sports psychologist & clinical psychology

EXPECT SUPER BOWL XL TO BE CLOSE

Florida Today – Feb 5, 2006 – Carl Kotala – Let’s face it, some Super Bowls are just flat out boring. Take Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 55, Denver 10. Or Super Bowl XX: Chicago 46, New England 10.

Both games were over so fast, you barely had time to work up a good heartburn because you just had to have those extra three or four buffalo wings with the five-alarm hot sauce.

The fact is, of the previous 39 Super Bowls, only nine have been decided by less than a touchdown.

Granted, the past two games had more excitement, but the New England Patriots went in as clear favorites both times.

Super Bowl XL, tonight at Detroit’s Ford Field, has all the makings of a game that could go down to the wire.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have done something no other NFL team has before — beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, all on the road, to reach the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed.http://www.johnfmurray.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?posted=1070#edit_timestamp

Seattle, meanwhile, might be the least-respected No. 1 seed to make it to the Super Bowl in history.

Both teams love to run the ball but are adept at throwing it, too. And both can get after the passer.

Now, it would be just our luck that after predicting a close game, somebody wins in a blowout, but as kickoff time draws near, we just don’t see it that way.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

THREE KEYS FOR PITTSBURGH

1. Jump ahead early: It’s not that the Steelers can’t play from behind, but this formula has served them well throughout the playoffs. They are much better, particularly on defense, when they can put their opponent in an early hole.

2. Run the football: They may be known for their running game, but the Steelers have averaged only 3.2 yards a carry in the postseason. Because the Steelers have come out throwing the past two games, there’s a chance Seattle could sit back a little more in the first quarter, which could help open up some running lanes.

3. Unleash Troy: Pittsburgh’s safety has drawn a lot of attention this season, and not just for his hair. If the Steelers are going to have a chance today, he needs to be a major player both in run support and on the blitz. An interception would be nice.

THREE KEYS FOR SEATTLE

1. Get Alexander going early: This is one of the best matchups of the day. Alexander has speed, nifty moves to find daylight and he’s a load to bring down. A big key will be whether the left side of Seattle’s line, Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson, can overpower Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter and defensive end Kimo Von Oelhoffen, allowing fullback Mack Strong to lead Alexander through the hole.

2. Block the blitz: Don’t expect the Seahawks to do something stupid like slide their guards out to pick up the Steelers’ blitzing linebackers. Seattle has had two weeks to prepare, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will need time to throw.

3. Put heat on Roethlisberger: Pressure him with four, or blitz him with everybody, but you can’t let Big Ben sit back and pick you apart. Neither Cincinnati, Indianapolis or Denver could get to the Steelers’ quarterback, and look what happened to them.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. Both quarterbacks: Big games require superstar efforts, and it will be imperative for both teams that their quarterbacks play mistake-free football.

2. Both tight ends: Seattle’s Jerramy Stevens may not be the most consistent performer, but at 6-foot-7 he’s a tough matchup in the red zone for any defender. Pittsburgh rookie Heath Miller never is talked about, but he’s become one of Roethlisberger’s biggest weapons.

3. Antwaan Randle El: If the Steelers have a trick play in their arsenal, it’s a good bet Randle El will be a part of it. He’s the most versatile offensive player on the field and a big-play threat.

4. Lofa Tatupu: He cannot afford to play like a rookie, and the Seattle linebacker must show Pittsburgh that the Seahawks are capable of playing physical football as well.

5. Jerome Bettis: Sure, Willie Parker will shoulder most of the load for the Steelers’ running game, but if Pittsburgh gets into a short-yardage situation, especially near the goal line, it’s time for the hometown boy to do his thing.

COMMERCIALS TO WATCH

1. Animals are always a big draw. Who can resist a big ol’ bear, a horse, a chip or even the family dog doing something cute? This is the one time of the year when people actually look forward to commercials.

2. It only took 14 tries, but GoDaddy.com has finally come up with a commercial that passed muster with the ABC censors. This is the same company that made headlines at last year’s Super Bowl when FOX pulled the spot after its first airing.

3. By the way, the ad rate for this year’s Super Bowl is a mere $2.4 million for a 30-second spot.

WORST PART OF SUPER BOWL

1. The seemingly 12-hour pregame show. Look, it’s been two weeks of Super Bowl story upon Super Bowl story. Outside of giving us something to watch during the pregame food fest, what’s the point? Give us the injury updates, if any, and let’s play ball. We know, we know, it will never happen that way. But . . . we can dream, can’t we?

2. Anybody want to take odds that “Grey’s Anatomy” doesn’t start at 10 p.m.?

3. This will be the last time we get to hear John Madden and Al Michaels call a game.

FOR THE STAT GEEKS

1. In 39 games, both quarterbacks have thrown for more than 300 yards only twice. That would be Carolina’s Jake Delhomme and New England’s Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII and San Francisco’s Joe Montana and Miami’s Dan Marino in Super Bowl XIX.

2. Every team that has won the coin toss has elected to receive. But that’s only because Marty Mornhinweg has never been given the option.

3. The designated home team has won 18 of the previous 39 Super Bowls, while the visitor has won 21 times. Pittsburgh will be the home team today, but the Steelers will be wearing their road whites.

4. The team that turns the ball over less than its opponent is 29-2 in the Super Bowl.

5. Think time of possession is a meaningless statistic? Teams who hold the advantage are 29-10 in Super Bowl history.

PICKING A WINNER

1. Super Bowl XL has already been decided. Well, at least by EA Sports. The video game company, which produces the best-selling Madden game held a simulation earlier this week. The Steelers won 24-19.

2. Not so fast there, bub. The creator of the Mental Performance Index, Dr. John F. Murray, is calling for the Seahawks to emerge victorious. Murray assigns points on each play for “focused execution” and “pressure management” with game totals ranging from .000 to 1.000. He gives the Seahawks a score of .566 in the playoffs, while Pittsburgh gets a .530.

MVP CANDIDATES

The quarterbacks are both obvious choices, so let’s go somewhere else.

1. If Pittsburgh wins. . . Bettis. The clear-cut sentimental choice, voters will be looking for a way to give it to him.

2. If Seattle wins. . . Alexander. With that line, he can dominate any game and if he does it today, the Seahawks will really be under pressure to sign him to a long-term contract.

3. Defensive choices: Pittsburgh, Polamalu; Seattle, cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

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