During the test run/beta of the upcoming internet radio program, “The Altered Statesman” I was asked my thoughts and prediction of the big game this Sunday, Super Bowl XLV. Spurred by that query I thought about it some more and here is what I came up with:
I can’t see either team getting blown out. Both teams have great defenses, great coaching and it would take a turnover festival along the lines of the Bills in Super Bowl XVII…
painful flashback, I had to stave off some vomit there
Okay, I’m back. It would take a turnover festival of Billical proportions for this game to get out of hand. I expect it to be tight throughout.
Some Key Players:
If Troy Polamalu is a shadow of his normally brilliant self, as he was throughout the playoffs as he dealt with an Achilles issue, the Steelers are in trouble. He elevates the Steelers D from great to elite when he is healthy. I would put him among, if not at the top, of all the safeties I have ever watched. When he is at 100% he is a joy to watch, and a nightmare for the other team’s OC and QB.
Ziggy Hood really stepped up for the Steelers this year. I thought when the perennially underrated Aaron Smith went down earlier this year that the Steelers run D would take a big hit. Hood nixed that notion with his strong play at the line of scrimmage against the run and in addition he did and excellent job of pushing the pocket on passing downs. He will need to play another strong game for the Steelers to win this one.
Heath Miller is another one of those Steelers who does not get the credit he deserves. He is a good blocking Tight End and a key target for Big Ben on 3rd downs. I guess because he is not a fantasy stud that he does not get the ink (or characters) that he deserves from the press or the admiration that he deserves from fans outside of the Steel City.
B.J. Raji should have a monster game. I expect him to have then Big Ben will be running for his life. This guy is a stud and the true hero of the Packers D ( as all Nose Tackles are in the 3-4 scheme).
There can be no drops this game, you don’t get second chances against the Steelers. James Jones needs to be a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers. His drops late in the year were brutal. While he made that amazing catch in the Falcons game he had too many plays in the other games for it not to be something to watch.
James Starks needs to be at least adequate for the Packers to thrive against the Steelers D. The Packers need to get to as many 3rd and shorts as possible, and Starks hitting the right holes in the Pittsburgh D is key. There will not be many, and they won’t be there long so James needs to hit them when he can. If Dick LeBeau and his linebackers don’t have to worry about the running game and there are too many 3rd and longs, then Aaron Rodgers could be in for a short day given his concussion history. That potential issue is compounded by the fact that James Harrison is on the other side of the ball, cheap shot, I know.
More Cheap Shots:
- Jonathan Scott has done the unthinkable, he has usurped the title of worst Left Tackle to ever start in a Super Bowl from Mike Gandy of the Cardinals from Super Bowl XLIII. I know that sounds harsh, but I watched both play for the Bills; both guys are brutal. Big Ben makes Scott look better than he is. Trust me, the guy is a turnstile.
- If James Starks is truly the 3rd string halfback for the Packers, as they claim on their online depth chart dated 1/26/11, they are in trouble. I think Brandon Jackson is the guy for passing downs as he is a more experienced blocker, and you need that against the Steelers. But Starks won them the Eagles game and is the type of physical runner you need against the Steelers. He needs to touch the ball more than John Kuhn, who is listed ahead of him on that same chart. I smell gamesmanship on the part of the Packers.
The Steelers will not be able to overcome the injuries on the Offensive Line, in particular Maurkice Pouncey. B.J. Raji is a beast and I think he cause just enough problems for the Steelers to tip the balance of the game. This game will go down to the wire, but in the end the Packers will bring Lombardi home.
Packers 24 Steelers 20 “Mark it Dude”
All is lost in terms of catching Joe Munley at “The Altered States of Munley” in our season long NFL Pick Em. That does not mean that I am not playing for pride.
I have fond memories of Championship weekend. I was able to go to two AFC Championship games in the early 90′s: the 1990 tilt against the Los Angeles Raiders where the Bills thumped them 51-3 and the 1991 defensive standstill against the Denver Broncos that the Bills won 10-7. I almost forgave Carlton Bailey for his getting run over on a key 3rd down in Super Bowl XXV when he got the key pick six in the Denver game, almost.
