Novacek's pick: Cardinals will fly past Steelers - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Jay Novacek, NBCSports.com

Novacek's pick: Cardinals will fly past Steelers

Adrian Wilson will be one of Arizona's keys to keeping Ben Roethlisberger in check on Sunday Adrian Wilson will be one of Arizona's keys to keeping Ben Roethlisberger in check on Sunday
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Former NFL All-Pro Jay Novacek's pick for the Super Bowl Winner
by Jay Novacek, NBCSports.com

Players to watch

Cardinals: Kurt Warner

Arizona's offense depends upon Warner staying upright and avoiding Pittsburgh's blitzers. If the Cardinals quarterback isn't effective reading coverages and spotting his receivers, Arizona will struggle. The Steelers don't want to let Warner stay in the pocket. They want to force him to scramble and make throws on the run.

Steelers: Defensive secondary

Pittsburgh has to be disciplined. The Steelers love to blitz, which puts pressure on the cornerbacks and safeties to ensure the Arizona receivers are covered, which isn't an easy task. Larry Fitzgerald will be a big concern, so he could draw double-coverage. If Pittsburgh decides to use zone coverage, Warner could end up picking them apart.

X-factors

Cardinals: Toughness

Arizona's receivers better be able to take a few hits. The Steelers will hit them early, often and hard. If they can't hold onto the ball or get shy about running over the middle, it takes away a huge part of Arizona's offense.

Steelers: Big Ben's deep ball

Ben Roethlisberger excels at buying time in the pocket, eluding a few tacklers and then spotting the open receiver. Pittsburgh has the guys who can break open on deep routes in Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes.

The pick

It'll be a tight game throughout. I can't see either team opening up a big lead.

The Cardinals will try for a fast start, but I think they'll stall on early drives. Pittsburgh seems like the more likely team to keep its cool and hold the lead after the first quarter.

But by the second half, Arizona should settle down defensively and I think Warner will have more luck spotting his receivers. Same for the third quarter.

And the fourth will be something to watch.

I expect both teams' offenses to get in a groove in the final period. It wouldn't surprise me to see more touchdowns in the final 15 minutes than the rest of the game. The Steelers will want to run the ball and control the tempo, but Arizona should be able to notch a couple of quick scores and force Pittsburgh to throw the ball and open up its offense.

This is the time when Warner should shine. The Steelers' defense has been great all season, but he'll make enough plays late in the game to give Arizona the lead and a Super Bowl trophy.

Pick: Cardinals, 31-24

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