Super Bowl XLIII Betting Preview by


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Dec 2, 2008
Super Bowl XLIII Betting Preview: Cardinals may have enough to upset the odds

It's all friendly in Tampa at the moment but that will change when the Steelers and Cardinals get down to business on Sunday night. Andy Richmond runs through the odds and betting before kick-off.

We started with 32 teams and now we are down to the final two - it's the Cardinals versus the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

This is a contest that few would have predicted and sees Pittsburgh going for their sixth Super Bowl victory against an Arizona team going for their first.

Great storylines abound and the major one is the matchup of Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, a onetime Steelers assistant, against his old team. It also features the world-class passing attack of Cardinals QB Kurt Warner and WR Larry Fitzgerald facing a Steelers defence that ranked no. 1 in the regular season in yards allowed, passing yards allowed and points allowed. A mirror-image of styles, tactics and attitudes awaits us.

The Cardinals are a surprise, only the second 9-7 team to reach a Super Bowl - they staggered rather than strode into the post-season but have been transformed in their last three outings. Underdogs in all of their three play-off outings, they have rattled up 95 points via their explosive offence led by QB Kurt Warner and his primary receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whose 419 receiving yards is an NFL record for the post-season.

Warner will be playing in his third Super Bowl after a mostly brilliant season in the Cardinals' precision, rhythm passing attack. He has been even better in the post-season, cutting down on his mistakes and getting the ball to WR Larry Fitzgerald, despite playing against defences designed to take the star receiver away.

Outsmarting Warner will play a key part in the Steelers defensive plan
, either blitzing him and make him move around out of his comfort zone or drop seven or eight and play coverage, challenging him to out pass them. Warner is great at reading blitzes and getting rid of the ball quickly, so the Steelers must be sure they can get to him if they do play a "blitzburgh" style defence.
Whilst the offence has been vaunted it's the defence that has been maligned, but as a group they have stepped up over the past few weeks and held some of the NFC's best at bay - most notably with their run defence. Steelers RB Willie Parker could be in for a tough day against the rejuvenated Arizona defence.

Pittsburgh play it tough on both sides of the ball, typified by their bruising game against Baltimore in the AFC Championship game. Their number one ranked NFL defence is the rock which the Steelers game plan is built upon, and stars abound on this side of the ball. Much of the Steelers' defensive success starts with their pass rush and the run-stopping ability of their front seven. The secondary is no slouch, but SS Troy Polamalu is the clear difference maker. He's known for doing his best work up near the line, but Polamalu has improved his deep coverage and he'll need to with Warner throwing his bombs to Fitzgerald.

Offensively, Pittsburgh will run a conservative, run-orientated offence led by Parker, who needs to get to the outside to prove effective and use his greatest weapon - his speed.

QB Ben Roethlisberger hasn't made mistakes in the post-season, and the Steelers are dangerous when he's on the mark. He throws very well on the run and can improvise outside of the pocket as well as any QB in the NFL. If he can avoid the turnovers that plagued him in the regular season (15 INTs, seven lost fumbles) against a Cardinals defence that has forced 12 turnovers in three play-off games, the Steelers could have a distinct advantage.

If his main wide receiver Hines Ward, who was injured in the Baltimore game, does miss or is even poised to play a limited role on Sunday then the Steelers will be more inclined to use their big play guy WR Santonio Holmes, with his breakaway ability, Holmes can change a game, as he did on a 65-yard TD catch in the first half vs. the Ravens. In the play-offs alone he is averaging nearly 24 yards per catch.

The Cardinals will also need to defend TE Heath Miller, who has had a good postseason and who might play a bigger role if Ward is out. Miller runs the seams well and can separate from linebackers. The Cardinals struggled to contain Eagles TE Brent Celek and expect Miller to play an important part of the Steelers offence on Sunday.

So we have a study of opposites and a fascinating match-up - both teams have the ability and desire to win here are the keys to each of them winning...

Don't give up big offensive plays
Run the ball effectively
Stop the Cardinals running
More Super Bowl experience

The offensive line must pick up the Pittsburgh blitz
Get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald
The experience of Kurt Warner
One more big game for the Cardinals "D"
Whichever executes those better will be the victor in the search for the ultimate prize Super Bowl XLIII.

Betting Advice: Points average in the last 10 Super Bowls is 46.9 - Pittsburgh usually feature in games below that average - back under 46.5 match points at 1.98.
Twenty-two out of 42 Super Bowls have seen both teams lead at least once - as a trading position lay Pittsburgh pre game at 1.44 - the price does not reflect the ability that the Cardinals have to win this game or push the Steelers close.

Be prepared to assess your position at half time - 76 per cent of teams leading at half time go on to win the Super Bowl.

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