Five Intriguing Super Bowl Storylines

If anything, the 2008 NFL Season was far from dull. While the Cardinals and Steelers each won their respective divisions to secure playoff berths, neither team was a slum dunk to make it to Tampa at the start of the postseason.

Let’s recap, shall we?

The Steelers entered the playoffs with huge question marks to be answered, most surrounding their offense. In their last regular season game of the year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher after the back of his helmet slammed against the turf following a hit between two defenders. Along with his health, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, although starting to gel in the final month of the season, seemed to be a weakness that defenses like the Titans and Ravens could exploit if they had the opportunity to face the Steelers in the postseason.

So while they ranked first in total defense entering the playoffs, the Steelers had major issues. Yet they steam rolled an overmatched Chargers team in the divisional round, then turned Joe Flacco’s inexperience against him in the AFC Championship Game and now they’re one win away from winning their second Super Bowl title in three years.

Conversely, the Cardinals had a little steeper hill to climb. Although their offense was explosive throughout the season, they played poorly down the stretch and many believed that if they had to go on the road in the playoffs, they would never survive. Not only that, but many pundits also didn’t believe ‘Zona would get past a good running team like the Falcons, who were sure to ride Michael Turner to victory in the opening round.

Thanks to three Atlanta turnovers and a soundly executed game plan to shut down Turner, the Cards beat the Falcons to set up a regular season rematch with the Panthers in the second round. Six Jake Delhomme turnovers later and Arizona was heading to the NFC Championship Game despite everyone and their mother suggesting that they would never be able to win on the road. Then despite the Eagles’ best efforts at a second half comeback, Arizona was able to hang on Sunday to secure a trip to the Super Bowl, which seemed like an improbable task at the start of the playoffs.

Now that the matchup has been set, what do we have to look forward to? Plenty, actually. Below are five storylines that should wet your appetite for the next two weeks before kickoff on February 1.


Read the rest after the jump...

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Super Bowl XLIII Odds released: Steelers 7-point favorites

Odds are out and according to TheSpread.com, the Steelers are 7-point favorites over the Cards.

Pittsburgh SteelersThe Steelers won the AFC North crown with a 12-4 record, and were 9-7 against the spread. They held opponents to 13.9 points a game this season – ranking them No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and points allowed.

Oddsmakers from online sports book Sports Interaction have made the Steelers a 7-point favorite over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, and have established the over/under total at 47.

The Cardinals were NFC West Champions this year despite finishing with an average 9-7 regular season record. They too were 9-7 against the number this season and won most of their games with their prolific offense, scoring 26.7 points per game and averaging 292.1 passing yards per game.

Fellow TSR writer John Paulsen and I were talking about the game and we both came to a similar notion that Pittsburgh fans will likely push the spread up before kickoff. If the spread gets closer to 10, I would lean towards the dog and just hope that Kurt Warner doesn’t turn the ball over and give the Steelers easy scoring opportunities. If the spread drops, I would probably jump on the Steelers and assume their defense would put the clamps down on ‘Zona’s passing game.

The over/under total has been set at 47, which seems rather high to me. The Steelers don’t score a ton of points and one would figure that their defense would limit the Cards to 20 points or fewer. Regardless, both the line and total seem pegged right by odds makers.

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