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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Preview: When Green Bay has the Ball

Today is Part 2 of SKOHRboard's 3 part Super Bowl Preview.  For Part 1 just follow this link.  This article will focus on when the Green Bay Packers are on Offense.  Part 3 is coming tomorrow morning and will reveal the winners of these individual match-ups and who will ultimately win Super Bowl XLV.

There are so many reasons why this Super Bowl is being hyped as maybe one of the best ever.  One of the main reasons is the fantastic match-up of one of the year's top QBs, Aaron Rodgers against the Defensive Player of the Year, SS Troy Polamalu.  This is going to be a great battle to watch as the game goes on tomorrow.  Rodgers was third in the league in passer rating (101.2) and came in at fourth in DYAR and DVOA according to Football Outsiders.  While Polamalu was the DPOY and he is maybe the most ubiquitous player in the NFL and always seems to make a big play when his team needs it most.

With the help of Rodgers four terrific WRs the Packers are going to bring a very potent offense into Dallas.  Led by Greg Jennings, this group includes Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson.  During the regular season Jennings was fourth in the League in receiving yards and second in TDs with 12.  All four WRs are big and fast which can cause problems for any defense but with a QB as accurate as Rodgers it's very tough to defend against so many quality targets.  Fortunately Pittsburgh has some great players in their defensive backfield in CBs Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor and Safeties Ryan Clark and previously mentioned Troy Polamalu.  Those guys have a big job on their hands as the Packers specialize in moving the ball with the passing game and will look to really stretch the field against Pittsburgh's Cover 2 defense.

In order to stop Rodgers from ever getting a chance to connect with those guys, the Steelers are going to come at him with lots and lots of blitzes.  With such an aggressive 3-4 defensive front the Steelers can come from all sides of the line with guys like James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley who each had 10 sacks this season and have combined for 5 more in the playoffs.  But Pittsburgh's pressure isn't limited to just their outstanding OLBs, their DBs have added 7 sacks of their own this season.  The OTs for Green Bay, Chad Clifton and rookie Bryan Bulaga, will be responsible for protecting the perimeter of Aaron Rodgers pocket against that ferocious Steeler attack that led the NFL in QB sacks this year.


Another rookie with a lot of responsibility in tomorrow's game is Packer RB, James Starks.  Despite missing most of the year while recovering from a shoulder injury and only 29 regular season carries, he has averaged 23 carries and 88 yards per game in the playoffs.  Not only is Starks going to be the primary RB for the Packers tomorrow but he will be asked to pick up those Steelers blitzers when Rodgers drops back to pass.  If he has a good game both running and blocking, the Packers significantly improve their chances of winning.  Steelers' tackling machine, Lawrence Timmons will be tasked with tracking Starks tomorrow while their big guys up front will try to clog up any running lanes.  Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton, and Brett Kiesel have formed a very stout defensive front which helped the Steelers allow the fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL this season with only 64.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Preview: When Pittsburgh has the Ball

The Super Bowl XLV Preview will come in three parts.  The first two will detail the individual match-ups when either team has the ball while the third part of this series will give my overall assessment on who wins those battles and ultimately who will win the Super Bowl.  This edition will cover what you need to know when the Steelers are on offense.

When Pittsburgh has the ball this Sunday most eyeballs will be on Big Ben Roethlisberger.  That might be stating the obvious but there has been nobody better when it comes to crunch time Quarterbacking this season than black and yellow's #7.  Roethlisberger ranked tops in the league in clutch passing situations, as evaluated in Football Outsider's ranking of completion percentage (49%) on 3rd and 8 or more.  He is definitely a guy you want to have leading your team when you absolutely NEED to get a first down, which is so often a determining factor in tight elimination games.  He is going to be tested by lots of pressure coming from all over the field on Sunday by the Packers blitzers and it's not going to help that he is playing behind a very weak offensive line.  

