The Arizona Cardinals-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup has been analyzed and overanalyzed the past two weeks.
We've heard how the Cardinals are the reincarnation of the "Greatest Show on Turf" from Kurt Warner's days with the Rams but that they're now going against the Steelers' No. 1-ranked defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' defense gave up more points than any previous Super Bowl champion ever has, so now they'll get run over.
Those arguments explain why the Steelers were favored by around a touchdown the past two weeks, but they don't take into account that what we're seeing now is a much-improved Arizona team.
I don't believe the Steelers should be favored by more than a field goal.
While the Cardinals still have a great passing attack, they've shown the ability the past month to run the ball. If the Steelers bring in extra defensive backs to blanket the Cardinals' talented trio of wide receivers, expect running backs Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower to gain chunks of yards on the ground. That'll also help keep the Steelers' pass rush honest.
The Cardinals' defense has turned things around. The front seven has stuffed the run, with safety Adrian Wilson's help, and the defensive backs have excelled.
Wilson is a poor man's Troy Polamalu or Bob Sanders, and I expect him to come up with a big play like he did when he forced a fumble by Donovan McNabb in the NFC title game.
I recommend taking the Cardinals plus the points -- though as a supposed Vegas wise guy, I might get my membership card revoked for suggesting anyone take plus-61/2 now when plus-7 was widely available -- plus a smaller wager on the Cardinals to pull the outright upset.
While the money line on an Arizona straight-up victory is depressed from what a 61/2-point underdog usually would be getting, anything at plus-180 or higher still has to be considered a value when I see it as a 50-50 shot.
Dave Tuley (ViewFromVegas.com) won the Review-Journal NFL Challenge with a 51-31-3 record against the spread. Tuley has covered the Las Vegas race and sports book scene for the Daily Racing Form since 2000.