Archive for October, 2008

King Says, Benji Says (Week 9)

October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?!? I believe I just heard a collective sigh of disappointment in response to my choice of costume for this occasion—after all, it’s pretty much impossible for a ghost to show any skin. But as I am no longer a college-age girl, I thought it was a good time to try to bring Halloween back to its traditional spooky roots, my sex appeal be damned. As for His Majesty? Don’t be fooled, he’s not wearing a costume—he really is the Pumpkin King. The overweight, doofusy sportswriter whom he usually presents himself as is an alter ego. Come on, can’t you see the resemblance?

Last Week:

Peter King (9-5)
Benji (9-5)
Brian (9-5)

Overall:

Peter King (78-38)
Benji (66-50)
Brian (72-44)

New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)

The King says:

Everyone’s looking for reasons why Brett Favre is throwing up some of his folly floaters in the first seven weeks of his Jets career. I am too. My guess: His shoulder hurts, dating back to a hit in the Cincinnati game. Just a guess, and he told me he’s always sore this time of year. But I’m not seeing the same fastballs I’ve seen from him. He’ll need a few, accurately thrown, to win this game.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 27, New York Jets 15

Benji says:

I think it’s official: The Jets are not any good and the Packers made the right decision to let Favre go, regardless of whether or not he is injured right now. I have been riding the Jets as a sleeper playoff pick all year, but I think that it’s about time I jumped off the bandwagon. Two straight terrible games by Favre against bad defenses (a road loss to the Raiders and a comeback win at home against the hapless Chiefs) coupled with inconsistent play by the defense have led me to believe that this team is not going to challenge for the division title after all. The Bills are not the best team in the world, but they are above average in every aspect of the game and they do not commit many turnovers (last week’s debacle against the Dolphins not withstanding).

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 26, New York Jets 19

Detroit Lions (0-7) at Chicago Bears (4-3)

The King says:

Look on the bright side, Detroit: Jason Hanson is perfect this year. Seven games, 20 kicks attempted (11 PAT, nine field goals), 20 made. Let’s see. Any more positives for this team right now? Wait, one more: Martin Mayhew got first- and third-round draft picks for a guy who doesn’t want to be there. That’s it.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 20, Detroit Lions 6

Benji says:

Look on the bright side, Detroit: The Dante Culpepper era is just around the corner. I am not sure if I mean that seriously or sarcastically. There is no way he can be any worse than the other quarterbacks that have suited up for the Lions this year though…

Prediction: Chicago Bears 31, Detroit Lions 19

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-8)

The King says:

Stat that jumps off the page for this game: last year, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught a combined 205 passes for a 12.6-yard average. This year, BOTH are under 10 yards per reception. Their combined average is 9.6 yards per catch. That’s a lot of third downs not converted.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 23, Cincinnati Bengals 9

Benji says:

Your Majesty, perhaps the drop-off in performance for Chad OCHO CINCO and T.J. Houshmandzadeh has something to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for the injured Carson Palmer at quarterback? The Bengals are awful right now and if you want an explanation, look no further than the quarterback play.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 26, Cincinnati Bengals 13

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Cleveland Browns (3-4)

The King says:

What comes out of the bag of tricks this week, offensive coordinators Cam Cameron and Rob Chudzinski, after the 43-yard pass to Joe Flacco and the 51-yard trickery pass to Steve Heiden on fourth-and-one?

Prediction: Cleveland Browns 19, Baltimore Ravens 12

Benji says:

Lost amidst the team’s offensive struggles, the Browns’ defense has emerged as one of the better units in the AFC. Cleveland is allowing only 195 passing yard per game (10th in the league), 17.6 points per game (seventh in the league) and has forced 13 turnovers. Over the course of the season, the Browns have had a below average run defense but were able to shut down the Giants’ and the Jaguars’ running games in their two most recent wins. An offense, such as the Ravens’, that has difficulty moving the ball in the passing game without running trick plays is one that is likely to struggle on the road against a good defense. Joe Flacco, at this point in his career, is not a playmaker. The Ravens’ defense, which is ranked second in the league in total defense, will probably keep Browns quarterback Derek Anderson in check, but it is important to note that despite his inconsistent play, Anderson has not thrown an interception since Week Four. I believe that the key statistic to note when analyzing this match-up is turnover differential: The Browns are +6 and the Ravens are -4.

