Thursday, February 3, 2011

Playoff Pickoff's Super Finish...

Well, the moment we've all been waiting for is finally upon us. We're just one game away from crowning the first (and possibly only) ever Talbot Talks Sports Playoff Pickoff Champion. The Super Bowl pick is worth four points. Most points wins. The tiebreaker is overall record. If we need it, whoever comes closest to predicting the final score will be the next tiebreaker. May the best man, woman or cat win.

Since this will be my last post for a while, I've decided to enlighten you with just my pick.

This pick's got me tossing and turning. One day I'm sure it's the Packers. The next day it's gotta be the Steelers. When asked if he'd bet on this game, Phil Simms replied, "Yeah, I'd bet a hamburger on it, and that's about it." The thing is Phil, we are betting a hamburger on it. And not just any plain old hamburger. We've got a Wendy's double-stack. Things got two patties! So this is a pretty big decision. One I don't want to get wrong.

In this whole process I've only consistently bet on one team, the Steelers, and they've won every time. They seem like such a safe bet though. And they're not the fun team to watch. Two years ago, when Larry Fitzgerald put on a show for the ages against the Steelers in the Super Bowl, I was rooting for the Steelers. Why? Because my roommate was dumb enough to bet me $20 straight-up that the Cardinals would win.

The Cardinals were the young, high-octane, exciting team. Fitzgerald and Warner put together one of the most memorable and exciting halves of football I have ever seen. And while the entire room was jubilant, watching the Cardinals pull off potential history, I was forced to view the situation as me losing 20 bucks. For a college guy that was a lot. Ten beers at Hula's with a bracelet, 20 beers from "Sweaterman" at Toads, 2,000 beers at Aunchies during "penny drafts". That's just a lot to give up for a great Super Bowl upset.

Anyways, I won my $20 thanks to Santonio Holmes (a man I now hate), who caught the game-winning TD with seconds remaining.

(I was actually pissed he caught it. A Pitt field goal would have sent the game into OT at 23-23. In the "boxes" game I had Cardinals 6, Steelers 3. If the Cardinals won it in OT on a field goal, I would have won $175 (-20 to my friend) = $155. If the Steelers won, I still win $20. Would've been a nice situation. I guess I should've known the boxes weren't meant to be when the Cards had the ball, first and goal on the 1, with 20 seconds left in the first half down 10-7. I had Cards 4, Pitt 0. The Cards literally had no running game. They failed to move the ball one yard on first or second down, then threw a 100 yard interception returned for a TD to James Harrison. One yard would have landed me $75. I will never win in the boxes game).

Moral of the story. A lot of things went wrong for me that Sunday. Sure I won $20, but it could've been a lot more, and I could have had a lot more fun. On Fitzgerald's go-ahead touchdown I remember thinking, "Wow, I'm gonna lose 20 bucks." When I should have been thinking, "Wow this unbelievable." All because I picked the grind-it-out, hard-nosed, win ugly, we've been there before Steelers. I think I'd much prefer the thrill of seeing the young, exciting, underdog win (even though the Packers are favored by 2.5 - Why? I have no idea).

But with all this being said, we're playing for pride here. I need to go with who I honestly believe will win. I may root for the Packers (cut to Toph shaking his head disapprovingly), but that doesn't mean I'm going to pick them. I need to put myself in the best position to walk away with the pride, the double-stack, or at least some dignity over my girlfriend and little sister.

So here's what I believe. Aaron Rodgers has to play absolutely perfect for the Packers to win. I'm talking no mistakes. The reason being, I don't think the Packers can run the ball on this Steeler front seven. It's the best in the game. Starks has been inconsistent from week to week, but this Steelers defense has never faulted against the run. Their secondary is vulnerable though. Which is why, for the Packers, the game rests in Rodgers' hands. He's going to have to be almost flawless.

A lot of critics would counter saying that the Packers defense is really good, and they'll take pressure off of Rodgers. I choose to disagree. They say games are won in the trenches. Or at least, that's what retired offensive and defensive linemen say, so I'll take their word for it. The Packers defensive ends and linebackers are undersized, but they rely on their speed and quickness to beat linemen off the edge and set up bull-rushes when the linemen over-commit to the edge. Clay Matthews especially excels at this. Offensive linemen have to respect his speed to the outside. When they over-commit and fall off balance, Matthews can effectively bull-rush his way to the quarterback. It's been his most effective move all year. But this week, he'll be lined up against Flozell Adams. Flozell Adams is a BIG man. A very BIG man. He may have lost a step, but his size allows him to over-commit to the outside, because let's face it, Matthews isn't getting anywhere on him with the bull-rush. This creates problems for Green Bay. It's hard enough to take Roethlisberger down, but when you can't get any pressure on him, he's likely to pick apart the Packers with multiple tight-end sets that create mismatches in their secondary. The real problem for the Packers lies in the rush defense though. Without pressure in the backfield from the Packers undersized line, Mendenhall will run free. Pittsburgh can control the game and keep Rodgers off the field.

So the real question is: Will Rodgers play perfect (which he's capable of doing), be the hero, and single-handedly carry the Packers to a Super Bowl championship in a shootout, or will he make mistakes and be the goat? It's really tough to bet against Rodgers in the playoffs right now, and it's even tougher to bet against the idea that this will absolutely crush Brett Favre.

But when in doubt, it's probably better to take the points (even though we're not betting on the spread) and the team with experience.

So I'll take the Steelers.

Image taken from Google Images


Gamechanger said...

its a shame that mc is mathematically eliminated from the title because he'd definitely take down the tiebreaker with his score prediction

Talbot Talks Sports said...

It really is a shame. I believe his exact words were: "103-2 Steel City. Because Mendenhall took dance lessons."