Mike Tomlin looks to guide Pittsburgh to its seventh Super Bowl title.
Surprised the Green Bay Packers opened as 2 ½-point Super Bowl favorites?
Yeah, so am I.
But bookmakers don’t want to be ambushed again with lopsided Green Bay money like they have during the past three weeks.
Bettors jumped on the Packers against Philadelphia in a wild-card matchup and have ridden Green Bay ever since, backing the Pack strong against Atlanta and in Sunday’s NFC title game versus Chicago.
The Packers opened minus three against the Bears before closing as 3 ½-point favorites. No road team had been favored by that much in a title game since the Los Angeles Rams played at Tampa Bay in 1979.
Just seven weeks ago the Packers lost to Detroit, 7-3. Green Bay’s playoff chances really looked dim when it lost the following week to New England. But Green Bay has won five in a row – all must-win games – to become the first NFC sixth-seed to reach the Super Bowl.
The Packers are the 10th different NFC team in 10 years to make the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh has won two of the last five Super Bowls. The Steelers have won an NFL-high six Super Bowls.
This is the shortest Super Bowl spread since Baltimore buried the New York Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXX on Jan. 28 of 2001.
Both Pittsburgh and Green Bay are widely popular teams with recreational bettors.
After the Packers nearly blew a 14-0 lead, though, against the Bears and their third-string quarterback, Caleb Hanie, you have to wonder if some gamblers want off the Green Bay bandwagon?
Pittsburgh was an underdog four times during the regular season. The Steelers won three of those games.
Underdogs have cashed seven of the past nine times in the Super Bowl, including the past three.
The two weeks between games is a break for Green Bay. The Packers have played three consecutive road games. Green Bay has a more diversified offense than Pittsburgh so extra preparation time gives Packer coach Mike McCarthy a chance to work on how to attack Pittsburgh’s top-rated defense.
No team has been able to run on Pittsburgh’s No. 1 ranked rush defense. The Steelers are vulnerable in the secondary, however, and Aaron Rodgers has been hot accounting for 25 touchdowns in his last 10 games with four interceptions.
The pass-happy Packers should be helped more than the run-oriented Steelers with the matchup being played indoors on Field Turf at Cowboys Stadium.
Rodgers last played inside a dome two weeks ago at Atlanta and lit the Falcons up for 366 yards passing and three touchdowns while completing 31 of 36 in a 48-21 blowout victory.
Pittsburgh’s playoff victories have been closer, coming from behind to beat Baltimore, 31-24, and holding off the New York Jets, 24-19.
Still, the Steelers represent the tougher AFC and are far healthier than Green Bay, which had to put 15 players on injured reserve.
The Steelers have superstar defenders in safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison along with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is 10-2 in the playoffs.
Only Green Bay’s Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr at 9-1 has compiled a better postseason record for quarterbacks starting at least 10 playoff games than Roethlisberger.
The ‘over/under’ is 46. This total seems high at first glance considering Pittsburgh gave up 14.5 points per game, while Green Bay allowed the second-fewest points per contest at 15.0.
The ‘under’ has cashed in five of the last six Super Bowls. The only one that didn’t during this span was Super Bowl XLIII when Pittsburgh edged Arizona, 27-23, with the combined 50 points going ‘over’ the 46 ½-point total. There were 16 points scored during the final three minutes that pushed that total ‘over.’