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After every Super Bowl, the losing team and its fans engage in a flurry of “what if” and “what might have been” questions. Super Bowl XLIII has been no different. There has been considerable backlash against the officiating crew of Super Bowl XLIII, as a number of calls were ignored, botched, and/or overturned. Several articles have accused Terry McAulay & Friends of fixing the game, ruining the game, or just blowing a number of calls. While rhetoric is entertaining for Cardinals fans at the moment (i.e. They’re all out to get us! The only reason we lost is because the NFL screwed us over!), it is important for those not involved in the game to take a closer look at any questionable events.

steelers1

Pittsburgh's "12th Man"

At skin level, the penalty statistics from Super Bowl XLIII do not seem to endorse a conspiracy theory. Arizona was tagged for eleven penalties totaling 106 yards while Pittsburgh had seven for 56 yards. However, there are a number of factors that can influence the interpretation of these stats. For example, Arizona was flagged for a personal foul on their own 9 yard line. Originally, this would be a 15 yard penalty, but in the case at hand they were only assessed 5 yards. On the stat sheet it will add on a 5 yard penalty, but the severity of the call was much greater than that. If you add those ten yards, the Cardinals penalty numbers go up to eleven for 116 (averaging over ten a penalty). Additionally, Pittsburgh was called for a 15 yard celebration penalty when they took over the ball with eight seconds remaining in the game. If these 15 yards are removed (as they had no significant impact on the game), the Steelers penalty numbers fall to six for 41 yards (averaging under seven a penalty).

These two no-calls were a small part of how the Super Bowl XLIII officiating crew took it upon themselves to affect the game. Were these influential? Yes. But were these the only plays that doomed the Cardinals? Certainly Not.

Here is a list of ten calls that hurt the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Did Terry McAulay’s crew single-handedly cost the Cardinals the Super Bowl? Probably not, but you decide…

Play #1 – Ben Roethlisberger’s Imaginary One Yard Touchdown Run (1st Quarter 10:00) – On 3rd and Goal from the 1 yard line, Mike Tomlin bucked traditional play-calling and dialed up a play-action rollout pass for QB Ben Roethlisberger. Finding all of his reads covered, Big Ben lowered his shoulders and tried to barrel through Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett to the endzone. The two fell near the goal line and the side judge immediately signaled a touchdown for the Steelers. Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged the play, and after further review the call on the field was overturned, resulting in a 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line. The Steelers kicked a field goal to go ahead 3-0.
The Controversy
– In this situation, at least the officiating crew got the call right… eventually. The reason this play is significant is because it was the first drive of the game for the Steelers. While no significant controversy stemmed from this play, notice that the officiating crew managed to botch a call (and force Whisenhunt to risk one of his two precious challenges) on the Steelers first drive. To call this foreshadowing would be a gross understatement.

Play #2 – James Harrison’s 100 yard Interception Return for a Touchdown (2nd Quarter 0:18) – 1st and Goal on the 1 yard line in the waning seconds of the first half. Trailing 7-10, the Cardinals had to focus on one goal: at least get some points. Fate intervened, however, as NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison stepped in front of a Kurt Warner pass and took it 100 yards to the endzone. Instead of a tie game, or even a 14-10 Cardinals lead, the Steelers reached halftime with a 17-7 lead.

Hightower Falling After Woodley Clips Him

Hightower Falling After Woodley Clips Him


The Controversy –
Where to begin… On the return there were two suspicious encounters. First, Kurt Warner was grabbed (by the jersey) and pulled to the ground while trying to force James Harrison out of bounds. This was not an obvious hold, as Warner was pulled down in the middle of a crowd, but the replays clearly showed him being yanked out of the play. Regardless of that hold, however, the true crime of this play was committed on the Arizona Cardinals 15 yard line. Cardinals RB Tim Hightower had an angle to push Harrison out of bounds as the Steelers entourage rumbled down the field, but as Hightower neared the ball-carrier, LaMarr Woodley placed two hands in Hightower’s back and pushed him to the ground. No question, rock-solid, no doubt clipping penalty. The bad news is that this textbook clipping call was ignored. The worse news is that instead of calling either of the Pittsburgh infractions, the referees opted to flag Arizona for a 15 yard facemask penalty! If the play was called correctly, Pittsburgh would have penalized, the Harrison touchdown would have been negated, and the score at half would have been Pittsburgh 10, Arizona 7. A far cry from the 17-7 deficit the Cardinals faced entering the second half.

