King Says, Benji Says (Week 2)

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Last Week:

Peter King (8-8)
Benji (9-7)
(and for those of you who care) Brian (9-7)

Well, you can chalk up a victory for me in Week One, but it was hardly an impressive win. Note to self: Never pick three teams that were terrible the previous year (the Lions, Bengals and Raiders) to win in Week One (the Bengals and Lions on the road!), just because their opponents are shaky and/or unproven. Really, as fellow Patriots fans, King and I were both losers last week, as Tom Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury. While this injury had very little effect on my postseason predictions (it certainly affected King’s Super Bowl pick though!), it is sad to see arguably the league’s best quarterback stuck on the sidelines for an entire season during the prime of his career. Brady’s injury also denies the rest of the league the opportunity to play against and defeat the Patriots at full-strength, something that any competitive player who was embarrassed by them last year would relish. That being said, King, I implore you to come to grips with life after Brady and remember that there are 31 other teams in the NFL. And please do not use my plea as an excuse to focus all of your attention on the Jets and your other favorite person in the world, Brett Favre.

Anyway, without further ado, the doofus and I are at it again. Game on, Mr. King!

Tennessee Titans (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)

King says:

Pointed words from Marvin Lewis Thursday morning on Sirius NFL Radio, regarding the lousy passing game he saw in the opener … and he was pointing at the marquee receivers, not the marquee quarterback. “They are two very proud guys who know they didn’t help us in the opener,” Lewis said of Chad Whatever His Name Is This Week and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 20, Cincinnati Bengals 13

Benji says:

King, I believe that both you and Coach Lewis are missing the point here. Neither the marquee quarterback nor the marquee receivers CAN help the team win without more consistent play from the offensive line. Palmer rarely had enough time to throw any medium or deep passes last season because his protection was horrendous. The defensive specialist’s (Lewis) defense also looked pretty awful on Sunday, allowing the hardly fleet-footed Joe Flacco to take off and run for a long touchdown. But all of this is beside the point. King, why are you picking the road team to win (without dedicating a single word to it) when you frame your analysis to suggest that Marvin Lewis is firing up his best players by talking about them to the media? I am also picking the Titans, but unlike you I will take the time to explain why I am doing so. Tennessee’s defense looked very impressive in the win over Jacksonville last week, sacking quarterback David Garrard seven times and forcing him to commit an uncharacteristic three turnovers. While the Titans’ quarterback play was shaky last week, and starter Vince Young is out for the next month, I think that Kerry Collins will make just enough positive plays to allow the defense and running game to propel them to a road victory against a mediocre team.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 24, Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1)

King says:

Catch the ball, Braylon.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Cleveland Browns 20

Benji says:

So, I am to take it that Braylon Edwards was solely responsible for the debacle that was the Browns’ opening week loss to the Cowboys? Okay, he did miss a couple of easy catches, but one should not ignore how terrible their “revamped” defense was. Romeo Crennel can help his team make the necessary adjustments offensively, but I am not convinced that their defense is any better than last year’s shaky squad. I think that Big Ben and the Steelers, who looked pretty impressive on all counts last week, will make short work of the Cleveland defense and roll to victory on the road. After all, the Browns have NEVER beaten the Steelers since Crennel became the coach.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Cleveland Browns 20

San Diego Chargers (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

King says:

Too many nicked up Chargers. Shawne Merriman takes a seat till 2009, and now LaDainian Tomlinson joins Antonio Gates with a bum toe. The Broncos are new and improved. Jay Cutler is going to be really good. He’s got two good tackles to protect him — Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris. This game could go a long way toward establishing Denver as a contender.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 30, San Diego Chargers 26

Benji says:

