The Road to Tampa: The NFC West champs beat Atlanta (+66 scoring diff.) to earn the franchise’s first home playoff victory in 60 years. Experts wrote off the win to rookie-QB-on-the-road-itis and said Atlanta didn’t really have a good defense, anyways. Next, the Cardinals went to Carolina (+85 scoring diff.) and pounced on the Panthers, breaking Jake Delhomme’s career in the process. This victory was also written off to Delhomme’s poor performance and again, Carolina didn’t really have that good a defense. The Cardinals hosted the Eagles (+127 scoring diff.) for the NFC Championship. The game was over in the second quarter, but the refs muffed a kickoff call that would have given the Cardinals the ball inside the Eagles 30 with a 21-6 lead. Sure, the Eagles made a miraculous comeback to take the lead, but the Cardinals closed the deal at the end of the game. This game was written off to the Eagles not covering Larry Fitzgerald and a 4th down non-PI call on incidental contact. The bottom line is, the Cardinals have beaten three good teams to get to the Super Bowl…and they will beat the Steelers.
How is it going to go down?
Steelers on offense: Hines Ward will be playing, if at all, with a brace on his knee. The Steelers offensive line is made up of turnstiles and there are rumors this week that Big Ben’s back is aching. The Cardinals defense has already contained three better running backs than Willie Parker (Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Brian Westbrook) this post season. Rodgers-Cromartie and Aaron Francisco can cover Santonio Holmes, while Rod Hood blankets a gimpy Ward. Clancy Pedergast (remember that name if your team needs a new head coach in a couple years) will concoct a scheme that contains Willie “Sometimes I am Fast” Parker and puts Big Ben on his back. Byron Leftwich, anyone?
Cardinals on offense: This is going to be tough for the Cardinals offense. Todd Haley, Arizona’s offensive coordinator, is hotter than steam and could be headed to Kansa City after this game to coach the Chiefs. He will have the offense ready for the pressure the Steelers will bring. Remember when everyone said stopping Larry Fitzgerald is the key to shutting down the Cardinals offense? Remember when Anquan Boldin went all T.O. during the NFC Championship? Anquan Boldin will get the ball a lot in the first quarter on Sunday. I would not be surprised to see him run, catch and throw the ball all in the first 15 minutes – prop bet? When the Steelers have to honor Boldin over the middle and Larry Fitzgerald deep, Edgerrin James will get some cheap yards running delays and draw plays. Kurt Warner’s quick release will keep him upright long enough to find the open receiver. Last, but not least, Ike Taylor cannot cover Larry Fitzgerald.
Oh, NO! If the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, the NFL regular season no longer means anything! The non-Best regular season teams aren’t supposed to win so many championships! Woe is me! It’s the apocalypse! The Reality is that if the Cardinals win, it means its sports. In sports anything can happen., that’s why we love sports. “Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Sports! Bart gets to ride upfront because he’s good at sports.” The Arizona Cardinals’ strength on offense (passing game) is the Steelers defense’s weakness (not really a weakness, but not as awesome as the rush defense). The Cardinals can basically abandon the weakest part of their offense (running game) early and force the Steelers’ offense to beat them.
Super Bowl Champion Arizona Cardinals. Get used to it.
Arizona 24 – Pittsburgh 17