PITTSBURGH @ GREEN BAY (-3)
The Packers, the Steelers and the Cowboys are all what we call “public” teams. They have large fan bases throughout the country and the uninformed gambler will place bets on these teams without objectively considering them. This popularity along with ESPN’s penchant for creating inane stories to debate spurred a discussion over who is really America’s Team. It’s a title NFL Films assigned to the Dallas Cowboys many years ago and has spurred resentment ever since. ESPN.com as well as a few shows had this debate, and of course most argued the Steelers or the Packers were in fact America’s Team. Right. You know why you don’t hear Dallas fans defending this title? Because they don’t have to- they’re America’s Team, don’t forget it.
Aaron Rodgers is a bona-fide star. He’s the second best scramblers next to Vick and he’s arguably the best (at least the hottest) passer in the league. Of course, Rodgers has a tremendously talented group of receivers around him. The Packers are a running game away from having an absolutely dominant offense. These receivers against the Steelers’ secondary is the key match up to watch. Pittsburgh allowed Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes to break lose a couple of time. If it weren’t for some dicey play calling and the feast or famine style of Mark Sanchez, they could easily have lost the AFC title game. I think this game rests on the Steelers ability to get enough of a pass rush on Rodgers to relive the pressure form this secondary. The Packers will not be able to run on Pittsburgh. The tandem of Starks and Jackson doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of Steeler nation. Rodgers poses the biggest rushing threat to the Steelers. However, Packers coach Mike McCarthy seems stubbornly committed to running the ball. In the past, he has claimed that a team must run the ball 30 times to win a game. I think the early 20’s would be a more realistic approach in this game. The lack of a running game will be mitigated with quick slant passes. Again, this puts the pressure on the Steelers’ secondary, who must make tackles or else risk putting the speedy Packers’ receivers in the open field.
Conversely, I feel the Steelers can and will run the ball. I love what Rashard Mendenhall has done with the ball in his hands. Over the past few games, Mendenhall emerged as the workhorse back Pittsburg thought they were getting in the ’08 draft. He didn’t have a lot of yards against the stingy Baltimore D, but he did rack up two touchdowns. Against the Jets, Mendenhall went off for just under 150 yards and a score. He stands as the key for the Steelers.
Last week, Roethlisberger got it done in the 4th. However, he didn’t have a pass longer than 25 yards. Mendenhall kept the offense moving and alleviated the need for Big Ben to find guys like Mike Wallace for large gains. Mendenhall could keep Rodgers off the field and allow the Steelers to control the clock.
However, I do not feel comfortable entrusting my money to mostly underachieving running back. I love Rodgers, Jennings, Driver et al. They’re going to bring home the trophy named for a man who built their franchise and get the cover in the process.
PICK: GREEN BAY 37 - Pittsburgh 24
TAKE GB & OVER