* Packers over Steelers Well, duh. It's not like I'm going to suddenly turn heel, tearing off my Packers sweater to reveal a Hines Ward jersey while Jim Ross sceams "No! No! Mah gawd, what has Mark done?!"
So here we are. Nineteen games, dozens of bitten nails, one increasingly hilarious post and umpteen celebratory booyahs later, the Packers are playing for the NFL title. It's wild. I picked them to reach the big game at the start of the year (against Baltimore, the other AFC North titan) but in my heart of hearts, I secretly had a backup pick made in my head since I thought something would derail Green Bay along the way. My backup pick? Houston vs. Atlanta. I am so smart. SMRT.
The derailer, however, never came. The Packers lost key players for the season, lost other key players for crucial games, blew close heart-breakers and had to win their final game just to make it into the playoffs. But they just kept overcoming every obstacle in their path and now, it's Super Bowl time. Good lord. I almost don't know how to react. The last of my favourite teams to reach a championship game was....the Packers, back in Super Bowl XXXII, when John Elway helicopter-spun his way to a Denver upset victory. It's been a long dry spell since, though since Green Bay did win the Super Bowl the previous year (and I'm still hanging my hat on those two Jays World Series wins in 92-93), I can hardly complain about my lot in life as a sports fan. It's not like I live in Cleveland or something.
It's been such a crazy season that I'm beyond just "happy to be here." F that. If the Packers are going to go through all this shit all season long, they may as well pay it all off by winning the championship.
It's going to be a really, really, really tough game. Pittsburgh is easily the toughest opponent the Packers have played all year. The Steelers are tough, smart, superbly-coached and can grind out a game with anyone. They're just winners --- hell, they won the Super Bowl just two years ago. No franchise has won as many Super Bowls as Pittsburgh's six. It would be very easy for me to imagine Mike Tomlin and company coming up with a scheme that totally baffles Mike McCarthy, leading to the infamous "McCarthy stares angrily at his game plan as if imagining it will somehow adapt itself to the opponent's game plan" camera shot. You can break down the positions all you want, but Pittsburgh's edge at head coach may be all that matters.
BUT, come on folks, I'm picking Green Bay to win. It just seems a bit too perfect of a setup. All season long, Aaron Rodgers has not just been establishing himself as arguably the NFL's best quarterback, but also as its biggest dragon-slayer. The Packers have, quietly, overcome almost every major story of this NFL season.
-- Brett Favre's texting misadventures and his lousy play for the Vikings. Green Bay beat Minnesota twice, and Rodgers had a monster year, thus cementing the the Packers' decision to ditch Favre was the right one.
-- The Patriots kicking ass. Green Bay nearly beat New England in Foxboro, with backup Matt Flynn leading the charge. It was the first sign that the Pats might not be unbeatable, and sure enough, they lost to New York in the playoffs.
-- The Jets mouthing off and backing it up. Green Bay shut the Jets out 9-0 on Halloween, thus cementing the fact that at the end of the day, New York just didn't have the offense to go all the way.
-- The Cowboys' shit-tastic collapse. Green Bay laid a 45-7 demolition on them in Week 9, the most lopsided and humiliating of Dallas' many defeats this year.
-- Michael Vick's "redemption" as Philadelphia's quarterback. Green Bay beat Philly in both the season opener and in the wild card round. I guess you could say that the Packers really 'dogged' the Eagles this year. Ha ha ha! Obvious jokes are the best jokes!
-- The Falcons' huge year, and their presence in that goddamn NFL Play 60 commercial that airs fifty times during every game. Green Bay beat Atlanta in the second round of the playoffs. Okay, the Falcons aren't really a 'dragon' like the others, aside from the fact that Arthur Blank looks kind of like a creep.
-- The Bears managing to somehow cobble together a playoff-bye team under the leadership of Lovie Smith and his variety of failed NFL head coach coordinators, and the emergence of Jay "Captain Sulk" Cutler. Green Bay dropped them in the NFC title game, albeit in a game that took five years from my life due to its unnecessary closeness.
What two other storylines have dominated football talk over the last six months? Naturally, it's the conduct and suspension of Ben "No Means No" Roethlisberger, plus the increased focus on player safety, particularly when it comes to concussions and defenders like James Harrison delivering brain-rattling hits. These two major issues have joined together to form one End Boss, one Big Bad, one King Koopa, one Mike Tyson waiting at the end of the season for Green Bay (Little Mac = Little Pack?) as the biggest challenge of them all. For the Packers to fall short in the Super Bowl wouldn't just be a defeat in a football game, it would be a defeat of narrative structure. I sure didn't watch this whole goddamn season just to realize it's a Jean-Luc Godard film, so Green Bay needs to take this home.
It's time. It has to happen. Aaron Rodgers will get the belt. Charles Woodson gets his ring. The Packers win their 13th championship (fourth Super Bowl to go along with nine NFL championships) and keep the Steelers from laying claim to the Titletown moniker. Oh lord, this is going to be four hours of my heart in my throat, isn't it? Man, it's great to support a winning team. #GoPackGo