Super Bowl XLV Pick: Handicapping Green Bay Packers Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Football historians have to be thrilled with the Super Bowl XLV matchup.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will represent the AFC in search of their seventh ring and are the team with the most Super Bowl rings in the history of the NFL.

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Their opposition, the Green Bay Packers, are equally impressive as they have the most professional titles ever, with three Super Bowls and nine NFL Championships.

This Super Bowl matchup has the potential to provide one of the most entertaining games in NFL history.

When handicapping the Super Bowl, there are plenty of variables to be investigated to include offense, defense, trends, intangibles, past games, and more.

The first thing to investigate is the Super Bowl XLV spread.

Super Bowl XLV spread

The Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers spread was released shortly after the conclusion of the AFC Championship.

Most sportsbooks opened with a line favoring Green Bay by about 1.5 and a total of 45 or 46 points. This did not come as a shock as the Packers were the trendy pick and arguably playing the best football of any team in the playoffs.

While both teams are extremely popular, the early money came in on the favorite and the line has moved.

Although the line will certainly change before kick-off, the Super Bowl spread as posted by Hollywood Sportsbook has the Packers favored by 2.5 with the total set at 45.

The Pittsburgh backers can find +3 currently at certain online sportsbooks.

This is the first time in nine years the team from the NFC is listed as the favorite.

With the line out for the big game, it’s time to investigate the teams.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Path To The Super Bowl

The Steelers path to the Super Bowl had a few bumps in the road, but they got the job done.

In the divisional round they defeated the Baltimore Ravens despite playing a poor first half. The second half surge propelled them to the Championship round.

The Steelers defeated the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.

www.hollywoodsportsbook.comThe Steelers performed flawlessly in the first half as they built a 24-3 lead at the half, but had to hold off a hard-charging Jets team to get the win. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not have glamorous stats in the AFC title game, as he tossed two interceptions, but with the game on the line it was Roethlisberger that sealed the victory.

The victory could be attributed to a sound running game and bruising defense, which is the Steelers way of winning football games.

Rashard Mendenhall is the featured back for Pittsburgh and sliced a diced a top ranked rush defense when he put up a good game against the Jets. The defense is the backbone of this team, but there will be more on that later.

Green Bay had a harder path to take to get to Dallas

Green Bay Packers Path To The Super Bowl

The Packers had to win three road games to make history as the only sixth seed to go to the big game from the NFC.

It started with a win over Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, but the most impressive road victory was a blowout over the top seed in the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons. That win made the Packers the odd-on favorite to win the Super Bowl.

The win over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game seemed routine. Although it was close at points during the game the Packers defense dominated the day.

The leader of this team and arguably their best player is quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. He had difficulties against the Bears defense but is the heart and soul of this Packers squad.

One thing that both of these teams have in common are dominating defenses.

Steel Curtain

Offenses get the headlines but defenses win ballgames. That saying rings true as both of these teams boast stellar defensive units.

The Steelers football team thrived off of the play of a defensive unit that is known for their hard hits. In the last nine games the Steelers have allowed more than 20 points only twice. Pittsburgh allowed 14.5 points per game in the regular season, ranking as one of the best in the NFL.

The Steelers have accounted for seven sacks in just two games in the playoffs, and they have forced four turnovers. The run unit is one of the best as Pittsburgh allowed less than 65 yards per game in the regular season this year to opponents on the ground.

The Steelers have a knack for creating the big play on defense. This was evident in the AFC Championship game when cornerback William Gay returned a Mark Sanchez fumble for a touchdown in what many considered the play of the game for the Steelers.

The defense is aggressive and can harass the opposing passer, making big plays for the defense. While the Steelers are one of the best, the Packers have an impressive defense as well.

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Pack-Attack

Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers looks like a genius as he has led the Packers tin becoming one of the most feared defensive units in all of football.

Green Bay has been dominant in the post-season with a defense that has forced six picks and has 10 sacks in the playoffs. The defense has weapons at seemingly every position and each week a new player steps up to make a play in the post season.

Cornerback Tramon Williams has three interceptions and one score; Sam Shields has two interceptions and one sack, and fiery linebacker Clay Matthews as 3.5 sacks in the post-season. The Packers defense allowed15.0 points per game in the regular season and they have also had the big play on defense in the playoffs.

In the NFC Championship it was nose tackle B.J. Raji who intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to seal the victory, dancing all the way to a Super Bowl appearance.

The Packers were the best team in the NFL at sacking the quarterback and can make the big play on any given play. While the defense is amazing, the Packers quick-strike offense should not be overlooked.

Green Bay Air Attack

Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers and has made the cheese heads forget all about that Brett Favre character that played for the Packers in the past.

The Packers ranked ninth in total offense in the regular season and have the ability to put up big points against any defense in the league. The passing game is the strength of the offense, but the Packers can run the ball when they need to.

The surprise for this team during the playoffs is running back James Starks who put up 263 yards on 70 carries in his rookie season in the playoffs. The Packers offense can mix it up when they need to but, Rodgers has developed into a top tiered quarterback in the NFL and is the captain of one of the deadliest air attacks in the game.

The Packers high-flying offense is in stark contrast to the offense run by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Ground Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers have an underrated offense.

Does Pittsburgh Have the Edge?

