Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl XL Preview

Last Week: 1-1
Playoffs: 7-3

Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Vs. Seattle
Super Bowl XL pits a storied franchise against one that was not even in the league when Pittsburgh won it's first 2 Super Bowls. It also pits 2 of the game's best current coaches. Forgotten amidst the press clippings other coaches such as Bill Belichick, John Fox, Andy Reid, Bill Parcels, Joe Gibbs, and Marvin Lewis have received in the last few years are Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren. Cowher has now coached the Steelers for 14 season full seasons. He has 141 victories, meaning he averages 10 wins a season. He had had but 3 losing seasons in his 14 years, and none worse than 6-10. His teams have won 8 division titles, made 10 postseason appearances, and played in one Super Bowl in his career. Mike Homgren has also been coaching for 14 straight seasons, albeit with 2 different franchises. In that time span, he has 138 victories, coupled with only 2 losing seasons. His teams have won 6 division titles, made 10 postseason appearances, and appeared in 2 Super Bowls, winning one of them. In this era of parity in the NFL where teams go from Super Bowl participant to 6-10 also ran in the span of 1 season, these men have stood the test of time. The irony is that the coach of the team that wins this game will probably be bound for Canton when he retires, while the loser may unfairly receive the label of choker, and with it the inferrence that he is incapable of winning the big one.

So what are the key matchups to watch? For Seattle to win, they must contain the Pittsburgh passing game. While Pittsburgh still runs a lot (leading the NFL in rushing attempts), they are one of the most prolific passing teams. They lead the league in yards per pass attempt, a much better indicator of passing strength than simply passing yards. The key matchup when Pittsburgh has the ball will not be Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill, and D.D. Lewis against the Pittsburgh O-line and Jerome Bettis. It will be their French secondary of Jordan Babineaux and Marcus Trufant against Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. If they can contain, not stop, the Pittsburgh passing game, the Seahawks will be in good shape beacuse I do not believe Pittsburgh will be able to move the ball on the ground.

On offense, Seattle lead the league in points scored this season. They have not lost a meaningful game since Week 4 against the Washington Redskins. And yet somehow, they are underdogs, and columnists like Skip Bayless insist they are one of the worst Super Bowl teams of all time. Seems someone is not a student of NFL history. 1979 Rams ring a bell? But i digress. Seattle's strength is their offensive balance. The O-line lead by Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson open up holes for Shaun Alexander and also give Matt Hasselbeck plenty of time to throw to his talented trio of receivers, Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius, and Darrell Jackson. The Pittsburgh defense may be able to contain Alexander, but the depth Seattle possesses at receiver will allow them to spread the field and beat Pittsburgh's blitzes.

Winner: Seattle

MVP: Bobby Engram

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