Play #3 – Kurt Warner Allegedly Fumbles in a Tuck Rule-esque Play (3rd Quarter 11:02) – On 3rd and 6, Kurt Warner dropped back in the pocket and faced quick pressure from Steelers LB James Farrior. Warner attempted to throw the ball, but his right arm was struck as the ball was released. The Steelers pounced on what they perceived to be a fumble while the officiating crew made up their minds on what exactly had happened. The umpire hesitated to make a call, but the side judge rushed to the field and signaled a first down for Pittsburgh. Ken Whisenhunt again threw his challenge flag, and again the call on the field was overturned.
The Controversy –
This was not the most influential play of the game, but it was significant nonetheless. This play was one of two in the entire game that was challenged by either coach. Of the two plays challenged, both were calls that went against the Cardinals, and both were found to be incorrect upon further review. Take it for what you will, but Ken Whisenhunt was forced to risk his timeouts (while trailing) TWICE to make sure that the referees called the game accurately. Mike Tomlin, on the other hand, gave his challenge flag away as a souvenir at half time. No one seemed to notice, however, as he never needed it.

Play #4 – Big Ben Redefines Intentional Grounding (3rd Quarter 7:41) – On 1st and 10, the Steelers opted to attack the Cardinals via the air. Big Ben stepped back in the pocket and was immediately pressured by two blitzing linebackers. He scanned his reads, found no one, and tossed the ball non-chalantly to the left sideline. Ben was still in the pocket, and the nearest Pittsburgh receiver may have been running back Willie Parker, who remained in the backfield to block (translation: this ball was thrown to NOWHERE). No flag was thrown for intentional grounding, however, but the Steelers did gain yards on a call that you will read about next.
The Controversy –
Not to be repetitive, but let’s review the play. Big Ben was in the pocket. Check. He threw the ball with no apparent intended receiver. Check. That sounds like an air-tight case of intentional grounding. The refs didn’t see it that way, however, as the Back Judge said after the game, “Intentional Grounding? No, we didn’t see it that way. We were just having too much fun watching our offense play to hinder the drive at that point.” The pass fell incomplete and no intentional grounding was called. At leas the Steelers burned a down, right? This leads us to the next controversial call.

Play #5 – Karlos Dansby Flagged For Roughing the Passer (3rd Quarter 7:41) – On the previously referenced play, Ben Roethlisberger flung the ball into oblivion and then met up with Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby. Dansby was a few steps from Roethlisberger when the ball was released, followed through his run, and knocked Big Ben to the ground. The referees flagged Dansby for roughing the passer, adding another fifteen yards to a drive that had already been given a facemask penalty (which was completely legit— Rodgers-Cromartie definitely had a handful of facemask).
The Controversy –
There were two potential infractions on the play. One was against Pittsburgh and one was against Arizona. In this case, the one against Pittsburgh was not called, while Arizona had no such luck. Even if the referees wanted to call the Dansby penalty, they should have also called the intentional grounding, let the penalties offset, and let the teams try and settle the game (not the refs). Ironically, the majority opinion in America is that the calls should have gone the complete opposite way. The hit by Dansby was a truly “bang-bang” hit, and quick enough after the release to avoid being dirty. Any objective sports reporter would call that roughing penalty either ticky-tack, nit-picky, or just plain wrong (google it if you don’t believe me). On the other hand, no one can figure out why Big Ben was not flagged for grounding on that play. Had the calls been made correctly, either the penalties would have negated eachother (if both were called) or the Steelers would have been backed up a considerable distance (if only the grounding was called).

Adrian Wilson Can Beat Up Punters

Adrian Wilson Can Beat Up Any Punter In The NFL

Play #6 – Adrian Wilson Flagged for Running Over the Holder (3rd Quarter 3:36) – 3rd and Goal on the 9 yard line and Ben Roethlisberger misses his target to the left side of the field. This was a small victory for the Cardinals, as they forced the Steelers to kick a field goal for the second time inside of the 10 yard line. It was all for not, however, as Cardinals S Adrian Wilson ran over Steelers holder Mitch Berger after the ball was kicked. Wilson was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and the Steelers were given half the distance to the goal line and an automatic first down.
The Controversy
– I cannot argue that Wilson did not hit Berger. I can, however, argue that this was another ticky-tack call on the same Steelers offensive drive. Wilson pulled up as he neared Berger and as he ran into him Wilson spread his legs and walked over top of him. This was not “unnecessary roughness” or a malicious intent to take a cheap shot at the holder. Running over the holder is flagged when a player actually hits the holder, not grazes over him. I found it interesting that Berger was the holder in question here, as his theatrics two weeks ago versus the Ravens earned the Steelers a Roughing the Kicker penalty while punting (Berger earned an Oscar by taking a fall while not being hit). The Steelers got a first down and three more cracks at the endzone. Their offense sputtered again inside the 10 yard line, however, and after three tries to score they settled for a Jeff Reed field goal.

