Super Bowl picks: Our experts weigh in
Super Bowl experts' picks
TAMPA, Fla. -- Can the Arizona Cardinals pull off the upset and complete another unlikely Super Bowl title run, as the New York Giants did last season? Or will the Pittsburgh Steelers' top-ranked defense lead them to an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl crown?
More Super Bowl picks
- Wojciechowski: Why Steelers will win
- Sunday Countdown: Ditka and more
- NFL experts: Jaws, Hoge, Mort, others
- ESPN Radio: Mike & Mike, Cowherd
- Athletes: Bush, Moon, Howard
- Celebs: Jenna Fischer to Phyllis Diller
- Madden sim: Steelers will win by four
- AccuScore: How the computer sees it
- Pick Center: Simulation models
- SportsNation: Your turn: Who wins?
- Odds: Daily lines
John Clayton: Steelers, 24-17
The premise that defense wins championships doesn't necessarily apply in a time when the past two Super Bowl winners didn't rank in the top 10 in scoring defense and when 21 defensive coordinators have been changed after the highest-scoring season since 1965.
What's historically true is great defenses win championships and this is a great Steelers defense -- particularly in stopping the pass. And the Cardinals' offense is dominated by the pass.
Super Bowl Voting Shifts
At the start of the week, SportsNation installed the Steelers as its favorite to win Super Bowl XLIII by a 52-48% margin. By midweek, the Cardinals pulled into a dead heat with the Steelers. Then, the franchise that was given little hope of making a postseason run, became SN's Super Bowl pick.
Jeffri Chadiha: Steelers, 31-23
The Steelers' defense is strong enough to control Arizona's vaunted passing attack. Pittsburgh will pressure Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, contain receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and create some big plays with its offense.
Mike Sando: Cardinals, 20-14
I see why the Steelers are favored, but how often does an NFC West blogger get a chance to pick the Cardinals to win it all? I'm not waiting 'til next time. Arizona wins if its defense rises to the occasion.
James Walker: Steelers, 21-17
Fitzgerald will need another out-of-this-world performance for Arizona to have a chance. "Fitz" will be good -- but not great -- against Pittsburgh's air-tight defense, and that won't be enough.
Pat Yasinskas: Steelers, 27-24
It's hard to pick against the Cardinals because they've played like destiny's team throughout the playoffs and Fitzgerald is in the kind of zone we haven't seen from any athlete since Carl Yastrzemski in the final few weeks of the Boston Red Sox's 1967 Impossible Dream season. But dreams are dreams and defense wins championships.
More expert picks
|Gregg Easterbrook||Cardinals, 28-10||Immediately after the Lombardi Trophy is awarded, a gigantic starcruiser will appear above the stadium and beam up "Kurt Warner" to return him to his home world. All we will have left to show that "Kurt" ever existed will be an empty uniform, some smelly athletic tape and the shape-shifting projector device he used to take human form.|
|Greg Garber||Cardinals, 27-21||Yes, the Steelers have the league's best defense, but San Diego and Baltimore didn't have the weapons that Arizona has. The Cardinals are major underdogs, but last year's uber-underdogs, the Giants, found a way to ruin the Patriots' bid for an unprecedented undefeated season. This is much less of a stretch.|
|Tim Graham||Steelers, 27-17||Against the AFC East, I've seen the Cardinals look rotten twice and sensational twice. I'm still not convinced they've figured it out. The Steelers have been consistently impressive all year. I'm going with the defense that shows up every week.|
|Jemele Hill||Steelers, 27-23||This is not a comfortable pick for me. Arizona reminds me a lot of how last year's Giants transformed. And the most dangerous team is always the one with the lowest expectations. But I just can't see them bettering Pittsburgh's defense.|
|Paul Kuharsky||Steelers, 27-24||In the end, the team that was tested more, fared better and had the better defense over the long haul wins it.|
|Matt Mosley||Steelers, 27-21||Big Ben atones for a woeful performance in his first Super Bowl and wins the MVP trophy. Todd Haley wins several sideline arguments, but can't steer the Cards' offense to a world title.|
|Sal Paolantonio||Cardinals, 27-21||This is a bad matchup for the Steelers' defense. Warner's quick release will diffuse the effectiveness of the Steelers' zone blitz. And Fitzgerald's constant presnap motion, his speed and his leaping ability will occupy the attention of Troy Polamalu, who then won't be able to attack the line of scrimmage with the same ferocity.|
|Len Pasquarelli||Steelers, 27-17||Too much defense: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will come up with something to stop the Cardinals.|
|Kevin Seifert||Steelers, 24-19||The Cardinals have toughened up under Ken Whisenhunt, but I don't think they're on a level with the hard-hitting Steelers. Pittsburgh is just too physical.|
|Bill Simmons||Steelers, 29-13||This game reminds me a lot of the Ravens-Giants SB, and as I have always preached, the NFL title always comes down to which team did their "thing" better than anyone else did their "thing." The 2008 Steelers played defense better than anyone else did anything. And so I'm picking them in a surprisingly easy romp.|