You know what, King? You were right about the Broncos/Raiders game last week, I’ll give you that. Cutler did look pretty impressive and the (apparently reanimated) corpse of Darrell Jackson and unheralded rookie Eddie Royal got open at will in the secondary. But I am not about to fall victim to flawed logic two weeks in a row with the same team. I should not have bet against the Broncos when they were facing a team (the Raiders) that was terrible last year just because they were on the road. By that same logic, I should know better than to pick the Broncos to win against the Chargers (a team that was very good last year) simply because they are at home and the Chargers lost last week. Believe me, San Diego’s defense will be much better this week without a clearly hobbled Shawne Merriman. His replacement, Jyles Tucker, is a solid player with a similar skill set to Merriman’s and should fill in nicely. Gates and Tomlinson are both a little banged up but King is overstating their injuries. The Chargers’ offense looked fine last week. As for Denver? The Broncos looked good, at times, last year too, so it’s going to take more than a win over the Raiders to convince me that they are relevant again.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 31, Denver Broncos 24

Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Detroit Lions (0-1)

King says:

Aaron Rodgers continues to be the game manager Mike McCarthy covets. He’ll need to be over the next few weeks, with the ouchy status of Ryan Grant’s hammy.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 23, Detroit Lions 13

Benji says:

I love the backhanded compliment that King bestows upon Rodgers after a very solid game against King’s beloved Vikings. All he “managed” to do was score first, make every throw that was asked of him and put the Packers in a position to win against a good defense. Green Bay did play a little conservatively in the fourth quarter, almost allowing the Vikings to forge a comeback, but that was McCarthy’s doing, not Rodgers’s. He is not Trent Dilfer; he is a more than competent starting quarterback who will lead this talented Packers team all the way to the Super Bowl. There, I said it. Again. As for the Lions? Shame on me for picking them to win last week in Atlanta. They still stink.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 28, Detroit Lions 10

Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)

King says:

Herman Edwards took offense — not in an over-the-top way, but just a little — at me calling them the worst team in football before the game in New England last week. The Chiefs didn’t play like number 32 in Foxboro. But I think JaMarcus Russell does just enough against the two rookie Brandons in the secondary — Flowers and Carr — to win.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders 10, Kansas City Chiefs 6

Benji says:

I am a bit confused, King. You told me that the Raiders would play terribly at home last week, and you were right. And now you are picking them to win a game on the road against a defense that looked very solid last week against the Patriots. I mean, I know it was Cassel out there and not Brady, but when the Patriots did score, they did so by beating a disciplined defense with accurate throws to very talented receivers (Moss and Welker). The Raiders did not look like they had a single receiver, last week, that could even catch a ball—until they padded their stats during garbage time. Plus, their defense was horrible. The defensive back formerly known as DeAngelo Hall was burned by a rookie on practically every single play. I know you picked the Chiefs as the league’s worst team going into the season, but I think that the results of the first week illustrate that there are several other teams out there with equal or better claims to that title—including the Raiders.

Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs 24, Oakland Raiders 13

New York Giants (1-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-1)

King says:

Game two is not as shameful as game one for the Rams. But this team needs to get a pass rush, and soon.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, St. Louis Rams 16

Benji says:

An offensive line that can block might help the Rams too. Oh, they could also try to find someone other than Holt who can catch the ball. The defending Super Bowl Champions have a very favorable opening schedule, it would seem…

Prediction: New York Giants 28, St. Louis Rams 10

Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

King says:

I have no idea who will win this game. How could you? One part of me says Jared Allen on turf, along with the Williams brothers inside, will ravage the patchwork Indy line. The other part says the Colts, who hadn’t lost a September game since 2004 till last Sunday, will rebound. In the end, I go the predictable route — Peyton over Tarvaris.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 27, Minnesota Vikings 23

Benji says:

Mr. King, I feel as though you are too hesitant to listen to the “first part of you.” After all, your prediction that the Vikings’ revamped pass rush would wreck havoc on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went horribly awry. Such a prediction would make much more sense this week, with the Vikings at home, against a team with a banged-up and depleted offensive line, a starting running back playing hurt, a star tight end unable to play due to injury, and a quarterback working his way back from knee surgery. I know that I picked the Colts to win it all, and I still believe in them—but there’s will certainly be a late-season run fueled by everyone returning to good health.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 20, Indianapolis Colts 17

New England Patriots (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)

King says:

Who’d have thought two weeks ago the big players in this game would be Matt Cassel and Jay Feely? Cassel, the Patriots quarterback, plays with enough poise to eke one out, and Feely, just signed to kick for the ailing Mike Nugent, almost spoils Cassel’s first start in nine years.

