The Pro Football Notebook

February 5, 2011 8:47 AM

One Last Day Of Media Hype

SuperBowlMediaHype.jpgWe're one day out from kickoff at Super Bowl XLV, and the Notebook takes one last run around the national media...

Adam Schien at Fox Sports runs through the key players on each team and asks whether they'll go boom or bust. He's boldest prediction is saying Troy Polamulu will be eaten alive by Aaron Rodgers. I work with a Steelers fan who is scared to death the Packers will do exactly what Schein suggests, and that's to junk the running game, spread the field and just led Rodgers deliver death-by-a-thousand-cuts to Pittsburgh. Think back to a Sunday night in mid-November and recall that's exactly how Tom Brady carved up the Pittsburgh defense. Then consider Rodgers has more receiving weapons than Brady, won't be playing them in the Steel City and will have a nice clean carpet to work with. If Green Bay does this and Polamulu indeed goes bust, the game will over by halftime.

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski does his own list of key questions on this game and raises the possibility above, Green Bay spreading the field and daring Pittsburgh to match up with their deep receiving corps. Wojo also leans Green Bay to win a very tough game. I can think of very few national commentators I've seen who think the Steelers are going to win--I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't come across them. This isn't going to be much comfort for the folks in Cheesehead Country--recall every national media commentator thought Wisconsin would win the Rose Bowl over TCU too. In both cases, betting markets thought differently. TCU was a favorite in Pasadena, and while Green Bay is the favorite on Sunday, I think it's noteworthy that the line hasn't moved off 2 ½. If there was any kind of wave among big bettors for the Packers, the line would have nudged to a clean field goal by now. Any line movements that take place from this point forward are driven by tourists in Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend and not anyone who really pays attention to this stuff.

One of the more interesting commentaries I came across with Clark Judge at CBS Sports, who examined how much Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison will affect the game on reputation alone. Harrison's been fined by the league several times for helmet-to-helmet hitting. Aaron Rodgers has missed one game with a concussion and took a brutal hit from Chicago's Julius Peppers in the NFC Championship Game. Pittsburgh's best hope at stopping the Green Bay passing game might be to get in the head of Rodgers and the Packers and Harrison's well-earned reputation is a way to do that. One possible consequence is that the Green Bay protection schemes focus so much on stopping Harrison that they lose sight of LaMarr Woodley on the other side, who is every bit as talented when it comes to wreaking havoc on the edge.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary on the NFL playoffs and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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