Prediction: Cleveland Browns 23, Baltimore Ravens 12

Green Bay Packers (4-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-0)

The King says:

Aaron Rodgers needs to throw the ball 43 times in this one. That’s the only chance Green Bay has.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 20, Green Bay Packers 17

Benji says:

Despite their victory over the Colts on Monday night, I am still not completely sold on the Titans. I believe that a team with a good passing game can beat them. The Colts, with a better performance from Manning (many of his throws were inaccurate and he struggled to throw a tight spiral), would have won on Monday night. If the Titans fall behind early by more than a score, it will be very difficult for them to come back. They just do not have the type of passing game that can move the offense down the field. Kerry Collins can throw short passes to the running backs and tight ends and take care of the football, but is he capable of leading a comeback? Green Bay’s offense is playing very well right now and the Packers do not turn the ball over often either—the Titans are +8 and the Packers are +6 in turnover differential for the season. Finally, the Packers’ secondary gets safety Atari Bigby back from injury, which should help Green Bay slow down Tennessee’s solid running game.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 24, Tennessee Titans 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)

The King says:

Earnest Graham got stuffed all day against Dallas, but I don’t look for the Chiefs to do similar stuffing here.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Kansas City Chiefs 13

Benji says:

Wrong holiday, Your Majesty—this is the one where you gorge on an obscene amount of candy, not the one where you gorge on an obscene amount of turkey and stuffing. Don’t worry, that one’s coming up soon too. Oh, as for the game—the Buccaneers’ defense is really good and the Chiefs’ offense is nothing to write home about unless it’s matched up against the Jets.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Kansas City Chiefs 13

Arizona Cardinals (4-3) at St. Louis Rams (2-5)

The King says:

Dick Vermeil spoke in Phoenix the other day, and he and Kurt Warner had dinner. Vermeil is being honored by the Rams on Sunday at this game, and Warner will be there as the most beloved visiting pro football player ever to return to St. Louis. You know why I love this angle? One: Because Vermeil and Warner are two of the greatest people the NFL has ever employed. Two: So we don’t have to read about how hard it is for the Cardinals to board an airplane, fly east and play a child’s game.

Prediction: St. Louis Rams 26, Arizona Cardinals 24

Benji says:

Despite all of my references to the Cardinals’ poor play on the road in my last blog post and the Rams’ inspired play as of late, I am picking Arizona to win here. Why? His Majesty, based on his analysis here, should understand: Warner’s connection to the Rams. And I’m not just referring to the good times…flash back to last weekend in London where Drew Brees and Philip Rivers faced off in the Underachievement Bowl. Brees played his best game of the season against the team that chose to let him go in the prime of his career after he got injured and the quarterback that replaced him. Sound familiar? After leading the Rams to two Super Bowls, Warner was cut loose and replaced by Marc Bulger. I am officially calling this prediction a Drew Brees formula pick.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 34, St. Louis Rams 24

Houston Texans (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (3-4)

The King says:

A grim reminder of an 0-3 road September for the Texans. This is Houston’s only road game in a six-week stretch. I give them a shot because of Matt Schaub, who, if you haven’t noticed, has rallied his team and his career. Anybody notice he’s a 68-percent passer?


Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 23, Houston Texans 20

Benji says:

Assuming that the Vikings’ defensive line plays up to its potential and is able to pressure Matt Schaub, this one is in the bag. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When Schaub is under pressure, he makes a lot of mistakes, and when he faces a team with a poor pass rush, he looks like the second coming of Warren Moon.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 26, Houston Texans 16

Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Denver Broncos (4-3)

The King says:

The Broncos can’t stop anyone, but at least they’re coming off the bye and Jay Cutler looks healthy after getting whacked around in Foxboro. Miami’s 25th in the league against the pass.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 29, Miami Dolphins 27

Benji says:

Denver’s defense is truly awful (30th in the league), especially without the services of shutdown corner Champ Bailey. But I’m not entirely sold on Miami’s defense either. I think that a team with a high level passing game can have success against it. Congratulations to the Dolphins for upsetting the Bills last week (which I picked correctly) but their play has been uneven from week to week and I do not trust them on the road against a team that can put a lot of points on the board. I believe that Denver quarterback Jay Cutler is going to have a huge game…

Prediction: Denver Broncos 34, Miami Dolphins 26

Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Oakland Raiders (2-5)

The King says:

Big, big injury for the Falcons as they attempt to stay in the NFC South pennant race: Sam Baker, the left tackle who was playing better than anyone in the league thought he would, had back surgery in California this week and could be lost for the year. Big blow.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 31, Oakland Raiders 20

Benji says:

That is a big injury for Atlanta, Your Majesty, because much of Matt Ryan’s success can be attributed to the play of the offensive line, which has given him plenty of time to complete all of those deep passes to Roddy White. Speaking of the Ryan to White connection, it will be interesting to see if Ryan throws to White as much in this game when he is matched up with one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Nnamdi Asomugha. Personally, I would rather take my chances with former Falcon DeAngelo Hall, the number two cornerback. The Raiders might be able to keep this game close if their defense plays like it did against the Jets a few weeks ago. But again, similar to the Dolphins’ defense, I’m not sure what to expect out of this unit from week to week. There’s no consistency.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 24, Oakland Raiders 20

Dallas Cowboys (5-3) at New York Giants (6-1)

The King says:

The Cowboys had a goal in mind prior to last week’s game against Tampa Bay: split the next two games before the bye, enter the second half of the season 5-4 with Tony Romo returning from his broken pinkie injury, and go on the kind of run they were on in September, when they started the season an explosive 3-0. Mission already accomplished. And the Brooks Bollinger rumors? True. You should see him early in this game.


