The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 30, 2009

PiRate Ratings Super Bowl 43 Preview

Super Bowl 43 Preview


Do a little search on the Internet; read your local paper; listen to the radio; watch ESPN for hours.  You get the same positional breakdown of Super Bowl 43 in Tampa.  Every one of these breakdowns compare Kurt Warner to Ben Roethlisberger and determine which team has the edge.  Then, they proceed to do this for all the other positions.


Tell me something.  At what point in the game will Warner and Roethlishberger line up against each other on a scrimmage play?  I can only think of one time where they will be competing directly against each other, and that will be on the coin flip.  I don’t think we can determine much from that.


On this preview, we here at the PiRate Ratings will analyze the positions as the players actually line up against.  In other words, we will analyze Kurt Warner against the Steeler’s pass defense.


Let’s start with the usual statistics you see here each week.


­ The PiRate Pro Ratings (Rating)


The NFL version of the PiRate Ratings is not the same as the collegiate version.  The NFL version is strictly a statistical formula than could be reproduced by anybody who knew the equations I use to devise the formula.  No subjective data is used.


The formula combines scoring margin, strength of schedule, and early in the season, last year’s scoring margin and strength of schedule.  As the season progresses, last year’s data decreases to where it has little effect by mid-October. 



The Mean Ratings (Mean)


Just like the PiRate Ratings, the NFL Mean Ratings are not the same as the collegiate version.  The NFL Mean Ratings consist of a dozen different calculations.  Three calculations consist of different ways to look at point differential and strength of schedule.  Five calculations look at yards gained and allowed rushing and passing and special teams play with the strength of the opponents’ rushing and passing.  Point values are assigned based on each set of data.  The remaining four ratings are my old four pro ratings from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The 12 ratings are given equal weight, and then I take the average (mean) to get the rating.


The Bias Ratings (Biased)


The Bias Ratings consist of five of the components of The Mean Ratings.  The five ratings are not given equal weight.  The five ratings are weighted at 37.5%, 25%, 12.5%, 12.5%, and 12.5%.  I have back tested these ratings and found that this weighting gives the rating its best predictive percentage.


All three ratings are normalized so that 100 is average.  If I don’t mess up with the math, each of the three ratings should average 100.  The teams’ ratings show how many points above or below average they are in comparison with the rest of the league.  A rating of 107 means that team is a touchdown better than average, while a rating of 93 means that team is a touchdown weaker than average.


Super Bowl Ratings

PiRate:  Pittsburgh by 11.3

Mean:    Pittsburgh by 9.7

Bias:      Pittsburgh by 7.2


Game Simulations

100 Sims:            Pittsburgh 53  Arizona 47

Average Score:    Pittsburgh 27  Arizona 25

Outlier 1a Sim:    Pittsburgh 30  Arizona 10

Outlier 1b Sim:    Arizona 31  Pittsburgh 16


Las Vegas

Line:             Pittsburgh is favored by 6½ or 7 points, depending on the book


Totals:          Again, depending on the book, you can find the totals for this game at 46½, 47, or 47½


Moneyline:    If you want to take Pittsburgh, the best moneyline odds you can find are -210 on multiple offshore books, while the best Vegas odds are -220.


                     If you want to take Arizona, the best odds you can find are +200


Weather Forecast For Tampa

How about perfect football weather?  It should be partly cloudy skies, a light wind out of the east southeast (less than 10 MPH) with temperatures starting out around 65 at kickoff and dropping to around 60 by game’s end.  It will be a little on the humid side, and there’s always a chance of rain (about 10% or less).


The Matchups


When Pittsburgh Runs The Ball


Steeler Run Blockers

LT:  78-Max Starks           

LG:  68-Chris Kemoeatu   

C:    62-Justin Hartwig

RG: 72-Darnell Stapleton

RT:  74-Willie Colon

TE:  83-Heath Miller & 89-Matt Spaeth

FB:  38-Carey Davis


Steeler Rushers

TB:  39-Willie Parker & 21 Mewelde Moore


Cardinal Defensive Line

RE:  55-Travis Laboy

RT:  90-Darnell Dockett

NT:  97-Bryan Robinson

LE:  94-Antonio Smith


Cardinal Linebackers

Will LB:  58-Karlos Dansby

Mike LB: 54-Gerald Hayes

Sam LB: 56-Cheake Okeafor


This is not the Steelers’ strong point this year.  Against good defensive front seven’s, the run blocking has fallen apart and even broken down at times. 


