If you were to tell me in August that the Super Bowl matchup would be Cardinals vs. Steelers, I'd laugh at you. If you were to tell it to me in October, I'd say, "That's a stretch". If you were to tell it to me in December, I'd quote Will Ferrell and say, "You're crazy". But hey...If you were to tell it to me today, I'd say, "You're right good sir". Shocking as it may be, the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. Behind the leadership of Kurt Warner, the fine coaching of Ken Whisenhunt, and the ridiculous athletic ability of Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals are flying high at just the right time. This wasn't always the case though.
The Cardinals have seen their ups and downs this year. After jumping to a 7-3 start, a game away from clinching the NFC South, the Cards dropped four of their next five games. And they weren't close games either. In their four losses, Arizona lost by an average of just over 24 points per game, including a 40-point loss to the Patriots in Week 16. A game perhaps Arizona should thank New England for, because it may have salvaged their season. Arizona took the game as a wake-up call, and declared the Week 17 game versus Seattle, a must-win game. The Cards needed a boost of confidence. A win over Seattle, would be just that. Arizona easily defeated Seattle 34-21, and never looked back from there. Three upsets later, they're a Super Bowl team.
Then there's that other Super Bowl team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. All year long there's been no question the Steelers are good, real good. They've had arguably the toughest schedule, played in numerous nail-biters, and still went 12-4. They're tested, experienced, and downright tough. For months now, them and the Colts have been the favorite in the AFC. With the Colts out, they stepped in. After all the difficult challenges this season, only the 9-7 Cardinals stand in their way of a championship. But they won't be fooled by the Cardinals record. The Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles wish they hadn't been.
Okay, prediction time...
The Cardinals passing attack is lethal. They've also added a running attack in the playoffs. The biggest bright spot, however, may be their young defense. Pro-Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and the gang have really come together in the playoffs. Much like the young Giants of last season. In fact, the way the Cardinals have come on in the postseason, reminds me a lot of the Giants from last season. Fortunately for Arizona, rather than taking on the 18-0 Patriots, they only have to worry about the 14-4 Steelers. The Steelers have a healthy "Fast" Willie Parker, but an unhealthy Hines Ward. They've got a big-time quarterback with a 7-2 playoff record that creates plays and can take the big hit. The Cardinals have a big-time quarterback with an 8-2 playoff record that can create big plays as well though. The Steelers defense is the best in the NFL. Arizona's is playing like one of the best in the NFL. So what prevails? Experience and defensive toughness or youthfulness and offensive excitement?
Defense wins championships. The Steelers' is a little bit better.
Steelers 23 - Cardinals 16
Images taken from Sports Illustrated & Google Images