Prediction: New York Giants 23, Dallas Cowboys 12

Benji says:

We are pretty much in agreement here, Your Majesty. Dallas needed to split these two games and picked up the ugly gritty win that they needed last week at home against Tampa. It’s a good thing, because the Cowboys have absolutely no chance of beating the Giants on the road this week. New York will put constant pressure on the statue formerly known as Brad Johnson and force him to make plays he is not capable of making. He looks like Drew Bledsoe did at the end of his tenure as the Cowboys’ starter, except older, slower and with a weaker arm. And Brooks Bollinger probably will not be much better. It has become increasingly apparent how important Tony Romo is to this team…

Prediction: New York Giants 26, Dallas Cowboys 9

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5)

The King says:

Jim Johnson versus Seneca Wallace? Almost an unfair fight. Get ready for Blitzes Exotica, young Seneca.


Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 22, Seattle Seahawks 9

Benji says:

The Eagles love to beat up on bad teams. Their offense also looks infinitely better now that Brian Westbrook is back.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 34, Seattle Seahawks 13

New England Patriots (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

The King says:

Look at Matt Cassel’s last eight quarters: 69 percent passing, 452 yards, almost eight yards per play, superb in this era’s NFL. He’s not afraid. He’s also 4.7-percent ahead of Peyton Manning right now in completion percentage for the season. Not to stat you to death or anything.

Prediction: New England Patriots 27, Indianapolis Colts 23

Benji says:

Your Majesty, I want the Patriots to win this game too, but what about the “desperation factor?” My desperation formula continues to work out every time I apply it and I am going to keep riding it until it fails me. The Colts are a talented team, they need to win this game much more than their opponent and they are playing at home.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 30, New England Patriots 20

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Washington Redskins (6-2)

The King says:

The real reason is that Jason Campbell is playing out of his mind, and I don’t trust the Pittsburgh line to keep Ben Roethlisberger clean. But there’s an ulterior motive. My brother-in-law, Lou Ranalli of Monongahela, loves it when I pick against the Steelers because he thinks anytime I do the Steelers win. There’s a shoutout to you, Lou. Let’s see if it works this week.

Prediction: Washington Redskins 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Benji says:

I cannot really dispute either of the points that you make in your opening sentence, Your Majesty—Jason Campbell has played very well (although out of his mind seems a bit hyperbolic) and the Steelers’ pass protection has been shaky at best this season. But when I look at the way that these two teams have played as of late, I find that Washington has just as many question marks as Pittsburgh. The Redskins are playing with fire right now. They are 2-1 in their last three games, but after losing to the previously winless Rams, they barely beat Cleveland at home and had to come back to beat the 0-7 Lions last week. Ignore the score of the Steelers’ game with the Giants last weekend—Pittsburgh was in control of that game and blew it in the fourth quarter thanks to some untimely turnovers and an injured long snapper. Going back to Campbell’s success taking care of the ball, he is long overdue to throw an interception or two. He has not thrown one in eight games! If there were ever a time for Campbell to commit some turnovers, it would be this week, in this game against the league’s top defense.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Washington Redskins 17

There’s No Place Like Home…

October 27, 2008

The King’s comments about the Arizona Cardinals, in this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, have left me slightly confused and more than a little perturbed. The Cardinals, if you recall, lost a close road game to the Carolina Panthers, 27-23, on Sunday afternoon. Both His Majesty and I correctly predicted the outcome of the game, but did so for very different reasons. The King, like many members of the sports media, recently fell in love with the stat depicting East Coast teams’ dominance against traveling teams from the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones. Let’s revisit his prediction:

If my predictions of Oakland and Arizona losing are correct, by 4 p.m. Sunday the NFL’s stat of the half season will be this: Pacific and Mountain time zone teams playing in Eastern time this year will be 0-13.

This morning, four days after championing the time zone theory, The King tries to distance himself from it completely:

What makes me delirious about Sunday’s games: You can’t say teams flying from west to east (in luxury, by the way, for between three and five cushy hours) can’t win. I know the Cards lost after a 2,050-mile jaunt to Charlotte, but they led for much of the game and showed no sign of sleep-walking through any part of the game.

He goes on to dismiss the formula that he used to justify his prediction for the Cardinals/Panthers game as the “silliest story angle of the 2008 season”. But it is in His justification for the Cardinals shattering the previously unbreakable time zone theory (despite the fact that they did not win their East Coast game) that The King completely ceases to make sense. First of all, San Diego led for much of its game in Buffalo last week. In fact, the Chargers were about to move ahead late in the game when Philip Rivers threw a terrible interception in the end zone. How does the Cardinals playing the Panthers close prove anything that had not already been proven the week prior? In both games, the road team had a chance to win but was done in by lackadaisical play and sloppy turnovers. The King adamantly asserts that the Cardinals “showed no sign of sleep-walking through any part of the game” but fails to mention that they turned the ball over inside their own twenty-yard line when they were up by multiple scores, which precipitated the Panthers’ comeback—if that does not qualify as “sleep-walking” then I guess I need to review my dictionary of hackneyed sports terminology.

To his credit, His Majesty starts making sense again when he questions the quality of the West Coast teams:

All the opiners wondering why teams like Seattle and San Francisco can’t win on the East Coast should consider this possibility: Maybe they stink.

