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Posts Tagged ‘B.J. Raji’

It all comes down to this…after two weeks of preparation for the teams and endless analysis from the NFL community, Super Bowl 45 is almost upon us.  And it should be a great matchup.  Both teams got off to great starts in their championship games and were able to hold off their opponents to advance to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Rings

Will the Packers or Steelers add to the collection?

I can see both teams winning this game.  Here are the key things to watch:

  • Early nerves – Watch how the Packers come out in the first quarter.  Do they look nervous?  Are they a little too pumped?  Or are they settling in quickly?  Having been here before the Steelers might be able to get a quick score.
  • Line of scrimmage battle – B.J. Raji has really taken off for the Packers.  He is an extremely disruptive force in the middle of their defensive line.  The Steelers are at a major disadvantage with Doug Legursky at center in place of the injured Maurkice Pouncey.  Pittsburgh is going to have to contain Raji and prevent him from blowing up their running plays and getting a quick jump on Ben Roethlisberger.
  • The outside edge – The Steelers should have an advantage in getting Rashard Mendenhall to the outside on runs.  Watch Green Bay’s defensive strategy to see if they run blitz outside the tackles to try to crumble the edge before Pittsburgh can establish it.
  • Four and five receiver sets – One of the more interesting story lines should be the offensive formations of the Packers.  Will they even try to run the ball?  Will they attempt to utilize the “Bone” formation at all?  Or will they just start from the get go with four and five receiver sets and try to spread the Steeler defense out?  Green Bay is likely to have a major advantage in multiple receiver sets as their wideouts have favorable matchups against the extended secondary of Pittsburgh.
  • The impact of Polamalu – Troy Polamalu has been kind of quiet in these playoffs.  As he’s still recovering from major bumps and bruises suffered throughout the season this last two weeks of rest should really help him.  Will the Steelers set him loose on blitzes?  Or will they need his help in coverage?

Who do I like: Packers 27-21

Why: Aaron Rodgers was spectacular in the Georgia Dome but struggled in the elements of Soldier Field.  He’ll be back inside for the Super Bowl and I expect him to be sharp.  The Packers should be able to do enough quick read stuff on offense to keep the nasty Steelers pass rushers off of Rodgers. 

I think Raji will play a big role for the Packers.  I think Pittsburgh will struggle to control him the whole game.  I do think the Steelers will have success running the ball and finding Heath Miller in the ball control passing game but I think their receivers will struggle to get open against the excellent Green Bay cornerbacks.  I think the Packers will call on their defense to make a big stop within the last two minutes and that the unit will be up to the task and seal the historical win for this great Green Bay franchise.

Photo source: jdtornow

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The letter x carved in stone

Is this the difference between success and failure?

I recently finished all of my 2010 NFL divisional previews.  Now I want to take a look at the X-Factors for each team.  In looking for an NFL X-Factor I wanted to find a player that would be a little bit off the radar but whose performance will impact their team’s record more than the average player.  

Arizona Cardinals – Joey Porter, LB

New to the Cardinals, Porter will be counted on to supply an outside pass rush and leadership for Arizona.  At 33 there are concerns about him wearing down but he did have nine sacks for the Dolphins last year.

Atlanta Falcons – Peria Jerry, DT

After missing most of last season due to injury, Jerry comes into the 2010 NFL season with high expectations.  The Falcons are hoping he will be able to provide some pass rush up the middle to open things up for John Abraham and Kroy Biermann at the ends.

Carolina Panthers – Tyler Brayton, DE

Somebody will need to fill the void left by the departure of Julius Peppers.  The Panthers are hoping Brayton will be one of the defensive ends to do it.  He looked excellent in the first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, racking up two quick sacks before getting hurt.

Chicago Bears – Chris Williams, T

New offensive coordinator Mike Martz loves to use seven step drops and long developing plays.  Jay Cutler will have no chance to complete those passes if he’s laying on his back.  Williams, who only has five NFL starts, will have to quickly get up to speed at left tackle.

Dallas Cowboys – Alan Ball, S

Coming into the season the Cowboys are pretty solid at every position on defense, with the exception of strong safety.  Having forced only 21 turnovers in 2009 they need a playmaker to come in and make things happen.  The third year man from Illinois will have every opportunity to be that player.

Detroit Lions – DeAndre Levy, LB

As the middle linebacker in the Lions 4-3 scheme, Levy will be called on to make plays and be a leader.  That may be a tough task for the second year man from Wisconsin, especially when there is not a lot of talent surrounding him.

Green Bay Packers – B.J. Raji, NT/DE

Raji will be an important piece of the Packers’ defense in 2010.  In a 3-4 scheme, Green Bay relies heavily on their front line to clog the lanes and stop the run.  Raji is likely to move around between end and nose tackle depending on where he’s most effective.

Minnesota Vikings – Percy Harvin, WR

With the injury to Sidney Rice, Harvin becomes even more important to the Vikings.  The question will be – how will his migraines affect his ability to play.  He was very effective as a rookie and if he can stay on the field he appears ready to take a step toward stardom.

New Orleans Saints – Alex Brown, DE

While solid in the playoffs, the Saints defense gave up a lot of yards in the regular season, ranking 21st in the NFL against the run and 26th against the pass.  Brown takes the spot of Charles Grant and will be expected to be a run stopper and a pass rusher.

New York Giants – Kenny Phillips, S

Expected to have a breakout year in 2009, Phillips got hurt, had knee surgery and missed 14 games.  A healthy return by Phillips will go a long way toward helping the Giant defense return to prominence.

Philadelphia Eagles – Jason Peters, T

Peters was signed prior to last season with the expectation that he would be cemented at left tackle for years to come.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, he struggled.  For new quarterback Kevin Kolb to succeed steady pass protection and solid run blocking will be critical.

San Francisco 49ers – Anthony Davis, T

The Niners took Davis with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft and expect him to deliver dividends immediately.  They’ve slotted him in at right tackle and are counting on him to improve the pass protection for a unit that has allowed more sacks than any other team in the NFL over the last three season.

Seattle Seahawks – Chris Clemons, DE/LB

Clemons was traded from the Eagles to the Seahawks in March.  Seattle was a disappointing 26th in sacks last year.  They hope that Clemons will be a dangerous pass rusher in coach Pete Carroll’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 attack.

St. Louis Rams – Rodger Saffold, T

Whoever lines up at left tackle will be a critical piece in the Rams’ protection of number one pick Sam Bradford.  Saffold, a fellow rookie, has seized that position by playing well in training camp.  He will have to be a key part of keeping Bradford healthy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Williams, WR

The Bucs need a lot of help in a lot of places.  They are building solidly through the draft and if this year’s fourth round pick Williams, who is generating a lot of training camp buzz, can offer a dynamic option for last year’s first round pick Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay will be well on their way toward solidifying the offense.

Washington Redskins – Clinton Portis, RB

He’s the most well known name on this list and will be an important factor in the success of Washington in 2010.  Portis is only 28 but has a lot of miles on the treads.  A solid, healthy season would provide a big boost to the Redskins.

What do you think?  Who are your NFC X-Factors?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Editor B

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