When we made our preseason picks on our weekly FOXsports.com “Cosmic Schein” show, we picked the Green Bay Packers to raise the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET; kickoff at 6).
There’s no reason to back off now. Here’s why Green Bay will win it all, Schein 9 style.
9. The Packers’ defense is hot and unpredictable
The Steelers have a great, shutdown defense that has been playing fantastic football all year. But the Packers’ defense has been on fire down the stretch.
Green Bay forced six turnovers against the Giants in Week 16 in a must-win game. The Packers bottled up the Bears in Week 17 to clinch the sixth seed in the NFC. Remember when Michael Vick was all the rage in the NFL? Clay Matthews and the Packers made him a non-factor in Round 1 of the playoffs, with Tramon Williams picking off Vick on a potential game-winning drive. Williams again worked his magic in Atlanta, with a game-altering pick-six at the end of the first half. That took the air out of Atlanta as Dom Capers’ swarming defense melted Matty Ice. And on the B.J. Raji interception return for a touchdown, Raji said Capers called a defense he never called all year long.
Green Bay stops the run and the pass. There is no way that Rashard Mendenhall enjoys the success he had against the Jets.
Dick LeBeau rightly gets the accolades for being the best defensive coordinator in the sport. But Capers, from the same tree, does an incredible job getting his club ready, with multiple looks and pressures.
Which leads us to …
8. The Maurkice Pouncey injury
The fantastic Pittsburgh center suffered a high ankle sprain and a broken bone on Championship Sunday. The Steelers have dealt with a rash of injuries up front all year, putting the line in shambles. Pouncey was the lone rock, the sole bright spot. Give Doug Legursky credit for his toughness. But he’s Doug Legursky. If Pouncey can’t go, Raji, Cullen Jenkins and company are going to destroy the Pittsburgh line. Green Bay will force mistakes. And wait until the Steelers have to deal with Charles Woodson coming off the edge.
Speaking of Woodson …
7. The Charles Woodson factor
He is a great, multi-dimensional megastar on defense. Woodson will make a couple of game-changing plays on Super Bowl Sunday. Write this one down: Woodson will create at least one turnover via a pick or a forced fumble and record a sack of Big Ben. This is what he does. Ben Roethlisberger is magical in the big spot. He is also good for a few mental mistakes per game. Woodson can, and will, take advantage. Woodson and Williams will match up very well with the Steelers’ excellent receivers Mike Wallace and Hines Ward.
And I love Woodson’s approach since the Packers beat the Bears. While his teammates engage in “picture-gate” on Twitter, Woodson is exerting his leadership and preaching focus.
6. Underrated game changers on defense
Let’s assume for a second that Raji and Williams finally are getting the credit they have deserved all year (yes, I was that one voter who voted Raji a first-team All-Pro). Jenkins is now healthy, as the Bears found out last week. He can help disrupt the Pittsburgh offensive flow. Desmond Bishop makes plays at linebacker with his speed and knack for the ball. A.J. Hawk has enjoyed a renaissance. And Sam Shields was dominant on Championship Sunday.
5. Green Bay has the better quarterback
I’ve been getting your tweets all month on this subject. Ben has the rings. Ben is amazing in crunch time. Blah, blah, blah. Give me my guy Aaron Rodgers with his arm, accuracy, footwork, outstanding decision making and flair. He is playing at a fantastic level. Rodgers has dealt calmly and brilliantly with being the Brett Favre replacement in Green Bay. Thus, there is no chance he melts in the “big spot” on Super Bowl Sunday. Forget about the moment being too big. Precedent says he will own it and rewrite it. Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy are in an awesome zone together as a player and play caller, seemingly three steps ahead of the opposition.
4. Rodgers’ weapons match up very well with Pittsburgh
The genius of how Ted Thompson put together the Pack is on display every Sunday. The Packers’ receivers are dynamic and diverse and have been able to survive a major injury at tight end when the explosive Jermichael Finley was lost for the season. Greg Jennings is the star of the group. But McCarthy likes to tell us, and he’s right, about Rodgers’ incredible knack for making the open receiver his favorite receiver. Donald Driver is the cagey veteran. James Jones, while feast or famine at times, is very athletic. And Jordy Nelson had strong hands. The weakness on the Pittsburgh defense is the cornerback position, compounded by the injury to Bryant McFadden. I think the Packers’ receivers will put an instant, first-quarter dent into the Pittsburgh defense.
3. The Green Bay offensive line is strong
James Harrison is a star. LaMarr Woodley is his perfect complement. LeBeau brings heat. But regardless of what Steelers fans remember from the 2009 regular-season matchup against Green Bay, this Packers offensive line has jelled nicely. And think about the challenges in huge, must-win games down the stretch. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora both made the All-Pro second team; they were non-factors against this line. Julius Peppers and company went home quietly twice, both in Week 17 and in the NFC title game. John Abraham made the All-Pro first team; he was a zero against the Pack.
2. The threat of the run
Nobody runs on Pittsburgh. James Farrior, Casey Hampton and company are too good. McCarthy won’t be like Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and stubbornly stick with it early. James Starks will get some carries to give Pittsburgh something to think about, to give these great athletes a pause. It is much more effective than totally being one-dimensional. Rodgers, as a result, will hit a big home run to Jennings or Jones off play action.
1. Good karma
Let’s go through it.
Brett Favre’s “Q” rating has never been lower as the Packers get set for the Super Bowl. You know it kills the ego maniac. If Rodgers wins on Sunday, his first three years as the Packers quarterback will be as good or better than any three-year stretch Favre put together.
McCarthy, Thompson and President Mark Murphy, all excellent at what they do, finally will be given the kudos forever.
“Lombardi” is the hot play on Broadway.
Green Bay has endured so much this year, including 17 players going on injured reserve. Did you lose faith when the Packers lost to Washington and Miami or when they lost to Detroit?
Oh yeah — and I picked them in the preseason.
They are too good, too well-coached and too compelling. It’s Green Bay’s year. The Packers will beat the Steelers by a touchdown.