Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mahatma's Superbowl Pick

This has probably been the longest week of my life. Work has kicked my ass. Drinks have kicked my ass and I still have crapload of shit to do over the weekend. Sorry this is long.

Thankfully this has allowed me to not be as obsessed with the game as I'd thought I'd be. Don't get me wrong I still check every media outlet and message board every hour but I still have other thoughts going on in my head not relating to football. I took my one week break from ESPN and tuned in over the past couple of days. Apparently, the Arizona Cardinals are in the superbowl. I don't know who they are playing because the point is mute. Arizona will win because that other team isn't worthy enough to talk about.

After some research, it seems the Cardinals are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn't matter who they are playing because the Cardinals are so hot right now.

The problems with the Steelers are well chronicled on this site and have yet to be rectified.
  • Idiot offensive coordinator. 3rd and inches. No problem! 5 wide receivers!! The problem with Arians is that he has no feel for the game. Plays don't get setup. Players aren't put into position to succeed. Not making the TE the #1 receiver on designed plays. He uses a lot of different formations but runs THE SAME plays in these formations. It’s to the point that me, BH, Brooklyn Yinzer and Iowa can determine the exact play. Now imagine what people who’ve seen the game films 100000 times can do. It’s one thing if you show something different in said formations but no, he doesn’t. it’s the lame brain predictable play calling that gets this team in trouble. He also lacks a feel of the game. Run working fine but hey let’s go 5 wide on 3rd and 1. Opponent can’t cover Heath Miller, fine let’s call plays with him blocking!. Using running backs in space is out of the question for Bruce. No huddle always works with this team because the offensive coordinator isn’t calling the plays. Nothing can be taken for granted when Bruce Arians is running an offense in the playoffs. Arians also forgets to use the Steeler’s version of Darren Sproles, Mewelde Moore. Moore was/is the offensive MVP of the season and has proved to be a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Now with Willie Parker, it’s almost as though Moore is unable to even see the field. Look Parker should start but it’s obvious that Moore makes things happen for the offense in both run and pass. Why he isn’t allowed to see the field more especially when the offense is more in sync with him?
  • Horrendous offensive line. There isn't even a good player out of the bunch. C Justin Hartwig is best of the bunch and he got cut from Carolina last year. Add 7 million Man, Maxi Pad Starks who is a RT playing LT, Chris Kemoeatu who has an IQ of 10, Darnell Stapelton who is only playing because a Diabetic with a history of knee injuries is out for the year, and Willie "The" Colon who is talked about here.
  • All week the Cardinals have heard that they are playing with "House" money. I thought the NFL didn't condone gambling. Now even more so. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  • God loves Kurt Warner. From bag guy to Hall of Fame QB. God loves you Kurt and so does ESPN. God hates heathens especially those who ride motorcycles without helmets.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is the BEST RECEIVER OF ALL TIME. Like totally. Kurt Warner could throw the football into the 7th layer of hell and LFitz would catch it. Who can stop him? Ike Taylor?! WHO?!
  • Todd Haley and Ken Whisenhunt. Both are intimate with the steelers (and probably each other!) and know how to attack it. The Cheezen practiced against Dirty Dick Lebeau's defense for 3 years. I'm sure he'll know what Lebeau likes to do. Cheezen also knows what BRoth likes to do. Uh oh.
  • This Steelers defense isn't the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Bucs. Its a great defense but not an all-time great one. The Cardinals will put some points.
  • Pittsburgh are 7 point favorites, but polls from ESPN, Fox and other outlets show that the public expects Arizona to win the game outright. If Who Wants to Be a Millionaire taught us anything is always go with the audience.
  • Win one for Adrian is the rallying cry. All superbowl winning teams have a guy they sell out for. (Bettis, Manning, Strahan, etc.) Who on the Steelers deserves one that doesn't have one already?
  • Unpredictable Cardinals. Both offensively and defensively, the Cards are all about mixing it up. The Cardinals will go with two backs, two wide receivers and a tight end; two backs and three wide receivers; one back and four wide receivers; one back, two tight ends and two wide receivers; and with two backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver.Defense shifts from a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2 whatever. Their personnel can do both effectively.
  • Refs. They always screw with the Steelers especially with the 3 million dollar commercial business. Don't you think they'd love to have those advertisers keep spending their millions. Keeping it a close game will be their utmost order by Goondell.
  • Key matchups. Critical matchups include Fitzgerald vs. Taylor/McFadden. Chike Okefor/Antonio Smith vs. Willie Colon. Adrian Wilson vs. Heath Miller. Santonio Holmes vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Winners of these 5 matchups will win the game.
  • I normally detest the citation of single-game (or, worse, single-quarter) passer ratings, but in this case I’ll make an exception: Roethlisberger’s 22.6 rating was the lowest ever by a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. “I don’t know what [the exact rating] was,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday during his media day interview session. “But I know it wasn’t good.” Asked a follow-up question by a foreign reporter – Will you try to improve it this time? – Big Ben gave a sarcastic reply: “No, I was gonna see if I can get it lower and still win. That’s my goal.”

By all the stats, the Pittsburgh Steeler defense is the best in the league and for obvious reasons. Armed with two book end pass rushers, all world safety, deep cornerback pool and big run stuffers in the front. How on earth can Arizona beat them?

Well it's not really that difficult if you play it smart. There is not one specific thing the defense does poorly. With the rankings provided you know they are consistently very good. The things you have to hope for for the Cardinals is just those few momentary lapses of reason -- a slip here, miss read here, safety not in cover 2 there and Zona's got momentum.

On paper, the #1 defense does have some weaknesses.