Prediction: New England Patriots 20, New York Jets 19

Benji says:

Shame on you, King. Here we are, in a situation where a Favre reference actually would be relevant, and you fail to mention him once. Cassel is no Brady, but he’s familiar enough with the Patriots’ system and has enough offensive weapons around him to be an effective quarterback. Favre, however, has an excellent opportunity to position his team as a contender for the AFC East crown. The Patriots’ secondary is quite weak and I think that Favre and speedy wide receiver Jericho Cotchery will take advantage.

Prediction: New York Jets 28, New England Patriots 21

Miami Dolphins (0-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

King says:

It is not a coincidence, I believe, that Kurt Warner and Chad Pennington will duel in the NFL’s largest retirement community.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 22, Miami Dolphins 20

Benji says:

I’m not sure what to make of King’s analysis here, except to conclude that he must be making a veiled John McCain reference. Go Mavericks! err, bad team that has more playmakers and has the home-field advantage…

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 24, Miami Dolphins 17

Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

King says:

I bet players have not felt very comfy in the Jaguar locker room this week. Jack Del Rio is not a very happy man when he gets his lunch handed to him.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Buffalo Bills 16

Benji says:

While I tend to agree with your assessment of Coach Del Rio’s temperament after an embarrassing loss, do not count the Bills out just yet. Buffalo is a team on the rise, and they have all of the pieces (a good defense, solid special teams, and a much-improved offense) in place to contend for a wildcard spot. That being said, Del Rio will have his team fired up and ready to defend its home turf after an atrocious loss to the Titans last week. I just think it will be a closer game than you might expect. Remember, the Jaguars lost two starting guards last week.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 20, Buffalo Bills 17

San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

King says:

See above. Substitute “Mike Holmgren” for “Jack Del Rio.”

Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 40, San Francisco 49ers 17

Benji says:

The difference between Jack Del Rio’s team and Mike Holmgren’s team is that while both teams played very poorly last week and lost, the Jaguars have the offensive personnel to rebound this week and have a good season while the Seahawks do not. I expected Seattle to lose big in Buffalo last week and it did. The Seahawks have a patchwork offensive line, their top four receivers are out with injuries, their running game is a logjam of ineffective running backs, and to top it all off, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck now has a bum back. The defense will have to play very well in order for the Seahawks to win games at this point. The 49ers, as Brian has informed me, were somehow still within a score during the fourth quarter in their game against the Cardinals despite turning the ball over five times. Whether that was the result of San Francisco miscues or good defense by the Cardinals remains to be seen. I know one thing for sure: the final score line will not be anything close to King’s prediction of 40-17. I believe that if the 49ers can take care of the ball this week and make a few plays offensively, they will win this game.

Prediction: San Francisco 49ers 19, Seattle Seahawks 6

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

King says:

Welcome to Monte Kiffin’s world, Matt Ryan. Prepare to see many things you didn’t see on film during the week.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Atlanta Falcons 9

Benji says:

While I do not think that things will come as easy for the Falcons offensively this week, against a solid if not spectacular Tampa Bay defense, the Buccaneers have offensive issues of their own that seem much more troubling. Brian Griese, the quarterback who could not beat out either of the terrible twosome of Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton for the starting job in Chicago, will start in place of the injured Jeff Garcia. Griese has, on occasion, beaten up on a bad defense, which is probably why he still has a job in this league, but he is not a very good quarterback. The Falcons have an opportunity here to steal a win on the road.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1)

King says:

Worst road teams in week one, in order: Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, Washington. The Redskins offense, and Jason Campbell, will be better (can it be worse?) at home with the Saints coming in, but at this point, there’s no doubt Drew Brees is more apt to put up big numbers than Campbell.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 26, Washington Redskins 20