That line is further depleted by the injury to the Steelers' starting Rookie Center, Maurkice Pouncey.  Pouncey has a severe high ankle sprain and is very questionable for Sunday's game.  His backup, Doug Legursky filled in admirably well in the AFC Championship game.  In fact the Steelers' Offensive Line paved the way that day for their Running Back, Rashard Mendenhall's 3rd best rushing performance of the year with 121 yards on the ground.  Whoever ends up playing, either Legursky or a less than 100% Pouncey, will have their work cut out for them as they'll be tasked with keeping Green Bay's Nose Tackle, B.J. "The Freezer" Raji away from Roethlisberger.  Raji has shown a knack for getting to the football this year with 6.5 sacks, 2 of them against the Patriots who were recently ranked as the top Offensive Line in the League.  His ability to collapse a pass pocket will give Green Bay's speedy perimeter defenders, most notably Clay Matthews, more time to reach Big Ben as he is forced to escape Raji's pressure up the middle.  Matthews, who has 13.5 sacks of his own this year, was mistakenly introduced as the AP Defensive Player of the Year by several media outlets earlier this week before it was given to Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu.  While Raji might get all the attention, his fellow Defensive Lineman, Cullen Jenkins had exactly 1/2 more sacks on the year to give him 7 total.
The Packers Defense is going to be tasked with shutting down what has become a much more balanced and versitile Pittsburgh Offense.  Roethlisberger has utilized a number of receiving options this season but speedy 2nd year WR, Mike Wallace had a break-out year finishing 5th in the League in receiving yards.  Look for the Packers to try to lock him up with their own break-out star in this year's playoffs, Corner Back Tramon Williams who is the fastest man in Green Bay's Defensive backfield.  Although he finished tied for 3rd in the League with 6 interceptions during the regular season, his 3 in the post season have put him in a class of his own.  Roethlsburger has a great deep ball, but he is going to have to be perfect to get it past Williams on Sunday.  Ben will also have trusty old Hines Ward lurking underneath for quick slants and crackback blocks but he'll be matched up against last year's Defensive Player of the Year winner, CB Charles Woodson.  Ben has also turned to unheralded WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown at huge points throughout their post season run.  Despite all those talented WRs, the secret weapon of the day might be Tight End Heath Miller who has been somewhat quiet lately and could have a huge game if the Packers overlook him.

Hey Tramon!  That's Tim Tebow's old roommate Riley Cooper, you can't do that to him!
The Steelers running game had somewhat of a dissapointing season but really came to life in the AFC Championship game against the Jets, who by the way have the League's top Run Defense.  Steeler RB, Rashard Mendenhall showed why the Steelers chose him with their first overall draft pick 2 years ago by hitting the hole hard and bouncing it outside with speed to get the edge when the opportunity arose. He could have a very big game in the Super Bowl because while the Packers have a very good Pass Defense, their Run D leaves a little to be desired.  The Packers were 18th in yards allowed this season.  Clay Matthews' fellow long tressed Linebacker, AJ Hawk will be relied upon to shut down Mendenhall.  Hawk led the Packers in tackles this season and they are going to need a great game from this former 1st Round pick, if they hope to keep the Steelers Offense in check.

Part 2 in the Super Bowl XLV Preview Series is coming out later today and will focus on the players and match-ups that will be key when Green Bay has the ball.

Don't forget to "like" SKOHRboard's Facebook page and follow @SKOHR on Twitter to get all the updates! You can easily do both in the gadgets to the right of the page. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Championship Series: Where Men Win Glory - The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

What a perfect day for the next installment of the BCS.  As so many people are focusing on high school athletes transitioning into college student athletes it just makes sense to focus on books.  This book, "Where Men Win Glory" by Jon Krakauer, is not just a book about football, a one of a kind player patriotically sacrificing everything for his country, or the American "War on Terror", it's terrific.  I've read some of Krakauer's other books and really liked them but I just could not put this one down.  

