team's logo is next to the word "defense" in the dictionary. But, you may be surprised that I think Green Bay may own the better defense going into this game. Many feel the Steelers will run it right down the Packers throat, as they allowed 4.7 yards per carry during the regular season. I'm not in that camp as the Pack has allowed just 3.5 per carry in three playoff games. On the season this defense gave up just six rushing TDs (only one more than the Steelers). The Packers defense finished #2 to the Steelers in fewest points allowed during the regular season, by just a half point per game (14.5 vs. 15.0). Throw in the playoff games and these teams are dead even, each allowing 15.3 points per game. Since the mid-point in the season, Green Bay's defense has allowed 12.9 points per game (compared to 16.1 for the Steelers). So while those believing that "defense wins championships" may be on the Steelers here, they should consider the Packers instead. The Steelers have huge weapons including Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger, a guy who simply finds ways to win in the postseason. But, they will either be playing here vs. an elite defense with a backup center or a hobbled one (Maurkice Pouncey). Don't underestimate the importance of this injury. In my opinion, outside of the QB, I believe the center to be the most impactful player injury. One fumbled snap or missed block, especially in an expected close game, can make all the difference. When facing defenses similar to Green Bay's, the Steelers averaged about 18 points per game this season. But here's the killer. When facing offenses similar to Pittsburgh's this season, the Packers allowed an average of 7.8 points per game! So, if these numbers are predictive, it could be a very rough game for Pittsburgh's offense.

This one has all the ingredients and dynamics on paper to be a very close game. But, I think the Packers have a distinct edge. The Packers record doesn't look very hot this year as they "snuck" into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. How can they be favored vs. a team that had 12 regular season wins? Don't be fooled by the record. Let's look at Green Bay's six losses this season. All six came by 4 points or less (the first time this has ever happened). The last time a team lost even four games, each by 4 points or less was the 1987 Washington Redskins. That team won the Super Bowl. Two of the Packers' losses this season came by 3 points in overtime. Two of their losses were by field goals with 10 seconds or less to go in the 4th quarter. And, two losses came by 4 points each in games that Aaron Rodgers sat out. The bottom line is that their 10-6 record is a bit "false" and they are better than they appear. With a bit of luck, this team could have gone 14-2 instead of 10-6. I think in the end, Aaron Rodgers rises to the moment bringing another Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. While you could play them at -2.5, I believe the best value is on Green Bay straight-up at -140 odds. The extra juice is worth it in my opinion, giving us a win even if they win a close one or two point game. Take the Packers to win this game.

FINAL SCORE
TEAM 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q FINAL
Steelers 0 10 7 8 25
Packers 14 7 0 10 31

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Wins Losses Units
2443 2157 +189.24

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