Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, January 30, 2009

And the winner of Super Bowl XLIII is?

Are you ready for some football?! I think this Super Bowl will be very exciting and intriguing. It should be a great game and I’m looking forward to Sunday to see it all unfold. I hope it lives up to the hype.

To play championship football a team must play solid defense, run the football effectively, and avoid turnovers. If you look at all Super Bowls played up to this point the teams that did the latter hoisted the trophy.

The Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers are ready to do battle. I’ll chronicle what I believe each team must do to win before I’ll let you know who I think the winner will be.

The Pittsburgh Steelers:

Everyone knows the strength of the Mike Tomlin led Steelers is their defense. They are giving up just 14 points per game entering Super Bowl Sunday. They have Troy Polamalu and James Harrison anchoring the defense. To win the defense must force Kurt Warner out of the pocket in hopes of disrupting his rhythm. This will be best accomplished by blitzing Warner, particularly on third and long.

The Steelers defense must force turnovers and stop the resurgent running attack led by Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. If they stop the run the Cardinals will become one dimensional in their offensive attack.

The secondary must not allow Larry Fitzgerald to beat them deep. The Steelers corners need to jam the Arizona wide receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the Arizona attack. They must force Warner to go this second and third reads. Also, the defense must keep Arizona in third and long situations. As the game progresses this will force Warner to beat the Steelers with his arm.

Willie Parker must have a yeoman’s performance running the ball. He’s missed five games this season but looks to be in good form now. Parker’s running can keep Warner and his high octane off the field thereby nullifying Arizona’s strength which is scoring points.

Santonio Holmes must come up big as a receiver and provide the Steelers with good field position on punt and kickoff returns. Nate Washington must also look to get deep. We don’t know how healthy Hines Ward will be entering Sunday’s contest but I expect him to leave whatever he has on the field.

Last but not least Ben Roethlisberger must do more than manage the game. He must ensure they score touchdowns in the red zone and not settle for field goals. He must take shots down the field to Holmes and Washington.

Roethlisberger needs to use his mobility to make plays. He needs to get rid of the ball quickly by running slants, crosses, and seam routes to Holmes, Ward, Washington and tight end Heath Miller. If nothing is there simply throw the ball away.

Coach Mike Tomlin must ensure his team is aggressive on both sides of the ball. They have to do what they do well when it matters the most.

Go defense!

The Arizona Cardinals:

Ken Whisenhunt’s team is playing awfully well on both sides of the ball. Their suspect defense has been playing awfully well this month. Lead by Darnell Docket and Antonio Rogers-Cromartie the Cardinals are stopping people with unexpected precision.

Yes, the defense is playing well but the strength of this team lies in Kurt Warner’s arm and Larry Fitzgerald’s hands. Warner and Fitzgerald must come up big for this team to win. The Edge must run the ball effectively. He doesn’t have to run for a 100 yards but he needs to run it enough to keep Pittsburgh’s defense on guard. This will set up play action plays down the field to the Cardinal receivers.

The Edge is one of the best blocking running backs in the game. Having him in there will help Warner ward off the Steelers blitz. He can also bounce out for screen passes to hopefully gain positive yards.

The Cardinals trio of receivers of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston all went over 1000 yards receiving this year. J.J. Arrington has played well coming in on third down catching the ball out of the backfield and blocking. I expect one or more of the latter players to play a big role in Sunday’s game.

Warner cannot make mistakes. The Steelers defense will be coming hard so he must get rid of the ball. With his rapid fire release Warner should be able to nullify the Steelers blitz by running slants and crosses or throwing the screen to James, Hightower, or Arrington out of the back field.

The key to the Cardinals winning is their defense. If the defense can stop the run they will give Warner’s offense more opportunities to put points on the board.

Coach Whisenhunt, like Tomlin, must be aggressive and go for it. Many think the Cardinals were not supposed to be here. This can be used as fuel for them to play free in beating a team many think they can’t beat.

And the winner is?

After analyzing what the two teams’ strengths and weaknesses are I believe the Arizona Cardinals will hoist the trophy and here’s why. When I look at both teams they are evenly matched. Looking at their offense, defense, special teams, and coaching they mirror one another in many ways, but there are some subtle differences that gives the Cardinals a slight edge.

I think Warner will have enough time to throw the ball to his receivers when he needs to. He has too many weapons on offense for all of them to be shut down. Yes, he’ll be blitzed and sacked a few times but not enough to totally halt their offense.

Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles defense.

The Edge will come up big. He wants to win a ring bad and he’s auditioning to show other teams he can still get it done.

Yes, the Steelers defense is stellar but their best players on this team are on defense. To win they must score points on defense and I don’t see that happening. Roethlisberger must do more than manage the game. The Cardinals defense will put enough pressure on Big Ben to force him out of the pocket which will translate into mistakes.

Parker will get his share of yards, but I don’t see that translating into points. The Steelers have had problems scoring in the red zone during the playoffs. Their playoff games were won by narrow margins on their home field.

Well, aren’t you supposed to win at home?

Meanwhile the Cardinals went down to Carolina and beat the pants off the Carolina Panthers in convincing fashion on the road. The Panthers were ranked by many experts as the best team in the NFC. The unheralded Cardinals defense forced Jake Delhomme into five interceptions and shut down their running attack.

Remember that?

Yes, the Steelers are rich in tradition and have a glorious past. But on Sunday that will mean very little. The Cardinals are out to prove to the world that they didn’t need the endorsement of the “experts” to validate their success. I can relate to the latter because I’ve engaged in activities as journalist that I’m not “supposed” to as a freelancer. The Cardinals won’t need the “experts” love on Sunday.

The Cardinals are led by a guy who bagged groceries during his career to make ends meat. No one thought he could play in the NFL 10 years ago. Two league MVP’s and a Super Bowl ring later Kurt Warner is looking to add to his legend. He’s seen he high’s and lows in life and sport. He understands what this moment is all about and the rest of his teammates will follow his lead.

Yes, the Steelers have the best defense in the game. While the experts suggest defense wins championships I beg to differ. Defense by itself doesn’t win championships, it helps to win championships. Besides, the last time I checked the trophy goes to the team who scores the most points-not the team with the best defense.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Mike Tomlin and respect the Steelers and all their tradition. I think Tomlin was the best coach in the N.F.L. this year. He’s the youngest coach ever to coach in the Super Bowl and the third African American to coach in the sports biggest game as we kick off Black History Month. From a personal standpoint I’d love for him to win this game. It will open the door for more African American coaches in the college ranks and the N.F.L. to aspire to be what they see.

But as a sports fan and a professional journalist I have to call it like I see it.

Final score: Cardinals 31, Steelers 17.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like I told you in the gym..STEERLERS BY 10..but I'm not an expert either