It is truly an amazing place to be, when your team has just 60 minutes between them and the Super Bowl. If you have the means to go, I highly recommend it.*
I still get goosebumps when I think of the Raiders game, it was surreal for this then 15-year-old. I never thought the Bills would reach a Super Bowl in my lifetime. I became a die-hard fan with the 2-14 clubs that were tough to watch when you could; they were always blacked out for home games.
This weekend offers two great games. I personally think that a Bears-Jets Super Bowl would be a disaster on the field especially when you consider the match up I would like to see is so compelling. The Steelers D vs. Aaron Rodgers would be classic.
I am sure that the folks at Fox would love the top two markets with NFL teams to be represented. That is a lot of potential casual viewers who might just tune in to be part of the local experience. They get a lion’s share of those types to watch anyway, but Chicago and New
York Jersey? Record numbers of people would tune in.
Here are my picks for the games:
Green Bay at Chicago -
I know that statistically the Bears have a great D.
I have a bias against the Cover 2. Having watched the Bills teams of the mid-aughts stumble in trying to execute the scheme I just don’t see the appeal. The Bills teams of my youth played an attack 3-4 scheme. The laid back zone is terribly unexciting for this fan, especially after watching his team play terribly while trying to execute it.
The game rests on the shoulder pads of James Starks. I am sure that the Bears will not try to blitz Rodgers too much, it killed the Falcons when they could not get there. I suspect that Lovie Smith and his staff know Rodgers well enough that they will not allow him the gaps in coverage the Falcons did.
Jay Cutler is due for a Classic Cutleritis game; 2 picks and a fumble are what I see coming on Sunday. And in spite of Culteritis striking the Bears will keep it close. Their D will slow down the Pack enough to make this game a nail biter until the end.
The Pick: Packers 27 Bears 23
New York Jets at the Pittsburgh Steelers -
You would think that the Jets have not sucked for the better part of 40 years. I thought Rex Ryan would be the reason that I am rooting so hard against the Jersey Jets. But no, obnoxious Jets fans everywhere: around town, on the radio, on the television and online have sparked such a loathing that I would do just about anything for their dreams to be crushed.
I will not have to go that far. The Steelers D is a different animal with number 43 on the field. Hopefully he is healthier than a week ago when I thought he played a decidedly un-Polamalu game. He was not there when the Jets won in December.
I know the Jets broke a franchise history long schneid in Pittsburgh late in the season. That means nothing for this game. Was Mark Sanchez impacted because Vinny Testaverde and Richard Todd never won in the Steel City?
One of the most overrated statistics in all of sports is the historical record between two teams. What do the K-Gun era Bills and their record against anyone have to do with the Losman era Bills? Nothing. Any relevance that the stat may have had at one time has completely faded in the free agency era. It does not matter that the Jets finally won in Pittsburgh, it would not have mattered had they not in week 15.
I suspect the Jets will look to Dustin Keller early and often. If the Steelers shut him down I think they win going away. I expect Keller to get his shots.
The Steelers win a close one 27 – 17
Here’s hoping that my prognostication is better than it was the last two weeks. Enjoy everyone, the lockout/strike is coming.
*D-Bag Ferris Bueller moment.
This is it, do or die against the “Altered States of Munley”. He is up three picks for the season after I went a disastrous 1-3 during Wild Card Weekend. I picked emotionally, a common problem with my modus operandi when it comes to prognosticating football games.
So what will I do to try and climb back into this thing? Go back to the well of emotionally logical thought, of course. You have to stick with what got you to the dance. And that was what got me within 1 game of the title in the regular season.
Onto the picks:
Matchup: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
My Pick: The Baltimore Ravens
These teams are so closely matched. I would not be shocked if it resulted in the NFL’s first overtime under the new rules they established for the playoffs.* I think the key for the game will be a healthy Todd Heap for the Ravens and a not so healthy Troy Polamalu for the Steelers.
At least the people of Pittsburgh have Primanti Brothers and Iron City Beer** as coping mechanisms…oh and six Super Bowl titles.
Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
My Pick: The Green Bay Packers
I Aaron Rodgers I trust, horrible Arod moniker that I saw one of his teammates use last week notwithstanding. I have to agree with modern day Cro-Magnon Troy Aikman, he has the quickest release that I have seen since Rat Face Marino. Clay Matthews will provide just enough disruption (certainly not as much as Aaron Maybin could’ve**), James Starks continues to provide more balance to the Packers offense, and somewhere Brett Favre stares in a mirror mimicking throwing motions. The Pack move onto Seattle?
Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
My Pick: Seattle Seahawks
I do not trust Jay Cutler. I do not trust Mike Martz. So why the hell would I trust the combination of the two? The one hope that the Bears have is that Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Mode run from last week has Pete Carroll thinking that he can balance the game plan and give him some more carries. Don’t do it Pete. He is just as likely to show up on Michigan Avenue in a Go Kart on Saturday Night mowing down pedestrians while smoking a blunt as he is to be effective two weeks in a row.
Matchup: New York Jets at New England Patriots
My Pick: New England Patriots
Damn you Rex Ryan. Damn you to a place where all the all you can eat buffets are open but the metal serving trays are all empty. You are making me root for Tom Brady. Damn you. This has nothing to do with the 45-3 drubbing the Pats gave the Jets in week 13, rather it is the playoffs and it is awfully tough to bet against Brady. Oh and Rex…can’t stand the guy; in case you were wondering.
Good luck Joe. This is it. Do or die.
* I hate the fact that they resolved the supposed issue with such a contrived system. Have the teams play a full fifteen minute quarter, and again, and again, until there is a victor if you must. It is the one thing great about baseball, the rules stay the same even in extra innings. Otherwise they should have left well enough alone.
** Facetious, in case you needed help with that. And if you did facetious means I was kidding.
Wow, so I went 1-3 in my pick em extension against Joe Munley over at “The Altered States of Munley”. He increased his lead by 2 games and I need a huge 4-0 next weekend to have a shot at the season crown. On the plus side my .250 average would get me a Mike Gallego job if I had a decent glove at 2nd, short and the hot corner.
- The Marshawn Lynch run in the Seahawks stunning win over Saints was amazing. We saw echoes of that when he suited up for the Bills, but nothing like that.
- Maybe Saints fans can find their way back to reality now. You would think the Saints have been perennial contender for their entire history rather than regular doormats. They won a Super Bowl, great. But when Ricky Jackson slurred and stammered his way through his Hall of Fame speech talking about how Saints owner Tom Benson, who spent the better part of his tenure sleepwalking through each NFL season, should be there because they won it all I had to laugh and cry. It was funny at how biased Jackson’s logic was, and it was sad that his speech was so rambling and ill prepared.
- Why Rex? Why must you be such an ahole and make me root for Tom Brady?
- Darrell Revis gets away with more jostling and interference then any corner I can think of in recent memory. I guess grabbing Reggie Wayne’s jersey 8 yards down field is not a penalty when you are an island.
- Am I the only one who thinks that Colts head coach Jim Caldwell looks clueless whenever they cut to a shot of him on the sidelines? This may be unfair to him based on cutaway shots but his Colts teams have been badly outplayed and out-schemed in the last two second halves they have played in the post-season.
- I don’t know how you can love football and not be a fan of the way that Ray Lewis plays the game. I loathe the Ravens, but for a linebacker 14 years in to make plays the way he does is amazing.
- So Jamaal Charles gains over 1400 yards, scores your only TD of the game and you give him the ball 9 times Todd Haley? What were you thinking? I know he fumbled, and that hurt, but he, Thomas Jones and the running games were the keys to you being where you are. 19 total carries for the game was never going to get it done against the Ravens.
- James Starks, I knew he has it in him. Well maybe not that much “it” but I always like the way the UB product ran the ball. He ran for a Packer rookie playoff record123 yards. Pre-Spiller at 9, I had him on the radar for a late round pick for the Red, White and Blue.
- I know I am biased on this one but formerly disgruntled former Bill Jason Peters really tied that offensive line together for the Eagles yesterday, did he not?