Super Bowl XLV Preview

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Tennessee (-8) Auburn 69-56 WON!
That's 8 of the last 11!


By Jim Hurley:

So, who's gonna be the real "Titletown, USA" come Sunday night?

Obviously, that nickname was handed to the good folks in Green Bay decades ago during the vintage Vince Lombardi/Packers Era of the 1960s but it's the city of Pittsburgh that sports six Super Bowl crowns - more than anyone in National Football League history - and so there's a shiny trophy and bragging rights on the line when the Packers and Steelers collide in Arlington this weekend.

No doubt that Green Bay has been "the story" of the 2010 NFL post-season thanks to back-to-back-to-back road playoff wins in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago but how can anyone disrespect the Steelers?

All the AFC champs have done is extinguish Baltimore and the New York Jets in the past three weeks and there's more than a few in-the-know folks who will tell you that those teams were among the top five in the land this year.

Will it be party time for the "Cheeseheads" or will the guys/gals waving the "Terrible Towels" be in a joyous mood at week's end? Stay tuned.

We'll get to our Jim Sez Super Bowl XLV Preview in just a moment but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLV on game-day morning and plus remember to get all the 2010-11 College Basketball and NBA Winners too each and every day as the hoop season's really in full swing these days with lots of great action on tap. Go ahead and join Jim as he crushes Las Vegas and the off-shore books too in these coming days/weeks and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here. Check in via the toll-free telephone # or else online on Mondays-through-Fridays anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NCAA Basketball and NBA games and then check with us any time after 10 a.m. ET this Saturday and Sunday for all the weekend b-ball action and - of course - SB XLV between Pittsburgh versus Green Bay.


Sunday, February 6th, 6:29 p.m. ET, Fox
PITTSBURGH (14-4) vs. GREEN BAY (13-6)
Cowboys Stadium - Arlington, TX

You know the rankings: The Steelers and the Packers are the NFL's top two defensive units and Pittsburgh just scored one victory when S Troy Polamalu edged out Green Bay LB Clay Matthews for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award but the $64,000 question here is can Pittsburgh pressure Packers QB Aaron Rodgers into making mistakes here ... if not, Green Bay figures to be the NFC's first #6 seed to get into a Super Bowl and than win the Super Bowl.

Okay, so maybe there's another $64,000 question and that is can the Packers defense strap it up and contain a Pittsburgh ground game that battered the New York Jets two weeks ago in that 24-19 AFC Championship Game? If not, than a ground-and-pound approach - much like what the Steelers did in those early Super Bowls back in the mid 1970s - could be the formula for success and a seventh Super Bowl title.

Make no mistake about it: The Steelers would love for this to be an over-the-top physical affair come Sunday evening and Pittsburgh will be looking to set a physical tone early on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Pittsburgh's hard-charging RB Rashard Mendenhall (1,273 yards rushing and 13 TDs in regular-season play) figures to pile up 20-plus carries and don't be surprised if he touches the ball that much in the first half alone. Expect part of the Pittsburgh offensive game plan to include taking some pass protection heat off this offensive line - especially if star C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) is unable to play or at least play effectively - and ask Mendenhall to shoulder much of the load. Than, when Green Bay's secondary comes up to the line of scrimmage and "cheats" it will be up to Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger (3,200 yards passing with 17 TDs and 5 INTs in regular-season play) to air-mail some deep balls to the likes of speedster WRs Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and/or Antonio Brown.

On the flip side, the Packers want QB Rodgers (3,922 yards passing with 28 TDs and 11 INTs in the 2010 regular season) to get into a real working rhythm here with quick slant passes to WR Greg Jennings and Company and then toss in a couple of "go" patterns also are part of his to-do list but Green Bay must count heads at the line of scrimmage and make sure all the Steelers' LBs and DBs are accounted for ... or else.

Folks, that's one major reason why the Packers could work hard to establish the run at the very start with rookie RB James Starks a key component - if the Steelers stuff him at or near the line of scrimmage, it will signal that the NFC champs have to throw the ball 35-or-more times to be successful here.
No need to spell out the obvious here: Rodgers must have a big stat game if the favored Packers are gonna win their first Super Bowl crown since the 1996 season and we're talking 300-plus yards, three-or-more TD passes and no key turnovers.

