Each of your friendly neighborhood Acme Packing Company writers have submitted their predictions for Super Bowl XLV. In what could be chalked up to pure coincidence or a reflection of analyzing this game similarly, each of the five of us picked our Green Bay Packers to win tomorrow's game by a small margin, and each of us were frighteningly close to each other on the predicted score.
The APC Consensus: Green Bay 21.6, Pittsburgh 18.8. I guess this means that we're projecting a Packers win by 2.8 points. And since the line has fluctuated between 2.5 and 3 points, that puts us right with the Las Vegas oddsmakers on our projection. Follow the jump for our individual analyses and feel free to put your projections in the comments.
It's been 15 years since Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI. That team was largely built from within, relying on the draft to build a solid foundation, but a huge free agent signing (Reggie White) and a coup of a trade (Brett Favre) were equally crucial components to building that team. They overcame injuries during the season that sapped their offense (Robert Brooks) and even went on a hot streak at the end of the year to push them to the Super Bowl. They had the best offense, the best defense, the best record, the best everything. It's not so different from what we have now: a team built on the draft, a huge free agent (Charles Woodson) and trade coup (Clay Matthews), overcoming injuries (Grant, Finley, et al), and a ridiculous hot streak to get to the championship.
The way I see it, there's one crucial difference in the makeup of these two teams: age. The 1996 Packers were an average age of 27.1 years old; the 2011 Packers are 25.8 years old. That slight difference helps explain why the '96 squad was so dominant and why the current team has struggled in close games. The older team had more experience, more knowledge, and a better understanding for the game, which helped them prevent mistakes that would cost them games during the season.
That's my biggest concern on Sunday. On paper, Green Bay matches up very well with Pittsburgh, and even has the advantage in some areas. But Pittsburgh's collective experience might be enough to tip the scales in their favor. Nah, screw that. Prepare for a nail-biter that ends up as an instant classic: Packers 21, Steelers 20.
Green Bay may have limited experience when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the main area I choose to focus on is defense. Ben Roethlisberger will be without Maurkice Pouncey on Sunday, meaning that the Packers have a distinct pressure advantage, especially on the Desmond Bishop front. A lot does rely on Aaron Rodgers, but like the Bears game, this one all comes down to defense. Packers 23, Steelers 17.
When I try to remove myself from my fan biases, it's very hard to separate the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisburger, but Big Ben obviously has more experience in these situations. The Steelers have the better running back, but the Packers have the better receiving corps. Both teams have a good balance of intelligent players who play within themselves and big time playmakers on defense. So, I think the game could be decided early, with the team that did a better job with their film study and scripted plays possibly getting out to a two score lead in the first quarter before things even themselves out. Obviously, Mike Tomlin and his staff are no slouches in this department, but Mike McCarthy's scripted drives are often things of beauty. I like the Packers to get off to a good start and barely hold on through a dead even 2nd-4th quarters. Packers 20, Steelers 17.
Brandon submitted his pick to SBNation yesterday. You can see his reasoning here. Packers 21, Steelers 20.
Since week 16, the Packers have been the hottest team in the NFL. The emergence of James Starks has helped to take some heat off of Aaron Rodgers and when they're clicking, the Packers offense has been nearly unstoppable.
I think the difference over the last several weeks is that the defense has learned to seal the deal at the end of close games, and I expect the trend to continue in the Super Bowl. A late field goal by Mason Crosby will give Green Bay a three-point lead with enough time remaining for Ben Roethlisberger and company to make one last drive down the field. But I see this drive ending in a turnover, as Clay Matthews forces a fumble and the Packers recover to seal the win. Packers 23, Steelers 20.