Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Setting up the Super Bowl: a tale of two solid teams

As a diehard football fan, I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday's NFL conference championship games. Both the Packers-Bears and Jets-Steelers games offered some compelling drama, with both looking out of range early on and then getting close down the stretch thanks to solid comeback attempts. In the end, Green Bay and Pittsburgh prevailed, and that sets up a very intriguing Super Bowl matchup Feb. 6 between two of the NFL's most storied teams. The early indication is that the Packers are three-point favourites according to the Super Bowl spread courtesy of BetUS, and that line also carries plenty of stories with it.

It's interesting to me that Green Bay's coming into this as a solid favourite. Their performance was perhaps the more impressive one of the weekend, as they never really let Chicago get too close, but Aaron Rodgers wasn't up to the incredible standards he'd set earlier in the postseason (the ones that motivated me to pick the Packers last weekend). Rodgers finished a respectable 17 of 30 for 244 yards, but he didn't throw a touchdown pass and was picked off twice. If the Bears hadn't had plenty of quarterback issues of their own between Jay Cutler, Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie, this might not have been a Green Bay triumph.

Granted, Pittsburgh wasn't all that impressive Sunday either, and they were outscored 16-0 in the second half. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger's performance under centre was even worse by the numbers (10/19,133 yards, 2 picks). Still, the Steelers did a much better job on the ground, and their defence reinforced the plaudits it had received all year. Based on what both squads have done so far, I don't necessarily think there's a huge advantage one way or the other. To me, everything sets up for a very close contest and a fascinating game.

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