January 25, 2009
Super Bowl XLIII is going to be an interesting and entertaining game. The National Football League (NFL) featured twelve teams in the playoffs, but who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals would be the final two teams playing in the biggest game of their lives? Not too many.
Before the season started, NFL commentators predicted the New England Patriots or the Indianapolis Colts from the American Football Conference (AFC) and New York Giants, or the Dallas Cowboys from the National Football Conference (NFC) to make it to the Super Bowl. These predictions were not so far-fetched, for these teams had talented players and built with a well-rounded nucleus to make an impact. Unfortunately, these predictions were wrong.
Notably, all of these teams ended the regular season with a winning record: New England Patriots, without the injured Tom Brady, went 11 and 5 but failed to make the playoffs. Indianapolis Colts went 12 and 4, made it to the playoffs, but lost to the San Diego Chargers. New York Giants went 12 and 4, made it to the playoffs, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Dallas Cowboys went 9 and 7 and failed to make the playoffs, thanks to their constant infighting between players and coaches, caused by none other than Mr. Troublesome – Terrell Owens.
Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, however, made it to the playoffs and earned their way to the biggest game of the NFL season, the Super Bowl. Their paths to the Super Bowl were not easy but rather difficult.
The Cardinals won their pathetic NFC West division and ended their regular season with a 9 and 7 record, earning them a wild-card berth. They played their first post-season game against the Atlanta Falcons, a team that was highly selected to win by many NFL commentators with their 11 and 5 record; however, the Cardinals played tough and came out victorious, 30 to 24. For their second playoff game, they faced Carolina Panthers, one of the best teams in the NFL that ended the regular season with a 12 and 4 record. The Panthers, too, was picked by many NFL commentators to defeat the Cardinals, especially with their home-field advantage, but that was not the case. Not only did the Cardinals defeat the Panthers on their turf, but they embarrassed them by a score of 33 to 13. Their two wins against two respectable teams provided them a spot in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that ended the regular season with a 9-6-1 record.
Apparently, their remarkable and quite shocking playoff wins did not make them favorites but rather underdogs. Eagles being favored to win was fitting because they ended the regular season on a hot note, murdering the Dallas Cowboys in a blowout fashion, 44 to 6. In their first playoff game, they defeated Minnesota Vikings 26 to 14; in their second playoff game, they defeated the 2008 Super Bowl Champions New York Giants 22 to 11, a team that was never the same after the suspension of WR Plaxico Burress late in the season. More important, Eagles and Cardinals met in Week Thirteen in the regular season on November 27, and Eagles convincingly defeated Cardinals 48 to 20. However, as football fans know, a regular season game is not the same as a playoff game and their second meeting proved that. The Cardinals dominated the first half of the game and led 24 to 6. The Eagles were unfazed and battled back to take the lead in the second half, but the Cardinals were too much and scored the last touchdown (and a two-point conversion), winning the game 32 to 25. Their win did not only shock the Eagles, but it shocked many. They were not predicted to make it to the Super Bowl, but their hard work earned them a spot to play in the most important game of their lives.
However, their opponent’s road to the Super Bowl was much more challenging. Pittsburg Steelers ended the regular season with a 12 and 4 record in a competitive AFC North division, unlike the Cardinals. In fact, the Steelers’ regular season schedule was more difficult; and still, they ended the season with a great record, which earned them a bye week in the playoffs. The Steelers played their first playoff game against the San Diego Chargers and won by a score of 35 to 24. Their second playoff game, AFC Championship Game, was a major challenge against the Baltimore Ravens, a team the Steelers played twice in the regular season that ended with two nail-biting victories. Unsurprisingly, their third meeting was also a hard-hitting, tough, and close throughout until Troy Polamalu intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 23 to 14 victory.
On Sunday, January 18, Pittsburg Steelers and Arizona Cardinals defeated their opponents to play in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium. The Steelers celebrated and captured the AFC Championship trophy, while the Cardinals captured the NFC Championship trophy. However, on February 1, 2009, there can only be one winner and one trophy. The Cardinals’ organization make its first Super Bowl appearance in team history. The Steelers’ organization will make its seventh Super Bowl appearance; they have already won five Super Bowls (their latest was captured on February 5, 2006, Super Bowl XL).
Both the Cardinals and the Steelers are great teams, but the latter (statistically and on the field) are better; that said, it does not rule out the Cardinals, for anything can happen on the field. When it comes to the NFL, any team can win on any given Sunday. In fact, New York Giants, for example, shocked many when they defeated an undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in 2008, rendering the Patriots their first loss of the season and ended their run at perfection with an 18 and 1 record.
The Cardinals have a chance to continue their impressive winning streak and shock many by defeating the Steelers. However, it will not be an easy job; rather, it will be a great challenge, considering the Steelers have the top-ranked defense in the league. In actuality, stats don’t mean anything, because whichever team comes out to play and makes more big plays, then that team will win.
Nonetheless, I predict the Pittsburg Steelers to come out victorious and claim their sixth Super Bowl title, defeating the Arizona Cardinals in a hard-fought game. Final score: Steelers 27; Cardinals 14.
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Originally published/written on January 25, 2009 via now-defunct Web site Helium.com