What would be the worst case scenario for a Steelers fan who also pulls for the local-team Eagles? Why, a Ravens/Cardinals Super Bowl, of course.
Could that happen? Sure it could. Arizona and Baltimore didn't get here because they lost games. They're here because they won games. Some pretty good ones.
The Ravens beat the Lazurus-like Miami Dolphins and the AFC's top-seeded Titans to get here, causing all sorts of havoc on defense and taking the ball away from these two teams, that, prior to facing Baltimore did a good job of taking care of the ball.
The Cardinals beat the surprising - and should be good for years to come - Falcons and the suddenly turnover-prone Caolina Panthers. On paper, both teams are better than the Cards. But as the Talking Heads once intoned: "Go ahead, tear it up...rip up the paper."
Let's look at some Raven facts for a moment. They've already lost to the Steelers twice this season, and they are 1-3 against the Mike Tomlin-led Black & Gold. As if they needed anything to stoke their hatred of the Steelers, all they need to do is remember November 5, 2007 - a Monday Night Football game in which the Steelers destroyed the Ravens 38-7. How could you ask for more in terms of hate than to be humliliated on national television? That was then, this is now.
As for the Cardinals, they could use that 48-20 Thanksgiving Day loss as a stick. I can tell you that the Philadelphia media and fans are never more annoying than at times like this.
And before we go down that road, let me state here that Philadelphia fans are great fans. They don't take losing lightly and they expect their teams to give their all. The fans get a bad rap, and I am not, in any way, saying anything negative here. What I said earlier is merely the impression one can get when listening to a Philly-based sports radio show. It seems that only the losers and loonies call in. Write it down - Philly has a great fan base.
Now, on to the rhetoric that I am hearing...Arizona has no chance. The evening drive guy on ESPN radio, Mike Missanelli, dismisses without any hope of refutation any talk that the Cardinals even have a chance. As though the very notion is patently impossible.
After hate, there's nothing like disrespect to get a team going.
The Ravens come at you. Dare you to TRY to move the ball on their defense. They hit hard and intimidate and they prey bloodthirstily on opposing quarterbacks. Especially inexperienced ones. They pride themselves on limiting running backs to sub-100 yard days and on creating turnovers.
With bright, shiny talent on defense - names we all know - like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs (maybe) and lesser known names on offense like Todd Heap, Joe Flacco and Le'Ron McClain (who ripped off numerous solid runs to the tune of 23 carries for 87 yards against Pittsburgh's number one defense in their December 14th 13-9 loss), the Ravens are not going to be cowed by streaks or a historical numbers and what they say about teams beating teams three times in the same season.
Let jerks like sj-hypocycloid predict that the Steelers will score 30 points on that D. We'll see who gets the last laugh when there are four zeros on the clock, won't we?
As for the Cardinals, they're playing with house money, right? They barely won a crap division, lost badly to the team they're going to face and have gotten so so so lucky in the playoffs. I mean, who, besides Nostradamus, saw Carolina turning the ball over six times?
With a Super Bowl winning (and losing) quarterback in Kurt Warner, a playoff-experienced running back in Edgerrin James, a playoff-experienced head coach and assistant head coach in Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, why should the Cardinals feel they have anything other than a great chance to win?
In addition to that QB, RB and coaches, they've got a couple of great-to-very-good receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. I'm quite sure they're going to get their fair share of catches.
No team has been more disrespected during this playoff run - and especially this week - than the Arizona Cardinals. I'm sure they've heard and reacted to all the knocks and posted some bulletin board material. Will it be enough?
No matter what happens, all four teams have given us some good football to watch and have provided their fans with many great moments to savor forever. Two will lose - it's just the nature of the beast.
I, of course, am rooting for the Steelers and Eagles. But I would not be shocked at all to see things go another way. Since 1994, Pittsburgh (2-4) and Philadelphia (1-3) are a combined 3-6 in title games and 1-2 in Super Bowls. Quite a dubious result from two teams that have won so much in the past 15 years.
The Bill Cowher-led Steelers exorcised their demons by winning Super Bowl XLII in January 2005. Can Tomlin match his predecessor? The Eagles have known little more than heartbreak in the NFL's biggest game. Could this be their year?
Or is this the year of the Cardinals/Ravens Super Bowl? I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out!