|Bill Williamson||Steelers, 34-17||The Cardinals have been playing well for three weeks; the Steelers have been playing well for four months. The Cardinals will be shocked by Pittsburgh's physical play on defense and will be frustrated when they can't score at will as they have in the playoffs. The Steelers are simply the better team and they will wear down the Cinderellas from the desert in the second half.|
|Gene Wojciechowski||Steelers, 20-17||There are lots of good reasons to take the Cardinals. But there are more reasons to take the Steelers.|
|Jeremy Green||Cardinals, 31-27||For Pittsburgh to win it will have to make a defensive adjustment that would be out of character: play press coverage outside with corners. Warner looks comfortable in the shotgun and his ability to get rid of the ball quickly will prevent the Steelers from getting pressure. The Steelers won't be able to make the adjustment and ask their guys to do something they are not comfortable doing.|
|Gary Horton||Cardinals, 27-21||The Steelers' great blitz package will have trouble getting to Warner because he works from the shotgun and gets the ball out so quickly. Arizona will move the ball with success, but the thing that will put them over the top will be a surprisingly improved defense. They will make just enough stops to win.|
|Keith Kidd||Steelers, 20-17||There are so many intriguing matchups in this game. But the one I love is the Cardinals' offense under Haley against LeBeau's aggressive zone-blitz concepts. How will Warner attack the Steelers' blitz? Can the Steelers' back end contain Fitzgerald? This has all the makings of a great Super Bowl in which the Steel Curtain will find a way to win another championship.|
|Doug Kretz||Steelers, 24-17||The Steelers had the most dominating defense in the NFL this season and know how to pressure the pocket and force bad throws like no other team. They also have just enough balance on offense to keep opponents from being able to focus on stopping one phase of their game.|
|Ken Moll||Steelers, 24-20||I see the Steelers taking this contest with the better defense and a more balanced offensive attack that will be too much for Arizona to overcome.|
|Tag Ribary||Steelers, 27-24||The Steelers do a great job of adjusting each week to take away an opponent's strengths and LeBeau is one of the best at utilizing the talent around him. Arizona will present some problems for the Steelers, but I like their ability to match up and play physically.|
|Matt Williamson||Steelers, 23-21||The Cardinals are going to give the Steelers all they can handle and really are not a great matchup for them. Arizona will have no running game to speak of and should abandon it quickly, but that won't be enough to slow the offense completely. The Steelers' defense eventually will prevail and their offense is better balanced. Plus, I expect them to weather the early jitters better than Arizona. However, if the Cards get up by 10 or so early, the Steelers could be in big trouble.|
|Chris Berman||Steelers, 27-17||Big Ben once again stands tall in the pocket like John Wayne.|
|Trent Dilfer||Steelers, 33-18||The Steelers jump to an early lead and give their offense good field position all day long.|
|Stuart Scott||Cardinals, 27-24||The Cardinals win the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.|
|Emmitt Smith||Cardinals, 34-28||I'm going with the upset. The difference-makers for this ballclub are the reason for the win and they are: Fitzgerald, Boldin, coach Ken Whisenhunt and Warner.|
|Marcellus Wiley||Steelers, 37-14||They have the best defense and when you start to name all of the weapons on offense -- Willie Parker, Santonio Holmes and Roethlisberger -- it's just too much, so they win the game in big fashion.|
|Trey Wingo||Steelers, 28-20||The Steelers' pressure will do what no one has been able to do all postseason -- get to Warner.|
|Steve Young||Cardinals, 35-31||Warner cements his place in Canton, Ohio. He'll be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in playoff history.|
ESPN.com NFL editors
|John Banks||Steelers, 30-14||A birdie told me Steelers tight end Heath Miller is going to have a big game. But Big Ben is going to be the star, putting that 22.6 passer ranking from Super Bowl XL behind him and earning MVP honors. Expect the defense to shut down Fitzgerald.|
|Jamar Hudson||Cardinals, 27-21||Warner and Fitzgerald have been an unstoppable duo so far this postseason and that success will continue. The Steelers' defense is good, but they have yet to face an offense like the Cardinals'. Warner will solidify his spot in the Hall of Fame with another MVP performance as Arizona jumps out to an early lead and holds on to win its first Super Bowl.|
|Alex Kimball||Steelers, 24-16||Hard to see the Cardinals running the ball effectively, which will put added pressure on the pass protection. The Steelers should get a big game from Parker.|
|Sheldon Spencer||Cardinals, 30-27||Neil Rackers wins the game with a 50-yard field goal in the final minute.|
|Scott Symmes||Cardinals, 23-17||In a month's span, the Cardinals have transformed from joke to juggernaut. Can they upset the battle-tested Steelers? All the pieces are in place. Arizona has a big-game QB, all-world receivers and a revived running game. Even the team's much-maligned defense is peaking. Will it be easy? No. But the Cardinals will prevail in a close game.|
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SUPER BOWL XLIII
In one of the best Super Bowls ever, the Steelers blew a 13-point lead before they delivered their own comeback to beat Arizona, 27-23. Super Central
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