The Cardinals have performed quite well against the run in the playoffs, but the run stoppers were average or a little better during the regular season.  I tend to give about three times more importance to the playoffs when diagnosing unit vs. unit comparisons.  Arizona won’t stop the Pittsburgh running game like Baltimore did, but I expect the Cardinals to give up between 80 and 110 rushing yards in this game.  The key here is how the defense will perform in short yardage situations, as the Steelers will try to run the ball straight up the gut and force Gerald Hayes to stop them.  One thing is for sure:  the Steelers will not run the ball at Darnell Dockett; look for them to run toward Travis Laboy and up the middle.


When Pittsburgh Passes The Ball


Steeler Passers/Receivers

QB:        7-Ben Roethlisberger & 4-Byron Leftwich

WR:       86-Hines Ward & 85-Nate Washington

WR:       10-Santonio Holmes & 14-Limas Sweed


Cardinal Secondary

LCB:              26-Rod Hood & 20-Ralph Brown

SS:         24-Adrian Wilson & 47-Aaron Francisco

FS:         21-Antrel Rolle & 22-Matt Ware

RCB:      29 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & 27-Michael Adams


Here is where the game will be decided.  We have a rare Super Bowl game where both quarterbacks already sport Super Bowl Championship rings.  Roethlisberger is a better quarterback now than he was when he led the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XL.  However, the pass blockers are not close to as competent as that 2005 team.  Big Ben has taken a lot of punishment throughout the 2008-09 season, and he will be facing a pass rush that is almost as good as the Ravens and Titans. 


The Cardinals will send a linebacker or two or three on a host of red dogs and combination stunts, and I expect Roethlishberger to go down at least twice if not four or five times.  There’s always a chance that he will be shaken up and miss some playing time.  There’s also a chance that he could throw a wild pass due to the pressure.


Rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the secondary star of the playoffs for Arizona.  He will keep Santonio Holmes from getting open deep on the sideline.  The Cardinals safeties plus Gerald Hayes will offer little open space in the deep middle.


The key here is the health of Hines Ward.  If he is not close to 100%, then I believe the Steelers are in trouble.  Without him, their passing game falls below average, and I don’t think Pittsburgh can win this game with Willie Parker trying to emulate Franco Harris. 


Note: The 100 simulations did not factor in the health problems of Ward and assumed every starter was 100% healthy. 


When Arizona Runs The Ball


Cardinal Run Blockers

LT:  69-Mike Gandy

LG:  74-Reggie Wells

C:    63-Larry Sendlein

RG: 76-Deuce Lutui

RT:  75-Levi Brown

TE:  82-Leonard Pope & 89-Ben Patrick

FB:  45-Terrelle Smith


Cardinal Rushers

TB:  32-Edgerrin James & 34-Tim Hightower


Steeler Defensive Line

LE:  91-Aaron Smith

NT:  98-Casey Hampton

RE:  99-Brett Keisel


Steeler Linebackers

Sam LB: 56-LaMarr Woodley

Mike LB: 51-James Farrior

Mac LB:  50-Larry Foote & 94-Lawrence Timmons

Will LB:  92-James Harrison


Arizona‘s run blocking has improved by leaps and bounds in the playoff run.  Make no mistake about it; Edgerrin James has returned to form because he has had ample running room.  He is still relatively fresh as he didn’t get many carries during the regular season.  Think of a well-rested starting pitcher in the World Series.


Pittsburgh‘s run defense is close to the top of the NFL if not the best.  The beefy front three occupy a lot of space at the line of scrimmage, and they can keep the enemy offensive line away from their fabulous quartet of run-stopping linebackers.  I believe the Steelers will contain the Cardinal running game for most of the evening.


When Arizona Passes The Ball


Cardinal Passers/Receivers

QB:        13-Kurt Warner & 7-Matt Leinart

WR:        11-Larry Fitzgerald & 85-Jerheme Urban

WR:       81-Anquan Boldin & 15-Steve Breaston


Steeler Secondary

LCB:              24-Ike Taylor & 22-William Gay

SS:         43-Troy Polamalu & 23-Tyrone Carter

FS:         25-Ryan Clark & 27-Anthony Smith

RCB:      26-Deshea Townsend & 20-Bryant McFadden


This is going to be a great contest of strength versus strength.  Warner and his bevy of receivers are made much more potent by an excellent pass blocking corps.  Give Warner three seconds, and he can tear apart even the best secondary.  Fitzgerald and Boldin can stretch defenses out enough to open seams in the short zones and make the running game better as well.  Warner should pass for more than 250 yards in this game.  If he tops 275 and throws no interceptions, look for the Cardinals to be hoisting the trophy Sunday night.


