Raise your hand if you picked the Arizona Cardinals to make the Super Bowl this year.
Now, put your hand down if you’re from Arizona.
To the few of you who still have your hands up, good for you. Either you're lying or you got lucky, because this wasn't supposed to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, the Cardinals are a talented football team. Veteran quarterback Kurt Warner is an MVP-caliber player who has won the big game before, and Larry Fitzgerald has emerged into what many consider to be the best receiver in the NFL, drawing comparisons to Jerry Rice in his prime.
They also have a workable running game that emerged at just the right time, as well as a defense that can be very, very good.
But how many thought this would be one of the top two teams at the end of the season?
On the other side of the field, we have the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has been good from the start, a team that we all expected to go far in the playoffs. This team has one put together one of its best defenses in a long time.
Combine that with the solid play of Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward, and the bruising running game, and you’ve got yourself a tough team.
The big question for this game is going to be whether or not the Cardinals offense can score enough points on that dominant Steelers defense. Fitzgerald is a beast in the open field, as evident by his three-touchdown performance against the Eagles in the NFC Championship and his work the week before at Carolina.
If he can find some space, even against the best defense in the NFL, he will find a way to put points on the board.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has struggled a bit offensively as of late. Unless they can find a way to move the ball effectively and score some points, their defense may not be able to keep them in this one.
If the Cardinals can get their offense going like they have been lately, they should win this game. If they can’t, though, the Steelers will take care of business.
It's a slightly unusual matchup, yes, but this has all the makings of a great game. My prediction: Steelers 13, Cardinals 9.