Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why The Cardinals Will Win The Super Bowl

This marks part one of our Stars & Slights Super Bowl preview. Brian will have the Steelers portion in the coming week while I am firmly entrenched on the Arizona Cardinals band wagon. Credit to myself for the simple but cool Super Bowl graphic.

Why The Cardinals Will Win The Super Bowl

The Cardinals have had a magical season, well, the last few weeks have been magical. The regular season was as up-and-down as they come. Inconsistency plagued Arizona throughout the year.

The Cards won their first two games, then lost two, won two, lost one, ran off a three game win streak then lost four of their last six to limp into the playoffs.

None of that matters now however. The Cardinals are the hottest team in the universe and they have everything going in their favor.

I shall avoid using the term, ‘playing with house money’ because I’m sick of hearing it and it no longer applies. The Cardinals now have plenty to lose, the Super Bowl.

But that won’t rattle 2-time NFL MVP and former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner who will start in his third championship tussle.

Warner has had a resurgent season in the desert, throwing for 4,538 yards and 30 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions en route to earning his fourth career Pro Bowl selection.

Warner, 37, has been nearly flawless in the playoffs throwing just two interceptions to his eight touchdowns, capped off by a remarkable performance against the Eagles in the NFC championship game.

Of course Warner’s targets are impressive as well.

Larry Fitzgerald has been on fire lately, but that’s no surprise given his stellar season. Fitzgerald caught 96 passes for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns, scoring a career-high 72 points in the process.

On the other side, Anquan Boldin put in another fine season totaling 1,098 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing 4 games due to injuries. His hamstring is still a bit of a concern, but he was a full participant in practice last Thursday and Friday.

The forgotten man is the surprising Steve Breaston. Warner’s third option had just over 1,000 yards receiving as well this year. You can double cover Larry Fitzgerald all you want, but the other guys are more than capable of beating the defense and they’ve shown it.

The run game isn’t nearly as impressive as the pass for Arizona, but it’s more than enough to keep the defense honest.

Edgerrin James had a resurgence in the playoffs once the Cardinals remembered he was on their roster. He showed flashes of the past with bruising runs and despite his relative age, he still gets better the more carries he gets.

Rookie Tim Hightower is a nice change of pace back as well, leading the team with 10 rushing touchdowns and he proved to be a reliable receiver as is third-string back J.J. Arrington.

The defense is what really sets this team up for success on the grandest of stages.

They’re an impressive +9 in turnover ratio during the playoffs, bewildering not just rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, but veterans Jake Delhomme and Donovan McNabb.

They’ve shut down the league’s No. 2 and No. 3 rushing attacks (Atlanta and Carolina) and have nearly made everyone forget the rather mediocre stats compiled by the unit during the regular season.

Time has forgotten how poorly Ben Roethlisberger played in his first Super Bowl .He completed just 9 of 21 passes in that game for 123 yards and 2 interceptions. Antwaan Randle El threw the only Steeler touchdown pass on a 43-yard completion to Hines Ward.

This season hasn’t been terribly dominant for Roethlisberger, who threw 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and completed just fewer than 60 percent of his passes.

The defense is phenomenal and that’s how Pittsburgh has won 14 games, by smothering the opponent and riding things out on offense.

I think that Arizona has enough firepower to legitimately challenge the Steelers and the Cards’ defense has been playing like world-beaters, which should give the inconsistent Pitt offense some trouble.

Nerves might be a factor early for many of the Cardinal players, but don’t look for that to last too long.


Arizona 24

Pittsburgh 14

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