Photo: AP Images
For many bettors the 2.5 points the Packers were giving was just too good to be true. Both the sharps and the public are on Green Bay.But now that the line has moved to three at several major online outfits, including Bodog and Sportsbook (I promise, I’m not getting any kickback), we’re even more confident in the Steelers covering. Not that it matters: we put our money on Pittsburgh to win outright to take advantage of a 30% increased payout. (Here’s how to make a bet.)
The difference in the game is Rashard Mendenhall.
Thanks to the two weeks of distractions between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, the games start off notoriously slow – in the seven Super Bowls since the NFL switched to the two week layoff, the average total number of points in the first quarter is 5.6, and on five of those occasions the total was three points or less. While the Steelers can find their rhythm early with an effective ground game, the Packers have nothing in the way of a rushing attack (24th in yards per game, 25th in yards per carry) and their passing game needs to pick up where it left off two weeks ago. No easy task against the Steelers D.
And don’t confuse the Packers overall excellence on defence with a keen ability to stop the run. They were in the middle pack in rushing yards allowed per game and allowed the fifth most yards per game. Not that it would matter: Mendenhall ran wild on the Jets’ top-3 rush defence twice in his last five games.
Why are we harping on Mendenhall? Because outside of him, these teams match up pretty evenly. Stellar quarterbacks, opportunistic defenses, speedy receivers, good pass-rushes, etc. But Pittsburgh’s ability to control the tempo early, while the Packers inevitably search for fluidity will be the difference.
Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Considering the attention placed on the Super Bowl, it’s no surprise that the over/under is finally earning some love this week. The consensus is to take the under thanks in part to the aforementioned trend of slow-starting Super Bowls. The line started at 46 early last week, and has been pushed all the way down to 44.5.Before you buy into the under hype, keep in mind that five of the seven Super Bowls since the NFL switched a two-week layoff have exceeded 45 total points. Granted, none of those matchups had two defenses as well-regarded as those of Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
But the Steelers two previous playoff opponents, Baltimore and New York, are known for their defenses and Pittsburgh scored 31, and 24 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the Packers shredded Atlanta and Chicago, the fourth and fifth stingiest defenses in the NFL this year, for a combined 69 points.
Plus unlike all those matchups in freezing temperatures, the Super Bowl will be played indoors on turf. We’re not sure this game will go into the 70s – which is what you’d need to get a 100/1 pay out – but this game should exceed the total. And when in doubt, it’s always more fun to root for more scoring than less.
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