My Picks for Superbowl XLIII
Who Will Win and More Importantly (At Least Here in Vegas), Who Will Cover the Spread
Okay, maybe I got a little cocky after my near perfect week during the Divisional Round and picked both #6 seeds to win the Conference Championships, in spite of this being the first time that two no. 6's had ever gotten one game away from the Superbowl. So, my 0-2 record dropped me back down to where I was after the Wildcard Round leaving me 5-5 straight up and also 5-5 against the spread.
I'm done overlooking the Cardinals though and I think they have a real shot to win the whole thing. This has actually been one of the best playoffs in a long time and I think this game will follow that trend. It would be hard for it to surpass last year with the Giants' huge upset of the undefeated Patriots (which I predicted with the correct score even), but it should be a great one. So pull out some good snacks, grab a chair, and let's get this thing started.
Since this is the final game 'til September, I decided to throw in a few extra picks rather than just picking who will win and who will cover the point spread. I'm also picking the result of the opening coin flip, the over/under, and the MVP.
The Opening Coin Flip
One of the fun things with the Superbowl is all the silly and random prop bets that people with too much cash in their pocket can use to donate money to the casinos. So just for the hell of it, I'm predicting the opening coin flip. After alot of research and analysis, I'm picking tails. Mostly because I always pick tails whenever a coin flip is required to settle something.
Tails it is.
Heads or Tails
Will the Opening Coin toss be:
The Over/Under - 46 1/2 points
So, which team will dictate the pace; is it gonna be Arizona's high scoring offense or Pittsburgh's tough grind it out defense? It's also one of those classic matchups of contrasting styles with the gritty, smashmouth Steelers looking to slowdown the Cardinals with their explosive, finesse offense. I actually think they are going to cancel each other out and this is going to be a close, hard fought game that comes down to one or two big plays. Both teams have their share of big time guys who have stepped up their play when it was needed.
Which is why I'm taking the over.
How Many Combined Points will be Scored by Both Teams at the Superbowl?
The Pittsburgh Steelers ( -7 ) vs. the Arizona Cardinals
I've finally come to terms with the fact that the Cardinals are for real. After fighting it for three games, expecting them to crash back down to reality at any minute, I'm ready to accept that, win or lose, they belong. A team that looked like it rolled up it's tents half way through the season has managed to become the hottest team in the NFL during the postseason. The one possible exception being the Steelers, who have revved it up a notch after being the most consistent team throughout the regular season.
The odd thing is that they have somehow created amazing chemistry even though three of the key players on their offense are openly ready to bolt as soon as the season ends. Edgerrin James has been unhappy with his role in the offense pretty much since the day he stepped off the plane from Indy and has no plans to resign regardless of Sunday's outcome. Anquan Boldin is the most unhappy guy (possibly in the world) swearing he would never resign with the Cardinals even if they won the Superbowl after unsuccessfully holding out for a new contract, then fighting with the offensive coordinator during the NFC Championship and later skipping out on the victory party. Kurt Warner, on the other hand, isn't actually unhappy (pretty much ever), but he couldn't even get his teammates to come to a barbecue at his house last summer, because they were afraid he might preach to them and still might be moving on to make room for the QB of the future (which would be a huge mistake by the Cards). Not exactly the picture of chemistry on the surface, but they've managed to put all that aside during games (except the fighting with the coach part) to pull together for maybe the most improbable playoff run ever.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Larry Fitzgerald as the fourth cog in the offense pulling down any pass that gets within the same zip code as him and then running over anyone between him and the endzone, setting the record for receiving yards with another game yet to be played in the process. Nor does it hurt that the defense finally decided to start tackling opposing running backs after leading the universe in missed tackles and penalties all season. Which as I said last week, has been the key to their playoff high twelve turnovers. Not only are they shutting the run down and forcing teams to throw the ball every down, but the strong play of DE Antonio Smith and DT Darnell Dockett have allowed them to pressure the QB primarily with just the front four. This has allowed the Arizona secondary, led by CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Antrel Rolle to sit back in coverage and prey on the bad passes that pressure has generated.
