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fordfixer
01-20-2009, 05:46 PM
Schein's Nine: Super Bowl matchupsby Adam Schein
Adam Schein hosts the Sirius Blitz on Sirius NFL Radio from 11-3 ET. He also co-hosts Loudmouths on Sports Net New York every weeknight at 6 ET. He is a weekly columnist and files weekly video reports and makes NFL picks "video style" for FOXSports.com. Email Adam here.

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Updated: January 20, 2009, 1:44 PM EST 6 comments Forget the two-week layoff between "Championship Sunday" and the Super Bowl.

Road to Super Bowl XLIII

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
Recap | Box score | Play-by-play


Inside the gameKriegel: Warner shares win with top fan

NFL on FOX crew: How Cards won

NFL on FOX crew: McNabb's legacy


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Steelers 23, Ravens 14
Recap | Box score | Play-by-play


Inside the gameMarvez: Steelers more than defense

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Today's Schein's 9 features the matchups we are foaming at the mouth over.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/9105 ... l-matchups (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/9105416/Schein's-Nine:-Super-Bowl-matchups)

1. Ken Whisenhunt vs. Mike Tomlin

This is going to be great. I cannot get enough of the storyline that features the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator who was passed over for the Steelers gig matching wits with Tomlin.

Now we do have precedent here.

Whisenhunt faced Tomlin in the regular season last year. The Cards played the game like it was, well, a Super Bowl. And the Cardinals won in an upset special. I think the familiarity that Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm have with the players and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is an advantage for the Cardinals.

Actually, Tomlin and Whisenhunt are both very similar, beyond the fact they are both very good coaches. They are very honest with their players, who will run through a wall for them. And I love their styles. Both Tomlin and Whisenhunt are very aggressive and take gambles during games. That is something to watch for on Super Bowl Sunday.

2. Dick LeBeau vs. Kurt Warner

Jim Johnson's blitzes didn't rattle Warner, who performed like a surgeon on championship Sunday.

LeBeau's team makes a living destroying momentum for a quarterback. James Harrison was the best defensive player in the league this past year. LaMarr Woodley is a pass- rushing stud. And with LeBeau calling the shots, you must account for Troy Polamalu on every play.

3. Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston vs. Steelers DBs

Larry Fitz is playing on a Jerry Rice level. Fitzgerald is in a freakish zone, with 23 catches for 419 yards and five touchdowns in the playoffs. Trying to game-plan against him is an exercise in futility. But look for Pittsburgh to be as physical as possible.

Anquan Boldin will get over his bruises, both physical and mental.

Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden are a bit underrated, but 'Zona clearly has a mismatch here.

Don't be surprised if Steve Breaston gets behind the defense for a big play on game day.


4. Edgerrin James/Tim Hightower vs. Steelers run defense

The rebirth of James is fun to watch. He is officially a factor in the Cardinals attack again. James was once again sturdy this past Sunday against the strong Eagles defense.

And Hightower proved, with the fourth-and-inches conversion on the go-ahead drive followed by the catch and run on third and goal for the game-winning score, he needs to be accounted for.

But James Farrior, Larry Foote, Polamalu and the defensive line for Pittsburgh just don't give up yards on the ground.

The key for Arizona is to establish the run early. And if they don't run successfully, offensive coordinator Todd Haley can't give up on it.

5. Cardinals offensive line vs. Pittsburgh defense

The Cards' offensive line has been "cohesive and physical" during the playoffs, guard Reggie Wells said when we talked Monday. 'Zona's offensive line has surprisingly survived every single challenge, from John Abraham to Julius Peppers and the Carolina front seven, to Jim Johnson's blitzes.

But as good as Wells, Mike Gandy, Deuce Lutui and Co. have played in the playoffs, it is an entirely different challenge facing the Pittsburgh defensive line. Casey Hampton is still an elite player. Aaron Smith is a rock. And then you have to deal with all of the blitzes LeBeau throws at you and account for Harrison, Woodley and Polamalu on every play. Even the best offensive lines struggle when facing Pittsburgh.

6. Big Ben vs. Cards' defense

I've always considered Roethlisberger a top-5 NFL quarterback. He's supremely clutch.

But Ben does have those moments when he is haphazard with the ball.

He completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Ravens.

And he turned it over rapidly against the Titans, Colts and Giants during the regular season.

The way Arizona is playing defense you must suddenly respect them as a ball-hawking squad.


The Cardinals will try to seperate the ball from Ben Roethlisberger, who can be careless with the football. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

7. Hines Ward/Santonio Holmes v. Cardinals DBs

The Ward injury was almost a killer for Pittsburgh against Baltimore, with replacement Limas Sweed dropping a sure-fire touchdown at the end of the first half, and then lying on the ground with what Jim Nantz appropriately called "a bruised ego." It cost Pittsburgh a timeout and three points at the end of the first half.

But Ward is a big-game player and Holmes presents similar challenges to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ralph Brown and Rod Hood as did Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson.

8. Willie Parker vs. Cards' D

Arizona's run defense needs to be respected after it clamped down on Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams and Brian Westbrook also known as three of the elite running backs in the NFC.

Parker ran for just 47 yards on 27 carries against the Ravens' stingy defense. But Parker was sensational against San Diego.

With 12 days to go before the Super Bowl, I find this the most fascinating matchup of all as it could genuinely go either way.

9. Sean Morey and Arizona vs. Steelers special teams

Hide the women, children and Mitch Berger!

The Steelers punter would've been the ultimate goat if Baltimore prevailed after his fourth-quarter punt resembled something out of an elementary school kick-ball game.

Don't overlook the fact that Morey will be the best special teams player on the field on Super Bowl Sunday. And if you don't believe me, ask any member of the Steelers who played with him when he was in Pittsburgh.

In talking to Morey on Monday, he gives a lot of credit to Whisenhunt (who brought him over from Pittsburgh when he got the job) for the emphasis he puts on special teams in practice.

While Santonio Holmes is always a threat, Arizona's special teams are more consistent when it comes to coverage and the return game.

Both Jeff Reed and Neil Rackers are reliable kickers

steelsnis
01-20-2009, 07:09 PM
Schein admitted today on the radio that he's "fascinated" by the Cardinals story and loves everything about them. According to his writeup, they are better than the Steelers in virtually every single area.

Hmmm. Guess we'll have to wait and see. Bring it on.

ramblinjim
01-20-2009, 07:28 PM
He makes some good points, no doubt. And the Cards' are playing great, that's for sure. But to tell me that a 9-7 team coming out of the NFC West matches up well with the 12-4 Steelers is beyond me. We'll see.

I don't think this game is going to be a blow out but I think the Steelers have the tools to win this game. I think the Cardinals have to play out of their minds to win the game.