Thursday, January 29, 2009

5 Key Matchups for SB43

1. Larry Fitzgerald vs. The Steelers Secondary
Above all else, Fitzgerald is the reason that the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl this season. He has been basically unstoppable as he torched defense after defense during the playoffs. If the Cards are going to win this game it will be because of Larry's incredible abilities. So naturally, he is priority numero uno for the Steelers spectacular defense. I expect to see a fair amount of Ike Taylor going against Fitz, but even with the Steelers top corner shadowing Larry, I still think we'll see double coverage for much of the day. Also, the Steelers often go to something of a zone when they blitz heavy, as most teams do, but against Fitz, we've seen all postseason you absolutely, positively cannot go zone. It will be interesting to see how Dick LeBeau plays against this unbelievable talent.

2. Ben Roethlisberger vs. The Cardinals Pass Rush
The Cards defense has really stepped up their game the past few weeks. Because of this, Big Ben is going to need to play mistake-free ball and neutralize their superb playmakers. Roethlisberger has been excellent at that for the past several games, but every Steeler fan has seen how nasty things can get when Ben starts struggling and trying to do too much. Roethlisberger is one of the most unique QB's in football and his way of fending off blitzers and keeping plays alive can alter games in both extremely positive and negative ways. Its probably a pretty fair bet that we will see at least instance of each in this game. Just how positive and negative those plays are will go a long toward determining this puppy.

3. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley vs. The Cardinals O-Line

One of these days the refs may start calling more of the dozens of holdings of James Harrison that occur every single freaking game. It's absolutely insane the way he is blatantly held, and with the Cardinals mediocre tackles I expect that trend to continue, and if we even get one holding call our way I will be pleased. Even with the holding and the double teams Harrison often seems to rise to the occasion and there is certainly no bigger occasion that this one. I have a hard time imagining him not producing at least a couple big time plays.

4. Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin vs. Ken Whisenhunt and Todd Haley
This is sort of a poetic type matchup. Tomlin, of course, is a defensive coach and the best coach on his staff is the defensive coordinator. Whiz, as we all know, is an offensive master and his top lieutenant is the very promising Haley. And not coincidentally, these are the top units for the respective squads. As we always saw in the Burgh, Whiz loves to throw out trick plays in big games, and I fully expect to see something crazy in this game. How LeBeau and company handle any gadgers will be a key to success for both squads. And all this is even without discussing the incredibly intimate knowledge that Whiz and LeBeau have of each other's schemes. It's safe to say that's going to be a huge factor, too.

5. Kurt Warner vs. Troy Polamalu
On one side we have one of the most experienced, most intelligent, and right now, one of the best quarterbacks in football. On the other hand there is the most disruptive defender in football who doubles as quite possibly the single most athletic player in the league as well. Should be a truly fascinating matchup. Warner is one of the few QB's who might (and I stress might) be able to neutralize or maybe even take advantage of Polamalu's play. I certainly don't think that Troy will be able to wreak havoc all day long, but the key will be whether or not he's able to make a few monster plays (like the INT or the 4th down line jump against Baltimore) that alter this game.

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