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2009 Superbowl Steelers vs. Cardinals NFL Predictions

Super Bowl XLIII – Ultimate Betting Guide

Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4 SU, 11-7 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (12-7 SU & ATS)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

BetUS NFL betting odds: PITTSBURGH -6.5, Total 46.5
NOTABLE STAT: Pittsburgh is first in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed

KEY NFL FOOTBALL BETTING TREND: Arizona has played seven of its last nine games under the total

In the BetUS NFL football betting odds, the Steelers are listed as a 6.5-point favorite, with a posted total of 46.5 points.

Here are some NFL football betting trends as they relate to this matchup:

* PITT has covered seven of its last eight games
* PITT has won eight of its last nine games SU
* PITT has played five of its last eight games OVER the total
* ARIZ has won and covered four of its last five games
* ARIZ has played five of its last six games OVER the total

We would concede that the regular season effort by the Arizona Cardinals may have been deceiving to an extent. The Cards could almost be excused for losing their focus as they were in perhaps the league’s worst division (the NFC West) and sped past non-contenders like Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis en route to clinching it for all intents and purposes early. They got shellacked by hungrier teams like Philadelphia, Minnesota and New England who were vying for playoff position, but they have since made up for that, racking up 30 or more points in each of their last four games as they appear in Tampa for their first Super Bowl appearance.

Kurt Warner is the guy who has made this happen and the guy on whose playoff experience this team will rely. Warner will be starting his 11th post-season game and third Super Bowl, and has covered all three games as an underdog that he has started in the “second season.” He won this job in training camp when Matt Leinart, who preferred something of a life of leisure in the off-season, didn’t seize the opportunity. Warner has responded with 67% completions, 4583 yards and 30 TD’s in the regular season, followed by eight TD passes in the playoffs. Obviously he has plenty of help with three 1000-yard receivers in Larry Fitzgerald (1431), Anquan Boldin (1038) and Steve Breaston (1006). Warner is going to searching for some play action opportunities to get the Pittsburgh pass rush off his back, and for that his team will have to run the ball. Arizona had the league’s worst rushing game during the regular season, but one of the reasons the team has advanced through the playoffs is that they have turned that around somewhat in the three post-season games, gaining 86, 145 and 102 yards on the ground.

In the playoffs, Arizona got the ball bouncing the right way as far as its placement and road to the Super Bowl were concerned. The Cards got to play a home game to start things off with, and played the NFC title game there as well. Of course, they also had to travel to Carolina and win a road playoff game, which is to their credit. Arizona forced 12 turnovers in the playoffs, and the opportunistic secondary, which features standout safeties Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle, as well as rookie first-round draft pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was a big factor.

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Pittsburgh has probably had less peaks and valleys than Arizona but the Steelers have had some anxiety do deal with, namely the loss of key offensive linemen like Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith, as well as Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder problems and the off-and-on season of Willie Parker, who had knee surgery in the off-season and was bothered again by knee problems this year. Pittsburgh drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round as a way to take pressure off Parker, but Mendenhall was lost for the season, so it was a good thing the Steelers signed veteran back Mewelde Moore, which picked up the slack when Parker was sidelined, at one point rushing for 303 yards over a three-game period.

There are several things for Pittsburgh to be concerned about in this game. For one thing, they have given up 51 sacks of Roethlisberger, so there is an understanding that they are going to have to do something to combat the pressure for much of the game. Big Ben’s 17 TD/15 INT ratio is not all that intimidating either, and it doesn’t compare with the numbers Warner has put up. For that matter, neither do the receivers, who are not overly threatening to begin with, and with Hines Ward (1043 yards) possibly slowed down by a sprained MCL, that might be even more of a cause for worry. Parker, who shined in Pittsburgh’s previous Super Bowl win, has not been as effective as he has in the past (3.8 yards a carry).

Another thing that may be a factor is that Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, not to mention his assistant head coach, Russ Grimm, were assistant coaches with the Steelers just a couple of years ago and are very familiar with Pittsburgh’s personnel.

So do the Cardinals have even more to worry about?

Well, the Steelers pose a problem for any team in the NFL with their defense. They have allowed less yards per game than anyone in the league, by a wide margin, and they’re very balanced, in that they have surrendered the least rushing yards AND the least passing yards, as well as the least points. promo/football/supersundayPittsburgh permits only 3.3 yards per carry, and is second in the NFL with 51 sacks. They allowed the opposition to score more than 21 points only three times, and held foes to 15 points or less on eleven different occasions.

That’s a lot for Arizona to deal with.

What’s remarkable is that the Steelers have let only ONE team all season gain as much as 300 total yards against them, and that was the Tennessee Titans. It’s not that they have faced incompetent offenses either; between the Giants, Patriots, Colts, Chargers and Cowboys, all of those teams had plenty of offensive talent, and they had a hard time denting this stop unit. I’ll tell you another thing that’s rather astounding – the Cardinals’ defense has given up 60 touchdowns, while Pittsburgh has yielded only 26. That is a tremendous disparity, and though I haven’t really done the research on it, I imagine it might be the biggest difference in that category between any two teams who have played each other in the Super Bowl. It’s illustrative of the gap between these two defenses.

If the Steelers want to shut down Arizona’s running game, they can shut it down. That’s going to leave Warner without his play action. Pittsburgh can rush with four men and put pressure on the Cards’ QB, and I have to tell you – even though Warner has managed to avoid sacks for the most because of his quick release, he looks vulnerable, confused and immobile when he is rushed. Pittsburgh has enough playmakers (in fact, they’re all over the defense) to take advantage of that. The Steeler cornerbacks, with help from the safeties, can take care of those Arizona wide receivers enough to force Warner to throw to receivers he may not want to. We’ve seen selfish players corrupt situations in a lot of NFL cities, including Dallas this year, and I don’t think it’s at all helpful that Anquan Boldin has the “me first” attitude right now. That kind of thing has a way of infecting a team, and can be injurious to one that is taking its first trip to the big stage.

Of course, Pittsburgh has been here before, and that means something. Parker, the hero of that win over Seattle a few seasons ago, came on at the end of the season and was invaluable in the first playoff game against San Diego. Look out for him. Roethlisberger has been living with his brittle pass protection all season, so pressure won’t be anything he hasn’t dealt with before. The Steelers can control the ball on the ground against a team that has not always been so rock solid in that regard. I doubt Big Ben will give it away three times like Jake Delhomme did, in enabling the Cards to win a big game away from University of Phoenix Stadium. If Pittsburgh holds yet another opponent to less than 300 yards here – something that is not at all inconceivable – they will win in a walk. As it is, they cover this 6.5-point spread in the BetUS Super Bowl football betting odds. Hey, don’t we always talk about how defense and the running game are what really wins championships? Well, it’s time to put one’s money where one’s mouth is.

Our PLAY: PITTSBURGH -6.5 ***

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