Play #7 – James Harrison (Legally) Clubs Kurt Warner in the Head (4th Quarter 13:55) – On 3rd and 13, Kurt Warner dropped back, felt pressure from All-Pro James Harrison, and was forced into a bad pass. As Warner released the ball, Harrison reached out and swatted Warner’s helmet with his arm. Little attention was given to the play, and as a result of the incompletion the Cardinals were forced to punt.
The Controversy
– What no one has mentioned about this Cardinals drive is that a penalty was missed that would have extended the drive. James Harrison delivered a blow to Kurt Warners head as the ball was released. While the timing of the hit was legal, delivering a blow to any quarterback’s head is an immediate Roughing the Passer penalty. No immediate damage was done, as the Steelers took the ball, went 3-and-out, and returned it via punt. However, it is unsettling to see a Steelers drive extended by a questionable Roughing the Passer penalty in the 3rd Quarter, while a Cardinals drive is not afforded the same luxury when the situation arises.

Play #8 – James Harrison Goes Postal on Aaron Francisco (4th Quarter 3:34) – The Cardinals moved the ball down to the Pittsburgh 26 yard line, but were quickly sent backwards as an offensive lineman was called for holding. On 4th and 20 (from the Pittsburgh 36) the Cardinals chose to play for field position instead of risking a turnover on downs. The plan worked perfectly, as Punter Ben Graham booted the football inside the 10 yard line where it was downed on the 1. As the ball was downed a flag was thrown in the offensive backfield. The referee declared the following: “After the change of possession, personal foul, #92 of the return team, half the distance to the goal, first down Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh began the drive at their own ½ yard line and subsequently committed a self-inflicted safety.
The Controversy –
Everything seemed fine and dandy until the Harrison/Francisco debacle hit the replay screen. James Harrison was shown pushing Francisco while he lay on his stomach, then delivering a concise punch to Francisco’s side. To make matters worse, once Francisco stood up, Harrison grabbed him by the shoulder pads and drove him backwards into the ground. First and foremost, James Harrison should have been immediately ejected from the game. I’m not saying this would have influenced the game, as the Steelers defense didn’t really do much in the second half anyways, but I’m saying that this play should have been severely punished (I’m sure there will be fines/suspensions coming from Commissioner Goodell). No one argued that this penalty was undeserved, but the controversy arose when the refs had to determine how the penalty would affect the game. The referee announced this penalty as “after the change of possession,” but the replay clearly shows Harrison punching Francisco before the ball has even been kicked. Had it been blown dead, the foul would have been announced “After the play,” but instead it was “after the change of possession,” signaling that the foul occurred during the play. I don’t see how James Harrison body-slamming an offensive lineman does not warrant a personal foul to extend the drive, especially in such a crucial drive (only three and a half minutes left in the game). The penalty was too soft on Harrison and the referees determination of possession was suspect at best.

Play #9 – Santonio Holmes’ Touchdown Celebration (4th Quarter 0:35) – With 0:35 remaining in the game, Ben Roethlisberger found WR Santonio Holmes by the far sideline of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The throw was put where only Holmes could get it, and he made a spectacular toe-dragging grab to deliver the winning score. After he was mobbed by teammates, Holmes stood up to celebrate the touchdown. Using the football as an imaginary bottle, Holmes mimicked Lebron James’ pregame ritual of shaking powder onto his hands and throwing it up in the air.

The Lebron James Endzone Dance

The "Lebron" Endzone Dance

The Controversy – The NFL has taken a hard stance against excessive celebration in recent years. According to NFL rules, any use of the football as a prop in a touchdown celebration constitutes excessive celebration and is to be penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. In Super Bowl XLIII the NFL and the referees had an opportunity to show that they were taking a hard-line against endzone celebrations. Instead, the referees chickened out and kept their flags tucked in tight to their belts. While I may not have agreed with the call (as it would have been pretty tacky), the bottom line is that any use of the football as a prop is grounds for excessive celebration, and Santonio Holmes indisputably did just that. If the referees in this game hadn’t been gutless, the Steelers would have been kicking off from their own 15 yard line.