Allow me to pause and congratulate The King for finally reaching the conclusion that I had arrived at several weeks ago. I would also add Oakland to the list of terrible Pacific/Mountain Time Zone teams that have lost on the East Coast this season. Furthermore, I would like to point out that of the other three teams that qualify for the time zone stat, two (the Chargers and Broncos) are maddeningly inconsistent and have terrible defenses, while the third (the Cardinals) has been great at home but awful on the road this season (MY much more substantive justification for picking the Panthers to win). Overall, the Pacific/Mountain Time Zone teams are a combined 6-17 on the road.

But despite His brief moment of sanity and coherence, The King quickly returns to his normal nonsensical ways. In the face of the overwhelming statistical evidence (the win/loss record for home teams this season is 73-42), His Majesty takes the counterargument for the time zone theory far beyond its logical conclusion, and tries to remove home field advantage/road team disadvantage from the equation completely. Observe his final assessment of Kurt Warner and the Cardinals:

Maybe when the Cards get routed at the Jets it’s because Kurt Warner’s turnover-happy that day, which he’s been at home and on the road in his career. Maybe Arizona loses at Carolina because Carolina’s better, not because the Cards had such an arduous trip east.

Carolina was the better team in its game with Arizona, but surely the fact that the Panthers were playing at home gave them some sort of advantage? I could take a page from The King’s book and write an incoherent paragraph of analysis that does not substantiate the point that I am trying to make—I’m getting sick of all this writing, though, so I’ll just present you with the teams’ home/road splits and let the stats make the argument for me.

Carolina’s record this season: Overall: 6-2, Home: 5-0, Road: 1-2.
Arizona’s record this season: Overall: 4-3, Home: 3-0, Road: 1-3.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I see a pattern there. How can this pattern exist, though, if Kurt Warner is just as careless with the football at home as he is on the road? Perhaps it is because The King’s assessment of Warner’s play has no basis. As usual, King makes a brash assertion that has a lot of bark but little statistical bite. Again, I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves:

Kurt Warner’s fumbles/INTs this season:
Overall: 6 interceptions, 6 fumbles
Home: 1 interception, 1 fumble
Away: 5 interceptions, 5 fumbles

Clearly, Warner has done a better job of taking care of the ball at home than he has on the road so far this season. Furthermore, if you look at his passing statistics, you can see that while his number of touchdown passes is consistent (seven at home and seven on the road), his completion percentage is nearly eleven points better at home than it is on the road (77.1 to 66.3 percent). Perhaps it is a bit misleading, however, for me to draw these conclusions based on such a small sample size. To save myself from an onslaught of angry emails from rabid King supporters, I will head to the vault and pull up Warner’s statistics from last year, his first and to-date only full season as the starting quarterback for the Cardinals, and see how they compare:

Kurt Warner’s fumbles/INTs in the 2007 season:
Overall: 17 interceptions, 12 fumbles
Home: 6 interceptions, 7 fumbles
Away: 11 interceptions, 5 fumbles

While the split between Warner’s home and road performances is not nearly as drastic as it has been thus far this season, he still fumbled/threw interceptions more frequently on the road than he did at home (16 to 13). Furthermore, returning to the passing statistics, his completion percentage was again significantly higher at home than it was on the road (66.7 to 57.8 percent). Last but certainly not least, the Cardinals, in his 14 starts, were 6-1 at home and 1-6 in away games. The only conclusion that one can draw from this pile of statistical evidence is that Kurt Warner and the Cardinals, over the past two seasons, have played significantly better at home than they have on the road.

Maybe there is an argument to be made for the quality of a team being more significant than home-field advantage (see: the New York Giants), but His Majesty could not have picked a pair of teams (Carolina and Arizona) and a player (Kurt Warner) more ill suited for said argument. A less knowledgeable football fan, however, might easily have been taken in by The King’s unsubstantiated analysis simply because His Majesty argues His points so adamantly. Thank you, Your Majesty, for once again justifying the existence of this blog.

(Update: In MMQB Tuesday Edition, His Majesty responds to a question about the time zone theory with a bold faced lie: “I’ve never bought into the theory that it prevents a team from showing up and playing well.” By never, I guess he means not since he posted his picks on Thursday.)

King Says, Benji Says (Week 8)

October 24, 2008

While rumors of my demise have been greatly (or at least somewhat) exaggerated, I do think that I got a bit cocky after my one-game win of two weeks ago. I found out pretty quickly how His Majesty would respond to a threat to his throne. Not only did he get mad, he got even—and by even, I mean the way that Russia got even with Georgia for invading South Ossetia. The King took back the pick I gained, pillaged my lands and, for good measure, grabbed two more picks from me. Like President Mikheil Saakashvili, I’m feeling a little emo at the moment, but unlike Saakashvili, I cannot afford to be emo—I don’t have the rest of Europe and America to save me from utter destruction. Time to take matters into my own hands, I suppose…

Last Week:

Peter King (10-4)
Benji (7-7)
Brian (11-3)


