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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Kramer and Kunal talk keys to Super Bowl XLV

Still drying your tears over the White Stripes breaking up? Well, this Sunday drag your skinny jeans and technicolor ’80s puffy coat over to your local dorm lounge and take in the greatest event of the year, the friggin’ Super Bowl. There is nothing more American. Steelers and Packers, pizza, beer, and ’Mericuh. Love it or leave it. Here’s everything you need to be as knowledgeable about the game as you are about the best thrift stores in Brooklyn:


Kramer: So in terms of the offenses, it obviously starts and ends with the quarterback. Who do you like to have the better game, Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Rodgers?

Kunal: I’ll take Roethlisberger. Big Ben can shed tacklers in the backfield, move out of the pocket when necessary, and buy extra time with his feet. He’s the king of the broken plays, so it’s often not even about the play-calling—it’s about his ability to create some time and his receivers getting open. He›s facing a tough defense from the Packers, though—they rank fifth in the league in passing yards allowed. I could see him having a bad game if the Steelers get down early. They’ve been notoriously slow starters this year, and they rely pretty heavily on the run game, ranking 11th in the league in rushing yards per game, so he might be forced to throw the ball more than he likes. But Mike Tomlin’s got faith in this offensive line and their ability to bust open some holes for the run game, so I wouldn’t expect them to abandon it even if they are down at half.

Kramer: I am contractually obligated to disagree. I think that, though Big Ben does bring the kind of experience you want your quarterback to have in the biggest game of them all, he’s going to spend a lot of Sunday on the ground. The Steelers were 29th in the league in a pass protection formula that accounts for sacks, hurries and knockdowns. The Steelers’ O-line will also miss their starting center, rookie Maurkice Pouncey, so I think B.J. Raji and the Packers’ front seven will be able to create a lot of havoc in the backfield and force some bad throws. Facing the Packers and their top-notch secondary, including wily cornerback and ultimate badass Charles Woodson.

I don’t think Rodgers is in for the kind of virtuosic performance he had against the Falcons, because honestly Pittsburgh just has the kind of playmaking defense that won’t allow it. But he’s still been incredible this year, throwing for 3922 yards and 28 TDs.

Kunal: So how about halfbacks and receivers? I’d give a big advantage to the Packers because of their receiving corps, and I think that while James Starks is inexperienced, he’s not a major step down compared to Rashard Mendenhall. But Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are all great receivers who have made big plays in big games.

Kramer: I agree, especially about Greg Jennings—he’s a guy who can put the team on his back. I’d give Mendenhall a slight edge over Starks at tailback and I think that the Packers’ receivers are more experienced and sure-handed. The Steelers are still bringing Hines Ward and Heath Miller to the table though, so you can’t count them out. Antonio Brown also had a huge catch late to seal the game against Baltimore, so they have the guys to make the clutch plays.


Kunal: I give the nod to the Steelers on this one. However, I think the Packers offense could give Dick LeBeau’s unit fits early in the game. By the second half, though, I see the Steelers settling down and letting that number-one-rushing defense go to work. Not a whole lot of big names on the D-line for the Steelers, but they get after the quarterback plenty (48 sacks on the year), and are virtually wall-like on the ground. Green Bay probably has a better secondary, with Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Nick Collins, and that could play a factor if both quarterbacks end up running for their lives the whole game.

Kramer: I agree, I think the Steel Curtain is stronger than the Cheese Curtain, but only slightly. The Packers have a really strong secondary, as we discussed, but safety Troy Polamalu might be the best defensive player in this game, assuming he’s fully recovered from his Achilles injury. OLB James Harrison can also be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, and Rodgers will definitely have the image of Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a TD from Super Bowl XLIII in the back of his mind. Both D-lines are solid, but I give the edge to the Steelers here too, for their top-ranked run defense and my man from Mizzou, Ziggy Hood.

Keys to the Game and Predictions

Kunal’s Prediction: Steelers 27—Packers 24

If you can’t tell by now, I think the Packers will begin this game clicking on all cylinders—both sides of the ball. I think Cam Cameron will have 10-12 good plays scripted for the beginning of the game, and he’ll try to get Rodgers a few easy completions early. On the defensive side of the ball, I see Dom Capers bringing pressure from the outside, letting playmakers like Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews have a free run at ROFLBurger. I see the Steelers going into the locker room down at least 10 points, and coming out in the second half much like they did against Baltimore in the divisional round. The Packers won’t be able to get much on the ground after the first couple of quarters, and Big Ben will make some things happen. In my opinion, Big Ben and the Steelers’ defense complement each other better than any quarterback-defense pairing in the league. The Steelers’ relentless defense will keep the team in most games, and Ben Roetlisberger will always make big plays with the game on the line. No disrespect to Aaron Rodgers, who is fantastic, but there is no other quarterback I would want on my team for this game. I will close with this quote from Trevor Pryce:

“You can›t prepare for what he naturally does. How do you prepare to tackle a guy as big as a polar bear? How do you prepare for a guy who can flick a ball 50 yards at the drop of a dime? How do you prepare for a guy that can run like he does? How do you prepare for a guy that wants to win like he wants to win?”

Kramer’s Prediction: Packers 31—Steelers 24

Kunal and I have similar visions for the first half of this game. I see both defenses concentrating on shutting down the run early and succeeding, forcing both teams to turn to their QBs and receivers to make plays. This stage, which could come at the start of the second half or possibly even earlier, is when I think the Packers will open up a two-score lead and never look back. Rodgers has been nearly flawless this whole season, even against tough competition. The Steelers are 4-4 in their meetings with the top 10 teams in the league, while the Packers are a stout 7-3. Once the Steelers are down, that sterling Packers secondary will have ample opportunities to pick off an errant pass caused by some Clay Matthews pressure, so I see a fourth quarter pick sealing the game for Green Bay. Sorry, Wiz Khalifa.

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