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Michael Taylor 27th Jan 2009 - 23:27

Pittsburgh will answer Arizona's questions

There are many questions in life that can never be answered satisfactorily such as, what is the meaning of life? Or, why did the chicken cross the road? But, perhaps the most difficult one is, how did the Arizona Cardinals get to Super Bowl XLIII?

Many people point to the insufficient coverage both Carolina and Philadelphia put on Larry Fitzgerald, while others argue that Ken Whisenhunt has the Midas touch. I personally think it is a knock on effect from the David Tyree Helmet catch that ultimately brought Super Bowl XLII glory to the New York Giants.

Since that day, when NFL history changed forever as the invincible 18-0 New England Patriots became 18-1 chumps within the space of two and a half minutes, nothing has gone by the book.

The Miami Dolphins followed up their one win season with an incredible late charge to make the play-offs, the Patriots didn't even make the post-season and now the Arizona Cardinals have made the Super Bowl despite being 50/1 shots for outright glory just a month ago.

The only thing that is left to be seen is whether Kurt Warner and co can find a way through the Pittsburgh Steelers number one ranked defence and bring Arizona its first Super Bowl trophy.

The prospect of this looks mouth-watering from the outside but, in reality, things could turn very sour for the over-achievers when the action starts at the Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night.

Mike Tomlin's Pittsburgh start at 2/5 favourites and 20/21 with a -7.0 handicap, both of which are very back-able if you look at the man-for-man match-ups, while the Cardinals should be avoided at 21/10 to win outright and 20/23 with a +7.0 start is not as enticing as Pittsburgh overcoming the handicap.

The key issues Whisenhunt's men face are, Larry Fitzgerald will draw double coverage following his past showings, meaning Warner has to look towards wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Fair enough Boldin is a star having attended three Pro Bowls, but he cannot carry the load like Fitzgerald does.

They will also have to play with Troy Polamalu in close attendance and after his inspiration display against the Baltimore Ravens, Warner may be reluctant to throw over the middle - Polamalu looks a great bet at 10/1 to be named Super Bowl MVP if he manages to pull in another interception.

For Warner to have success with the passing game it is essential for Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower to chip in with rushing yards but this is where the Cards will find life most difficult.

James has been better of late but against the Steelers' defensive line, and nose tackle Casey Hampton in particular, there looks to be little chance of a hugely effective running game. Baltimore managed 2.9 yards per carry in the AFC Championship - Arizona will be lucky to get that many!

Saying all this, I do think Arizona will get points on the board and Larry Fitzgerald at 9/4 is a decent bet to score the first touchdown. Even in double coverage he is a monster and will be a constant threat even if he isn't as frequent a target.

The Steelers offensive threat is far more obvious and while it may not be the most effective it is more than enough to put the game beyond Warner's arm.

Willie Parker is running well, Hines Ward looks to have overcome his injury in time for the big one and Santonio Holmes has really shown his worth in this post-season run.

More importantly Ben Roethlisberger's ability to operate out of the pocket is something that the Cardinals defence has not had to deal with in the play-offs.

There is no doubt that 'Big Ben' will get sacked a few times, he always does, but his strength and Super Bowl experience should see him pass this test with relative ease. His stand-out Championship game performance against the Ravens' awesome line spells out bad news for an inferior Cards' defence.

Roethlisberger is the 7/4 favourite to be named Super Bowl MVP which could be a banker, although better value can be found on the game result markets, as a Steelers win looks all but a given.

The 3/1 about the first scoring play being a Pittsburgh field goal is worth a punt and 5/1 about the Steelers winning by 13-18 points looks great value.

However, browsing through the 87 betting markets on offer, the best bet looks to be the 10/11 about less than 46.5 total points in a match that looks destined to be decided on the defensive end of things.

Of course this all depends on everything going to form...and as we have seen this has not always been the case of late!

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