XLV Preview: Quarterbacks

In the only meeting between the two, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger went ape$&#@ on each other, amassing a combined 886 passing yards in a 73-point shootout at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger had a team-record 503 passing yards in what was the best game of his career, at least from a fantasy football standpoint.

That was a magnified version at what we tend to see from these offences most weeks. Rodgers and Roethlisberger got pretty much no help from their running games in that matchup, with Rashard Mendenhall leading all rushers with 38 yards.

But that was more than a year ago, and both offences have made improvements since then. The Packers’ offensive line — a unit that surrendered a league-high 51 sacks last year — has improved drastically, while the Steelers’ running game — a unit that was horribly inconsistent much of the last two years — was the difference in Pittsburgh’s AFC championship victory against the Jets.

Soooo, how many yards are Big Ben and A-Rod going to put up in the rematch, Feb. 6 in North Texas?

Don’t get your hopes up. The defences are much, much better this year. In fact, only the Steelers (232) surrendered fewer points than the Packers (240) during the regular season. In 2009, neither team cracked the top five.

Regardless, all eyes will be on the two Rs over the next 13 days. Here’s a statistical comparison of Rodgers and Roethlisberger since Rodgers became a full-time starter in 2008:

Rodgers: 47 GP, 64.6%, 8.1 YPA, 268 YPG, 86 TD, 31 INT, 100.0 rating, 879 rush yards, 13 rush TD
Roethlisberger: 43 GP, 62.9%, 7.9 YPA, 252 YPG, 60 TD, 32 INT, 92.5 rating, 359 rush yards, 6 rush TD

And to get a little less macro (or more micro), here’s a look at their 2010 stats, prorated for both to a 16-game season:

Rodgers: 65.7%, 4,183 YDS, 8.3 YPA, 29 TD, 11 INT, 101.2 rating, 379 rush yards, 4 rush TD
Roethlisberger: 61.7%, 4,266 YDS, 8.2 YPA, 22 TD, 6 INT, 97.0 rating, 234 rush yards, 2 rush TD

And finally, here’s what they’ve done in the 2010 playoffs thus far:

Rodgers: 71%, 8.5 YPA, 263 YPG, 6 TD, 2 INT, 109.2 rating, 56 rush yards, 2 rush TD
Roethlisberger: 56.9%, 7.0 YPA, 180 YPG, 2 TD, 2 INT, 75.5 rating, 32 rush yards, 1 rush TD

And here’s an important caveat: the only defence that had more sacks this year than Green Back (47) was Pittsburgh (48). Man, these teams are eerily similar, aren’t they? So, against fierce pass rushes, mobility will be a major factor. Based on the numbers alone, you’d think Rodgers might be more mobile, but Big Ben might actually be harder to take down because of his size and his phenomenal pocket presence.

It’s also important to remember that Roethlisberger has been here and done this. While A-Rod has had a great postseason, he’s still quite green. His 2009 season ended when he held onto the ball too long and was strip-sacked in overtime against the Cardinals on wild-card weekend. Roethlisberger might be slightly more reliable than Rodgers, but the playoff stats reveal that Rodgers has a much hotter hand.

Edge: Too close to call.