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Sports Check


Super Sunday here



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February 01, 2011 | 03:26 PM
This weekend is shaping up to be monumental.

And no, it's not because NBA doubleheaders are finally back on ABC.

It's simply due to the biggest game in all of sports, the Super Bowl.

This Sunday, around 5:30 p.m., it will be a matchup for the ages between the Green Bay Packers (13-6) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4), possibly the two most storied franchises in the National Football League.

The Packers have won 12 total NFL championships (more than any other franchise) and three Super Bowls, including the first two and Super Bowl XXXI. The entire state is buzzing over the red-hot Pack, winners of five straight games including three road playoff victories at higher-seeded Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. It is the biggest game for the Packers since losing Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos in 1998.

The Steelers know a thing or two about Super Bowls. If they win Sunday, it would be their third Super Bowl win in six years (2006 and 2009). Pittsburgh is the oldest franchise in the NFL, and they have won more Super Bowls (six) than any other team. Pittsburgh didn't have as tough a road to the big game as Green Bay did. While Green Bay is a six seed (only the second six seed to reach the Super Bowl), the Steelers had the luxury of a first-round bye and a No. 2 seed. Pittsburgh beat Baltimore and the New York Jets at home to reach this point.

Experience has been a buzz topic in the media all week regarding this game. The Packers, who may be the hottest team in the league, have only two starters that have played in a Super Bowl, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, but both played on losing teams. The Steelers don't have that problem. They are rich with Super Bowl veterans, including 14 current starters who have won a Super Bowl championship. The Steelers have 10 players with two rings and 25 players who have competed in a Super Bowl. Ironically, Packers fullback John Kuhn won a Super Bowl with the 2005 Steelers, but he was only on the practice squad. When asked earlier in the week in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article if experience matters, Green Bay tight end Donald Lee said "the hungry dog hunts harder than the fat dog." I agree completely.

That brings me to the quarterbacks. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion, and it will be the first Super Bowl appearance for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While Roethlisberger has a bit more experience, not many players are hotter right now than Rodgers. He carved up Atlanta's defense to the tune of 31for 36 for 366 yards and four touchdowns in his last indoor game (Sunday's game in Dallas is in a dome), and Rodgers has said his favorite shoes are his dome shoes. While both Big Ben and Rodgers have superior playmaking abilities, Rodgers has a slight advantage running and has had a knack for the big play in the playoffs. Advantage: Green Bay offense.

Defensively, both teams get after the quarterback. Pittsburgh led the league in sacks this year for 48. Green Bay was second with 47. The Steelers boast the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Troy Polamalu, known for jumping completely over the offensive line to sack the quarterback, and hard-hitting linebacker James Harrison, whose body of work this year would put the average civilian in prison. Also, both teams are in the top five in the NFL in interceptions and scoring defense. Pittsburgh leads the league with only 14.5 points allowed per game, while Green Bay is second with 15. The Packers feature the non-stop quarterback predator Clay Matthews on the outside pass rush and the "freezer," 340-pound B.J. Raji, at nose tackle. Pittsburgh will be without Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Poncey, who helped the Steelers average a solid 120 rushing yards per game this year. Look for Raji to be in Roethlisberger's grill all day with an inside pass rush. Advantage: Green Bay defense.

So there you have it. Green Bay has just a tad more firepower on each side of the ball than Pittsburgh. In what could become a shootout, Rodgers and his wide receiving corps of Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson will run rampant in the Pittsburgh secondary. However, with Mike Wallace as Pittsburgh's only big threat at wideout, expect Green Bay to blitz Big Ben early and often. Go Packers, but no matter who you're rooting for, make sure to have a great time with family, friends, some ice cold beverages and lots and lots of cheese. Prediction: Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 24

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