January 19, 2009

I'm Calling It: Steelers 31, Cardinals 15

Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, only two 9-7 teams have reached the Super Bowl: the 1979 Rams and the 2008 Cardinals (Both NFC West Champions who faced Pittsburgh in the big game, incidentally)... These Cardinals are objectively a much worse team than those '79 Rams... Check it:

-The '79 Rams had a very average offense (15th in scoring, 13th in yards) but an above average defense (11th in scoring, 7th in yards). This gave them a prayer at being competitive in XIV, which they ultimately were. Another big stat for those Rams? They were 7th in the NFL in rushing offense... They could run the ball and play defense, and that's championship ball, y'all.

-The 2008 Cardinals are like one of those teams you create in NCAA Football or some such video game, with the big offense and no defense. These Cards are 3rd in scoring offense, but 32nd in rushing yardage! People talk about the "resurgence" of AZ's running game, but it's just an upgrade from abysmal to below average in these playoffs. The defense? 28th in scoring... WORSE THAN SEATTLE.

I did a little research on teams with similar profiles: Top quarter of the NFL in scoring offense, bottom quarter in scoring defense... This is the first time such a team has EVER reached the Super Bowl. These teams were sort of in the ballpark:

-1991 Bills (2nd O/19th D): Lost XXVI
-1992 Bills (3rd O/14th D): Lost XXVII
-1996 Patriots (2nd O/14th D): Lost XXXI
-1999 Titans (7th O/15th D): Lost XXXIV
-2006 Colts (2nd O/23rd D): Won XLI

Side note: Some of you may want to bring up the 1999 Rams, but they were 1st O/4th D... NOT the defensive clusterfuck the Cardinals represent. And the 2005 Seahawks? 1st O/7th D.

So the only precedent Cards fans can point to is the 2006 Colts, but in that instance, you have to remember that Bob Sanders was missing from the defense for much of the year, but returned for the playoffs. Plus, those Colts were 9th in point differential and 7th in takeaway/turnover ratio. The '08 Cards? 18th/17th in those categories.

So the Cards are clearly THE WORST TEAM TO EVER REACH THE SUPER BOWL. What hope can we say they have against a Pittsburgh team that is #1 against the pass and #2 against the rush? Yes, the Steelers have only the #20 offense, but the "weak O, great D" formula has led to a Lombardi Trophy many times before.

The Cardinals bring a one-dimensional offense, the worst defense in Super Bowl history and shaky special teams to XLIII. I see Warner being harassed into four or more turnovers, Fitz being shut down, Edge finishing with 30 yards or less, Pittsburgh scoring at least one defensive touchdown, and running out to a big lead before a couple AZ garbage time scores...

My Official XLIII prediction: Steelers 31, Cardinals 15.
MVP: Troy Polamalu

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