The Steelers will try to unnerve Warner by throwing a bevy of blitz schemes.  They have the horses to get to him, but they will also leave themselves vulnerable to a big play if the Cardinals pick up the blitz and stop the pressure.  It isn’t wise to leave Fitzgerald or Boldin in single coverage.


All-in-all, I look for this to be an even match.  Warner will hurt the Steelers with his arm about half the time he drops back to pass, and the Steelers will defend the pass well the other half. 


Special Teams Play


I tend to downplay special teams play in the Super Bowl.  Usually, both teams are well-equipped to eliminate big plays if they have gotten this far.


There is a small chance that Arizona could capitalize a little bit here.  The Steelers have not covered punts or kickoffs all that well as of late, and the Cardinals have ample weapons to exploit any openings. 


Steeler punter Mitch Berger’s punting has left a lot to be desired in the last few games.


Both place-kickers are above average, and I see no real advantages here.




Can Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau find a way to stop the vaunted Arizona passing game in two week’s preparation time?  The answer is definitely a yes, but strategy alone may not be enough to actually stop it.  I could devise a plan to beat Lebron James in a game of 1 on 1, but that plan wouldn’t stand a chance if I didn’t have Marcus Camby or Kevin Garnett as my defender.


The Steelers have enough Camby’s and Garnett’s to slow down the Arizona offense, but their own offense may not be adequate enough to outscore the Cardinals.




If you have read this blog at all during the 2008-09 NFL season, you know we at the PiRate Ratings love to be contrarians.  It is the overwhelming consensus here that Arizona will pull off the upset and win a close game Sunday. 


In a majority of past Super Bowls, the team that strikes quickly with either early offense or a big scoring surge in the second quarter, is the team that wins this game.


Pittsburgh is more likely to try to force a 13-10 game, while Arizona may come out more loose and try to make this look like an AFL Championship Game from the 1960’s.


The way we see it here is that after a dull first quarter, the Cardinals will score double digit points in the second quarter and take a nice halftime lead.


At this point, Roethlisberger will have to take to the air, and the Steelers will begin to score in the second half.  Pittsburgh will have to win this game with a comeback in the final period.  We believe they will have the ball late in the game with a chance to win it at the end.


There are five of us here who contribute to this blog.  Two of us believe the Cardinals will win by a score similar to 28-24.  Two of us believe the Steelers will win by a similar score.  The fifth, who is the originator of this blog, believes this could be the first overtime game in Super Bowl history and could be decided by the coin flip and a field goal attempt.


The Infamous Ads


We’ve turned this section over to our E-mail friend Ari, who is an insider in the entertainment business.  Here’s what she wrote:


The $3 million for each 30-second commercial is a bargain in my opinion.  The entire world will be watching, and unlike any other time, many will purposely be watching to actually view the commercials rather than the programming.  The advertisers will gear many of their ads to the women watching.


My personal favorite most years has been  They only advertise one day a year, and they put all of their eggs in the Super Bowl basket.  It has worked well for them.


I am a softie for animals, and this year Pedigree will air Super Bowl ads for the first time ever.  Without spoiling the ad for you, it involves exotic animals and why you should never own them.  It left me wanting more.


Coke and Pepsi will have an ad war in this game, but Pepsi already won when they anted up to keep Coke out of the entire first half.  I’ve seen both of their ads, and I think they will not deliver what they hope to deliver.  There is a remake of the old Mean Joe Greene football jersey throw from years ago, but this one involves a current Steeler player.  Don’t ask me who he is, since I don’t know anything about the teams other than Matt Leinart.


Denny’s has a couple of different ads.  One is really good, while the other is so-so.


GoDaddy’s this year has two different ads.  One will air depending on a vote by the public.  You will have to go online to see the “shocking” conclusion to see what happens with Danica Patrick.  Spoiler Alert:  Don’t count on the conclusion being what it’s hyped to be.  Danica isn’t one of Hef’s girls.


Heineken and Budweiser will have an undeclared war in this game.  Bud goes for the theatrics, while Heineken features one of my favorite actors, John Turturro, in a classy 30-second spot.  You have to “read between the lines” to “get it.”


The predicted winner of this years ads war might be Sobe.  They will air a 3-D commercial, and you will need to get yourself some 3-D glasses.  It will be the most talked-about ad on Monday morning, and regardless of whether the talk is positive or negative, you will still remember the Sobe brand name this summer.


Our thanks go to Ari for her candid comments.

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