Four overrated factors for Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) turns upfield during the first quarter of their NFC Championship playoff game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on January 23, 2011. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. UPI /Mark Cowan

Is anyone else sick of hearing about these so-called factors as it pertains to Super Bowl XLV? It’s enough to make someone stab their own neck with a soldering iron.

1. The Steelers have more experience.
Talk to someone who believes the Steelers will beat the Packers and one of the first things out of their mouths is “the experience factor.” Pittsburgh has it – Green Bay doesn’t. So mark it down: Steelers 52, Packers 3. Experience, baby. But ask the Colts how “the experience factor” worked out for them last year. Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl four seasons prior and Drew Brees had never played in the big one so naturally, Indy would win. Only they didn’t. When the Patriots beat St. Louis in 2001, the Rams had the experience and they also walked out of the Superdome losers that night. The Bills had more Super Bowl experience than the Cowboys in 1992 and Dallas beat Buffalo 52-17 that year. Experience counts when it comes to making travel arraignments, acquiring enough tickets for family and friends, and dealing with the media. But when the ball is finally kicked off on Sunday, the only thing that matters is which team executes. Everything else – including previous experience – flies out the window.

2. Starks gives the Packers balance.
Over the past month, I’ve written several times on this blog about how running back James Starks has given the Packers’ offense balance, which he has. But when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure how much of an impact Starks will have for Green Bay on Sunday. You don’t attack the Steelers on the ground – you attack them through the air. The Packers’ strength offensively is their passing game and Mike McCarthy should want the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands and not Starks’. That’s not to say that Starks won’t be used because he will. But let’s not make him out to be the X-factor when everyone knows that the Steelers can be had through the air. I expect to see plenty of four-and-five receiver sets for the Packers and for them to get Pittsburgh in its nickel and dime sets early and often. There’s no reason to keep the Steelers’ base defense on the field when that’s how they can beat you. If/when the Packers build a lead in the second half, then I expect to see Starks.

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Early 2011 Super Bowl odds plus five sleeper NFC teams

According to, the Colts are 6/1 favorites to win the 2011 Super Bowl. Ironically enough, the team that beat the Colts in this year’s Super Bowl, the Saints, is 8/1 to win in 2011.

Seeing as how no NFC team has made back-to-back appearances in the Super Bowl since the Cowboys Packers did it in the late 90s, there is value on throwing some change on a couple of sleeper teams for next season.

For example:

Dallas Cowboys 12/1
The odds on the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl may never be better. Wade Phillips had their defense playing outstanding football at the end of the year and if Jerry Jones can find Tony Romo another playmaker to go along with Miles Austin and Jason Witten in the passing game, then the Cowboys will be dangerous again next season. This team got the playoff monkey off its back last year and assuming they have another solid offseason, they could easily win the NFC East again and possibly earn one of the top two seeds in the postseason.

Green Bay Packers 12/1
The Packers averaged almost 30 points a game last year thanks to an explosive passing attack that featured quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. If they can find a way to upgrade their offensive line in the offseason, they could have a top 5 offense again next season and be even more explosive than they were in 2009. And assuming the defense grows more comfortable in Dom Capers’ system, they should be improved in that area as well. If Brett Favre doesn’t come back and the Vikings don’t find a capable replacement for him under center, then the Packers will be the team to beat in the NFC North.

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Patriots favored to win Super Bowl XLIV

Despite becoming Super Bowl champs less than 72 hours ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t even favored to win next year’s Lombardi Trophy. According to odds makers, that honor belongs to the New England Patriots, who are 8/1 favorites to win Super Bowl XLIV.

Bill BelichickIronically, the Steelers aren’t even oddsmakers second choice to win Super Bowl 44, as the Dallas Cowboys are listed right behind the Patriots at 9/1 despite not making the playoffs themselves. Clearly oddsmakers think the public will hop back on the Cowboys’ bandwagon considering the immense talent they have and the opening of a brand new stadium.

After Dallas, then comes Pittsburgh at 10/1, but they share those odds with the New York Giants, who won Super Bowl XLII. The Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers round out the top six teams at 12/1, while the Baltimore Ravens (14/1), Tennessee Titans (16/1), Carolina Panthers (18/1) and Philadelphia Eagles (18/1) complete the top 10.

Granted these odds will change every week throughout the offseason, but it’s a bit surprising to see odds makers favor the Patriots despite their pending decision about what to do with Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. Apparently the online sports books feel that the public will still favor the Pats again next year, as well as the Cowboys, despite Dallas’s continued troubles in making the playoffs and getting past the first round.

The NFC Champion Cardinals have opened as 30/1 long shots to win Super Bowl XLIV.

