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America's Game


After 256 NFL regular season games and 10 playoff contests, Super Sunday is nearly here. It’s time to break out the Terrible Towels and Cheeseheads, because the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are set to square off in Super Bowl XLV at the “Palace in Dallas” — Cowboys Stadium in Arlington — on Feb. 6.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call what is arguably the most American Super Bowl ever, during a FOX broadcast that will open with Christina Aguilera singing the National Anthem, break with the Black Eyed Peas performing at halftime and end with the world champions hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The question is, will Blitz-burgh earn its record seventh Super Bowl title — after winning IX, X, XIII and XIV under Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw; XL with Bill Cowher and Ben Roethlisberger; and XLIII with current coach Mike Tomlin and clutch quarterback Big Ben? Or will Title Town celebrate its fourth win — after taking I and II with the silver symbol’s namesake, Lombardi, and Bart Starr; and XXXI under Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre?

The Steelers advance to the Super Bowl after clinching the AFC North crown with a 12–4 record, earning a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, beating the division-rival Baltimore Ravens (31–24) in the Divisional Round and the New York Jets (24–19) in the AFC Championship Game.

Pittsburgh jumped out to a 24–0 first-half lead over New York, as big-talking Jets coach Rex Ryan stood speechless on the sideline. But Gang Green fought back, scoring 19 unanswered points before the clock struck zero on what was a statement season for the J-E-T-S. Now, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and the Steel Curtain stop-unit will fittingly head to Big D for one last fight.

"We overcame a lot more obstacles this year than we have in the past," said Polamalu, who was injured during the Steelers' Week 15 loss to the Jets but was a difference-maker in the rematch victory.

"But we still got one more to go."

On the other side of the coin, the Packers have been in must-win mode since Week 16 of the regular season, Lambeau Leap-ing into the playoffs as a 10–6 Wild Card berth, following home wins over the New York Giants (45–17) and Chicago Bears (10–3). Green Bay has since become the NFC’s first No. 6 seed to make the Super Bowl, after road warrior wins against the Philadelphia Eagles (21–16) in the Wild Card Round, the Atlanta Falcons (48–21) in the Divisional Round and the NFC North-rival Chicago Bears (21–14) in the NFC title game.

The 182nd meeting between the Packers and Bears was a black-and-blue brawl that saw Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers with a bloody mouth and Chicago's Jay Cutler get knocked out of the game with an injured knee after bleeding through his shirt early in the game. The Packers had a 14–0 lead at the half, but needed one last stand late to hold off a charging Bears squad led by third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie.

"We felt we had them on the ropes there for a while. We just couldn't get the game to a three-score game. I think that says a lot about them as a football team. But it also says a lot about us as a team. Defense, special teams, people making plays down the stretch," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who lost his only other NFC title game appearance three seasons ago to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants.

"It was the typical Green Bay-Chicago game, with everything on the line."

The Steelers and Packers will have two weeks to rest, rehab, prep and rep for Super Bowl XLV — which will feature two of the most historic franchises in all of sports in what should be one of the highest-rated games of all-time.

Hyperbole beware; the bandwagons may not be big enough for this year's big game.

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