It’s official. January 18, 2009 determined who would be the lucky ones to play for a Super Bowl Championship. Those two teams were the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, both teams winning their respective conference championship games in spectacular fashion.
The Arizona Cardinals shocked the nation Sunday, when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in front of their raucous and rabid crowd. The noise made it difficult all game; momentum shifting from team to team. The Eagles went up by one late in the game, when they decided to go for two to put them up by three; a field goal to tie for the Cardinals. The Cardinals weren’t fazed. They stormed down the field, setting up a third and goal with minutes left. Wanting a touchdown, Kurt Warner used the screen play to perfection and Tim Hightower plowed into the end zone. To make the game a seven point affair, Warner threw a bullet on a comeback route, to put the Cardinals up by seven. From there, the Eagles had little chance for a miracle with only second left and an entire field to go. The Cardinals pulled off the improbable and are the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.
The AFC Championship game was decided between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Their hatred for each other runs deep, but both are hardnosed, physical teams that respect each other. This was a great game, with the Steelers edging out the Ravens 23-14. There was hard hitting throughout, just ask Ravens running back Willis McGahee, with the Steelers defense keeping the Ravens dismal offense at bay. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco struggled the entire game, trying to read the Pittsburgh secondary. The Steelers defensive schemes worked to perfection, with Flacco throwing three interceptions, leading to an 18.2 quarterback rating. Not so good for a player who became the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games. But that recognition is thrown out the window when facing the stingy Steelers defense. The Steelers were more fortunate. Led by Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers were able to move the ball down the field on the Ravens defense. While his completion percentage wasn’t great; less than fifty percent, Big Ben helped set up scoring opportunities all night. In the end, Roethlisberger and the Steelers were the victors of this heated matchup between division foes.
This leads us to Super Bowl XLIII. The Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet the first week of February to decide who will be crowned Super Bowl Champion and it should be a great game. The Cardinals come into this matchup with one of the more dynamic offenses in the NFL. Warner plays with this team like he did during his run with the Rams. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin do the catching, while resurgent running back Edgerrin James has brought the running game back to life. The Pittsburgh Steelers do their work on defense. Their defense ranks in the top two spots in the passing and running game, which makes it extremely difficult for teams to gain any rhythm. However, their offense can come to life with Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Willie Parker helping Roethlisberger put up touchdowns. While I think it should be a great game between a really good offense and an amazing defense, I think the Steelers will win this one. Their defense is just too ferocious and dominating. They really do not let teams gain any yards on offense. Their secondary is extremely improved, giving receivers nothing to work with. The Steelers offense can also put up the necessary points to help out. Look for the Cardinals to put up some points, but I don’t think it will be anywhere near the 32 points they put up against the Eagles. If this game is anything like last year’s Super Bowl, then everyone is in for a real treat.
Prediction: Steelers 28-Cardinals 17