Hundreds of paragraphs, dozens of bad pans, a multitude of pop culture references and a dash of football history later this blog is coming to the finish line...or as my Father commented after paging through my last two months of toil and sweat, "well, that certainly is a lot of words." Thanks Dad. But now as we stand perched on the TV Sports abyss that is the NHL Game of the Week (bring back Peter Puck, dammit) and Spring Training Baseball it's time to make our final selection of the season.
Now to call me a cynic is like saying Nicole Richie is a picky eater or Gary Busey's a bit quirky. Thus despite being faced with deciding between the theoretically two best team's in the NFL like Frank Costanza at the Festivus Airing of the Grievances I have a lot problems with these teams.
Looking at Pittsburgh I see a club that was not exactly a road demon at the end of the year, nearly getting outscored overall in 5 of their last six road games that included tilts with such under/non achievers as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Miami. They also lost to a then reeling Jet team before righting the ship versus the mailing-it-in pair of Carolina and Cleveland. So far in the playoffs it's been a mixed bag. Coming from behind via the arm of Roethlisberger to beat Baltimore then running off and hiding vs. a Jets team that came out flat behind a big running day from Mendenhall. In neither game did they top 300 yards in offense and there was still a chance for both opponents to overcome their horrendous Halfs and pull the game out late. Their run defense is unshakeable, but their pass D is more middle of the road, bolstered by a a league leading 48 sacks. Problem is Green Bay by their own admission doesn't care if they run for many yards as long as they stay close enough to get the requisite attempts to keep the defense honest. Additionally Aaron Rodgers is an effective runner, much better than Flacco or Sanchez which may help to mitigate the Steeler blitz.
But before you think we're leaning Green Bay's way let's look at the Pack's foibles of which we found several. First off the Lombardi Boys did not exactly play a killer schedule. Of their three wins vs. playoff teams in two (against the Eagles and Jets) they were outgained and the other was against a Bear team, that had clinched their #2 seed, in the last game of the year. In the playoffs their win over Atlanta seems a bit suspect when you consider that the Saints loss to Seattle seems to taint the quality of the whole NFC South pool. The following week in a return engagement with the Bears they almost let a guy who sounds like he should be as The"other" Eagles put it "out riding fences", Caleb Hanie, nearly pull off an improbable comeback in a game they should've won handily. In terms of offense we have complete faith in Aaron Rodgers which is good since James Starks and company should be as effective as Anderson Cooper's bodyguards in Cairo. Defensively Green Bay was very effective against the pass, but very average versus the run. So what does it all add up to?
We see a close game with each team's strengths and weaknesses playing off each other. That said Special Teams might play a big role and in terms of the kicking game Green Bay gets the nod. P Tim Masthay was nearly team MVP against Chicago, Mason Crosby we know is solid and as for Steeler kicker Shaun Suisham, well, like Michael Jackson' marriage to Lisa Marie Presley something just doesn't seem right. Hard to picture the Redskins castoff going all Vinatieri in this one. Aaron Rodgers is the ultimate hot hand here, but remember he did not throw a TD against the Bears and had two picks. With no threat at TE, Donald Driver nicked up and James Jones/Jordy Nelson not looking like guys who will step up Mr. Rodgers may not find it such a beautiful day in Harrison/Polumalu's neighborhood. Conversely the Steelers will try to run and should have some success. Even if Mike Wallace is eliminated as a deep threat Heath Miller and Hines Ward could be effective underneath. Therefore our prediction in order of strength is Under and Pittsburgh. Good luck...and if you've learned one thing here I think it's, please, stay off the drugs.