Still, it's Rodgers ability to make plays with his legs that figures to be huge here - if that Pittsburgh pass rush zooms in from the middle, than Rodgers must show some escapability to the corners and vice versa. Let's just say that Rodgers probably will have to run for three or four first downs in order to keep G-Bay marches going here.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger must continue to do what he does in all these big games - extend the plays even after he takes a pop and make something happen while on the run. The critical game-sealing third-down pass completion late in the win against the Jets to WR Brown was proof positive that the Steelers are at their best when their strong-armed and strong-bodied signal-caller is causing major frustration to opposing defenses (hey, you remember Pittsburgh's 27-23 come-from-behind win against Arizona in Super Bowl 43, right?).

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is already in his second Super Bowl in just four years on the job and note that the Steelers have won 48 games in his brief tenure including a slick 5-1 SU (straightup) and 5-1 ATS (against the spread) in post-season play. The AFC North champs have held 12 teams to below 20 points this year but did you realize that the Steelers have limited 40 teams to less than 20 points in his first 70 games with the club? Tomlin sports an 11-5 SU mark in his games against AFC foes the past four years (a more-than-sturdy .688 winning rate).

Green Bay boss-man Mike McCarthy is completing his fifth year and he owns a 52-34 SU mark (a .605 winning percentage) overall that features four playoff wins with three of them occurring this 2010 post-season. The offensive-minded McCarthy has witnessed his club exceed the 25-point mark on 10 different occasions this year and Green Bay's a magical 9-1 ATS when scoring more than 25 points. Note that McCarthy-coached clubs are a collective 10-10 SU in games played against AFC opponents

Pittsburgh's 12-6 ATS overall this season and that includes a neat four-game pointspread winning streak while entering Super Bowl Sunday. The Steelers are 5-3 versus the vig this year when playing away from Heinz Field and they're 3-1 ATS whenever in the underdog role and that includes outright wins against Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore. Note that Pittsburgh has covered nine of its last 10 post-season games dating back to 2005.

Meanwhile, Green Bay is 12-7 against the Las Vegas prices this season and that includes the three-game spread winning streak in this year's post-season. Note that the Packers are 7-4 ATS when playing away from Lambeau Field this year and G-Bay's 8-6 spreadwise when in the role of betting favorite. Since 2001, the Pack is a dead-even and vig-losing 6-6 ATS in all post-season affairs.




#1 PITTSBURGH + 1 Atlanta 15-9 (ot)
#2 Pittsburgh + 5 TENNESSEE 19-11
#3 Pittsburgh - 3 TAMPA BAY 38-13
#4 Baltimore + 2.5 PITTSBURGH 17-14
#5 BYE      
#6 PITTSBURGH - 14 Cleveland 28-10
#7 Pittsburgh - 3 MIAMI 23-22
#8 NEW ORLEANS - 1 Pittsburgh 20-10
#9 Pittsburgh - 5 CINCINNATI 27-21
#10 New England + 4 PITTSBURGH 39-26
#11 PITTSBURGH - 7 Oakland 35-3
#12 Pittsburgh - 6.5 BUFFALO 19-16(ot)
#13 Pittsburgh + 3 BALTIMORE 13-10
#14 PITTSBURGH - 8 Cincinnati 23-7
#15 NY Jets + 3 PITTSBURGH 22-17
#16 PITTSBURGH - 14 Carolina 27-3
#17 Pittsburgh - 6 CLEVELAND 41-9
DIV PITTSBURGH - 3 Baltimore 31-24
AFC PITTSBURGH - 4 New York Jets 24-19



#1 Green Bay - 3 PHILADELPHIA 27-20
#2 GREEN BAY - 12 Buffalo 34-7
#3 CHICAGO + 3 Green Bay 20-17
#4 GREEN BAY - 14.5 Detroit 28-26
#5 WASHINGTON + 3 Green Bay 16-13(ot)
#6 Miami + 3 GREEN BAY 23-20(ot)
#7 GREEN BAY - 3 Minnesota 28-24
#8 Green Bay + 6.5 NY JETS 9-0
#9 GREEN BAY - 7.5 Dallas 45-7
#10 BYE      
#11 Green Bay - 3 MINNESOTA 31-3
#12 ATLANTA - 2.5 Green Bay 20-17
#13 GREEN BAY - 8.5 San Francisco 34-16
#14 DETROIT + 7 Green Bay 7-3
#15 NEW ENGLAND - 14 Green Bay 31-27
#16 GREEN BAY - 3 NY Giants 45-17
#17 GREEN BAY - 11 Chicago 10-3
WC Green Bay + 2.5 PHILADELPHIA 21-16
DIV Green Bay + 1 ATLANTA 48-21
NFC Green Bay - 3 CHICAGO 21-14


Now, here are all the head-to-head showdowns between the Steelers and the Packers dating back to the start of the 2000 season. Again, all home teams are in CAPS:

2009 PITTSBURGH - 3 Green Bay 37-36
2005 Pittsburgh - 3.5 GREEN BAY 20-10
1998 PITTSBURGH + 3.5 Green Bay 27-20
1995 GREEN BAY - 4 Pittsburgh 24-19
1992 GREEN BAY + 4 Pittsburgh 17-3





By Jim Hurley:

We've got a question for you:

What exactly would a Super Bowl be like without the proposition a/ka/ "prop plays"?

