Regardless of which team you root for, Super Bowl Sunday will be a momentous day. Either the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers will win their sixth title in franchise history, or the NFC Champion Arizona (formerly Chicago, later St. Louis) Cardinals will win their first ever.
Two weeks have elapsed since the conference championship games–the two most agonizing weeks in the life of a football fan–giving me time to reflect and research both teams in order to come to this weekend’s prediction. As I write this, it is less than an hour before kick-off and I confess, I am still not sure.
This is one of those head vs gut decisions. My head, the supposedly logical part of my anatomy, says the Pittsburgh Steelers should win this. “Defense wins championships” everyone keeps saying. The Steelers defense is the #1 defense in the NFL this year. Safety Troy Polamalu will draw the assignment of neutralizing Cards receiver Larry Fitzgerald, while nose tackle Casey Hampton will try to shut down running backs Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. The so-called experts all seem to think this will be the deciding factor.
Those same so-called experts are the same people who told us the Dallas Cowboys were a lock to be in this year’s Super Bowl and we see how accurate that prediction was. So I’m not so eager to jump on the bandwagon.
What has me in a quandary—my gut talking to me–is how Pittsbugh’s offense will fare against the Cardinals defense, which has stepped up to shock and surprise the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles in three successive playoff games. Don’t sleep on this bunch. Cardinals tackles Darnell Dockett and Bryan Robinson will try to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a concussion in a meaningless late season game, and they can disrupt a passing game.
Roethlisberger is seeking his second championship in as many visits. His counterpart, the mercurial veteran QB Kurt Warner will be playing in his third Super Bowl.
What I’m predicting is a low-scoring game that could turn on a mistake or a freak play, a turnover or a controversial decision. Defense may win championships, but on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.
I am 6-4 in my post season predictions and this week’s pick is in bold.
Super Bowl XLIII
Sunday, February 1, 2009
6 PM ET NBC
Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) vs. Arizona Cardinals (12-7)