Contrasting styles will clash when the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers hook up Sunday for an intriguing Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Pittsburgh’s defense has posted incredible numbers throughout the season and will be challenged by Arizona’s high-flying offense. The quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, have garnered the lion’s share of the pregame hype.
We know football is won in the trenches, and quarterbacks can control the outcome, but wide receivers could provide the difference in this game.
Larry Fitzgerald has been virtually unstoppable during the Cardinals’ journey through the playoffs, setting NFL postseason records in the process. It stands to reason the Steelers will be doing their best to minimize the damage the talented Fitzgerald can inflict. But Arizona’s Anquan Boldin could be the man of the hour, constantly drawing single coverage.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have been tight-lipped about Hines Ward’s injured knee. His impact on the Pittsburgh offense can’t be understated. His knack for coming up with timely plays is uncanny and his blocking ability also is a major component for the offense’s ultimate success. If Ward is substantially hobbled, the Steelers could have a major problem, especially in the red zone.
Coaching seems to be a push, with the Steelers’ stalwart defense getting the edge. We’ve been hammering this game for two weeks now. Enough already.
Pittsburgh is favored by 61/2 to 7 points, and the total is 461/2.
Let’s turn to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmakers and a couple of sports book directors for their breakdowns of the game:
• Mike Seba, LVSC oddsmaker: Pittsburgh, 30-17
If the Steelers can contain the Cardinals’ running game, they could dominate.
• Sean Van Patten, LVSC oddsmaker: Pittsburgh, 24-20
I’m looking for a typical Steelers game. Good balance on offense and a dominating defense, and Pittsburgh gains control of the game in the second half. Arizona comes up short for the title but is a winner against the number on a backdoor cover.
• Tony Sinisi, LVSC odds director: Pittsburgh, 31-13
The Steelers are the class in this game. Their defense will make Warner’s day miserable and might make him look like he did when quarterbacking the Giants. Warner got a small taste of it in the second half against the Eagles and should get the full entree in the Super Bowl.
• Ken White, LVSC chief operating officer: Pittsburgh, 24-20
Last year, coach Ken Whisenhunt drew up a winning game plan for Arizona to beat Pittsburgh. He’ll be able to draw on that experience to again give the Cardinals every opportunity to be competitive.
• Jay Kornegay, Las Vegas Hilton sports book: Pittsburgh, 23-20
There’s no reason not to expect a great game, with a fantastic finish and the ‘dog players getting the money.
• Jay Rood, MGM Mirage sports books: Pittsburgh, 20-17
Look for the Steel Curtain Part Two to impose its will. I’ve battled to come up with a side in the game. From Day One, I’ve been on board with under 47 in a defensive chess match. The Cardinals believe they can get it done, but there’s too much big-game experience on the Steelers’ roster to go against. Here’s looking for a compelling game.
Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio (920 AM). Visit vegassportsconnect.com for more odds information.BETWEEN THE LINES
BY MAL VAN VALKENBURG
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
THREE REASONS TO LIKE THE CARDINALS (+7) OVER THE STEELERS
The Cardinals handled the Eagles’ defense, with Kurt Warner throwing for four touchdowns. The Cardinals should have enough success to keep it close, if not win outright.
The Cardinals’ defense has been playing better. The Eagles’ top receiver, Kevin Curtis, had only four catches. Top Panthers receiver Steve Smith had two catches. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan had fewer than 200 yards passing.
The Steelers will bring the pressure, but Warner will be able to get rid of the ball and has an outstanding group of receivers to make plays downfield.
THREE REASONS TO LIKE THE CARDINALS-STEELERS UNDER (46)
The offenses have grabbed the attention, but both defenses are playing well.
The Steelers rely on the ground game, but the Cardinals might try to stress running the ball early to keep the pressure off Warner. Both of those facts tend to favor the under.
If the Steelers have the lead, they will try to take the air out of the ball in the second half.
LAST WEEK: 2-0; SEASON: 27-13-2
ONE HANDICAPPER’S BEST PROP BETS
VegasInsider.com handicapper Mark Franco picks his top proposition bets for the Super Bowl:
Will there be a special teams or defensive touchdown? (Yes plus-155)
There is value here with a Steelers defense that has shown it can score, with safety Troy Polamalu always capable of producing a big play. Both teams have a few playmakers, and we surely could see a kickoff or punt returned for a touchdown. My gut feeling is Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes might be the one to score on special teams.
Will the game be tied after 0-0? (Yes plus-115)
The underdog Cardinals can move the ball on offense, with quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald unlikely to be completely shut down. The game will be tied at some point in the first half. Remember, this bet wins if it’s 3-3, 7-7 or 10-10 at any point in the game.