Play #10 – Kurt Warner Fumbles the Football in the Closing Seconds (4th Quarter 0:15) – On 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 44, Kurt Warner failed to find an open receiver in his initial reads. This indecision caused him to bounce around the pocket, eventually being gobbled up by LaMarr Woodley. Warner appeared to throw the ball forward, but the ruling on the field was a fumble and the Steelers took possession to close out the game. While Warner visually objected to the ruling, the replay officials did not deem the play worthy of review. Roethlisberger took a knee, and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
The Controversy –
Quite possibly, if this play were reviewed, the replay officials would have determined that the call on the field was correct. Much to the discontent of Arizona fans, if the play were overturned the Cardinals would have probably still lost the Super Bowl. That being said, I find it ridiculous that the NFL did not even offer the formality of reviewing a game-determining play. Had the referee gone to the booth and determined that the call on the field was correct, it would have comforted fans more than leaving the possibility open that referees blew the call and neglected to review it. Again, if it were overturned by some fluke, odds are that the Steelers would have still held on for victory. But in the closing seconds of a game of this caliber, you have to at least show that every measure was taken to ensure fairness.

It was a great game, but I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with the officiating. Read and react with what you think about the officiating.

sk.

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Well, it’s almost here.  Finally!  Two weeks after the Championship games we are just 27 hours or so away from the biggest game and grandest event in all of American professional sports.  This year Super Bowl XLIII features the hot young guns out of Glendale, the Arizona Cardinals, against arguably the most storied franchise in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Big Ben wants another one of these, he holds the key.

Big Ben is Key to the Steelers Hoisting an NFL Record Sixth Lombardi Trophy

Much has been made about the great Steeler defense going up against high octane Cardinal offense, but to avoid rehashing so many of the same things you can read on any sporting page, let me look at this game from a different perspective, one that also happens to be my perspective.  This game will be won or lost by one player, Ben Roethlisberger.  We’ve heard for an exhausting two weeks now about how poorly he performed in Super Bowl XL, when the Steeler Nation got their “one for the thumb” against the Seattle Seahawks.  Ben readily admits he didn’t do much to help the team win that Super Bowl and he has to realize this one key thing, in my opinion, to help them get this one: not try to be a hero.

Big Ben can’t let all the questions and hype get to him.  He has to play his game, which will allow him to throw the ball much more, and better, than he did three years ago, but he can not go onto the field with the idea of trying to be the Super Bowl MVP and “prove the world wrong” or “prove that he is capable.”  He has to go out and play his game, and if he does, limiting turnovers and being as consistent as he’s been the past few months, the Steelers will win.

Look for Polamalu, Harrison, & Co to be the difference in this one.

Polamalu, Harrison, & Company Can Prove that the Old Adage is True: Great Defense Wins Big Games

Going back to the theme of this very blog, defense wins championships, and the only way the Arizona defense will win a championship tomorrow is if it is given to them by the Steelers.  Taking nothing away from the Cardinal team that I actually like a whole lot, a 9-7 team in the regular season that just happens to get hot at the right time and catches a few breaks isn’t going to be crowned the league’s greatest team unless they catch a few more big breaks.  Being fortunate enough to be 9-7 and get a first round home game against an equally “hot and fresh” Atlanta team, and then get a 9-6-1 team at home in the NFC Championship game is absurd.  The lone impressive win this postseason was against the Carolina Panthers, in which the Cards romped to victory thanks to Jake Delhomme’s absolutely atrocious game.  If Big Ben can avoid making the same mental breakdowns, the Steelers win.

Now I’m not saying it will be a blowout, or that the Cardinals are awful and don’t deserve to be here, because they do, but good fortune is a part of the game and big part of this team’s run into the playoffs (not to mention if they were in almost any other conference other than the NFC west they probably aren’t even in the playoffs).  That said, I expect them to come out fighting, using the underdog chip on their shoulders combined with some knowledge of the Steelers team thanks to Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm, but defense wins championships.  If I was forced to I’d place my bet on the best defense the NFL has seen in 30 years and take my chances.  I like the black and gold in this one 28-17.

-asm

My apologies to Les Miles.

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Long-time owner Bill Bidwill hoists his franchises first NFC championship trophy.