Go back the past 20 years or so and prop plays have become a major part of betting on the Super Bowl and this year one web site we checked out actually sported more than 150 legitimate prop plays and we wanted to touch on some of them to kick off this weekend edition of Jim Sez.

Obviously, about 99 percent of the country will have some form of wager on Sunday's Super Bowl clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Green Bay Packers and many of the bettors won't simply be playing on a side or the totals price here- and now here is what especially interests us (sorry, folks, but count us out when it comes to whether the opening coin flip will come up "heads" or "tails" or whether the national anthem will run over or under some silly time limit).

Let's tackle the following props:

Okay, so you have to lay this 3-to-2 price here but- providing the Green Bay quarterback stays in one piece throughout Super Bowl XLV- he's sure to complete way more than 22 passes. Rodgers will be playing in that climate-controlled atmosphere with the roof closed at Cowboys Stadium and our initial take (whether the 3-point favored Packers win or not) is that Rodgers will complete somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-to-32 passes. Green Bay will be looking to "spread the field" against a Steelers secondary that can be torched at times (especially when the cornerbacks are giving up too much cushion at the line of scrimmage) and Rodgers will hit on at least a dozen quick slants and quick-hitters here.

THE LONGEST FIELD GOAL- Go Over 43½ yards (-120)
The truth of the matter is neither if these teams really have needed their placekickers to save them in this year's post-season as Pittsburgh PK Shaun Suisham kicked just one field goal in each of the playoff wins against Baltimore and the New York Jets while Green Bay PK Mason Crosby booted a pair of tack-on field goals in the 48-21 NFC Divisional Playoff win in Atlanta (after not kicking a field goal the week before in the 21-16 win at Philadelphia) and then he didn't have a FG in the 21-14 NFC Championship Game win in Chicago but something tells us both kickers will play a big part in this Super Bowl showdown and both are more than capable of connecting on 44-yard-or-deeper field goals. Take the "over" here and don't be surprised if GB's Crosby kicks at least two three-pointers from beyond this stated distance.

No doubt this is a steep price- laying $140 for every $100 wagered- but just can't see the Green Bay ground game getting any major rushing chunks here against a Pittsburgh stop unit that leads the league in rush defense. Everyone's aware that Packers rookie RB James Starks has had a "coming out" party of sorts in this year's post-season but expect him to be held to 50 yards or less here and even a few scramble/runs by Rodgers won't push it over the 81 yards figure. In the end, we'll predict that Green Bay rushes the ball for no more than 65 yards.

There's no question that the Steelers' "forgotten man" in this year's post-season has been sprinter-fast WR Mike Wallace who has nabbed only four receptions worth 26 yards in the aforementioned wins against the Ravens and the Jets but here look for Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger to look Wallace's way more than in recent weeks and we won't be at all surprised if Wallace winds up with four catches in the first half alone as some "speed routes" might well be there for the cat-quick wide out. In the end, mark us down for six catches worth 100 yards for Wallace who makes a name for himself here.

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLV on game-day morning and plus remember to get all the 2010-11 College Basketball and NBA Winners too each and every day as the hoop season's really in full swing these days with lots of great action on tap. Go ahead and join Jim as he crushes Las Vegas and the off-shore books too in these coming days/weeks and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here. Check in via the toll-free telephone # or else online on Mondays-through-Fridays anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NCAA Basketball and NBA games and then check with us any time after 10 a.m. ET this Saturday and Sunday for all the weekend b-ball action and- of course- SB XLV between Pittsburgh versus Green Bay.


The Super Bowl may be overshadowing everything else in the sports world this weekend but be aware there's lots of top College Basketball games on the menu. With our Private Line service rolling along at 8-3, including Thursday's win with Tennessee (-8) over Auburn 69-56, we're set to make Saturday a big day of moneymaking. Here's a sampling of what to watch Saturday- and note we'll have Sunday Game Previews in the next Jim Sez:

#25 WEST VIRGINIA (15-6, 6-3 Big East) at #12 VILLANOVA (18-4, 6-3 Big East)- 12 p.m. ET, ESPN (at Wachovia Center)
In case you've lost count, there are currently eight teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25 including these highly athletic teams but if the WVU Mountaineers wish to stay in the rankings than Bob Huggins' crew must dial up the defense here- hey, WVU's allowed its last two foes (that's South Florida and Seton Hall) to 46 and 44 points, respectively and overall the 'Neers have surrendered just 200 points in their last four games- good stuff!

