Friday, January 30, 2009
If you looked at the lines and listened to the experts following the wins by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals in their respective conference championship games, many picked the Steelers instantly as the obvious winner in this year’s Super Bowl. However, as we break down the matchups and look at this game it appears that the Cardinals have the edge in this one. Here is why:
1. Kurt Warner-Sure, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has Super Bowl experience but Warner is a cagey veteran who understands how to play the game and knows what to do in pressure situations. Warner also has the tools around him (i.e. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin) to make big plays and score a lot of points. He also has the ability to make big plays which gives Warner and the Cardinals and edge in this one.
2. Larry Fitzgerald-You can’t deny that Fitzgerald has not only been one of the best receivers in the playoffs but also one of the best receivers this season. He seems to be in the right place at the right time all of the time and makes big plays. He has become Warner’s go to guy and is poised to have a big game. The Steelers will attempt to shut him down but if that happens, that leaves other receivers open allow Warner to just throw the ball downfield to another reliable receiver. Keeping Fitzgerald contained is going to be a difficult task and one the Steelers will have to do if they want to win.
3. Edgerrin James-The Cardinals discovered a running game during the playoffs and will need to get it going again if they want to win this game. However, the Steelers are tough against the run and may not allow James and the other running backs much running room. However, if the Cardinals can find their running game (or the Steelers fail and don’t stop the run) it could be a long day for Pittsburgh. If James can find his wheels, he could have a big game.
4. Adrian Wilson-Wilson is known for his hard hits and intense play and he will have to ratchet it up a bit in this one. His intensity will be the tell tale sign of how the defense plays because, like his counterpart on the Steeler’s defense (Troy Polamalu) the defense plays well when he is playing well. Wilson will be a big part of making sure that the Cardinals don’t allow Willie Parker to get loose in the backfield or allow Roethlisberger to get too many long passes down the field.
5. Darnell Docket-If there has been one the steadiest defensive lineman on the Cardinals defense and should have a big game against a weakened Steelers offensive line. Getting pressure on Roethlisberger will be a big key to the Cardinals winning this game.
6. Explosive Offense-We all know that the Cardinals have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and the Steelers haven’t faced too many explosive offense this season. If the Cardinals can build a good lead and then maintain reasonable control of the ball and the clock, Pittsburgh, whose offense isn’t geared to handle playing a high scoring game won’t be able to keep pace.
Conclusion: This game looks more and more like a Cardinals win. The Steelers defense will have to play the best game of the season, perhaps the best game of several seasons in order to stop Warner and their high flying offense. Even if they shut down Fitzgerald, there are other receivers that can step up and play well enough to cover for what they would lose if Fitzgerald were to get shut down. The big key in this game will be the running game for both teams. We all know that running the ball keeps the ball in the offense’s hands and controls the clock so this might come down to which team holds onto the ball longest.
Final Prediction: Arizona 24 Pittsburgh 13
By Bryan Dietzler
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This year’s Super Bowl features a match up with one team possessing a high powered offense and the other team possessing a strong defense and when these to things come together, most anything can happen. Seeing this, this makes this year’s Super Bowl one of the most difficult to predict as both teams as these are two teams that are somewhat unpredictable.
The Steelers had the best defense in the NFL in 2008 and will face one of the more explosive offenses from the 2008 season with the Arizona Cardinals. The question is, can the Steelers defense stop the Cardinals high flying offense? Will the Cardinals be able to overcome the onslaught of defensive blitzes that they will surely see from the Steelers?
Pittsburgh will need to stop the Cardinal’s running game, which really didn’t get going until the start of the playoffs, if they want to control the tempo of this game as well as the ball and the clock. This should be fairly easy for the Steelers to do since it is well known that they are fully capable of stopping the run in most instances. If they can do that against the Cardinals, they have a good chance of winning this game.
But it’s not the Cardinal’s running that should worry the Steelers so much as the Cardinals passing game should. We all know, as do the Steelers, what Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin can do and so the Steelers will have their hands full defending against this potent passing game. The Steelers can defend against the pass however and they need to do this if they want to win.
Pittsburgh will need to get some pressure on Warner and force him to make mistakes which they will then need to take full advantage of and the Steelers are very good at taking advantage of another team’s mistakes as has been the case in the past (see Troy Polamalu). If the Cardinals make any mistakes, it could be very costly for the Cardinals.
The Steelers will win this game if they can keep consistent pressure on Warner, which they can do, and force him to make mistakes. They can easily get pressure on his with the defense that they currently have so that shouldn’t be an issue. Shutting down the Cardinals running game and forcing them to pass should also be high on their list of things to do as well.
