Posted on: February 6, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 4:13 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:
1. Green Bay Packers (No. 6, NFC, 13-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 14-4)
At various points in the season, this Super Bowl matchup looked utterly silly. Like when the Packers lost to the Lions in Week 14. Or when the Steelers were facing four games to open the season without Ben Roethlisberger. Or when Matt Flynn looked utterly confused at the end of the Week 15 loss to the Patriots. Or when the Saints spooked the Steelers on Halloween.
Or, well, you get the point -- in the Packers and the Steelers both overcame a ton of adversity to get to Dallas. But maybe that speaks to exactly why Super Bowl XLV gets a pair of teams with immense talent, tremendous coaching and a knack for getting hot at the right time and winning games when they need to.
2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking
It's the Super Bowl. And it's in Dallas. And it features two of the most historic franchises in NFL history, who just so happen to be the two best teams in the NFL. In short, it's a pretty perfect matchup and it's for the whole lobster enchilada. (They make those here. And they're delicious.)
3. Key Matchup to Watch: Steelers offensive line vs. Packers front seven
The Steelers defense isn't the only unit charged with keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field, because Pittsburgh's offensive line is going to need to help that cause as well if Mike Tomlin wants his second Super Bowl ring in four years.
See, the Steelers are perceived as a running and defense team by stereotype only. The truth is that Rashard Medenhall only crossed the 100-yard mark three times this season, and twice were while Roethlisberger was suspended. That's not even taking into account his 3.9 yards per carry. So, even if they did have the offensive line to grind it out against Green Bay's defense in the running game, it might be tough sledding.
Problem is, with Doug Legursky replacing the injured Maurkice Pouncey, they definitely don't have the front five to handle that task.
Which means that if the Steelers want to keep A-Rod(ge) from hopping on the field and slotting his way to scores, they're going to need a Herculian effort from a makeshift group of guys up front in terms of pass protection. That's easier said than done against a Dom Capers defense, of course, because when he starts dialing up blitzes, things might get a little tricky, even though Pittsburgh's got a slew of talented wideouts in Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
But the collective skill with that group's worth nothing if the Pittsburgh offensive line can't keep B.J. Raji and the rest of the wrecking crew on the Packers front seven at bay in a straight-up matchup to start.
4. Potentially Relevant Video
For various sad reasons, The Band stopped playing back in the 1970's. They did so at their peak, and with one of the greatest live performances in musical history (the final scene and song from Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" is below). This year's Super Bowl is going to be equally as awesome. It just is. But if it's the last performance well, I'm begging you NFL people. Please, don't do it. Don't you break our hearts.
5. The Packers will win if ...
They can put Roethlisberger on the ground. It's not exactly easy to do despite Ben's insanely high sack per game total of 2.67 (second in the NFL to only Jay Cutler). But the offense can score, and if the defense can keep the Steelers QB from extending plays and allowing his wide receivers to get open, they'll stand a substantially better chance of bring the Lombardi Trophy home.
6. The Steelers will win if ...
Their linebackers can manage to handle the spread formations that Mike McCarthy will dial up. No one's questioning Pittsburgh's ability to keep James Starks from running the ball. Stopping Aaron Rodgers and the four-wide sets that Green Bay's sure to employ is a different matter altogether. James Jones and Jordy Nelson might not be the two biggest names in terms of NFL wide receivers, but if they can get open before LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison take advantage of their favorable mismatches against Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers will be in business.
Packers 24, Steelers 21
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Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 6:21 pm
STEELERS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
Charles Woodson defended Hines Ward
Early pass-rush prowess
Posted on: February 2, 2011 2:24 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am
Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit
Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?
Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.
*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
*Classification is really unfair for him.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:23 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 1:20 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Brent Grimes, Brett Keisel, Brian Orakpo, Chad Clifton, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Donald Penn, Eric Berry, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Indianapolis Colts, James Harrison, Jeff Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs, Larry Fitzgerald, Maurkice Pouncey, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Nick Collins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pro Bowl, Roman Harper, Tamba Hali, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tramon Williams, Troy Polamalu, Washington Redskins
Posted on: January 24, 2011 10:53 am
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This message has been removed by the administrator.
Posted on: January 17, 2011 1:02 am
Edited on: January 17, 2011 2:16 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
2.) Aaron Rodgers: the best quarterback left?
4.) The irony of Santonio Holmes
5.) Jerry Angelo’s and Lovie Smith’s Gambles Pay Off
*Terrell Suggs should change his name to Terrell Rooney because he owns the Steelers. Suggs had three sacks Saturday, giving him 15.5 in 18 career games against Pittsburgh.
*A storyline from Baltimore that didn’t get talked about (because of the nonstop intensity of the contest itself) is whether this was Ed Reed’s final game. The future Hall of Fame safety is 32 and contemplated retirement this past offseason.
*The Atlanta Falcons need to add one more playmaker to the center of their defense. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton is solid but does not have star tools. Neither of the safeties is a game breaker.
*Was anyone else surprised that Pete Carroll elected to punt with his team down 28-10 and just over six minutes to play?
