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Super Bowl XL

   by Al McMordie - 02/04/2006

This is it: Super Bowl Sunday! The old adage “You win the turnover battle, you win the game,â€쳌 is especially true come playoff time. Looking back at last season’s game, we find that the Patriots won the turnover battle 4-1, largely because of three Donovan McNabb interceptions. The Pats won the game 24-21, though they failed to cover. The year before, the Patriots and Panthers were even in the turnover department, 1-1. New England won again, 32-29, but failed to cover. Before that the Bucs had a huge edge in turnovers and destroyed the Raiders as a dog, 48-21, and before that the Patriots were a 14-point dog but won the turnover battle 3-0 in upsetting the Rams, 20-17.

Overall, the turnover department is huge. So who has the edge this Sunday? The Steelers are +7 on the season in turnovers, and the Seahawks are +9. Not much of a difference. In the payoffs, the Steelers won the turnovers battle +2 in their win at Cincinnati, and repeated that in a 34-17 rout at Denver in the AFC Championship game with a +4 edge in turnovers. However, they were minus-2 against the Colts, yet won the game 21-18. Seattle won the turnover battle in the NFC Championship rout of Carolina (+4), but were actually minus-2 against the Redskins, but still prevailed, 20-10.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this week’s Super Bowl preparation has been the war of words. Seattle TE Jerramy Stevens made the cardinal sin of dissing the enemy this week, saying about RB Jerome Bettis, "It's a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without that Super Bowl trophy.â€쳌 Oops! Big mistake. Seattle coaches no doubt took him aside and told him to keep his trap shut. The last thing anyone should do before a big game is give verbal fodder to fire up the opposition.

Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter responded by saying that the Steelers will be so physical in the Super Bowl they will try to make Seattle quit playing. Them sounds like fightin’ words, pardner! Porter said, "We're going to try to tap out as many people as we can. We're going to try to send as many people to the sideline as we can." Someone is going to look like a hero on Sunday night, saying the opponent fired them up.

Rest assured, players and coaches seize on stuff like this. I recall five years ago when the Steelers were a double digit favorite in the AFC Championship game over the Patriots and made comments about how they already had their bags packed for the Super Bowl. After the Patriots' 24-17 upset win, the New England players all spoke about how they were incensed that the Steelers would talk like that.

Added Porter, "Tell him he's soft. He's a tight end and I've never, ever been afraid of a tight end. They better not make him block me on Sunday. I bet they're not going to make that coaching mistake.â€쳌 Wow! You don’t usually hear trash talk like that the week of the Super Bowl.

Perhaps the most important thing to assess before this game is that the Seahawks have been outstanding at home the last few years, but mediocre on the road. Even this season they were 5-3 on the road, winning both playoff games at home. They have a significant edge at home partly because it’s a long road trip for opponents to Seattle, and also because of their 12th man -- their raucous fans. That home field caused more opponents to be called for false starts than at any other venue in the NFL this season. That’s also an edge the Seahawks won’t be bringing to Detroit on Sunday. And they’ll be facing a tough, Pittsburgh team that just dispatched Cincinnati, Indy and Denver – all on the road! If Seattle wins this title, they will have to earn it without those edges. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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