Today is the day. Later today we will know which two teams are squaring off in this year in Super Bowl XLV. We know it will be some combination of the Steelers or Jets versus either the Bears or Packers. There are a lot of interesting story lines in play for each team making for what could be one of the better Super Bowl match ups we have ever seen. Yesterday I made my picks and gave a quick analysis of each game. If you recall I picked the Steelers versus the Bears. But what exactly is at stake for each team besides a trip to Super Bowl XLV? Let’s take a quick look leading into today’s games.
For the Steelers it means further cementing their legacy as the premier team in the NFL. Making it to Dallas and winning the Super Bowl would make 7, hands down the most by any team in the NFL. It would give them bragging rights over every other team and further prove that they are the model for running a football team. I hope the Browns are paying attention, because they should be. It’s remarkable to think that the Steelers have been able to maintain a level of dominance throughout not just years, but decades. Of course something has to be said for consistency. They’s only have three head coaches over the past 40 years or so, Chuck Knoll, Bill Cowher, and now Mike Tomlin.
For the Steeler players themselves their are their own legacies at stake. A Super Bowl victory would make three for Ben Roethlisberger and put him into consideration as one of the all-time greats as he enters his prime years. Despite all of the off field issues he has had to overcome, his resume is on par with Tom Brady, and at this point, rewards and accolades aside, is much better than Peyton Manning’s. Big Ben is a stud. Troy Polamalu and James Harrison also have legacies to cement. Yet another Super Bowl victory would help prove that they are the two most dominating players on the defensive side of the ball. A third ring could help punch their tickets to Canton someday.
Then there is Mike Tomlin. He is already the youngest coach to take a team to the Super Bowl and win it. A second ring would prove to everyone that he was the right hire back when Bill Cowher retired. He has done an outstanding job of maintaining the level of excellence set forth by his predecessors. As an unproven coordinator hire it makes the job he has done even that much more amazing. Just goes to show that sometimes the obvious hire isn’t always the best hire. I’m talking to you Browns fans.
New York Jets:
The Jets have a chance to get the monkey off of their back. The winners of Super Bowl III have been the exact opposite of the Steelers throughout the years. While the Steelers have been the model for what to do, the Jets are the model of what not to do. They have been an absolute joke. Granted they had a brief period of success under Bill Parcells at the end of the 90’s, everything else has been less than a success. Draft busts, bad free agent signings, you name it and the Jest have done it.
Despite their past, the present looks very nice. A trip to the Super Bowl and a victory would be a coronation of sorts. Mark Sanchez would cement himself as a legend in the Big Apple. The first QB since Joe Namath to win a Super Bowl. What could be better than that for Sanchez? I can’t think of much but you can be rest assured that if he accomplishes the feat, he will be the biggest and brightest star in the Big Apple.
For Rex Ryan the accomplishment would help shut everyone up. He has been boasting about being the future Super Bowl champs since training camp opened up. It would also make Woody Johnson look like a genius for that hire. Ryan, while being loud and obnoxious, along with some outside turmoil, has been a great coach. Granted he was working with a decent foundation built by former coach Eric Mangini, he helped mold it into the winner it could eventually be. The only downside is a victory would only make him more obnoxious next year.
Last but not least are the veterans on this team. This is why players like Jason Taylor and LaDanian Tomlinson signed on with the Jets in the offseason. They have been chasing that elusive ring and now is their best chance to get it. Despite their impressive resumes not having a Super Bowl title is the one glaring omission. With teammates such as Santonio Holmes, Darrell Revis, and Antonio Cromartie, they definitely have the supporting cast to get the job done once and for all. The only question is will they come back to defend their title if they finally win it?
For the Bears a trip to the Super Bowl would be a slap to the face of all the analysts and prognosticators. All year long they’ve heard about how they aren’t as good as their record indicates. That they are the weakest of all the division winners. Well, they are one win away and playing in their house where they have a distinct advantage, even over their fellow NFC North rivals. Of course no matter who they matchup against it will be another underdog scenario. They won’t be favored but something tells me that’s exactly how the Bears like things.
Lovie Smith has a lot to gain by making it to the Super Bowl or even winning it. His contract is up after this year and is looking for an extension. Would the Bears really let go of a coach that got them to the Super Bowl not just once, but twice during is tenure with the team? That would make him te first Chicago coach to do so. And what if he manages to win this thing? There’s no way they can honestly let him go. Besides, at this point who is left to bring in that would be an upgrade? Most of the top candidates have filled other vacant positions. Of course they could always try to bring in Gruden, Billick, or Cowher, but what are the odds of that happening?
Then there are the players themselves. No one believes in them. Cutler is believed to be an overrated interception machine. Brian Urlacher is overrated and always hurt. Julius Peppers only tries when he feels like it. The offensive line is full of holes. The wide receivers are below average at best. Do I need to keep going? A Super Bowl victory would shut everyone up once and for all. It would also give them something to build on. Yes, Urlacher and Briggs have been around for a while and Peppers isn’t getting any younger either, but there are a lot of young talented pieces in place. This could be the beginning of something very special in Chicago.
Green Bay Packers:
Let’s just cut to the chase with the Packers. This is all about Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. If Aaron Rodgers continues to do what he’s done in the first two playoff games this year and manages to win the Super Bowl people in Wisconsin will be saying “Brett who?” It really is remarkable what Rodgers has been able to do. Most of the time it takes teams years to replace a legend at the QB position. Just ask the Broncos, Dolphins, 49ers, or Cardinals. All of those teams are struggling to replace hall of fame QBs. For Green Bay to get it right on the first shot is absurd.
But Rodgers has been magnificent. Many people believe he is the best player in football right now. That’s saying something considering the competition at QB is tight with Manning, Brady, and Brees. Rodgers has blown them out of the water statistically and is threatening to top them as the premier QB in the league. Throw in the fact that he is accomplishing all of this heading into the prime of his career. Manning, Brady, and Brees are 34, 33, and 32 respectively. Rodgers is only 27. He has youth on his side that the other three do not. Granted I don’t expect them to fade off into mediocrity anytime soon judging from the level they are still playing at, but the decline, especially for Manning could begin sooner rather than later.
A championship would also justify Ted Thompson’s decision to end the Brett Favre era once and for all and transition into the Aaron Rodgers era. People blasted him considering that Brett Favre was still playing at a high level and wanted to come back. Yes the retirement talk was getting old, but many believed it was worth it. The emergence of Rodgers makes us forget all about that. Now it’s Farve who looks like the bad guy given the continued retirement drama, the poor seasons he’s had 2 of the past 3 years, and all of the Jenn Sterger drama. Aaron Rodgers winning the Super Bowl could be the final nail in the coffin of the Brett Favre era and prove to everyone in the NFL that sometimes the drama just isn’t worth it.