Before I write this, I feel as though I need to convey to you my love for the Arizona Cardinals.
Yes, you read it right: My ... love ... for ... the ... Arizona ... Cardinals.
I'm not just someone who thinks the Cardinals can win the Super Bowl. I'm not someone who began following the team once they acquired offensive power in the form of Boldin, Fitzgerald and Warner. I am a lifelong, diehard fan of the team that is about to shock the world.
No, I'm not from Arizona.
No, I'm not related to anyone on the team.
No, I didn't lose a bet.
Long story short -- my father became obsessed with the Cardinals while growing up near St. Louis. At the time, they were, of course, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fast forward to 2009: the Cardinals are now based in Arizona and my dad has since had a son that he forced into, what until now, has been a lifetime of NFL heartbreak. But 27 and a half years of heartbreak is going to transform into triumph this Sunday in Tampa ... and here's why.
The Cardinal defense plays big in big games: All of the talk leading up to the game has been about the Steelers defense. Yeah, so what if they were No. 1 in the NFL and only allowed an average of 237.2 yards per game during the regular season? How did they perform in the big games?
Well, they played great... but so did the Cardinals.
Yes, I'm being serious. The Cardinals may have let the Jets, Patriots and Eagles all hang more than 40 points on them during the season, but look at how the defense has played during big games.
In Week 14, playing the Rams in Phoenix (a game I was at, by the way), the Cardinals defense showed up big time. The Cards forced three turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns. Sure it was against the Rams, but it was also a game in which the Cardinals were playing to shed the moniker "the same old Cardinals" by ending a decade-long playoff drought.
Need more proof the Cardinal defense shows up big during crunch time? Look no further than this year's first two playoff games against Atlanta and Carolina when they shut down two of the best running attacks in the league.
Q is the X-Factor: For those of you who don't know, "Q" refers to Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Throughout the postseason Q has been overshadowed by the phenomenal play of Larry Fitzgerald. This is in part because Boldin suffered a hamstring injury during the first playoff game against Atlanta. It's also because Fitzgerald has been so dominant. But be ready for Q to go off Sunday.
Boldin is not just the toughest wide receiver in the league, he may be the toughest player at any position. Earlier in the season, Boldin had to have his jaw rewired after a vicious (and cheap) hit by the Jets Eric Smith. While the hit itself was scary, what may be scarier is that Boldin recovered from the surgery without painkillers. That's right, two facial fractures + a jaw that had to be reattached using eight pins = no pain medication for Anquan Boldin.
The Steelers secondary beware, this isn't your typical wide receiver.
The Cardinals are due like no team in the history of professional sports: That's right Chicago Cubs fans, I don't want to hear your complaining. You've at least had glimmers of hope, nice playoff runs and some success, if not a championship.
I have been on this earth for 27 years. Up until this year, there had been a total of three, that’s right, THREE Cardinal playoff games in my lifetime. No team in professional sports has been synonymous with losing like the Cardinals.
That is until now.
I've got my plane tickets, got my game tickets and now it's time to head to Tampa and watch the Cards shock the world!
When Jonathan isn't producing newscasts at NBC4, you can find him in the front yard pretending to be Jake Plummer.