First in 1st and 2nd down, the Steelers utilize cement footed (pun intended) Larry Foote. Foote is an average starter in the salary cap NFL. He does nothing really well but his problems come from a purely lack of skills. Foote can make all the plays necessary to succeed but he is quite slow for a MLB, doesn't really tackle well and is putrid in space and in coverage. Sure he'll make 6-7 tackles a game but he's prone to horrendous whiffs, bad angles and missed tackles. He also has shown an aversion to getting trucked.

Ditto his probowl running mate, James Farrior. This has not been his best season Farrior and he is noticeably slower than in previous years. He's still a captain and runs the defense but the physical limitations are beginning to creep up since last season. Last season, Maurice Jones Drew terrorized Farrior in space. The Cardinals have a similar weapon in JJ Arrington that has the speed to cause some van damage. Also Farrior with his speed dwindling has allowed some big games from the tight end position. Luckily for them, the Cardinal tight ends aren't anywhere near elite. Still i have nightmares of JJ Arrington taking a wheel route 65 yards like Darren Sproles did.

11 vs 10. One of the games within the game, is what the Steelers are to do with NT, Casey Hampton. If the Cardinals come out in the spread formation, will Dick Lebeau keep big Casey in there in an attempt to neutralize the run? The issue is Hampton offers next to nothing when rushing the passer and will likely wear himself out if ask to move all that much. Moreover, in passing situations, he can be blocked with one man. This also complicates the matter when our typical dline on passing situations is Woodley, Smith, Kiesel and Harrison. If the Steelers match up this way, than the Cardinals can plunge away against a lighter defense without the big beef.

The team is also susceptible to the draw play. While much of the defense is focused on LFitz and Boldin, can they maintain their gap integrity and sniff out a draw? Casey Hampton has ate himself into last yr and the team is getting gashed on the same delays and draws. What’s the similarities of these guys? They are all (outside of Lewis) cut back runners and quick, elusive runners and the Cardinals tandem are more cut back runners.

Faulk (NE) 6 rush, 73 yards

Morris (NE) 10 rush, 45 yards

Choice (Dal) 23 rush, 88 yards

C. Johnson (Tenn) 16 rush, 69 yards

J. Lewis (Cleve) 23 rush, 94 yards

The Steelers squashed the rushing attack of the Chargers and Ravens but still. Seeing every play this season, you see recurring things stick in your mind. The Draw/Delay are one such concern for me especially with everyone focusing on the Cardinal passing attack.

While the Pittsburgh secondary is much better than the days of Burnt Alexander, there are still some leaks. The Cardinals will get their chances. The Ratbirds left a couple of plays on the field. The Cardinals will take advantage of those. The LFitz jump ball is unfair at times and even the best defense in the league can't stop that no matter how hard Clark/Polamalu hit them.

I'm scared.

As for what I think happens, well I'm going with history. This is game is playing to the T similar to the 1980 Superbowl of the Steelers vs. Rams. Check it out here:

In Jan 1980, the Steelers were returning to the SB for the 4th time in 6 years, their second back-to-back appearance. They were a 13-point, heavily favored powerhouse that nobody in their right mind even considered having a chance to lose the game. They were playing the 9-7 division winning Los Angeles Rams, a team not many people expected to be playing in the Sup Bowl, just like the Cards in 2009. Those ’79 Rams didn’t play the Steelers in the regular season that year. However, they did play the eventual Sup Bowl champion ’78 Steelers in the previous regular season. And that Ram team beat them, by a score of 10-7. This was one of two regular season losses that year in a 14-2 season for the Steelers. This fact was largely discounted going into the ’79 Sup Bowl (Sup Bowl 14). Much the same way that the ‘07 Cardinal team, under new head coach Whisenhunt, shut down the Steelers in a 21-14 regular season win last season. And, just like the Rams of ’79, the Cardinals did not play our Steelers in ’08. Yet, here they are, a 9-7 division winner that nobody expected to be there, playing for the Sup Bowl title. Of course, history tells us the Steelers won on that famous Sunday in January of 1980. But, it was a pucker game for us. Bradshaw had to overcome 3 INTs, and we were losing 19-17 two minutes into the 4th quarter. While Bradshaw won the MVP of that game, it was Larry Anderson returning a 140+ yards worth of kicks that made a huge impact, as well as 2 tremendous catches on long bombs by John Stallworth. Interestingly, there was a famous former Steelers coach on that Rams team that knew quite a bit about our team, by the name of Bud Carson. He was the Rams DC then. And his knowledge of the Stillers made quite a difference in that Super Bowl. These ’08 Cards have some coaches (Grimm, Whisenhunt) and players (Tuman, Morey) that are fairly familiar with our team as well. We should assume these fellows have a decent understanding of the Stillers’ weaknesses, and a keen interest in exploiting those weaknesses rather than blindly flogging themselves against the Stillers’ strengths.

Look this always happens. People don't expect the Cardinals to do anything and they dominate. Now everyone is on their jock. NOT ME. This team plays like dogshit when they are the talk of the town and if you tuned to ESPN, they are. They might be 7 point underdogs but I'd venture in saying the underdog role has gone full circle from the Cardinals last week to the Steelers on sunday. People have forgotten how bad the Cardinals have been at times this year and that they gave up nearly 500 yards last time they played at home. Now they will be on the "road" with a huge Steeler brigade already in Tampa.

The love for Fitzgerald, Edge, Boldin, and Warner is so much right now that the Steelers are no longer the favorite to win the game. It's just asanine to hear about the Cardinals being the under dog. Steelers need to play with that chip and all will be good.

During the Cowboy/Steeler game, I felt which team won that game would win the Superbowl. The team that won that game is now playing in the superbowl. I'm not right about a lot of things but I'll ride this wave.

Pittsburgh - 34
Arizona - 21

Superbowl MVP:

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