Overall:

Peter King (69-33)
Benji (57-45)
Brian (63-39)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

The King says:

You know the phrase “all hell breaks loose?” In Dallas, a loss would make that phrase more like “sugar and spice and everything nice,” because if the Cowboys lose, Mount Jones will erupt, followed closely by Hurricane Jerry storming the Metroplex. If the players are ever to respond, now’s the week.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Benji says:

His Majesty speaks the truth. I do believe that this game is a prime candidate for my desperation theory: Dallas is a talented team, playing at home, in a game it needs to win. Unlike the sports pundits, I actually thought it was a good move by quarterback Tony Romo to announce that he was not going to be playing again until after the BYE earlier this week. I understand that this news allows Tampa coach Jon Gruden the luxury of only having to prepare for one quarterback this week—more significantly, however, it forces the other Cowboys to realize that they cannot depend on Romo riding in on a white horse to save them. The fate of the Dallas season is no longer in Romo’s hands; it’s in the hands of his very talented but to-date directionless teammates.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Washington Redskins (5-2) at Detroit Lions (0-6)

The King says:

It makes no sense, picking Dan Orlovsky to win an NFL game. But I’ve had pretty good luck with the upset recently — Miami over San Diego, St. Louis over Dallas — and I’ve got the Washington-taking-Detroit-lightly feel here, along with the Marinelli-making-life-miserable-for-his-losers feel. Detroit will play very hard get a few bounces, finally.


Prediction: Detroit Lions 20, Washington Redskins 17

Benji says:

You are correct, Your Majesty, it DOES NOT make any sense to pick Dan Orlovsky to win an NFL game—at least not against a quality opponent with a dominant defense. May I remind you that while the score was close in the Lions’ game against the Texans last week (28-21), Orlovsky completed only 12 of 25 passes against the Texans’ 17th ranked pass defense. Orlovsky finished with 265 passing yards on the day but picked up 96 of them on a fluky score by Calvin Johnson. The Redskins’ defense (which is ranked sixth in the league) is going to give the anemic Lions offense fits all day. The Redskins’ offense is led by Clinton Portis and the running game and the Lions’ run defense has allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry. I do not think that the Lions will go winless this season but this game is a horrible match-up for them. Also, why would the Redskins take the Lions lightly? Don’t you think they already learned that lesson against the Rams a couple weeks ago?

Prediction: Washington Redskins 24, Detroit Lions 13

Buffalo Bills (5-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-4)

The King says:

Marcus Stroud, rightfully, is getting great ink for solidifying the Bills’ defensive line, particularly against the run. But ask the Chargers why they were held to 263 yards last week in a mostly toothless performance in Orchard Park’s and they’ll credit the unknown Kyle Williams, Stroud’s linemate, for a major role in Buffalo’s front-fortress.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 20, Miami Dolphins 16

Benji says:

I should have seen the Chargers’ loss in Buffalo last Sunday coming a mile away. After handily beating the Patriots the week prior, the Chargers were traveling to play a supposedly lesser opponent—the conditions were perfectly suited for a “trap” or “letdown” game. And you know what, Your Majesty? Buffalo finds itself in a similar situation this week. The Bills just beat a quality opponent at home and are traveling to face a team that they are expected to beat. Buffalo does a lot of things pretty well, but does nothing great. The Chargers struggled to run the ball against the Bills last week and committed stupid turnovers. If the Dolphins can run the ball successfully (Buffalo’s defense is only ranked 17th against the run despite the fact that they have only played two quality opponents) and take care of the football, this upset is in the bag.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 23, Buffalo Bills 16

St. Louis Rams (2-4) at New England Patriots (4-2)

The King says:

I’m saving the headline writer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch some time on the job Sunday night. Haslett Honeymoon: History. How’s that? By the way, in case you missed my Tom Brady/Matt Cassel early-career comparison Tuesday, taking Brady’s first six starts and measuring them against Cassel’s first six professional games, here are a few good nuggets. Record: Brady 4-2, Cassel 4-2. Passing yards: Brady 1,105, Cassel 1,095. Completion rate: Brady .632, Cassel .663. Anyone else out there still want to consider Cassel doomed?

Prediction: New England Patriots 27, St. Louis Rams 19

Benji says:

Your Majesty, while you were correct in your insistence that this New England team still has some life to it, I am still not convinced that it is very good. That win against the Broncos came at a price—the Patriots lost safety Rodney Harrison, the one stable player in their secondary, for the season and running back Sammy Morris was also knocked out of the game (no word yet on his status). The Patriots are really thin at defensive back and running back and you have to wonder how many holes Belichick can continue to patch before this team ends up falling apart. They should beat the Rams at home, but I would not be surprised to seem them struggle a bit in this game. If a defense cannot stop the run (the Patriots are allowing 4.5 yards per carry, 25th in the league) and has a shaky secondary, its team cannot make the playoffs without a dominant offense, which the Patriots, Monday Night’s performance against the second worst defense in the league aside, clearly do not have.