It’s official. After 110 seasons of football the Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.  A team founded in 1898 as a charter member of the NFL, the Cardinals have only won two championship games in their history, the last being in 1947, when the then Chicago Cardinals won their league championship.  Keep in mind, this is two decades before the inaugural Super Bowl, but it’s time to rewrite history.  Move over jokes with the Cards as the punch line, or historical references about how long its been since they’ve won a playoff game, much less made it to the biggest of all playoff game, the Arizona Cardinals are NFC Champions and are headed for Tampa Bay and Super Bowl XLIII.

Fitzgerald defines class both on and off the field.

Fitzgerald defines class both on and off the field.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Not if you’re Ken Whisenhunt, not if you’re Kurt Warner, and especially not if you’re Larry Fitzgerald.  Let me be the first to say that Mr. Fitz, as I like to call him, has officially landed himself in the top spot of the wide receiver echelon in my opinion.  Enough of the interviews with the verbally challenged T.O. or the other “thug-esque” receivers of the NFL.  It’s time Larry Fitzgerald becomes the poster boy of what a real man who is also an athlete looks like, acts like, talks like, and especially plays like.  His class is evident the minute he opens his mouth, not to mention the minute he steps on the field.  The verbosity with which he speaks appears as if he just stepped out of teaching a Harvard Law class, not a player who went to Pitt has been continually overlooked thanks to the likes of Reggie Wayne, Braylon Edwards and Randy Moss.  And while I’m on the topic and have the means to say what I’m thinking, he should have a Heisman Trophy on his shelf also, and I’m not just saying that because I haven’t liked Jason White since our days playing against each other in Western Oklahoma, Fitz earned it.

I could spend the whole article on Mr. Fitz, but his play this postseason speaks for itself.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the reward for their first four-game winning streak in over a decade is the best defense, statistically speaking, that the league has seen in over 20 years.  Much will be made about the familiarity that Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm have with the Steelers personnel and play calling, but I’m of the opinion that the extra week to prepare benefits the defense.  Also, if anyone remembers what the stands looked like in Super Bowl XL, the amount of Cardinal fans across the country might be the only fanbase which will show up with a smaller contingent than Seahawks, and hopefully for the boys from Arizona this won’t turn into another “home away from home” situation for their black and gold opponents.

That said, I can’t wait for this Super Bowl.  Two teams playing at the top of their games meet at the perfect time, while both are peaking.  I hope both teams come in firing on all cylinders and we have one for the ages, and I wouldn’t recommend betting anything against this bunch from Glendale.  Incidentally, the last team to make the playoff with only nine wins in the regular season, the 1979 Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XVIII.  Ironically, they lost that Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

-asm

My apologies to Les Miles.

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It’s conference title time, and here at RTS there is nothing but disagreement as to who is Super Bowl bound. Of the four possible Super Bowl scenarios, the writers of RTS claimed three of them (hopefully guaranteeing that at least someone is right).

Without further delay, here are the predictions:

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howell2MATT HOWELL

  • AFC – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
  • NFC – ARIZONA CARDINALS

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scottySCOTTY KIMBERLY

  • AFC – BALTIMORE RAVENS
  • NFC – ARIZONA CARDINALS

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antANTHONY MOORE

  • AFC – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
  • NFC – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

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There are the quick hits. Now we will go into further detail about why each selection was made.

Howell’s Picks:

  • AFC: Hard game to pick. Both teams have the style of play that wins in the playoffs( great d, solid running game, and game manager QB’s that you hope don’t make too many mistakes). All is made of the Steelers winning both games in the regular season, but I don’t see that as much of a factor. These two teams know each other very well. It will be a hard fought game but I am going with the Steelers for two reasons. First, I didn’t like what I saw from the Ravens defense against Chris Johnson. Before he got injured, the speed back was running for BIG chunks of yardage. This looks good for “Fast” Willie Parker. Second, I am going with the team that doesn’t have a rookie QB. No rookie QB has ever won a Super Bowl. While Flacco has done a decent job managing games so far, one or two interceptions could doom the Ravens. The X factor in this game is Big Ben. If he doesn’t commit a turnover, the Steelers win big. The problem is that Big Ben has had a problem with fumbles and often holds on to the ball too long. That being said, I am still going with the Steelers. Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 7
  • NFC: Even as I put down this pick, I am weary of the Eagles. This game will be won in the trenches. If the Cards line is able to put up the complicated blitz schemes the Eagles use, then I can see Arizona winning big. With Fitzy being doubled the entire game, the running lanes should be opened up giving the Cards the ability to take it to the Eagles on the ground. I see Fitzy making two big plays, the running game doing enough, and Kurt Warner smiling again. Even in an Eagles loss, I look for McNabb to have a good game, but not enough. Arizona 28, Philadelphia 17

