January 30, 2009

The Super pick

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

It’s taken the entire two week period between the conference championship games and this Sunday’s Super Bowl for me to decide who to pick. I can’t remember the last time I’ve hemmed and hawed about the Super Bowl this much and after this wacky, quirky season, I shouldn’t be this surprised by it. I mean, seriously, the Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, how much more wacky could it get?

As it more often than not comes down to, the Super Bowl will be a battle between a great offence and a great defence, the Cardinals and the Steelers, respectively. The thing is, those two “greats” usually cancel each other out, ergo, this game should come down to the Cardinals defence against the Steelers offence. So let’s breakdown the factors and matchups that RTP thinks will be most important to the biggest game of the year.

-Hines Ward is going to be a factor in this game one way or another. While the two weeks between games have surely allowed his bum knee to heal up enough to play, he won’t be at 100%. Even so, Ward is a good enough player to leave open, hobbled or not. So trotting Ward out as a decoy could help the Steelers in the passing game by taking a man off of their speed guys, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington. The real problem that Ward’s injury gives the Steelers is that now, the full weight of the underneath and intermediate routes will fall on tight end Heath Miller. If the Cards can take Miller out of the equation, stopping the pass could be an easier task than expected.

-Willie Parker will have a huge day in Tampa. He hasn’t really burst out for a massive game this season and it might not be incredibly huge on Sunday, but he will be the key to the Steelers moving the ball. Arizona isn’t a great rushing defence and Pittsburgh is the essence of a fundamental team. Unless they fall behind early and are forced to abandon the run, Parker is in line for a 100-yard game.

-In case you haven’t heard by now, the Cardinals have a receiver named Larry Fitzgerald and he’s apparently kind of good. It goes without saying that the Steelers will need to do whatever possible to stop Fitzgerald and that will probably mean double covering him with a corner and then having outstanding safety Troy Polamalu over the top of him. The big problem with us (other than not allowing Polamalu to creep up to the line) is that now Anquan Boldin will be trying single coverage on the other side of the ball. How dangerous is Boldin? Well, considering he’s starting in the Pro Bowl opposite Fitzgerald, pretty damn good. A lot of people seem to be discounting Boldin because of how great Larry’s been, but the physical receiver has a great chance of being a deciding factor in this game.

-Now, if the Steelers decide to double both Fitz and Boldin, they can always go to a three-receiver set. Then, who’s going to cover the Cardinals’ other 1,000 yard receiver, Steve Breaston. When Arizona goes to the air, the Steelers better hope they can get to Kurt Warner before he throws. If not, that vaunted D might be picked apart.

-Edgerrin James is going nowhere. Even though it’s looked like the Cardinals are doing better running the ball and Edge looks like he’s rejuvenated, he’s really not. Arizona is running more but it’s not producing more yards per carry and is still under the magic number of 4 YPC. When you put up a rushing attack like that against the Steelers awesome run defence and that’s a recipe for disaster.

-Everybody is talking about how Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were passed over for the Steelers’ head coaching job and left for Arizona. This would theoretically give them an advantage since they know all of Pittsburgh’s schemes and personnel but I have a counter to that: Would Pittsburgh know what to expect from these guys then? Wouldn’t they know their flaws (since they ultimately would’ve had flaws since because if they didn’t, they would’ve been hired for Pitt)? I think the matchup of coaches is closer than anybody else thinks.

-The Steelers fans always travel well and if you think the Terrible Towels won’t be out in force on Sunday, you’re crazy. Pittsburgh fans even out-numbered Redskins fans in Washington for a somewhat meaningless midseason game; do you really think they won’t double up on the seemingly non-existent Cardinals fans?

-No one can use the no-one-believed-in-us angle. As much as Arizona wants to talk themselves into believing that no one is giving them a chance to win the Super Bowl, it’s just not true. A poll on ESPN.com last night proved it when the results of a simple “Who will win the Super Bowl?” question came back with a resounding 51%-49% split in favour of Arizona.

-The Cardinals do have a numbers-related advantage in their favour: The three teams to have allowed the most points per game and reach the Super Bowl are the 2008 Cardinals, 2007 Giants and 2006 Colts. Yes, the 2007 Giants and the 2008 Colts, also known as the past two Super Bowl champions.

So, after tallying up everything, it comes down to this: Who do I feel more confident in backing and putting money on? That answer is quite simple after writing this post.

The pick: Pittsburgh (-6.5) over Arizona
2008 season: 126-101-8
2008 playoffs: 5-5

1 Comment

  1. Arizona by 4 !

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