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Posts Tagged ‘Troy Polamalu’

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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NFL Week 14 has been marked by teams reasserting themselves into the playoff conversation after stumbling last week (Colts, Chargers and Bucs) and by the absolute dominance of the New England Patriots.  The two other big stories concern the New York teams.  The Jets fell on their face in a loss to the Dolphins.  And the Giants escaped getting buried by snow and will play the Vikings in Detroit tomorrow night.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 14 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

New England Patriots – 36-7 at Chicago Bears

Larry English

Larry English was one of the Chargers turning in impressive performances in Week 14.

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 31-0 over their division rival Kansas City Chiefs

Worst Loss

Green Bay Packers – 3-7 at Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Disappointment

New York Jets

Offensive MVP

Tom Brady, New England Patriots – 27 completions 40 attempts 369 yards 2 TDs 113.4 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers – 2 interceptions (one returned 45 yards for a TD) 2 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals – 5-yard fake kick run for TD 5 FGs

Most Surprising Performance

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers – 17 completions 27 attempts 255 yards 3 TDs 130.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 27 completions 42 attempts 285 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 60.2 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 122 yards 1 carry 17 yards

Defensive Rookie

Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals – 40-yard interception return for a TD 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – 16 carries 123 yards 2 TDs 3 receptions 86 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I am shocked at how quickly the Patriots absolutely dismantled the Bears.  Coming off the dominant win on a Monday night and having to go to Chicago in a snowstorm I thought New England might at least start slow.
  • The Bills could have packed things up long ago.  The fact that they are still fighting for wins is impressive and bodes well for Chan Gailey in the future.  Now they just need a lot more talent.
  • What has happened to the Jets?  Their offensive line looks nowhere near as strong as it was.  Their passing game is almost completely out of sync.  Mark Sanchez looks bad much of the time, but when he does make good throws his receivers are dropping the balls.  With their next two games at Pittsburgh and at Chicago the Jets better find their rhythm fast.
  • Adding insult to injury – the Dolphins only had 30 yards net passing and still beat the Jets.
  • The Jaguars scored another impressive win today over the Raiders.  They can clinch the division next week by going into Indianapolis and beating the Colts.

One BIG Question

Is there an NFL team that can hang with the Patriots?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on week 14.  Post a comment below and let me know what surprised and disappointed you.

Photo source:  SD Dirk

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Last year the AFC North was truly a battle of elite defenses.  With three of the top five ranked defensive units in the NFL it was not easy to generate yardage against the Bengals, Steelers or Ravens.  The battle for the top of the division in 2010 will be no less bloody.

Division Winner

Baltimore Ravens

There is concern about the Ravens defensive backfield, and rightfully so.  Already a thin unit, they’ve lost Domonique Foxworth for the season and leader Ed Reed for an undetermined amount of time.  The key to success for the Baltimore defense will be their ability to generate a pass rush and protect the d-backs.  After losing 25 pounds in the offseason, I think Terrell Suggs will be back in that speed rushing role that will lead to much more pressure on the quarterback.  I really like the Ravens offense.  With wide receivers who can actually catch the ball, I think Joe Flacco takes a step toward elite status.

Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens

Is this the NFC North MVP?

Most Valuable Player

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens

After that last sentence it should be no surprise that I’m choosing Flacco for MVP.  The addition of Anquan Boldin will be a huge asset for him.  I watched the Ravens play a fair amount last year and one of my lasting memories of those games is that their receivers always seemed to drop the ball.  By bringing in Boldin, Donte’ Stallworth and two rookie tight ends that specialize in catching the ball Baltimore has really enhanced the potential of their passing game.

Most Important Player

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

This division has two of the best safeties in the NFL and quite possibly two of the best to ever play the game.  Polamalu’s leadership and ball hawking ability were sorely missed during the 11 games he was out last year.  For the Steelers to contend for the division they are going to need their defense to be in the top two or three in the NFL.  The key to that happening is Polamalu being on the field.

Offensive Player of the Year

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Another person who will benefit by the improved personnel in the Ravens passing game is Rice.  While his receiving numbers may go down slightly, his ability to find openings in opposing defenses should multiply now that they will have to give much more respect to the Ravens’ ability to move the ball through the air.

Defensive Player of the Year

LaMarr Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

This one was a tough call.  I debated between picking Woodley or Suggs.  Ultimately I chose Woodley because I think Aaron Smith returning to health and the growth of Lawrence Timmons will lead to more opportunities for Woodley and James Harrison to disrupt offenses.  Over the last two seasons Woodley has 11.5 and 13.5 sacks.  I would not be surprised to see that number continue to grow along that trajectory.

Top Newcomer

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Boldin is a huge addition to the Ravens’ offense.  In four of the last five seasons he has had at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards.  He also has 35 touchdowns in that period of time.  Boldin adds a whole new dimension to the Baltimore passing game, a true go-to guy, and will be a big factor in the growth of Flacco.

Top Rookie

Montario Hardesty, RB, Cleveland Browns

At six feet tall and 225 pounds, Hardesty has a more traditional look of a running back than the projected starter for the Browns, Jerome Harrison.  The second round pick’s speed and size should give him a good chance to at least split duties with Harrison, if not get a majority of the carries.

Most Improved

Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a long history of stellar linebackers and Timmons is positioned to take his place as the next one.  Ankle injuries slowed him down greatly last year, but his athleticism combined with the mentoring of James Farrior and Larry Foote should help him take a leap up in 2010.

Most Pressure

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a tumultous offseason, Roethlisberger goes into the season serving a suspension that is likely to be four games but could be as long as six.  The glow had already started to wear off of Big Ben during last season as information started coming out that he was not the best of teammates.  While the Rooneys quickly jettisoned Santonio Holmes for his indiscretions, they held on to Roethlisberger.  He has a lot to prove in 2010 after letting his teammates and the franchise down by already being suspended for at least a quarter of the season.  And he’ll have to do it with a weaker receiving corps.

Biggest Loss

Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of Santonio Holmes, I believe he’s the biggest loss in the division.  Last year was Holmes’ finest season as a pro.  He caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns.  Those are tough numbers to replace.  You’ve got to figure age is going to catch up with Hines Ward and you have to wonder how much of the success Mike Wallace had last year was due to the presence of Holmes as a bigger threat.  Behind those two the Steelers have another aging veteran (Antwaan Randle El) and a bunch of unproven youngsters.

How do you think the NFC North will play out in 2010?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: jeffweese

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