Friday, January 30, 2009

Cards' Magical Season Will End With A Thud In Tampa

The Arizona Cardinals are a marvelous story. They won an unimpressive division in unimpressive fashion, stumbling terribly down the stretch and getting their brains beat in whenever they dared to venture east of their time zone. They were supposed to get their butts kicked by first the Atlanta Falcons (remember THEM?), then the Carolina Panthers, then the Philadelphia Eagles. You couldn't have gotten an Andrew Jackson for their Super Bowl chances when the playoffs began.

Yet here they are, in Super Bowl XLIII (aka 43), and once again they're supposed to lose, this time to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cards have proven everyone wrong three times, so why can't they do it a fourth time?

Alas, they won't.

I don't do predictions, mainly because I'm lousy at it. In fact, you might as well click away from this blog right now because to show you my football genius, I had the Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens playing this Sunday. I'm the last person you want to listen to if you have some extra dough and plan on calling a bookie.

But something tells me that I just might be right about this one: Steelers win, to take their sixth (SIXTH!) Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh.

Not exactly an unsafe bet, I know. Most of the oddsmakers agree with me, and by picking Pitt I hardly have dared to be bold.

But it's not as much of a slam dunk as you think. Once Cinderella hitches up her coach, it can be awfully hard to derail her. The Cardinals, championship-barren since their 1947 title (no, Kurt Warner wasn't in the NFL back then -- that I know of), are 3-0 this post-season. It's not like they backed into the Super Bowl, as they mostly backed into their West Division title. When teams get on a roll like this, at this time of the year, they often aren't denied.

So it's not like the Steelers will roll over these Cinderella Cards. You really shouldn't bet against any team that has Warner under center. Could be hazardous to the health of your wallet.

But the Steelers aren't some Podunk, out-of-the-blue team. This is a franchise that tends to reach up and snatch a Super Bowl victory from time to time, and they did it again just three years ago. The Pittsburgh roster reeks of big game players. It's highly unlikely that they'll expect to simply flash their colors and expect the Cards to curl up into the fetal position. Bruising, blue collar teams from bruising, blue collar cities don't do the entitlement thing. Nothing is taken for granted.

So I base my thesis on this: Cinderella doesn't get derailed all the time, but she DOES, sometimes. And when she does, it can be difficult to watch. The teams that are capable of such a derailment -- the ones who scoff at talk of destiny and fate and magic dust -- are ones like the Steelers, who are smash mouth and big on defense and disdainful of the media darlings standing across the sidelines from them.

It could very well be that the Cardinals will line up for the opening kickoff and then it will hit them, all at once.

"My goodness, what did we go and get ourselves into?"

This is the Super Bowl, folks. Aside from Warner (and I know that's like asking Mary Lincoln how she liked the play otherwise, but work with me here), the Cardinals have a bunch of first-timers on their team. Super Bowl rookies. Heck, playoff rookies until just a few weeks ago. The Steelers came to Tampa as if it was their birthright. They're probably still steaming that it took them THIS long to make it back to another Big Game.

Me thinks this one is going to be ugly at times -- sort of like the Ravens' win over the New York Giants eight years ago. Only, the Steelers don't have the handicap of Trent Dilfer as their quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger isn't chopped liver, you know. He has as many Super Bowl wins as Warner does.

I don't do predictions. But if you kidnap my family and force me to make one, here it is: Pittsburgh 17, Arizona 13.

If anyone asks, you didn't hear it here.

1 comment:

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