It's show time folks. It is the unofficial holiday that sports nuts crave each and every year. Even spouses enjoy the spectacle that is Super Bowl Sunday.
This Sunday at 5pm, NBC will wow us with gridiron action and commercial bliss. The Arizona Cardinals take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in SB XLIII.
There is only token hype this year. The Cardinals are to blame. A) Have you ever met a Cardinals fan? Me neither. B) The Cardinals sucked for the majority of the season. Can they make it a competitive game?
The Steelers opened in Vegas as a seven-point favorite. Will I wager money on either team? Absolutely not. Will a vast majority of America bet props such as coin toss, first player to score and most receiving yards? You bet.
Like all good sports writers in Oklahoma, I searched for a crutch... I mean... local-themed storyline. Last year we had Wes Welker with the Patriots and R.W. McQuarters with the Giants. The year prior we latched on to the Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Two years ago, the Steve Largent factor with the Seahawks came into play.
This year? The Steelers let Donovan Woods occupy a roster spot on their practice squad. Defensive end Antonio Smith played his college ball at Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Cardinals.
I'm sure there is another player or two with ties to the area, but do water boys count?
I say no.
So we are left breaking down the actual game -- imagine that. To be honest, this may be the easiest prognostication in the history of Super Bowls.
Can the Cardinals protect Kurt Warner? That's it. If Warner is given time to throw, he connects with his ultra-sexy receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
If the Steelers 3-4 zone blitzing swarms Warner, game over. We know the Steelers will manufacture at least 20 points. Will it be enough?
If anyone in the media tries to tell you this contest comes down to anything other than the Cardinals ability to keep Kurt Warner upright in the pocket, then they are uninformed, unqualified and should observe additional football.
Now that we've cleared that up, I must explain to you why I would make for a horrible NFL head coach or the most brilliant sideline general since Vince Lombardi. There is really no middle ground. Here would be my game plan for each squad:
If I'm the Cardinals, I would abandon the running game as I entered the stadium. Maybe before. I would max protect and keep Warner in shotgun. Lot's of double tight end and split backfield looks. I would run three receiver patterns and challenge the Steelers defensive backs with my beastly receivers.
If I'm coaching the Steelers, I would first demand all sports media refer to my quarterback as Roethlisberger instead of Ben, Big Ben or 7. I would then work on overloading one side with the blitz. Bring more than they can block. That's it. Let Roethlisberger (not Ben, Big Ben or 7) make his standard two or three plays a game and put a few points on the board.
Now here are some fun facts about the Super Bowl to set the proper mood.
The last SB broadcast on NBC was the thrilling contest between John Elway's Denver Broncos and Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers. SB XXXII saw the Broncos snap a 13-game losing streak for the AFC against the NFC. Elway bowed out gracefully from the game the following year. Favre did not.
The halftime entertainment this year is Bruce Springsteen. Other famous musical acts to get the nod include the Rolling Stones, U2, Aerosmith and New Kids on the Block. Question: Which of these acts does not belong? Answer: Do you really need me to tell you?
The last time the SB was played in Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium was 2001. It was a crappy defensive shellacking. The New York Giants were manhandled by the Baltimore Ravens.
The thing I remember most about the SB that year? Survivor was the follow-up programming on one channel and Jackass on MTV. You'll learn a lot about people depending on which show they gravitate to.
The Arizona Cardinals were one of six teams of ultimate failure in the NFL. Now, only the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints have failed to reach a SB. At least the Texans and Jaguars are expansion franchises.
Looking for a SB MVP candidate? Think QB. That's what the voters are likely to do. Of the 43 SB MVP's, 22 of them were quarterbacks. It's the same reason the Hall of Fame is littered with quarterbacks while linemen apparently have nothing to do with winning football games.
At least this game is getting the Madden treatment. Old John Madden has become the butt of many jokes in the "all announcers are terrible" age of the blogosphere.
Madden is far superior to Troy "I couldn't agree with you more" Aikman and Phil "When I spoke with the coaches earlier this week" Simms.
Now if the game is a blowout and Madden starts rambling about a meatball sandwich he ate three days ago, just pretend like the above two paragraphs never happened.
Hooray Super Bowl!
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