The AFC champ has won nine of the past 13 Super Bowls. Pittsburgh was the No. 2 seed in the AFC, going 12-4. Pittsburgh has won two of the past five Super Bowls, and now, facing a wild-card qualifier that won two fewer games this season, Pittsburgh is …
A 2 1/2-point underdog.
Not much surprises me anymore, but this did. Not that I don’t think the Packers are good — Arthur Blank and I witnessed firsthand just how good they can be — but because I think the Steelers are powerful and proven and a Brand Name to boot, and that’s the type of team that tends to be given the benefit of most doubts. (Not that I have doubts about the Steelers. Saw them beat the Falcons, too — without their starting quarterback.)
I know Green Bay is the flavor of the month. I know it has beaten the Nos. 3, 1 and 2 seeds in the NFC en route to Super Bowl XLV. But still: Favored over Pittsburgh?
I also know that there’s precedent for a No. 6 seed being favored in the Super Bowl: The Steelers were against Seattle, which was the NFC’s top seed, six years ago. And I know, too, that a betting line isn’t so much a prediction on the game as it is an estimate of how the public will wager. (The perfect line is one that never moves, meaning that an equal amount is bet on both teams.) I know all of that stuff. And still I don’t get this one.
Maybe I’m just being obtuse. It wouldn’t be the first time. I was surprised the Packers wound up only a 1-point underdog against the Falcons, who were playing at home and who were 13-3 and who’d already beaten Green Bay. (I was less surprised the Packers were favored over the Bears.)
Obviously some folks with money know what they’re doing. And I could see Green Bay being favored over the Jets. But it’s not playing the Jets. It’s playing the Steelers, and the Steelers are really good.
That said … the Super Bowl line can be tricky. The Broncos, who were 10-4-1, were favored over the Redskins, who were 11-4, back in January 1988. (Washington won 42-10.) The Raiders, who were 11-5, were favored over the Buccaneers, who were 12-4, in 2003. (Tampa Bay won 48-21.) Heck, the team widely regarded as the NFL’s greatest ever — the unbeaten Dolphins of 1972 — was only a 1-point favorite over the 11-3 Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
That said … I still don’t get this one. Maybe you do. If so, I’d appreciate it if you could explain to me.
By Mark Bradley