The strength of the offense is the ground game that averaged a robust 120 yards per game in the regular season. That was good enough for an 11th place ranking overall in rushing offense.Rashard Mendenhall is the go-to-guy out of the backfield and has put up some big numbers against some tough run stop units this season, most notably the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game. The Steelers also have a quality signal caller in Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger is the leader of this team and has a steady core of veteran receivers like Hines Ward and Heath Miller that allow him to move the ball down the field. The coaching staff has faith in Roethlisberger to get the job done and they have no problem putting the game in his hands. Roethlisberger has certain intangibles that cannot be overlooked in a game of this magnitude.

That is another area that needs to be looked at when handicapping a game, the intangibles.

Intangibles

ntangibles are the little things to look at that are not necessarily defined by statistics.

For example for Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger has the knack of avoiding the sack. The Packers are very aggressive at going after the quarterback, but Roethlisberger is one of the hardest signal callers to take down in the NFL.  That is something that should be accounted for when handicapping the big game.

While harder to handicap, another intangible to consider is the big play. One big play on defense or special teams can change the outcome of a game. It is obvious that both teams can come up with big play, making this intangible even on both sides of the ball.

Penalties always play a big role in any game to include the Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers racked up 758 penalty yards on the season, while the Steelers posted 716.

Finally turnovers are difficult to forecast but a huge intangible for the big game. The Green bay Packers were at +10 for the regular season, while the Steelers were at +17. However in the post season the Packers are at +3 and the Steelers are even at zero.

One more intangible that deserves a closer look is the injury list.

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Injuries

It’s the biggest game of the season and it’s the time of year when every player is banged up. Unless they are on their death bed it can be expected that every player that can be on the field, will be on the field.

The most notable injury for the Pittsburgh Steelers is center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey left in the first possession of his team’s 24-19 victory over the Jets after linebacker Bryan Thomas fell on his left leg, spraining Pouncey’s ankle.

Pouncey did not return to the game but said that he will play in the Super Bowl. He has started every game this year for Pittsburgh and will play, but even if he is taken out, the Steelers are deep on the offensive line.

The biggest injury for the Green bay Packers is quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers suffered a minor shoulder injury during the NFC Championship Game, but there’s no reason to think he won’t play in Super Bowl XLV. After the Jay Cutler PR nightmare in Chicago, it would take more than a shoulder injury to keep Rodgers out of the biggest game of his life.

This is Rodgers first Super Bowl which brings up the topic of experience.

Experience

The Steelers have all sorts of Super Bowl experience on this roster, and are used to playing under the spotlight in the biggest game of the season.

The only www.hollywoodsportsbook.comtwo men with Super Bowl experience on this entire Green Bay roster are Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, both of which were on the losing ends of their Super Bowls.

While experience is important to note, it is not a prerequisite for winning the big game and plenty of big players have had big games in the Super Bowl without any experience.

When it comes to betting on the big game, trends are worth a look.

Trends

Sports betting trends can be a bit misleading, but the key is finding ones that are relevant to the big game.

For example the Packers are 5-1 against the spread (ATS) when playing a team with a winning record and 5-1 ATS in the last six games overall. This shows a recent rate of covering the spread and playing well against winning teams.

However the Packers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven playoff games as a favorite, making them tough to back in this situation.

The Steelers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall and 9-1 ATS in their last 10 playoff games.  They are also 4-1 ATS when playing a team with a winning record and 4-1 ATS in their last five playoff games as an underdog. Overall the Steelers have excelled in the underdog role as evident by the 34-16-1 ATS record in their last 51 games as an underdog.

While trends are nice to look at, the past can also provide a good indication of the outcome of the big game.

Past Super Bowls

Some may find that looking at past Super Bowls is irrelevant since the teams are different, but past performances in the big game could provide an indication of how teams will deal with the pressure of the big stage.

For example favorites in the big game are 19-11 straight up and 12-16-2 ATS, including 4-9-2 ATS the last 15 games. Favorites that are taking on opponents off back-to-back straight up and against the spread wins are just 6-13-2 against the number.

Super Bowl favorites taking on an opponent that did not cover its championship game by 12 or more points are 8-6 straight up and 3-12-1 ATS. Finally one of the most interesting numbers that was revealed is that the last sixteen favorites to score 30 or less points are 2-14-1 against the number in the big game.

Finally it is interesting to note that the NFC has held the upper hand over the AFC in Super Bowl games in recent history, going 19-11 straight up and 18-10-2 against the spread.

Now that all of the data is gathered it is time to make a prediction on the big game.

Prediction

This is a battle of two great teams playing for the biggest prize in football. The game should be evenly matched and entertaining to watch.

I am going to side with the Pittsburgh Steelers +3. This game has the potential to be very close and with that in mind points could be at a premium. If this game comes down to the waning seconds I want the points on my side.

The Steelers have the ability to run the ball and therefore could control the clock keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands.

Pittsburgh is overloaded with players that have experience playing on the NFL’s biggest stage and the know how to respond under pressure. The public money is siding with the Packers and that is reason alone for me to go in the other direction.

Ben Roethlisberger gets his redemption and the Steelers win a close game on their way to winning a seventh title.

Final: Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Green Bay 17

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