Friday, February 04, 2011

NFL -- Superbowl Predictions

With the Superbowl just two days away, I thought I would weigh in here with my prediction for the game as well as any other thoughts I have. In general, I think there is a decent chance we are looking at the best team in the NFC in the Packers -- who have played a lot better in the postseason than they did during the regular season -- against probably the next best team other than the Patriots in the AFC in the Pittsburgh Steelers. And we are also probably looking at the best quarterback in the NFC in Aaron Rodgers -- potentially second only to Philly's Mike Vick -- against the most clutch guy you're going to find in today's NFL in Big Ben Roethlisberger, who already has two superbowl victories in two appearances in just the last five seasons. This one has all the makings of a great game, with two excellent, well deserving teams bringing big stars to the contest looking to step up in big spots.

In Pittsburgh's favor, you've got the defense. The Packers have had a lot of success running the ball so far in the 2010-2011 post-season, featuring rookie James Starks out of nowhere to help balance what was otherwise a very pass-centered offensive attack in winning their three NFC playoff games. That flat-out will not happen in Dallas on Sunday. The Steelers' run defense is the best in the game today, and nobody but nobody runs the ball on them, least of all some rookie flash in the pan. So the run game will be totally out, which will help the Steelers to focus more squarely on Aaron Rodgers at qb. Although Rodgers has been good at evading the blitz with his feet and then making a play on the run with a very strong arm, the Steelers will likely throw some more unique blitz packages at Rodgers, designed to force him to throw the ball quickly rather than scramble around and make a play. How well Rodgers handles the Steelers' pressure is probably directly related to the Packers' chances of winning the game.

Also in the Steelers' favor is experience. The head coach has been here before, already the youngest Superbowl-winning head coach in NFL history. Many of the star players (James Harrison, Troy Polamalu) have been here and performed big recently. The quarterback has been to the Superbowl already twice before, winning both times on his way to a 10-2 post-season record at this point still young in his football career. As I mentioned, Big Ben is the most clutch of the clutch players in the NFL today, the ultimate guy you want to have the ball in the hands of when you need someone to make a play. He may not necessarily have the strongest arm, and his ball may not be the tightest spiral, but Ben Roth is a guy who avoids the rush as well as any qb in the sport, who escapes the pressure and then can throw on the run in a huge spot as well as anybody. The Packers, meanwhile, have just two defensive players with previous superbowl experience, and their head coach has a reputation for stepping down solidly in big games.

Oh, and any discussion of the Steelers' advantages in a big football game cannot forget perhaps the most influential thing they have in their corner -- the refs.

The argument for Green Bay is a little simpler, and it goes like this. This is probably the most potent passing offense in the NFL this year, and although the Steelers' strength against the run is not debatable, Pittsburgh's secondary has shown itself repeatedly this year to be beatable early and often, much unlike the Steeler teams of the recent past. In a nutshell, the Packers' greatest strength as a team (its passing game) clearly plays right into the Steelers' greatest weakness as a team (its pass defense). In conjunction with this seeming mismatch of Aaron Rodgers vs. the Steeler secondary, the Packers have a solid defense which should perform well against Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers' pounding run attack. Sure, Big Ben is going to make some big plays, but the Packers should be able to move the ball well through the air on offense, and should be able to hinder to some extent Pittsburgh's preferred mode of offense, the rushing game. Overall, it's a good matchup for the Packers as far as potential Superbowl opponents go, and Aaron Rodgers has got to be hungrier than Big Ben, with Ben already having two trophies on his mantle from the past few years.

In all, the line on the game is Green Bay -2.5. I understand why the Pack is favored given the way they have played this post-season and the way that NFL fans seems to have glommed on to this team almost from the preseason back in the summer of 2010, but just with increasing fervor over the last four or five weeks of the season. But I just can't get over the fact that this line is a little bit over-adjusted for these factors. The overall feeling I am left with is that the "true" line on this game would be more like a pick'em, but that the powers that be in Vegas know they need to take a few points away from the Packers here or else 90% of the action will come down on Green Bay's side. But this line not moving conclusively from the 2.5 it opened at up to even 3 points after two weeks in play tells me pretty much all I need to know here -- the big-time bettors who know their stuff think this line is too much in favor of Green Bay already. You've got the more experienced team, the Superbowl-winning head coach, the best clutch guy in the game, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison on defense, and the refs who repeatedly dictate that you never, ever, ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers (see, scarring it into the underside of my right arm is already working out for me!), and you're getting nearly a field goal to boot. The value here is clearly on Pittsburgh +2.5, and that's my pick for the game.

For shizz and giggles, the over/under on this game is 45 points in Las Vegas. Let's take the under, but just by a hair. I'm thinking more like a 21-19 game than a 26-24 game for this Superbowl.

In terms of some of the more interesting prop bets I see available on for this year's Superbowl:

1. How Many Times will FOX mention "Brett Favre" on TV during the Game?
Over 2.5: -160
Under 2.5: -120

This is an easy Over to me. I'm sure they won't go nuts talking about Favre all the time, but how does Favre not get mentioned three times in a Superbowl game with the Green Bay Packers in it, in the same year he just "retired"? Especially if the Packers are winning near the end, I figure Favre is good for at least one mention early and one during the game at some point for sure. Anything at the end should be gravy on this bet.

2. How many times will FOX mention "lockout" on TV during the Game? Over 1.5 (-110), Under 1.5 (-120)

This has to be an Under here I think. FOX might refer to the potential for a work stoppage, but the odds of them using the word "lockout" more than once? I would say very low, most likely in accordance with specific written instructions from the NFL to that effect.

3. What side of the ball will the players that perform the Gatorade shower be from?? Offense (+150) Defense (-200)

I'm seeing this game ending with Big Ben kneeling down a couple of times to secure a close victory. And if not that, then I see it ending with Aaron Rodgers doing the exact same thing. And that means that, with the offense on the field, the defense will be the ones to do the dousing. Go with Defense, even for the 1:2 odds.

4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (Over 22½ completions)

Take the over, take the over! The Pack will not be able to run the ball much, and there is not even much illusion here that they might be able to. Rodgers isn't going to get to 30 completions, but 23 seems like a realistically likely outcome here.

5. Total rushing yards for Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (Over 74½)

Take the over, take the over! Just like I expect Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball all day long, I expect the Steelers to keep trying to pound it with the run. Mendenhall is the kind of back who can get a lot of carries and keep running strong, and he put up 27 rushes for 121 yards against the Jets last week. I don't expect Rashard to equal that figure this week against the Packers, but 75 yards on the ground should happen for Pittsburgh's featured back in this game.

6. LeBron James 1st Half Points vs. LA Clippers: -115
Green Bay Packers 1st Half Points: -115

Here I like LeBron. James has been on fire lately, and I would be surprised if the Packers score 14 points in the first half on Sunday.

For those of you whose teams are still in it, or if you're taking a big position on any the game, best of luck!

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Blogger lightning36 said...

Don't know that I would agree with all your prop bet predictions, but I think your analusis of the game is spot-on. Sure, the Packers might win, but getting the Steelers AND points is one heck of a deal!

11:40 PM  
Blogger Poker 5050 blog said...

Awesome post, i like the way you broke it down, now all that hes to be is play the game :)

12:18 AM  

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