Official Super Bowl XLIII Prediction Thread

The moment every TSR reader has been waiting for is finally here: It’s time for me to hand out my Super Bowl pick.

I know, I know – you guys have been dying for this blog to come out since the Super Bowl XLIII matchup was set, but I wanted to take my time. I decided to go back and re-watch every single Arizona Cardinal and Pittsburgh Steeler game from this season in order to figure out each teams’ tendencies and therefore make the ultimate prediction.

But when I turned on my DVR to begin re-watching all the games I saw I had a couple of “Reno 911” episodes saved and I got lost in all the hilarity. (That Jim Dangle is one funny S.O.B.)

Needless to say, I didn’t re-watch one game, didn’t find one tendency and therefore my “ultimate prediction” is just going to be a flat out guess. Either way…

This is how I see Sunday’s big game playing out. The game will be tight for almost the entire first quarter, with both defenses playing well earlier on. The Steelers will strike first with a touchdown, then add a field goal to go up 10-0 midway through the second quarter. But thanks to the “don’t prevent the score” defense that every team seems to use right before halftime, Pittsburgh gives up a score right before Bruce Springsteen starts warming up, which in turn gives the Cardinals hope.

Your halftime score: an uneventful 10-7 Pittsburgh lead.

But the second half is where the action starts to heat up. All of a sudden the Steelers begin drumming up pressure and Kurt Warner has zero time to throw. Pittsburgh’s front seven starts suffocating Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower, all the while moving the pocket back so Warner can’t step up and deliver passes in a timely manner.

This leads to multiple sacks for the Steelers, which they turn into great field position. The Arizona defense, which in the first half had played damn near perfect football, starts to cave. Willie Parker starts finding open running lanes, which opens up the passing game for Ben Roethlisberger, who converts several third down conversions that essentially takes the life out of the Cards’ defense. Pittsburgh strikes twice for touchdowns in the third quarter, taking a 24-7 lead into the fourth.

Early in the fourth, Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley takes advantage of an overly aggressive Pittsburgh front seven and the Cardinals start attacking the edges and seams of the Steeler defense. All of a sudden, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breatson start to make plays in the open field and Warner gets into a rhythm. The Cards reach paydirt on a 1-yard James touchdown run and with still 11 minutes to play in the game, ‘Zona is still very much alive at 24-14.

Thanks to the offensive resurgence, the Cardinal defense forces a three and out and with the Pittsburgh defense still tired, Warner hits Fitzgerald on a reverse, pitch-back bomb to get the score within a field goal at 24-21 with seven minutes left to play.

But that’s as close as the Cards get to victory. Thanks to Parker, the Steelers drive into Arizona territory, eating up most of the clock. Big Ben then finds Heath Miller in the back of the end zone on a broken 3rd and 7 play to put Arizona away.

Super Bowl XLIII Final: Steelers 31, Cardinals 21.

Not that it matters because everything I just wrote will happen exactly as I laid it out, but feel free to post your score prediction for the game. Remember, only the people who don’t post a prediction are wrong…and those who predict the losing team to win.

Greg Cossell uses immense film study to predict Super Bowl winner

Greg Cosell of made his Super Bowl XLIII prediction on Thursday and claimed victory for Pittsburgh because the, “one-dimensional Cardinals can’t beat Steelers D.”

He even gave a predicted final score:

Larry FitzgeraldAfter careful deliberation and hours and hours of film study the past 10 days, I have come to this conclusion about Super Bowl 43: Steelers 27, Cardinals 20.

After reading that, one could come to the conclusion that Cosell was being facetious. He didn’t really spend “hours and hours” of film study the past 10 days – he just said that as a light-hearted way to set up the rest of his column.

But then he wrote this halfway through his article:

One of the continuing problems I see on film is that offenses get overly focused on locating and accounting for Harrison. LeBeau understands this and then burdens the offensive line with a lot of movement before the snap, particularly after the pass protection gets set. That creates confusion in many instances, particularly when Harrison and Woodley line up on the same side. Often, another rusher, such as linebacker James Farrior, is not accounted for and has a free path to the quarterback.

Okay, maybe he was being serious about watching hours and hours of film to come to his prediction. That said, does anyone find his predicted score interesting? He spent hours and hours of film study to determine that the Steelers will win by seven and that the total combined score between the two teams will be 47? Wonder where we’ve seen those numbers before? Ah, yeah –those are the exact numbers that oddsmakers gave for the point spread and over/under total for the game.

Come on, Greg. It took you hours and hours of film preparation to come up with the exact same numbers oddsmakers set the lines at? You could do a little better than that.

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