Prediction: New England Patriots 23, St. Louis Rams 20

San Diego Chargers (3-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (3-4) (at London)

The King says:

Should be a better offensive show than the putrid Giants-Dolphins rain game at Wembley last year, though the two poster men for this game are not at all themselves these days. Reggie Bush is back in the States recovering from arthroscopic left knee surgery Monday. LaDainian Tomlinson is trying, but his injured big toe prevents him from classic L.T.-ness. The NFL is exporting a terrific game, with two 3-4 playoff-caliber teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 23, New Orleans Saints 17

Benji says:

The concept of “consistency” is lost on these two teams. After blowout victories the week before, I picked both the Chargers and Saints to win last week and they both put forth rather lackluster performances. Teams like these frustrate me, because they play so well at times against good teams that you are almost handcuffed into picking them to win only to watch them lose to teams that they should beat. Anyway, the loser of this game is likely out of the playoff race. Normally in this type of situation, I would pick the home team by default, but this is not a normal situation. The two teams are playing in a neutral site, in London, as a part of the league’s ill-advised attempt to market the game overseas. In a tossup, I’ll go with San Diego, just because I think that its defense has the potential to be good while New Orleans’s secondary is absolutely atrocious.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 30, New Orleans Saints 27

Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) at New York Jets (3-3)

The King says:

Not exactly the triumphant return to stately East Rutherford that prodigal son Herman Edwards envisioned, and there’s a reason for that: The Chiefs stink, and Tyler Thigpen is playing quarterback. This one’s going to be ugly.

Prediction: New York Jets 40, Kansas City Chiefs 6

Benji says:

While I agree that the Chiefs have no chance of winning this game, Your Majesty, how can you predict that the Jets will score 40 points against them? They only put up 13 against the nearly as hapless Raiders last week. I guess maybe you are accounting for the good field position that Thigpen will give Favre and co. after each of his many turnovers before he gets pulled from the game. Still, the Jets do not look like a very good team at the moment…

Prediction: New York Jets 23, Kansas City Chiefs 9

Atlanta Falcons (4-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The King says:

Love this game. Philly kid born-and-bred Matt Ryan plays on the block where his football and baseball heroes played, and he plays very, very well against Jim Johnson’s bait-and-switch changeup defenses. In fact, it takes a touchdown pass from the quarterback he’s watched since his freshman year in high school, Donovan McNabb, to beat back the NFL’s hottest young quarterback. By the way, I wonder how many Eagles will walk across the street after the game to see Game 4 of the World Series.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 27, Atlanta Falcons 22

Benji says:

This Falcons team has exceeded my expectations for it at every turn so far this season, but I think that I agree with your pick, Your Majesty. My version of the desperation theory is in play again: the Eagles are playing at home, are a talented team, and need to win this game in order to stay in the playoff hunt. Also, Brian Westbrook will be back in uniform for the Eagles and with him in the lineup, they have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 30, Atlanta Falcons 20

Arizona Cardinals (4-2) at Carolina Panthers (5-2)

The King says:

If my predictions of Oakland and Arizona losing are correct, by 4 p.m. Sunday, the NFL’s Stat of the Half-Season will be this: Pacific and Mountain Time Zone teams playing in Eastern time this year will be 0-13.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 23, Arizona Cardinals 13

Benji says:

While I find this time zone change theory a little half-baked, I cannot argue with the statistical outcomes this season, especially after San Diego’s loss in Buffalo last week. I like Carolina here, as well, but I am going to shy away from your argument, Your Majesty, and focus on these particular teams. The Panthers have been very good at home this season (4-0) and the Cardinals have struggled on the road (1-2). In those three road contests, the Cardinals lost a close game to a good team (the Redskins), got blown out by a mediocre team (the Jets) and struggled to beat a bad team (the 49ers)—not exactly a resume that is likely to sway me to pick them here. The Panthers, at home, proved just last week that they are capable of shutting down an elite passing game when they blew out Drew Brees and the Saints and held them to just seven points. I want to believe, Arizona—if for no other reason than to see this stupid time zone theory fall on its face—but your track record gives me no reason to do so.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 23, Arizona Cardinals 20

Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Baltimore Ravens (3-3)

The King says:

The Raiders fly east with all the pride and momentum of a win over the Jets. The Ravens will knock the confidence out of them, early and often.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 27, Oakland Raiders 3

Benji says:

Sadly, because there was no other game on at the time, I watched every second of the Jets/Raiders stinker last Sunday. It was really pretty pathetic. In the overtime period, both teams kept exchanging punts and I thought for sure that the game was going to end in a tie. Luckily, Sebastian Janikowski and his golden leg put the game out of its misery before it got to that point, but neither team deserved to win. They were both terrible. The Ravens looked great last week against the Dolphins and boast the league’s top ranked run defense (allowing only 2.8 yards per carry)—a terrible match-up for the Raiders, whose offense is entirely reliant on the ground game.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 23, Oakland Raiders 9

New York Giants (5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)

The King says:

Matchup of the game: Outside ‘backer LaMarr Woodley over the top of Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie. Matchup of the game II: Troy Polamalu coming down into the box to stop megaback Brandon Jacobs. What a fun game this will be to watch.


Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 16, New York Giants 13

Benji says:

I agree with you, Your Majesty, this should be the best of the Sunday games. Both teams are very good, but in my mind the Giants have not yet proven themselves. They have only beaten one quality team, the Redskins, and that was back in Week One. Over the last two weeks, they have been blown out by the previously and subsequently offensively challenged Browns and won a sloppy game against the 49ers, a team that fired its coach later in the week. Having watched both of those games rather closely, I have surmised that the Giants’ pass rush is much weaker than it was earlier in the season. I am not altogether surprised, given that they lost both of their defensive ends from last year’s team, but at the beginning of the season their defensive scheming to cover up the weakness at this position was infinitely more effective. Perhaps opposing coaches have figured them out, to a certain extent? The only thing holding back Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense is his pass-protection but I do not see it being an issue in this match-up. As for the Giants’ offense, Brandon Jacobs is running harder than ever and is a nightmare for opposing linebackers whom he outweighs and can outrun. Eli Manning, though, has looked a little shaky as of late (he had three interceptions against the Browns and barely completed 50 percent of his passes against the 49ers) and he has yet to face a defense of Pittsburgh’s caliber. The Steelers’ defense is ranked second in the league in run defense, first in pass defense and first in total defense. Finally, the Giants’ top receiver, Plaxico Burress, will probably not play on Sunday, leaving New York undermanned for its toughest test to date. My money’s on Big Ben and the Steelers…

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 23, New York Giants 16

Seattle Seahawks (1-5) at San Francisco 49ers (2-5)

The King says:

The Mike Singletary debut is a fun story. The generosity of J.T. O’Turnover ruins it.

Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 27, San Francisco 49ers 20

Benji says:

Ok, Your Majesty, so J.T. O’Sullivan is not exactly the heir apparent to Steve Young out in San Francisco that many of you in the media made him out to be a couple weeks into the season. He might look like Steve Young in this game though. Seattle’s defense cannot stop the run, generate a consistent pass rush or guard receivers in the secondary. In the first match-up between these two teams, in Seattle, O’Sullivan threw for 321 yards and DID NOT turn the ball over once as the 49ers escaped with a 33-30 overtime win. The second time around, I would not expect this game to be much of a shootout, with either Charlie Frye or Seneca Wallace replacing the injured Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback for the Seahawks. Here’s a statistic that you should note, Your Majesty: over the last two games with Frye and Wallace playing quarterback, the Seahawks have failed to accumulate over 200 yards of offense in either contest. A final note: from hearing Coach Singletary speak, I would surmise that he is a very motivated coach who believes in this team and I think that this positive energy will translate onto the football field. Remember that Rams team that you so proudly picked to win after they changed coaches?

Prediction: San Francisco 49ers 28, Seattle Seahawks 13

Cleveland Browns (2-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)

The King says:

At halftime, out of earshot of the team, Romeo Crennel walks up to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and asks: “Do you have any idea whatsoever what makes Derek Anderson tick?”


Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 20, Cleveland Browns 10

Benji says:

I could go on a rant here and take the Browns’ offense to task for its inconsistency this season, but what this game really boils down to is the following stat: Cleveland’s run defense is ranked 27th in the league, allowing 4.8 yards per carry. No Matt Jones (and no cocaine supply) for the Jaguars? No problem. All they need to do is hand the ball off to Jones-Drew and Taylor, and the yards will pile up, the clock will run down and the game will end with Jacksonville on top. This formula has worked so well for Jacksonville over the past two seasons…

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 20, Cleveland Browns 10

Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) at Houston Texans (2-4)

The King says:

At some point, I expect Marvin Lewis’ head to explode. Not sure when, but it’s only a matter of time.

Prediction: Houston Texans 30, Cincinnati Bengals 12

Benji says:

As the Bengals are incapable of creating a pass rush, I know that Matt Schaub will have another big game. He really thrives against terrible defenses. However, I do not, for one second, trust the Texans’ defense. Houston allowed Detroit to turn a 21-0 deficit into a 28-21 close margin in the blink of an eye. Cincinnati, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, may have a shot to win this game.

Prediction: Houston Texans 31, Cincinnati Bengals 28

Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (6-0)

The King says:

You read it here first: A Colts loss would end their five-year streak of division titles by putting them four games behind the Titans with nine to play — including games against New England (home) and Pittsburgh (road) in the next two weeks.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 23, Indianapolis Colts 13

Benji says:

Are the Colts the rejuvenated team that put up 31 points against the Ravens’ vaunted defense or the disappointing one that struggled to score against the Packers’ banged up secondary last week? Peyton Manning has struggled to play consistently from week to week. If he can throw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens, I know that he CAN put enough points on the board to beat the Titans—the question is, will he? I think he will, because this is a must-win game for the Colts. They are too far back to win the division at this point, but with a win in this game they can put themselves in position to compete for a wild card spot. I don’t mean to sell the Titans short—their defense has only allowed one passing touchdown to date, after all. Still, they really have not played a very difficult schedule so far and the Colts need to win this game much more than they do.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 26, Tennessee Titans 19

King Loves Me? King Loves Me Not?

