The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet eachother for the first time this season in Sunday's Super Bowl. Without the benefit of a regular season tilt to scrutinize, analysts are forced to go one degree of separation further, then, and look at common matchups. These are not hard to find for Super Bowl XLV. With both the NFC and AFC North taking on the AFC East, there are plenty of comparisons to be made.
For instance, Green Bay dropped an overtime game to the Miami Dolphins in Week 6 before the Steelers knocked them off by just one point in Week 7. The tables were turned, however, against the Jets, who were held scoreless by the Packers in Week 8 and took out the Steelers 22-17 in Week 15. Both teams managed a win over the Bills, though the Steelers were far too close for comfort, but really it's the matchup against New England that could prove the most telling. If the results from those two contests are to be believed, then Super Bowl XLV should be Green Bay's to lose.
Despite having their games against the Patriots come five weeks apart, both Pittsburgh and Green Bay faced the dominant team that were the favorites to win it all going into the postseason-and neither could handle the Pats, with the Steelers losing 26-39, and the Packers falling 31-27. While those scores alone seem to favor the Pack, the circumstances surrounding each game are what truly sets Green Bay's performance apart.
In Week 8, putting up 26 on the Patriots was no big deal. The Browns had just scored 34 the week before, and the Colts and Lions would both hit around that mark in the coming two weeks. At this point, the Patriots' defense was still going through its growing pains, and as per usual, a dominant performance was hurt by the complete inability of the team to effectively run the prevent defense. Those 26 points become a lot less impressive when you consider that Ben Roethlisberger was held to all of three in the first three quarters, only getting anything going when the Patriots' secondary started handing away 20+ yard gains in the fourth.
The Packers' 27, despite being only one point higher, is infinitely more impressive. It was not, after all, surrounded by four games where the Pats defense gave up on average 23 points, but by four games where the Pats gave up on average five points! And the Packers did this without Aaron Rodgers. That's thanks to the strong receiving corps that can be relied on regardless of who lines up under center. Obviously Greg Jennings is the standout, but there are at least four or five guys on that team that Rodgers can trust-exactly the sort of advantage that let Tom Brady put up 350 on the Steelers with 4 players getting 50-or-more yards. If Jermichael Finley were healthy and filling Rob Gronkowski's role, it'd be almost perfect.
Speaking of which, it's worth noting just exactly how the Patriots scored their 31 against Green Bay. It wasn't thanks to Tom Brady dominating through the air-he was held to just 163 yards. It was thanks to a kickoff return by Dan Connolly, of all people, and an interception returned by Kyle Arrington. All-together, the Patriots offense didn't actually look at all good against the Packers, and the Steelers just don't have the same level of firepower.
Of course, those are just two games, and nobody will be thinking back to Week 8 or Week 15 when things get underway in Dallas. But at least for now, looking back, we see two things: A Packers defense that held the best offense in the league in check, and a Steelers defense that faltered against it. With Aaron Rodgers, arguably the player closest to Brady right now, taking the snaps for Green Bay, it's hard not to like the Packers' chances.