Super Bowl XLIII Matchups Are Set

NC Nighthawk@NC Nighthawk (my Xbox gamertag)Analyst IJanuary 19, 2009

Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fans.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the Super Bowl in quest for ring number six in their seventh appearance.  No surprise.

The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.  Say what? Is that a typo?  No, it’s true.  Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction.

Shocking, yes, but not as shocking as hearing that “the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series.”

Since this is their first appearance, the Cardinals are Super Bowl virgins. And let’s leave that metaphor alone.

Saying “Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl” is almost a cliché.  Saying the words “Arizona Cardinals, Super Bowl” is an oxymoron.

Super Bowl XLIII.  That is Super Bowl 43 for those of us who may be a tad Roman Numeral-challenged.

Super Bowl XLIII will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Kickoff is set for 6:25 eastern on NBC TV with announcers Al Michaels and John Madden.  Bruce Springsteen will perform at halftime.

Yes, it’s the sunshine state but this will be a night game where temperatures in the 60s feel cooler than expected.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Pittsburgh's favored by 6.5 points. That's not showing much respect for the Arizona Cardinals but they have been the underdog in all three of their playoff games thus far.

The Cardinals had 45 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl in March, and just 40 to 1 odds at the start of the postseason.

The over/under is 47 points. So I guess that the odds makers thinks that this will be Steelers 27, Cardinals 20.

I don’t argue about the 27 points for Pittsburgh, but I expect Arizona to score more than 20 points.

We will have two weeks of time to analyze and synthesize how these two teams match up and to prognosticate.

These Cardinals, as great as Warner and Fitzgerald are and have been, now have to go up against the best NFL  defense that is playing awesome.

The cliché is that defense win championships.  Almost all championship teams have a great defense, or at least good and smart enough to balance a good offense.

The Steelers obviously have a great defense.  The Cardinal defense plays good enough to give it’s air-arsenal offense to light up the scoreboard and win.

Pittsburgh's defense is dominating while Arizona’s defense is a bend but not break defense.

Both defenses are very competent at creating turnovers.

Of course, the highly anticipated matchup is between the awesome Arizona offense and the dominating Pittsburgh defense.  Something will have to give, and I expect that give and take issue will primarily rest on the shoulders of Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.

Kurt Warner will select his passes precisely and carefully, not setting up his wide receivers to get “jacked up“ (like the Ravens QB Flacco did in the AFC title game).

I find the Whisenhunt and Grimm past connections to the Steelers as one of the intriguing stories of this Super Bowl.  We recall that Pittsburgh decided to hire then Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin over then-current Steelers assistants Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm.

Though some of the offensive personnel Whisenhunt and Grimm helped lead to a Super Bowl title in 2005 has changed over the past three years, the key players, Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, and Heath Miller, still remain. Whisenhunt and Grimm should know these players strengths and weaknesses, particularly Roethlisberger.

While the 2007 meeting during the regular between these two teams have no bearing on this Super Bowl, it did give the Cardinals the confidence they needed to play well against elite teams in the league. Last season, a 3-0 Steelers team made the trip out to Arizona for a regular season game. 

A significant turning point of the Whisenhunt-era Cardinals took place in the third quarter of this one. Kurt Warner replaced a struggling Matt Leinart early in the second half. Warner led the team back, connecting with Jerheme Urban on a crucial six-yard TD pass to tie the game at seven.

Leinart would eventually return and help lead the Cardinals to their second win of the season. This 21-14 win showed Arizona fans two things that the Cardinals could compete with the best teams and that Kurt Warner still had a little something left in that rocket arm of his.

Again, that game has no effect on the outcome of Super Bowl XLIII, but in hindsight, I see that was the game that was the spark of a struggling franchise that changed a losing culture to a winning culture.

Since then, until the 2008 playoffs, the Cardinals played superbly at home but were not road warriors, especially in games played in the east.  However, although it was just one victory, I think that Arizona’s dominating win in Charlotte, North Carolina, in prime time national TV at night, over the heavily favored Carolina Panthers, provides them with one significant experience and confidence to travel to Tampa.

Of course, the Super Bowl is a much bigger stage and there is so much hype and other distractions for players to deal with.  Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm, and Kurt Warner, have prepared for and have one a Super Bowl.  Warner and cornerback Rod Hood (with the Eagles) also knows how it feels to lose a Super Bowl.

Ironically, the veteran Steelers from their last Super Bowl win in 2005 will be able to help Tomlin, staff, and newer players to cope with all of the hoopla, temptations, and distractions.

And there is annually the question about which team will the two week layoff benefit the most?  Usually, it benefits the favored, veteran, and more talented team. But as we saw in last year’s Super Bowl upset by the Giants over the Patriots, that is not necessarily so.

The Cardinals are on a very hot three-week winning streak and probably would have an edge with a one-week layoff between games, at least in terms of offensive chemistry.

I think that these two weeks benefits both teams in terms of rest, healing from injuries, and game preparations.  I also think that two weeks shows us which coaching staff is superior with game preparation, developing a game plan, and most importantly, executing a game plan.

Of course, it may be the in-game and halftime adjustments that decided the outcome.

Again, Pittsburgh's favored by 6.5 points.  Arizona feels like they get no respect.  It’s us against the world again for the fourth and final time for this season.

All of the pressure will be on the Steelers to win.  The Cardinals should be loose, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If the game is close in the fourth quarter, this matchup will develop into a Roethlisberger versus Warner type of game.  I respect Big Ben and what he has accomplished in his young career and he will probably see more Super Bowls. 

However, as Kurt Warner demonstrated in the latter part of the fourth quarter by leading his team to the NFC Championship victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, he can never be counted out.

Roethlisberger has demonstrated over and over this season that he may struggle for three quarters but then put it all together and lead his team to late fourth quarter victories as well.

As the Super Bowl game will generate dozens of analytical questions, here are two that are on my mind.

Which Arizona team will show up:  the “regular season” Cardinals or the “playoffs” edition?  Will the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary be exposed or exonerated?

Quote of the Day:
It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress
--Mark Twain

Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Brought to you by Copyright (C) NIV. All Rights Reserved.