Krakauer is able to blend the stories of Pat Tillman's coming of age with the rise of Al-Queda as he jumps back and forth throughout.  When I set out to read this book, I anticipated it mostly covering  Tillman's time in the NFL and his decision to join the Army rather than cashing in on his multi-million dollar contract offers.  That was far from the focus of this book as it dealt primarily with uncovering what shaped such a courageous self-thinker like Tillman along with how political unrest and upheaval in Afghanistan led to the unstable environment there today.  I was fascinated to read about just how much of a mess Afghanistan really is and what made it that way.  It's impossible to come away from this book without feeling like Pat Tillman is every bit the hero we all hope that our Armed Forces are filled with.

Where Men Win Glory is a terrific book that is heart breaking, enlightening, inspiring all at the same time.  It's one of the best books that I've read in a long time and strongly encourage you to pick it up because I guarantee that you won't be able to put it down.

The question for the BCS now is, what do I read next?  I've got a few choices here including Scorecasting by Moskowitz and Wertheim, The Secret Agent by Conrad, Storm of Steel by Junger, and The GM by Callahan.  Any thoughts on what I should read next?

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National Signing Day

Top Ranked RB Savon Huggins wisely choosing Rutgers
Today is National Signing Day which is the first day that High School Football players are allowed to accept a College Scholarship offer by signing a binding letter of intent.  National Signing Day has become something of a Holiday for College Football fans, much like the NFL Draft is to the NFL.  What makes it so interesting are the quirks of the individual players, who in this case are 17 year old local celebrities.

Players have gotten into all kinds of shenanigans over the years.  There have been fake outs by kids picking one school only to turn around and instantly go with their real choice.  Some have even had the unwitting coach of the team he is faking out attend their live announcement.  Ouch.  There have even been kids who made up the whole thing and held live TV announcements only to be discovered later to be completely making it up.  But hey, getting on TV is getting on TV.  

Today comes with lots of excitement for many fans who want to see all of their schools "verbal" commitments become real and see where those remaining "undecided" players will decide to play.  In particular the top ranked player overall is still undecided and is thought to be choosing between South Carolina, Clemson, LSU, and Alabama.  But I think just about ever College Football fan is hoping that he surprises everyone and chooses their favorite school.  Mostly because it looks like this when Jadaveon Clowney plays football.

You can track your favorite school's scholarship offers and subsequent commits here at 247sports by just swapping your school's name in for Rutgers in the URL.  ESPN also has a good auto updating page here.  Rivals and Scout both specialize in this kind of stuff but all of the relevant info is stuck behind a paywall, so I won't promote it here.  Andy Staples had a great write up last week about where college recruiters have to go to secure the hardest position to find, Defensive Tackle.  He analyzed current NFL players hometowns and US State obesity charts to determine the where the best states are and it looks like it correlates pretty well with where those NFL Defensive Tackles are from.  It's a great article and well worth a read if you are interested in the depth that these colleges go to recruit the top talent in the country's High Schools.

Let me know in the comments your school's wins, losses, and of course any surprise commits today.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Media Day and NFL Updates

It's Super Bowl XLV Media Day down in Dallas.  There will be plenty of stupid articles written about whether or not Aaron Rodgers dreamed of winning the Super Bowl as a kid and what kind of animal James Harrison would be if he could choose and stuff like that.  While it's really stupid and nobody cares, everybody talks about it like it's hilarious.  I'm not exactly sure why.  What would be far more interesting is if each player was given a wonderlic test that they had to take at desks lined up on the field and the scores were put up on the big screen.  That would be interesting.  Smart is cool.

Take your own 10 question sample Wonderlic test here and if you're brave, post your score in the comments.  Be warned that the 2:30 clock begins immediately once the page loads.

Lots of other interesting but maybe not entire post worthy stuff going on around Football these days.
Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick had the better Senior Bowl week but Locker will still get selected higher in April

Tomorrow is also National Signing Day!  I'll report more on that later but I came across this video earlier today and it's perfect.  Too soon or do you think the kid has what it takes to be the next Myron Rolle?

Don't forget to "like" SKOHRboard's Facebook page and follow @SKOHR on Twitter! You can easily do both in the gadgets to the right of the page. Thanks!

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