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Guide To Super Bowl XLIII

Super Bowl XLIII – Everything You Need to Know

It’s been a relatively uneventful buildup to Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4, 11-7 ATS) and the Arizona Cardinals (12-7, 12-7 ATS). Most of the major storylines have dissipated: Hines Ward is going to play, Anquan Boldin is in a good mood, there’s been nothing in the way of bulletin board material, even action on the NFL betting board has been predictable.

Barring any breaking developments before Sunday’s showdown at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, bettors are well prepped to place their wagers before the game kicks off.

Line movement

Oddsmakers opened the Steelers as 6.5-point favorites following the conference championship games, and the spread is back at that number heading into the weekend. Pittsburgh was giving a full converted touchdown to Arizona for much of last week, but money on the Steelers pushed the line back to its original number.

The total is currently set at 46.5 points, down slightly from the 47-point over/under posted when betting opened. It appears as though bettors are leaning towards the under because of Pittsburgh’s stellar defense, and because of the unusually high number for the Super Bowl.

Steelers’ defense vs. Cardinals’ offense

Pittsburgh sports the best defense in the NFL, and it is one of the top ranked units in historical terms. The Steel Curtain is first in points allowed (13.9 points per game), total defense (237.3), pass defense (157.1), and is second in run defense (80.2).

Particularly important for both spread and total bettors is the Steelers’ defense in the red zone. Pittsburgh allowed opponents to find the end zone only 33.3% of the time when they advanced the ball inside the Steelers’ 20-yard line. By contrast, the Cards gave up a touchdown 63.6% of the time when teams made it into the red zone. The key is even if Arizona has success moving the chains against one of the best defenses of all-time, it could have trouble punching it in for six.

The Cardinals are third in the league in scoring at 26.7 points per game, in large part because of their passing game. Behind quarterback Kurt Warner and the dynamic receiving trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston, Arizona averages 292.1 yards through the air per game, good for second in the NFL. The running game leaves much to be desired, as the Cards were dead last on the ground (73.7 YPG).

Video games matter

Not only has technology changed the game on the field, it has altered handicapping as well. Accuscore ran 10,000 simulations on Super Bowl XLIII and found the Steelers winning by an average score of 27.1 to 20.6; keeping the numbers there, the game results in a push and an over. Thing is, we know the result won’t include decimals, so by rounding up the Cardinals barely cover the 6.5-point spread.

Super Bowl Betting

Lower seed magic

The strongest trend on the game involves the lower-seeded team and the spread. In 12 of the last 13 Super Bowls, the team coming into the matchup with the lower seeding from their playoff bracket covered the number. To refresh your memory, the Steelers received a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while the Cardinals entered the NFC playoffs as the No. 4 seed.

Ward’s bad wheel

Steelers’ WR Hines Ward suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament to his right knee in Pittsburgh’s win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship, but is expected to play against Arizona. Ward is on record saying if this was the regular season he would likely sit out, but because this is the Super Bowl, he’ll be in the starting lineup. Don’t read too much into Ward’s absence from practice on Wednesday, as the 2006 SBXL MVP has skipped the first day of preparation all season.

What does Whisenhunt know?

Adding a twist to handicappers’ deliberations for Sunday is Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s history with Pittsburgh. Whisenhunt was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks three years ago, but was passed over for the top job for Mike Tomlin when Bill Cowher stepped down.

Normally, bettors wouldn’t put much stock in Whisenhunt’s potential knowledge of the Pittsburgh offense or QB Ben Roethlisberger’s tendencies, but everyone remembers what happened when Jon Gruden coached against his former team in Super Bowl XXXVII.

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