By Don Banks, SI.com
TAMPA -- You write enough Snap Judgments for a living and you're going to be wrong once in a while. Okay, more than once in a while. Semi-regularly.
Which brings me to what I feel the need to say to the Arizona Cardinals this week, and the sooner the better: I'm sorry, and I apologize unreservedly. I was pretty harsh on the guys with the Redbirds on their helmets over the course of the last two months of the regular season, and just because I was far from the only one piling on doesn't make it right.
I labeled the Cardinals frauds. I'm pretty sure more than once. And I wrote that Arizona was the worst NFL playoff team I could ever remember, calling them a guaranteed one-and-done, just-happy-to-be-here type of postseason entry. I dismissed them, and dissed them, giving them a 1 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl at the beginning of the postseason.
And I was wrong, wrong, wrong. For whatever reason, the Cardinals sleep-walked through much of the season's final six weeks and certainly deserved some of my rebukes. But that wasn't the whole story to this Arizona team, and I thought it was. A team can get lucky and win a playoff game now and then. But it can't win three in a row on good fortune alone.
The Cardinals are a much better team than their 9-7 regular-season record indicates, and I somehow missed that fact. They're scoring 30 points a game against some quality opponents, and their defense is playing inspired, turnover-creating football.
And while I'm picking the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLIII this week, it now wouldn't surprise me in the least if Arizona conjured up one more upset and rode off into the sweet night on Sunday with the franchise's first ever Lombardi Trophy.
Yes, the NFC West was a weak division this season. And the Cardinals weren't a team that had consistency as their calling card in 2008. But they won the games they had to win, and for their trouble, all they got in return was the distinction of being the very first team that had every right to claim it had been disrespected far and wide.
Lord knows I contributed to the beating they took. Sorry about that, Cardinals. I'll understand if you're not ready to forgive just yet.
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.