Fargo’s 2009 Super Bowl Picks

***9*** Super Bowl XLIII Winner *59% YTD!* What would this line be if Philadelphia had won last week? The Steelers -3? The Steelers -4? Considering that the Eagles were a lower seed and would have been getting fewer points tells us one big thing and that is this line is based a lot on name and history and not the actual matchup. That gives us line value and a lot of it. The Steelers are favored by almost a touchdown because they have the NFL’s best defense and a history that’s more familiar to bettors, oddsmakers said. The Cardinals have had two winning seasons since moving from St. Louis in 1988. Who does the public take here? It is an easy answer. I’ve read a lot about the fact that Arizona is just happy to be here. That is ridiculous and on e person who will have a say in that is head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Before delving into the matchups and stats, it is a huge advantage for Arizona that Whisenhunt and assistant coach Russ Grim were part of the Steelers staff just three years ago. While some players have changed and systems have been altered, there is a lot of information that these two have that other coaches are not privy to. More importantly, there is not a team that the two want to defeat more. Both were passed over for the head coaching job that eventually went to Mike Tomlin. They say there is no ill way but of course they are going to say that. They will do whatever it takes to win, let alone cover. The Cardinals finished fourth in the NFL in offense and second in passing. Of the top ten teams in the league in total offense, Pittsburgh played only four of those teams, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia and Houston. Two of those games were at home including the game against Houston which was the first game of the entire season. The Giants, Eagles and Patriots eclipsed what the Steelers allowed this season in total yards and even though it wasn’t by a lot, it was still more. Pittsburgh allowed 238 ypg against teams that average 317 ypg. 20 teams in the NFL averaged more than 317 ypg so you can see that the teams the Steelers played simply were average on offense. The average ranking in the 16 regular season games of the offenses it faced was 18th. Pittsburgh also played in the weakest division in football offensively as it faced teams twice that were ranked 32nd, 31st and 18th. In case you are wondering, those first two rakings are the worst two in the entire league (Cincinnati and Cleveland). I’m not downplaying the defense as it is a solid unit but it was never truly tested. Now it will. Quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald all were selected to start in the Pro Bowl. Speaking of quarterbacks, as many big games as Ben Roethlisberger has won in his career, I am not sold on him this season at all. Why am I not sold? He finished the regular season with an 80.1 passer rating which is well below average. That was ranked 24th in the NFL behind names such as David Garrard, Trent Edwards, Shaun Hill and Seneca Wallace. His defense has bailed him out more than a few times but it might not happen here. It is not all his fault however as his offensive line is pretty bad. He was sacked 46 times this season while the team was sacked a total of 49 times, 29th in the NFL. The Steelers and Vikings were the only two teams that made the playoffs who were ranked outside 18th in quarterback sacks allowed. As a comparison, Arizona allowed only 28 sacks which were tied for 11th fewest. The Eagles were 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks on defense and they were able to get to Kurt Warner only twice. Arizona had struggled during the regular season on defense but it has played very well in the playoffs and those games came against teams all ranked in the top 10 in total offense as well as scoring offense. The Cardinals finished the regular season 19th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense, That latter ranking is skewed basically by two games, Jets and Patriots, where turnovers played a big part in those outcomes. The defense has allowed close to a touchdown less than what it allowed during the regular season while the rushing defense has been awesome, allowing just 77.3 ypg against three quality running teams. Stopping the Pittsburgh running game means stopping the Pittsburgh offense and I really believe that it can do that. There is still talk about how Arizona struggled on the east coast this season. This point is not valid and not because they rid the demons in Carolina in the Divisional round. That helped with possible self confidence but this game is not being played at 10:00 AM Arizona local time. That had a lot to do with the regular season problems as did bad weather and just plain tough scheduling situations. Two weeks to prepare for a game that is on the right coast when your team is in town for a week means this theory is dead. What we have here is value, a team that is peaking at the right time and another team that I feel is very overrated on both sides of the ball. We get a touchdown on top of it and an outright Arizona victory will just be icing on the cake. 9* Arizona Cardinals