Benji says:

I never know exactly what to make of the Redskins, because whenever I think I have them figured out, they do something completely unexpected. Thus, I am unwilling to write them off completely after Week One. The offense looked pretty terrible in the opening game though. Zorn looked about as lost as I have ever seen a coach look on the sideline. Campbell looked confused and took far too long on his reads, allowing the pass rush to reach him on almost every single play. Drew Brees and company, on the other hand, showcased what looks to be a very effective big play-oriented offense this season. Losing number one receiver Marques Colston for several weeks will hurt, but this team has enough offensive weapons to replace him in the short term. I was also impressed by the Saints’ defense, which made a goal line stand at the end of the game to preserve the win. Maybe the Redskins will…pull a Redskins, and come out looking like a completely different team. I still like the Saints here, though.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 28, Washington Redskins 17

Chicago Bears (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

King says:

All you out there who thought the Panthers would go 2-0 without Steve Smith, raise your hands. Now, now, Mrs. Fox. Your vote doesn’t count.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 23, Chicago Bears 15

Benji says:

I will admit, I also was not sold on the Panthers going into the season, but they looked pretty impressive last week, beating the Chargers in San Diego. Jake Delhomme looked much sharper than I expected, coming off of Tommy John surgery, and it has become increasingly clearer to me that he is the key player for this team, not Steve Smith. Without him, last year, their offense was abysmal. The Bears also played very well in Week One, handing the Colts their first September loss since my freshman year of college. Still, Chicago better hope that their defense is as good now as it was two years ago, because it will have to shoulder the majority of the workload with Kyle Orton leading the offense. On the bright side, a Forte/Kevin Jones running back tandem looks infinitely better than Cedric Benson did last year. Anyway, I think that the Panthers will score just enough points to dispatch the offensively anemic Bears.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 17, Chicago Bears 12

Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Houston Texans (0-1)

King says:

The most uninspiring game of the weekend. Not sure what the sales pitch for this one would be. Maturation of Flacco? Redemption of Schaub? Nothing very sexy here.

Prediction: Houston Texans 16, Baltimore Ravens 6

Benji says:

Well, you could start by talking about the Hurricane Ike storyline. I assume that you occasionally watch the news, Mr. King? This game has already been moved to Monday night and could possibly be postponed until the middle of the week depending on the damage from Ike, which will make landfall early Saturday morning. As for a player to use for a “sales pitch,” you could do worse than Houston receiver Andre Johnson, one of the best downfield threats in the NFL. Johnson compiled 851 receiving yards last season in only nine games, despite being the focus of every defense he faced because of the Texans’ lack of a reliable supporting receiver. You could also make a case for the revival of the Ravens’ defense, but I think that storyline is short-lived. The offense scored its only points on a trick play and an improbable run by quarterback Joe Flacco, and will inevitably tire out the defense with its inability to move the ball and maintain possession.

Prediction: Houston Texans 17, Baltimore Ravens 13

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

King says:

Donovan McNabb did not face the rush or the coverage or stadium raucousness against St. Louis that he’ll face at Texas Stadium Monday. I think he’s going to have to win a shootout in order to start 2-0.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 28, Philadelphia Eagles 23

Benji says:

It scares me when King and I are in complete agreement. Last week, in several instances when this happened, we were quite wrong. Anyway, I say that the jury’s still out on the Eagles and Donovan McNabb. McNabb fooled me into thinking he was back to his peak form last year by piling up 381 yards passing in a 56-21 win over the Lions. I proceeded to overrate the Eagles for the rest of the year. Last week’s 38-3 win over the Rams could be a similarly misleading game, for all I know. St. Louis, like Detroit, has one of the worst defenses in the league. I know that McNabb can beat a team with a sloppy secondary and no pass rush, but Monday’s game in Dallas will give a better indication of how good the Eagles actually are. The Cowboys looked great, as well, in Week One but I am still concerned about their lack of depth at receiver. An injury to Owens, Crayton or Witten could really hurt this team down the road.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 28, Philadelphia Eagles 23

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