Villanova must steer clear of sending Wet Virginia G Joel Mazzulla to the free-throw line: After the veteran missed 6-of-10 charity tosses in a game against Purdue he's rallied to make good on 21 of his last 26 foul shots. Key for 'Nova here is to get past 70 points as Jay Wright's crew is 0-4 SU (straightup) when held below the 70-point mark this season.

UNLV (17-5, 5-3 MWC) at #8 BYU (21-2, 7-1 MWC)- 4 p.m. ET, Versus
Hey, San Diego State ain't exactly sitting alone in first place in the better-than-you-think Mountain West Conference! The BYU Cougars are knotted with the SDSU Aztecs and now superstar scorer G Jimmer Fredettte (27.6 ppg) looks to gun down another league foe and take note that the Coogs already conquered the Runnin' Rebels back on Jan. 5th with a convincing 89-77 win in Las Vegas.

In that clash, Fredette poured in 39 points on 12-of-25 FG shooting (while going 8-of-10 from the foul line) for the road side but another real key in that BYU win was Jackson Emery (22 points) nailed 6-of-9 triples as the Cougars finished 14-of-28 from beyond the three-point arc- better believe that Lon Kruger's club will be playing stepped-up perimeter defense here.

#10 KENTUCKY (16-5, 4-3 SEC) at FLORIDA (17-5, 6-2 SEC)- 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
The always-intrusive ESPN Game Day crew is on hand in Gainesville for this Southeastern Conference prime-time showdown and how about the fact that the "mighty Gators" are in first place in the SEC East and yet they're not even nationally ranked ... go figure! Here, Billy Donovan's squad- winners of 8 of its last 10 games since New Year's Eve- look to follow up Tuesday's 65-61 overtime win against Vanderbilt with another jazzy performance here and board work will be key in this clash.

Note that Florida out-rebounded Vandy 42-29 earlier this week- do-it-all F Chandler Parsons kicked in 11 rebs to go along with 18 points in that win- and here the Gators must hold off the young-and-frisky 'Cats on the glass ... or else. One note on John Calipari's kids: Kentucky's- which has slumped into a third-place tie in the SEC East- has lost 3-of-4 SEC road games so far this 2010-11 season and early foul problems are getting them (and keeping them) in hot water.


The word in/around the NBA is that the Denver Nuggets don't want to trade star forward Carmelo Anthony prior to the NBA's Trade Deadline of February 24th but reality says the Nuggets may have no other choice in the matter- remember he's a free agent this summer- but while Denver tinkers with what to do there's a few other big names that are riding under the radar but any/all of 'em could be dealt this month:

JOSH SMITH, SF, Atlanta (16.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg)- There's been some talk that the Hawks' lefty doesn't always go full tilt and no doubt what Atlanta (31-18) needs is an energizer player at either guard or forward and so this 6-foot-7 stud could be dealt away to a fellow contender- maybe Portland- for a couple of bodies and maybe Atlanta can get its mitts on Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum (11.9 ppg) who can be a dose of instant offense but has been playing with a wobbly knee in recent games. Otherwise, Smith could be part of a package deal in which he winds up with either one of the two Los Angeles clubs.

GORDON HAYWARD, SF, Utah – Is it possible that the slumping Jazz (lost eight of its last 10 games while heading into Friday's tilt in Denver) could be ready to throw in the towel with this first-round choice from Butler? He is averaging a paltry 3.4 ppg for Utah (29-21) and there's chatter that he's a good two or three years away from growing into his body and his role on an NBA team. Will the Jazz possibly sweeten the pot some and look to import Golden State G Stephen Curry (19.1 ppg) into Salt Lake City? We'll see.

RON ARTEST, SF, Los Angeles Lakers- No doubt this has become the "hot name" (aside from Anthony) when it comes to who'll get moved on or before the NBA Trade Deadline and we think GM Mitch Kupchak will pull the trigger but the problem is there figures to be very few teams that want to take on this pain-in-the-rump ace defender. One destination could be Chicago (where Artest began his oft-troubled NBA career) as the Bulls are always in the market for defense/rebounding.

NOTE: More Super Bowl XLV coverage and College Hoops in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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