The Steelers are no slouch themselves on defense or in bringing pressure. Nor is Troy Polamalu any stranger to taking advantage of bad passes created by that pressure. In fact, it's becoming rather popular to speculate that this just might be the best defense the NFL has ever seen. That's no small statement in the town that spawned the Steel Curtain. Their one weakness is in the defensive backfield, which has been a bit vulnerable to big plays this year. But then they have managed to compensate for that by sending Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison to make the opposing quarterback's life miserable before they get a chance to find a receiver.
It's on the other side of the ball that the Stelers might have some trouble. As has been the case all season, thanks to a less than stellar offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger got beat up against the Ravens and is rumored to have smashed up ribs. That probably isn't going to be a big factor though since he's barely gone a game all year without either busted ribs, a concussion, or both and he's pretty accustomed to playing with half his body numbed by either painkillers or head injuries (or both). Usually he's done just enough to win, but he has also had a bit of a tendency to get wild and throw the ball up for grabs when there is nothing available, which hasn't been a good game plan against the Cardinals defense this postseason. The bigger question is what Hines Wards' status will be after he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee during the AFC Championship. Even though Ward and the Steelers insist he will be able to play just fine, a knee injury isn't exactly the best of things for a wide receiver to play with. Ward is their biggest weapon and, if he doesn't play, there will be a huge hole in their offense. Tight end Heath Miller managed to pick up the slack last week and Willie Parker, who has finally started earning his keep as a running back during the playoffs, can help out over the middle too, where Ward usually does his damage. If they can hold down the fort there, then Santonio Holmes may make enough deep plays to make up the difference. If not, they are going to be sorely lacking having to rely on Nate Washington and Limas Sweed.
Last but not least, one of the big story lines is the Pittsburgh roots of the Arizona coaching staff. Head coach Ken Wisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm were assistants at Pittsburgh and finalists to replace Bill Cowher when he retired (Grimm thought he had the job). Also, offensive coordinator Todd Haley (the guy Boldin was fighting with and Terrell Owens refused to talk to when he was the receivers coach in Dallas) is the son of Dick Haley, who was the player personnel director for Pittsburgh during the time that the Steel Curtain was being assembled. So there's alot of potential motivational angles there, but the biggest factor might be their familiarity with Pittsburgh's defense. Dick Lebeau, the Steeler's defensive coordinator, is one of those "wizards," who created his own system (the zone blitz) that everybody else in the NFL is now using. Meanwhile, one of the biggest strengths of Arizona has been their offense's innovation and big play ability. The big question wil be whether they can use that knowledge of Lebeau's defense to their advantage and design plays to exploit it.
When it's all said and done, not only have I finally managed to believe in Arizona, but:
I'm picking the Cardinals to pull the upset and win outright.
Steelers vs. Cardinals Poll
Which Team Will Win/Cover?
The Superbowl MVP
Having picked Arizona to win, I'm assuming it will go to a Cardinals player of course. At first blush, I think it would be Larry Fitzgerald. That's the obvious choice since he has been unstoppable during the playoffs. The Steelers are going to go out of their way to do just that though and I think they'll control him for the most part. Which means Anquan Boldin could benefit from the extra attention drawn by Fitzgerald and have a big day. But I think the sentimental favorite is going to get the nod.
Which is why I'm picking Kurt Warner to collect his third Suberbowl MVP trophy.
The Superbowl MVP
Who Will Be Named Superbowl MVP?
I'd like to have that pick for the coin flip back. I don't know what the hell I was thinking going with tails when everybody knows that heads is the best side of the coin. I'm definitely going to have to do some research on that before next season.
Outside of that, I'm not too unhappy with my picks. It played out pretty much like I thought it would. While it did start to get away from the Cards in the third quarter, they pulld it together and almost took it. In the end it was a very close game that was decided by a few big plays, which is what I predicted. All in all, it was a helluva game, the total came in, and the Cards covered the number.
Which leaves my playoff record at 5-6 straight up, 6-5 against the spread, 1-0 on the over/under, 0-1 on the coin flip, and 0-1 in picking the MVP.
Greatest Superbowl Ever?
Was this the Greatest Superbowl Ever Played?
Seeya Next Year or Give It Up?
Did You Enjoy Reading My Picks This Season?
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