*When Danny Woodhead fumbled in the fourth quarter (recovered by the Patriots) it brought to mind the episode of Hard Knocks where Rex Ryan flipped out in the preseason finale after so many of the Jets backups fumbled. In that episode, Ryan put Woodhead back in the game specifically because he knew he wouldn’t cough up the ball.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Cromartie, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Bart Scott, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears, Danny Woodhead, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Eric Smith, Green Bay Packers, Ike Taylor, James Harrison, Jason Taylor, Jay Cutler, LaMarr Woodley, Mark Sanchez, Mike Devito, Mike Wallace, Mike Williams, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Seattle Seahawks, Terrell Suggs, Tom Brady, Tramon Williams, Troy Polamalu
Posted on: January 10, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 1:32 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
It’s tempting -– and rational –- to opine that the Kansas City Chiefs looked every bit like the young, untested playoff team it was Sunday. This was especially true offensively. Matt Cassel completed 9/18 passes for 70 yards and three interceptions. And, aside from a handful of impressive first half bursts from Jamaal Charles, Kansas City’s top-ranked rushing attack was unimpactful.
It’s hard to argue against Steelers-Ravens currently being the best rivalry in the NFL. Colts-Patriots is great, but aside from playoff time, those matchups have not always carried huge implications. The plethora of NFC East rivalries are fun but tend to wash each other out. The AFC West teams don’t like each other, but who cares? Bears-Packers is great rivalry from an all-time perspective, but currently, it’s only average because this is the first time since 2001 that both teams have reached the postseason.
It depends if you view NFL coaches and players as athletic competitors or entertainers. Football-wise, Patriots-Jets is good but not great. The Patriots embarrassed the Jets 45-3 in the last meeting, though Rex Ryan’s Jets had won two of three before that.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis is the longest-tenured Jet (11 seasons). Aside from 14-year veteran Trevor Pryce, injured nose tackle Kris Jenkins is the most recognized name along the defensive line. Backup Vernon Gholston is the next most recognized name, but only because the former No. 6 overall pick has been a monumental bust.
Second week in a row the Packer defense has been highlighted here. Did you see the job this unit did on Philadelphia’s explosive playmakers? Everyone, including Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, was expecting Dom Capers to blitz the daylights out of Michael Vick. Capers did so late in the second half, but for much of the game, he had superstar Swiss Army Knife Charles Woodson spy the quarterback. He dropped his linebackers into a safe zone coverage, which took away running lanes and Philly’s potent screen game. And, most surprisingly, Capers trusted that corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields could contain wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin -- which they did.
I have received harsh emails from two different fan bases this season: Chicago’s and Seattle’s. Bears fans called me out early in the season for saying their team’s success was a mirage; Seahawks fans called me out late last week for saying their team didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
To Bears fans: I’m more than happy to admit I was wrong. I incorrectly believed Mike Martz would be unwilling to compensate for Chicago’s shoddy offensive line by altering his complex offensive system. Martz was shrewd in the way he employed help blockers into his pass protections and he showed admirable humility (and sensibility) in substituting a few passes for runs.
10. Quick Hits: what went wrong for the wild card losers
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons, B.J. Raji, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Chicago Bears, Clay Matthews, Eric Berry, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Michael Vick, Mike Devito, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ray Lewis, Rex Ryan, Sam Shields, Seattle Seahawks, Terrell Suggs, Tramon Williams
Posted on: January 9, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2011 9:35 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
With their win vs. the Bears in Week 17, the Packers established themselves as the “non division winner nobody in the NFC wants to face in the playoffs.” Tonight, they showed you why.
Aaron Rodgers continued to establish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league – if you had to pick between Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning to lead your offense, that would be a tough choice at this point – and the Packers are tough on defense (Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, et al).
But here’s the scariest part about Green Bay. The Packers now apparently have a running game. And with a running game, they very well might be the best team in the NFC.
Funny, they haven’t had one of those for most of the year. After Ryan Grant was lost in the season-opener, Packers fans have been subject to watching Brandon Jackson be rather mediocre and John Kuhn try to convert himself from a fullback into more of a tailback (Kuhn has been pretty decent, actually).
But with the emergence of rookie RB James Starks, the Packers become that much more dangerous, because they take less pressure off Rodgers and because they make the play-action pass that much more effective.
Here's Rodgers talking about his running game:
Against the Eagles, Starks carried 23 times for 127 yards, including a key first down late in the fourth quarter that kept Green Bay’s last drive alive for another three plays, and behind that performance, Rodgers threw for three touchdowns. And think about this: Starks only played THREE games in the regular season (he was on the physically unable to perform list for much of the year). Most notably, he had 18 carries for 73 yards in Week 13 vs. the 49ers, but then he only played once in the next three games.
After tonight, I doubt he will be absent again.
So why hasn’t he been playing lately? Well, there have been whispers about his practice habits. Not necessarily his work ethic, but about what he actually accomplishes while at practice.
"Keep in mind this is a young kid who is still continuing to grow and continuing to develop," Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. "Each and every one of our backs, they have a role and when their number is called they'll jump in and respond. He certainly has all the capabilities of being (an every-down back). He's talented."
Yes, we saw that tonight.
And now the Falcons have to figure out a way to stop him. The last time these two squads faced off – in Week 12 with Atlanta needing a last-second field goal to pull out the victory – Green Bay’s running game was obsolete. Jackson carried the ball 10 times for 26 yards (actually, Rodgers led all rushers with 51 yards), and the Packers passing game was what led them to their near win.
Now, Green Bay has Starks, and he might just be the difference.
That's what the Eagles will tell you, anyway.
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