On offense, the Steelers need to get their running game going. If they can utilize the talents of Willie Parker and keep the ball moving with him, on the ground, they will keep the ball out of Warner and Company’s hands and keep the score low. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has to keep control of the all and work the Steelers passing game well if the Cardinals manage to shut down the Steeler’s running game which may not be that difficult. The offensive line also needs to make sure that they give Roethlisberger enough protection to keep him upright and not get injured.
If the Steelers can keep the Cardinals to fewer than ten points or less, they will win this game. It would take a massive effort by the defense but nothing is impossible. If they allow the Cardinals to get ahead, it could be all over for their hopes another championship.
Prediction (for a Steelers victory) Pittsburgh 16 Arizona 10
By Bryan Dietzler
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The upcoming Super Bowl promises to be one of the best in history as it pits a team that has a strong defense against a team that has a powerful scoring offense. The Steelers will certainly have their hands full when it comes to defending against the Cardinals potent passing attack and will have to put pressure on quarterback Kurt Warner if they want to win this game.
However, just this past Sunday, we saw the Cardinals keep one of the best blitzing defenses at bay (the Eagles) and this allowed Warner and his wide receivers, in particular Larry Fitzgerald, to connect on several scoring passes. Will Arizona be able to withstand the onslaught of pressure that they will most surely get from the NFL’s best defense? The answer is maybe. The key is in their running game. In the playoffs, the Cardinals got their running game going and that helped them out immensely and was probably the difference in them winning out through the playoffs and losing their first game against the Atlanta Falcons. Adding this other dimension has really helped the Cardinals out.
Going against a defense like the Steelers isn’t going to be easy and Pittsburgh will more than likely shut down the Cardinals running game and force them to throw the ball which leaves them wide open for the various blitzes that the Steelers will throw at them. Arizona’s offensive line will have to be on the ball if they want to keep Pittsburgh’s pass rushers at bay and they have kept Warner pretty well protected during the playoffs but they haven’t faced a pass rush like this in the playoffs. It’s going to be hairy.
If any team gets up by more than two scores in this game, that team will probably win the game and the team with the most explosive offense will probably be the one to get ahead first and that explosive offense belongs to the Cardinals. Even if they can get a quick lead before the Steelers shut them down, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the tools to play catch up or win in a shootout and if the Cardinals pile on the points, Pittsburgh isn’t going to be matching them score for score.
Look for Arizona to jump out to a quick lead in this game, by 10 to 14 points, and then watch as the Steelers clamp down on them and slow things down a little bit. It should be a fast and furious first half with the second half being slow and arduous second half with little scoring. If the Cardinals get out to a sizeable lead, they should win this game.
For the Cardinals, I predict Arizona 24 Pittsburgh 13
Next Up: Why the Steelers will win the Super Bowl
by Bryan Dietzler
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
You can’t give all of the credit for this to Warner however. He is just one part of a big puzzle that was put together by current head coach Ken Wisenhunt when he first came to the Cardinals just a few short years ago. Using players already drafted and brought to the team (through free agency) as well as a few newcomers, Wisenhunt put together the team that we see now poised to become world champions.
But he couldn’t have done it without having the kind of quarterback at the helm that he had in Warner. Someone had to take the reins of this high powered offense. Someone had to be able to hit the open receiver 20, 30 even 40 yards down the field. Someone had to be smart enough to see the play develop and find the open receiver for the big gain. They tried this with USC alum Matt Leinart but he just wasn’t able to get it right for some reason. So, they turned to a proven seasoned veteran to help them win games and hopefully, with a little bit of luck, they could quite possibly make the playoffs.
For Warner, this won’t be his first trip to the Super Bowl. Warner took the St. Louis Rams and their high flying “Greatest Show on Turf” offense to the Super Bowl back in the 1999-2000 season and won that game then took them back again, in a losing effort during the 2001-2002 season. He has been here before and knows what it takes to win. Granted, his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger has also been to the big game before as well but Warner has a certain flair about him and a style that inspires his teammates to do better and want to win. And he knows what it takes to win.
There were many experts who didn’t think that Warner and the Cardinals would be able to withstand the onslaught that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson would bring against Warner and the rest of the offense. If things had went the way that everyone had thought, we would be reading about how Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb overcame a benching and sub par play to lead his team to the Super Bowl. But this was not the case. The Cardinals offense, one of the most explosive in the NFL yet one of the most underrated, got the best of one of the better playoff defenses in the NFL and helped to give way to the Cardinal’s first Super Bowl appearance.
They couldn’t have done this without Warner at the helm. His ability to play in the system as well as make big plays like he has been able to do since coming into the NFL. As we saw on Sunday, Warner was able to make those critical throws that helped them win the game and stay ahead of the Eagles. It is this kind of ability that will help the Cardinals gain their first world championship. Of course, the Steelers will have a lot to say about that but it’s clear, Warner and his team have the edge in this one.
