Our experts make their predictions for Super Bowl XLV (Steelers vs. Packers, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday)
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| Clark Judge: Packers 27, Steelers 24 |
I'll take the Packers, and here's why: Because the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey is too much for Pittsburgh to overcome. I know, the Steelers ran wild without him in the AFC Championship Game, but the New York Jets couldn't catch a cold that afternoon. Green Bay can tackle where the Jets could not. Now, follow the bread crumbs: If you reduce the Steelers to a one-dimensional offense, just as the Pittsburgh defense will reduce Green Bay to a one-dimensional offense, I'll tilt ever so slightly toward the Packers. Why? Because I like their cornerbacks and their secondary better. Of course, the mitigating factor here is experience. Pittsburgh has it; Green Bay does not. If this game is close at the end, and Ben Roethlisberger has the ball, he wins ... because that's what he almost always does.
Pete Prisco: Packers 30, Steelers 24
We will know the winner of Super Bowl XLV by the end of the first quarter. The team that figures out it can't just line up and play power football will be the winner. That will be the Green Bay Packers. I don't even think they try to run it early. If you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, it has had trouble with quarterbacks who get the ball out fast and accurately. Look what Tom Brady did to them this season and what Aaron Rodgers did to them last season. The Steelers are great against teams that want to line up and run it at them. The Packers aren't that type of team, and coach Mike McCarthy has actually been ripped for not running it enough. In this game, look for McCarthy to spread the Steelers out with three- and four-receiver looks and put their secondary people in matchup situations. That is a big advantage for Rodgers. He will look in this game a lot like he did in Atlanta -- sharp, accurate and in a groove. The Steelers pressure from the outside and Rodgers is outstanding at feeling it coming. See Atlanta game. I do think Ben Roethlisberger will make some plays on offense for the Steelers to keep it close. But the Steelers want to run the ball, even if they weren't great at it this season. Green Bay was vulnerable to the run in the regular season, but they improved in the playoffs. That will show up here. Neither team will run. But I think the Green Bay corners are better than the Steelers' corners in a big way. Rodgers hits several big throws on them and reaches 300-plus yards.
Gregg Doyel: Steelers 21, Packers 20
The Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV because that's what the Steelers do. They win this game. This group of players, led by this quarterback and that receiver and those defenders, wins this game every time they get here. And so they will win it again Sunday. That's as insightful as I can be. Otherwise, there's no reason to predict a Steelers win -- or a Packers win, for that matter. Both teams have offenses that rank among the top 10 (Pittsburgh is there in games with Ben Roethlisberger) and defenses ranked in the top five. Both have a quarterback who could one day be in the Hall of Fame. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year (Troy Polamalu) plays for Pittsburgh. The guy he just barely beat for the award (Clay Matthews) plays for Green Bay. It's too close to call, which is why I'm going with the only certainty I see here: Green Bay wants to win games like this; Pittsburgh does win games like this. And until I see them fail to win one of these, I will assume they will do what they do. Which means beating the Packers in a game as close as possible.
Mike Freeman: Packers 28, Steelers 24
At the beginning of the season, I picked the Green Bay Packers to reach the Super Bowl. Might as well ride the Packers train all the way now. Choo Choo. But I'm worried -- just a bit -- about the health and safety of my prediction. The reason is Ben Roethlisberger. He has becoming frighteningly good. The growth from his first Super Bowl -- when he was awful -- to now has been exponential. When he's not in bar bathrooms, he's one of the best winners I've seen in 20 years of covering football. That should scare the Packers. Trust me. It does. But the reason Green Bay wins a close, high-scoring game is because the only player possibly better than Roethlisberger is Aaron Rodgers. The fast track will benefit Rodgers (and Charles Woodson) better than any other two players. This field was built for this Packers offense. Rodgers' mobility, as it has all season, and especially in these playoffs, will frustrate the Steelers. His accuracy on passes will beat them. There is also a destiny aspect to Green Bay and yes I'm a believer in destiny. This is simply the Packers' year. It's their time.
