The Green Bay Packers (13-6 SU, 12-7 ATS) are only the second No. 6
seed in NFL playoff history to advance to the Super Bowl, and they’ve opened as
favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4 SU, 12-6 ATS) for SB XLV at
Cowboys Stadium (6:30 PM ET, FOX).
The NFL prides itself on parity, and the early betting odds for Super
Bowl XLV reflect that. The Green Bay Packers didn’t play a single home game in getting to
the big game for the first time since 1998, but that didn’t stop sportsbooks from
offering them up as 2.5-point chalk against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before all you Pittsburgh backers call disrespect, enjoy the points.
Besides, at least in terms of the winning spread wager, the underdog has been
tremendously successful over the last decade. The team taking points into the
game is 7-2 ATS in the last nine Super Bowl matchups, including last year when
New Orleans (+4.5) upset Indianapolis 31-17 at Sun Life Stadium.
The total for SB XLV opened at 45.5 following the completion of the
conference championship games on Sunday night.
Retired and buried
Aaron Rodgers is doing an excellent job making Green Bay bettors
forget about the legendary Brett Favre, and he’s front and center for the grand
finale in Arlington.
Rodgers carries the highest postseason passer rating in NFL history
(minimum 100 attempts) into the Super Bowl, even if he put in an average
performance at best in the Packers’ 21-14 win over Chicago in the NFC
Championship Game at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon.
Rodgers finished 17 of 30 for 244 yards with two interceptions against
the Bears, although he did rush for 39 yards on seven carries with a score on
the ground in the Green Bay payday as 3.5-point faves.
The Packers ride into their date with the Steelers winners of five straight
games SU (4-1 ATS) since their 31-27 loss at New England on December 19 in a
game in which Rodgers (concussion) didn’t play. Overall, Green Bay is 10-3 SU
and against the number in its last 13 games including the playoffs.
Know your enemy
The mainstream media will try to bill the game as the Packers’ offense
against the Steelers’ defense, but Green Bay’s defense is one of the best in
the business. The Packers finished the regular season ranked fifth in passing
(257.8 YPG), but they were also fifth in total defense (309.1 YPG) and against
the pass (194.2 YPG) and second in scoring defense (15.0 PPG).
In fact, football purists have to love this Super Bowl matchup with
all the discussion about the changing face of the NFL as a pass-first,
ask-questions-later league. The regular season leader in scoring defense (14.5
PPG), Pittsburgh was second in total defense (276.8 YPG) and first against the
run (62.8 YPG).
Defense wins championships? Seems like it this year: The last two
teams standing were ranked first and second in points allowed.
The Steelers (-4) held off the Jets 24-19 in the AFC Championship Game
at Heinz Field on Sunday night, and with the victory, they advanced to their
third Super Bowl in the last six years.
Pittsburgh led 24-3 at the half against New York, which got back in
the game thanks to some sloppy play by the Steelers’ offense. Ben
Roethlisberger went 10 of 19 for 133 yards with two picks in the victory, as
Rashard Mendenhall (121 yards rushing, 27 attempts, TD) led a Pittsburgh ground
game that posted 166 yards against the Jets.
The Steelers roll into Cowboys Stadium 8-1 SU and a solid 7-2 ATS
since their 39-26 loss to the Patriots (+4.5) on November 14, but their road
record is the biggest thing to take away from their season. Pittsburgh’s only
loss away from Heinz Field came in a 20-10 defeat at New Orleans (-1.5) on
Steelers’ Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey left in the first quarter
of the AFC Championship Game with a left ankle injury and did not return.
Pouncey was replaced by Doug Legursky, who contributed to a botched snap that
resulted in a Pittsburgh safety in the fourth quarter on Sunday, keep an eye on the injury page to see how things go.