NEXT UP: Who will win this game and why
Written by Bryan Dietzler
Monday, January 12, 2009
Conference championship games are set and there have been a lot of surprises in this year’s NFL playoffs. Only one home team won this weekend and all the top seeds in the playoffs lost except for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The matchups that did come out of this weekend’s games are all going to be very good and should be hard fought battles which will decide who will go the Super Bowl.
The following is a look the remaining playoff teams still in the hunt for the Super Bowl and where they rank in my weekly playoff power poll. There is also a prediction on who will win each game this weekend.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW 3)-The Steelers are the only top seed remaining in the playoffs now and have a tough road ahead of them in having to meet the Baltimore Ravens once again for the third time this season. It promises to be a bloody battle but the Steelers, with their stellar defense and ball control offense, should be able to win and move on ahead to the Super Bowl. As long as they can move the ball against a tough Raven’s defense, there shouldn’t be any problems with them winning this game.
2. Arizona Cardinals (LW 8)-Yes, believe it or not, the Cardinals, playing at home and playing the kind of offensive football that they are the Eagles might be overwhelmed by their ability to move the ball down the field quickly through the air.
3. Baltimore Ravens (LW 5)-With a few breaks and a tough defense, the Ravens were able to topple the AFC’s most powerful team and meet their arch rivals, the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. It promises to be a big defensive battle but the Steelers have the edge thanks to their tough defense. I think that this game will be won by the team that turns the ball over the least because both defenses are very opportunistic. Also, with the Raven’s offensive woes, they don’t have the kind of power offense that’s going to score points in bunches. If the Ravens get behind, they will probably stay behind.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (LW 6)-The Eagles played pretty well against their arch rivals and are poised to get into the Super Bowl with a win over the Cardinals. They have to travel to
The Steelers defense will be too much for the Ravens to overcome and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco’s magical run will end: Pittsburgh 24 Baltimore 13
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I thought that I would throw my hat in the ring and give out a few 2008 NFL season awards as well as show everyone who I think should be on the NFL’s All Pro Team.
The Super Bowl winner may be the best team in the NFL but I think that the best team in the NFL this season was the Indianapolis Colts. Sure, the Colts started out a little bit rough as some injury issues caused the team some trouble but they finished the season strong and had they been able to get past the Chargers. If this team stays healthy next season, they could be Super Bowl trip in their future.
Most Disappointing Team
No, I am not going to say that the Detroit Lions are the most disappointing team because no one expected them to do well anyway. The Dallas Cowboys, with all of that talent and all of those expectations failed to make the playoffs this season raising some serious questions about their coaching and the talent on the team. There could be some changes in a lot of places during the offseason.
Top Head Coach
Sure, the Dolphin’s turn around was one of the best stories to come out of the NFL in a long time but I think that the top head coach in the NFL this season was the Atlanta Falcon’s Mike Smith. After seeing what he did with the Falcons after what happened to them last season, Smith is a near miracle worker and my clear cut winner for the top coach this season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Chad Pennington was cast off from the Jets after they acquired Brett Favre. He was quickly signed by the Dolphins and led them to the playoffs after a terrible 1-15 season the year before. It’s clear that without him, the Dolphins wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
Here are my All-NFL team awards:
Quarterback-Drew Brees-New Orleans-While he may not have the wins that Peyton Manning had this season, no one means more their team than Brees does. And with the kind of numbers that he put up this year it’s hard not to give him this honor.
Running Back-DeAngelo Williams-Carolina-Williams was a monster running the ball this season and was the most reliable back in the NFL in 2008.
Fullback-Le’Ron McClain-Baltimore-If you look at his numbers and what he meant to the Ravens, he’s the best in the league.
Wide Receiver (1)-Andre Johnson-Houston-Johnson sits a little under radar despite the fact he put up some huge numbers on a consistent basis.
Wide Receiver (2)-Roddy White-Atlanta-Matt Ryan’s go to guy had a big season and meant a lot to the Falcons.
Tight End-Tony Gonzalez-Kansas City-Gonzalez was a great player on a very bad team this season. Too bad he plays on such a bad team.
Offensive Tackle (1)-Joe Thomas-Cleveland-Despite the fact his team was horrid, Thomas is playing like seasoned pro.
Offensive Tackle (2)-Jordan Gross-Carolina-Gross helped pave the way for the Panther’s awesome rushing attack and deserves a lot of credit.
Offensive Guard (1)-Travelle Wharton-Carolina-Along with Gross and the rest of the Panther’s line helped to make their running game great.
Offensive Guard (2)-Steve Hutchinson-Minnesota-Hutchinson is a monster and helps lead a monster Vikings running game.
Center-Kevin Mawae-Tennessee-Although he may be nearing the end of his career, Mawae is a force on and off the field.
