Turnover differential often determines Super Bowl outcome

If the road to the Super Bowl paved by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals is any indication, turnovers likely will play a big role in Sunday's game.

Arizona enters Super Bowl XLIII with a plus-nine turnover advantage through three playoff games, and the Steelers are plus-five after two postseason contests.

Given both defenses' recent appetite for the ball, turnovers will be one aspect to watch come Sunday. Historically, the team that comes away with the turnover advantage in the big game boasts a 30-3 record.

The Cardinals' postseason march began in the wild-card round when, en route to a 30-24 home victory over the Atlanta Falcons, they forced normally efficient rookie QB Matt Ryan into two interceptions and one lost fumble.

Arizona's next victory, a 33-13 road rout of Carolina, was highlighted by six turnovers -- five interceptions and one fumble -- all from Panthers QB Jake Delhomme.

Next, the Cardinals forced three turnovers, including a first-quarter interception of a Donovan McNabb pass, in a 32-25 home victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

The Cardinals finished the regular season tied for 17th in turnover differential, having turned over the ball as many times (30) as they took it away. Including the playoffs, Arizona is 10-0 this season when posting a positive turnover differential.

Pittsburgh finished the regular season with a plus-4 turnover differential -- good for a 11th-place tie in the league. Like their Super Bowl counterparts, the Steelers have come out victorious in all 10 games in which they have recorded a positive turnover differential.

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That includes Pittsburgh's two playoff contests, in which the team has a plus-5 turnover differential in home victories over San Diego and Baltimore.

The Steelers' 35-24 victory over the Chargers in the divisional round was aided by two turnovers, including an interception of a Philip Rivers pass and a muffed punt off the helmet of San Diego's Eric Weddle.

In the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers forced usually steady rookie QB Joe Flacco into three interceptions on their way to a 23-14 victory over the Ravens.

With both teams capitalizing on takeaways during the regular season and beyond, expect turnovers to give one team a distinct advantage in Super Bowl XLIII.

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