Scotty’s Picks:

  • AFC: This game will obviously be all about DEFENSE. As anyone knows, the previous two games were tight, one ending in overtime and the other on a late-game TD. I like the Ravens defense, led by the actual defensive player of the year Ed Reed, to shut down the sporadic Steelers offense. If Roethlisberger commits an early turnover, look for the Steelers offense to crash and burn (if not the Ravens might be in trouble). While Joe Flacco might not provide much on offense, he will provide just enough to beat the Steelers. X-Factor: Todd Heap— if he can give Joe Flacco some good underneath options the Ravens offense will be able to spread its wings. And let’s not forget— Ray Lewis wants to go to Disneyland again… Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 14
  • NFC: I’m buying a ticket on the Kurt Warner Express. The Texas Tech of the NFL is ready to air it out again against Philadelphia, the question is: which team will show up? Philly obvious tore up the Cards last time they met, but I can see Kurt Warner’s playoff experience playing a key role in a Cardinals victory. A banged up Westbrook will be ineffective (by his standards— meaning he might only get two touchdowns instead of his usual six), and let’s not forget that Larry Fitzgerald will be the most talented player on the field. X-Factor: Steve Breaston— If Boldin isn’t 100% (which is assumed at this point), Breaston will need to seriously step it up. If he fails to do so, Fitzgerald will be handling triple teams all day. All aboard the Kurt Warner Express! Arizona 38, Philadelphia 27

Anthony’s Picks:

  • AFC: When two teams meet for the third time in a season where one team has swept the previous two, the previously victorious team has swept the 3 game series 11 of the 18 times its happened previous to Sunday’s much anticipated match up between the two AFC North bitter rivals.  I like the Pittsburgh defense to force a rookie quarterback into a few mistakes and the ground game of the Steelers beats that of the Ravens.  Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 10
  • NFC: As much as I’d like to take the Cardinals in this matchup (to steal some great lyrics – “my mind’s telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes”) I just can’t.  The difference maker in my mind is simple, experience.  The Eagles have been here before and have the players to not let the situation get the best of them. The Cardinals only have a handful of players who have ever been to the playoffs prior to this season, much less a championship game with it’s atmosphere and pressure.  Philadelphia 31, Arizona 28

Now let’s see who got it right…

–RTS Contributors–

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… then they’d be like every other team left in the NFL playoffs with their flying mascots, but they don’t. That’s okay, as of the time of this article 70% of America are picking the Steelers in the Super Bowl and 40% have them winning it. As for this black and gold journalist, why the heck wouldn’t I agree?

sb_trophies_1501

A sixth Lombardi trophy for Pittsburgh would be the most of any NFL franchise.

Here’s my pick right now, somebody from Pennsylvania will win this Super Bowl. Defenses win championships, it’s been discussed ad naseum (even in only the first four posts on this site) so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following so far, but an offense will have to score once or twice… right? Only one thing stands in the way of a “ring for the other thumb” in my opinion, and that’s the hated Ravens from Baltimore. After two hard fought, extremely close games, I’m predicting this one to be a little more one-sided.

With the emergence of a healthy Willie Parker last week the Steelers seemed to have peaked at the right time and now will make a push to be more balanced then the two previous meetings in which they threw the ball much more than anticipated, weather permitting of course. On the other side of the ball you have to be extremely impressed with the play of Joe Flacco, rookie quarterback out of Delaware, not to mention the also over-discussed Ravens defense and the difficult task of beating the same team three times within the same season.

AP Defensive MVP, Steelers LB James Harrison.

AP Defensive MVP, Steelers LB James Harrison

Still, I think the difference in this game will be the ability, or lack thereof, for Pittsburgh to establish a running game and whether or not either defense scores a touchdown. If neither “D” puts points on the board and the men of steel can run it, I look for a 14-17 point Pittsburgh victory. If not, time for the third barn-burner in as many tries and either team could win it, with the Steelers just slightly more than a coin-flip favorite in my mind.

Regardless of the outcome, I will personally guarantee that at least one helmet or two will get knocked off and it will be a very good thing the players aren’t mic’d up for this one or else it wouldn’t be family appropriate. Two teams built around running the football, solid quarterback play and great defense (best two in the league statistically speaking this year defensively) will put on yet another textbook lesson on how to hit and hate this weekend. Sit back, enjoy, and keep the women and small children who might get scared easily away from the screen.

-asm

My apologies to Les Miles.

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