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| Craig Morgan: Steelers 24, Packers 20 |
Here's my case for the Steelers winning a record seventh Super Bowl. If you're a Bears fan, you watched Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers look oh, so ordinary in three meetings with Chicago this season. The Packers offense averaged 13.7 points and 259 passing yards against a Bears defense that isn't as good as Pittsburgh's. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau assured me that Pittsburgh studied those Bears games intently and learned some valuable lessons. I'm also picking the Steelers because I believe the Packers' run game is a mirage -- that the long regular season was a truer test of ability than a three-game brandishing of the reverse wishbone that figures to snap against the league's top-ranked run defense (62.8 yards per game). And then there's all that championship experience and Ben Roethlisberger's gaudy playoff record -- the final factor in convincing me that the best team of the Super Bowl era will beat the best team of the pre-Super Bowl era. Green Bay's ability to overcome a glut of injuries is an amazing story, and Rodgers is more fun to watch than Brett Favre, but the Steelers have the pedigree and they also have Troy Polamalu.
Tom Silverstein: Packers 27, Steelers 21
There probably aren't two more evenly matched teams in the NFL than the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Besides having mirror-image defenses, they both can score points with the best of them. So who has the edge? I think the Packers have minor ones in two areas. One is their receivers against the Steelers' secondary. The other is punter Tim Masthay vs. Pittsburgh's Jeremy Kapinos. Coach Mike McCarthy is going to spread out the Steelers on defense and try to make safety Troy Polamalu cover. It's a bit of a gamble because it means the tackles, Chad Clifton and rookie Bryan Bulaga, have to hold down linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. I expect McCarthy to keep a back in on every passing play and apply help where needed. It's a tough call to make, but I'm going Packers.
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| Josh Katzowitz: Steelers 24, Packers 20 |
I understand why you would pick the Packers to win the Super Bowl. They have the momentum, a hot quarterback, an emerging run game and a stout defense. The ghost of Lombardi, the "Aaron Rodgers can finally win playoff games" buzz and the awesomeness of Clay Matthews' hair. All of that favors a Green Bay victory. Somehow, people forgot that Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the league -- not to mention the quarterback who has won two Super Bowls. They forget Rashard Mendenhall was a 1,200-yard, 13-touchdown rusher this season. They forgot the Steelers defense is going to turn the Packers into a one-dimensional offense by shutting down the run game. It certainly won't be easy for the Steelers. They'll be without center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Aaron Smith, and while Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji will give backup center Doug Legursky a tough time, Pittsburgh will have figured out how to minimize his deficiencies during its two weeks of preparation. Plus, Roethlisberger is the toughest quarterback in the league to muscle to the ground. All of that means another Super Bowl championship for the Steelers. And Lombardi's ghost, once again, will be denied a chance to celebrate.
Andy Benoit: Steelers 20, Packers 17
Both teams are going to spread the field and rely primarily on their star quarterback. The Packers' star quarterback has been arguably the hottest player in football over the past six weeks, but he hasn't faced a defense as potent as Pittsburgh's. The Packers don't have the talent to consistently fend off the Steelers front seven, so much of Rodgers' damage will have to be done before the snap. His protection adjustments and audibles will center on getting the ball out quickly. Because of this and the way individual matchups break down, if Green Bay wins on Sunday either Jordy Nelson or James Jones will have had a big game. But I'm not picking Green Bay to win. Yes, its offense is lethal. And the defense is dominant. But -- and pardon the flimsy analysis here -- it's just hard to picture this Steelers team losing a Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin's crew is experienced and always prepared, and their style of play lends itself to consistency on a big stage. Plus, there's the Ben Roethlisberger playmaking factor. Expect a slow start and efficient but methodical offenses on both sides.
Will Brinson: Packers 24, Steelers 21
How about a prediction on predictions as well: Every single one you see this year will feature a really close game. Rare will be the prediction that doesn't have a three-point swing. That's because it's almost impossible to lob out the possibility of a blowout with a matchup like this. And fairly difficult to take a look at either squad and truly find a substantial weakness. What it comes down to for me is that there's just too much of an apparent weakness with Pittsburgh's offensive line, particularly against the Green Bay front seven, to pick against the Packers. Super Bowl experience -- and the fact that Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin don't seem to lose these games -- is something that has to be heavily considered as well. But for whatever reason, the Packers don't seem like a "happy to be here" team. They look as polished and prepared for a big game as the Steelers do, and they've also looked relaxed and ready to compete for a championship. In the end, I think both offenses end up spreading the field with multiple-receiver sets with great frequency and fans get treated to a well-played, thrilling semi-shootout.