Defensive End (1)-Jared Allen-Minnesota-Allen was incredible this season and is, right now, the best defensive end in the NFL.
Defensive End (2)-Julius Peppers-Carolina-After a bad 2007 season, Peppers had a great season this year and showed just how much he means to the Panthers.
Defensive Tackle (1)-Kevin and Pat Williams-I am putting both of these guys on here because of their ability to shut down opponent’s running games.
Defensive Tackle (2)-Albert Haynesworth-Tennessee-Haynesworth is a force to be reckoned with and could be the best at his position right now in the NFL.
Outside Linebacker (1)-DeMarcus Ware-Dallas-You have to admit, this guy is good and is the heart and soul of the Dallas defense.
Outside Linebacker (2)-James Harrison-Pittsburgh-This guy is good and he got what he deserved, the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Middle Linebacker-Ray Lewis-Baltimore-Perhaps there are other players that might be more deserving of this but he is the heart and soul of one of the best defenses in the NFL this season and is a future hall of famer.
Cornerback (1)-Nnamdi Asomugha-Oakland-One of the few true shut down corners in the NFL.
Cornerback (2)-Asante Samuel-Philadelphia-Moving to Philly didn’t hurt Samuel who has had a great season.
Strong Safety-Troy Polamalu-Pittsburgh-There is no one better at the position than Polamalu.
Free Safety-Ed Reed-Baltimore-Reed is a game changer and a future hall of famer.
Kicker-Robbie Gould-Chicago-No one does it better than Gould when it comes to kicking in harsh weather or winning a game in overtime.
Punter-Brad Maynard-Chicago-Maynard quietly had the best season that any punter had in the NFL.
Kick Returner-Leon Washington-New York Jets-Washington had a great season and deserves a lot of recognition.
Punt Returner-Jonnie Lee Higgins-Oakland-The numbers speak for themselves.
Monday, January 5, 2009
The following is a look at how the remaining teams are ranked heading into this weekend’s divisional playoff round.
1. Tennessee Titans (LW 1)-Still the class of the playoffs, the Titans will have a very tough test going against the Baltimore Ravens who have played some of the toughest football of the season so far and this could be a match up for the ages. Both teams boast a strong defense and good ball control offenses with strong running games. The Titans could have the upper hand in this one though because of their week of rest and better running offense.
2. New York Giants (LW 3)-The Giants will face the toughest possible opponent that they could face in the playoffs in the Eagles. This will be their third meeting this season and the Eagles are playing very good football and have the momentum heading into this one. Being that these two teams have met twice already this season, it promises to be a good game with the winner possibly the one to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW 4)-The Steelers will host the Chargers in a game that promises to be one of best games of the weekend. With their stingy defense the Steelers should give the Chargers fits and the weather also promises to sit in Pittsburgh’s favor as well. On offense, the Steelers need to get their ground game going so that they can control the ball and the clock. The Steelers should come out victorious.
4. Carolina Panthers (LW 5)-Hosting the Cardinals should give the Panthers a great shot at getting into the NFC Championship game providing that they don’t give up too much to the Cardinals. Arizona has not done well on the East coast this season but the Panther’s defense hasn’t done too well during the latter half of the season but a good dose of their running game should cure all ills and make the Panthers a winner.
5. Baltimore Ravens (LW 6)-It was no surprise that the Ravens beat the Dolphins and ended up advancing in the playoffs. This team has a strong and opportunistic defense with a great ball control offense and this might be the formula that takes down the Titans this weekend. If they do win it’s possible this could be the team to represent the AFC in the playoffs.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (LW 10)-The Eagles move up a few spots due to their convincing win against a tough Minnesota team with a solid defense and now this team is poised to make a possible Cinderella run to the Super Bowl. Fans couldn’t have asked for a better match up (Giants versus the Eagles) and the Eagles, with the momentum that they have from their end of the season victories as well as their victory over the Vikings, this could be a team of destiny. Stay tuned as this team could be the one to go to the Super Bowl for the NFC this season.
7. San Diego Chargers (LW 9)-The Chargers pulled off a pretty good upset on Saturday night against the Colts and now have to face a tough Steelers defense. If LaDanlian Tomlinson is unable to go, they have Darren Sproles who has now proven himself to be a very capable replacement as well Phillip Rivers who has had a pretty good season despite the Charger’s record. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers hold their own against the Steelers but playing in Pittsburgh gives the Steelers a clear advantage.
8. Arizona Cardinals (LW 12)-It wasn’t too big of a surprise that the Cardinals outlasted the Falcons but it would be an even bigger surprise if they beat the Panthers. The Cardinals have the weapons on offense but don’t have them on defense and it’s pretty much certain that Carolina’s running game will rule the day in this one. This should be the Cardinal’s final playoff game.