I’m not exactly the go-to man for playoff predictions this year. I’m a paltry 4-6 and I’ve gone against the Steelers in their two previous games. The “previews” have been unquestionably and shamelessly biased. I am all about the Green Bay Packers and my prediction is not any different.
Green Bay Packers 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 14
I picked the Pack to win it all since the first week of September and I’m sticking with it. In all seriousness this is a tight tight matchup to predict and I believe in the end it will come down to the play in the trenches. Neither offensive line is anything special and Pittsburgh has injuries in this area. Maurkice Pouncey is out with an ankle injury and it’s a huge blow to an already banged up line. I expect Pittsburgh to play close attention to BJ Raji if not double team him, leaving a gap open for a blitzer to come in and hammer Ben Roethlisberger. Basically Green Bay’s road to victory is through getting to Roethlisberger and forcing him to make stupid mistakes.The secondary objective is to stifle Rashard Mendenhall. Pittsburgh’s offense made the New York Jets defense look amateurish once they established the run. Mendenhall had over 100 yards rushing and the offense sputtered once the running game stopped in the 2nd half. If Green Bay can take Mendenhall out of the game then it forces Pittsburgh to be one-dimensional, which opens up the opportunity for creating turnovers whether by a strip-sack or an INT. Of course by blitzing more you’re trusting your secondary to succeed in man coverage, and I don’t think Sam Shields will blanket Mike Wallace all game.
Pittsburgh’s route to winning is disrupting the rhythm of Aaron Rodgers. It is assumed that as fun as it has been to watch James Starks, he ain’t going anywhere against that brick wall of a Steelers D. I believe Pittsburgh’s secondary (particularly Bryant McFadden) is more of a liability downfield than Green Bay’s and Rodgers will perform well enough to win. This sounds crazy but I believe Aaron Rodgers will avoid James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley more than Ben Roethlisberger will evade the likes of BJ Raji, Clay Matthews, and Cullen Jenkins. Unlike Rodgers, Roethlisberger has a horrendous habit (perhaps brought upon his great strength to avoid sacks) of holding onto the ball far too long and it will cost him dearly.
My final factor for today is….kicking? Yes kicking. Shaun Suisham is 63-80 from 30-49 yards. Mason Crosby is 57/75 from the same distances, so Suisham actually has the edge percentage wise. However Suisham has a history of missing crucial field goals (particularly short ones) in close games, including against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs when he was a Redskin, and that horrendous chipshot miss which would’ve won them the game against the New Orleans Saints last year. Crosby isn’t much better but he is more consistent than the historically haphazard Suisham. Crosby will make 3 of 4 FG attempts to provide the only non-touchdown points of the game.
I can’t wait for this one, it’s 2:06 PM and it feels like the game is never going to start. FOX’s pre-game show is a bloody mess and I just want kickoff now!