October 22, 2008

Based on The King’s columns so far this season, one would be forced to conclude that His feelings for New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel are, dare I say, a teeny bit fickle?

Let’s recap His Majesty’s thoughts about Cassel after each of his five starts this season:

After a 19-10 Patriots win over the Jets in Week Two for which The King bestowed upon Cassel one of his highly esteemed Offensive Player of the Week awards:

A workmanlike day (16 of 23, 165 yards, no touchdowns or picks), but let’s realize what this man did. In his first start in the NFL, and his first start at quarterback since a high school playoff game in 1999, he jogged onto Favre’s new home field Sunday in New Jersey, and beat one of the top 10 quarterbacks of all time.

After a 38-13 loss to the Dolphins in Week Three:

With the bye week coming up, the question is whether New England will try to persuade Vinny Testaverde to come out of retirement at 44, or look elsewhere for quarterback help. Cassel looked really bad…

After a 31-20 win over the 49ers in Week Five:

The hounds have been released. Matt Cassel has been allowed to throw it way far downfield. See that smile on the sidelines from Randy Moss?

After a 30-10 loss to the Chargers:

Fairly predictable result last night. Chargers have a quarterback you can trust. Patriots don’t. Doesn’t Philip Rivers throw a beautiful deep ball?

And, finally, after the 41-7 win over the Broncos on Monday Night:

After statistically comparing Matt Cassel to Tom Brady in Brady’s first season, King concludes:

Eerie. And a good reason to think the Patriots have a heck of a chance to be playing January football without the best player in football.

Each week, long after Tuesday practice has ended and all of his teammates have showered and gone home, Matt Cassel sits by himself in the corner of the Patriots’ locker room with a freshly picked daisy and a laptop and reads King’s latest column, whimsically wondering aloud, “King loves me? King loves me not?”

King Says, Benji Says (Week 7)

October 17, 2008

The unthinkable has finally happened—after four consecutive losing weeks, I came back to edge His Majesty in the correct picks column, 9-8. Will Week 6 be the week that I finally came to my senses and swung the picking momentum in my favor? Or will it instead be an anomaly in the picking season of The King’s life? Only time will tell. For now, I’ve got some of my swagger back…

Last Week:

Peter King (8-6)
Benji (9-5)
Brian (8-6)

Overall:

Peter King (59-29)
Benji (50-38)
Brian (52-36)

San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)

The King says:

Great game. Game of the week, if you ask me. I say it follows a time-tested NFL script: West Coast team traveling east after an overly emotional, desperation win. Eastern team playing at home with pleasantly surprised fan base that begins drinking game-prep Friday at 5. I do not see good things for the Tomlinsons here, though like every Buffalo game, it’ll be interesting well into the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 23, San Diego Chargers 20

Benji says:

“Overly emotional desperation win”? The Chargers completely dominated the Patriots in every facet of the game and I do not think it all had to do with desperation, Your Majesty. Also, did you not get the memo that this team is no longer the “Tomlinsons”? It’s now the Philip Rivers show. Do not be so quick to dismiss this offense—San Diego is averaging nearly 30 points a game, the best scoring output in the league. Just because Tomlinson is not the same player he was two or three years ago does not mean that the Chargers are not just as dangerous offensively as they were then. Also, I seem to remember the Bills allowing 44 points to Arizona two weeks ago. Buffalo was a great story at 4-0, but they did not play a team with a good passing game until Week 5. Their first loss came that week, in blowout fashion. Coincidence? I think not…

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 30, Buffalo Bills 20

Minnesota Vikings (3-3) at Chicago Bears (3-3)

The King says:

Chants of “Fire Childress” fill the Metrodome air, no Minnesotan knows his quarterback of the future, and we’re only 11 days removed from leaving the Vikings for dead at 1-3. How nutty is it, then, that a win at Soldier Field this week — which I don’t believe is in the cards, but who knows in this nutty league — could give Minnesota sole possession of first place in the NFC North at 4-3?

Prediction: Chicago Bears 19, Minnesota Vikings 10

Benji says:

It’s never a good sign when fans start yelling for the coach’s head during a game. The Vikings have not lived up to their fans’ expectations (but have proved mine correct) and just do not seem to be a playoff caliber team. They were lucky to squeak by winless Detroit last week and capitalized on fluky plays to beat New Orleans the week before. Their luck runs out here, I would imagine. The Bears have a good defense and a surprisingly effective offense. Their Achilles’ heel has been late game defensive lapses in the secondary. It will take another botched fourth quarter by the Bears for the Vikings to gain control of first place in the division. I do not see it happening…

Prediction: Chicago Bears 23, Minnesota Vikings 16

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-6)

The King says:

Very tempted to pick Cincinnati, but I cannot foresee Ryan Fitzpatrick making plays against the well-rested Steelers.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Cincinnati Bengals 13

Benji says:

His Majesty is only tempted to pick the upset because of the two improbable upsets last week. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback for the rest of the season, the Bengals might very well go winless. It could happen. He’s that bad.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Cincinnati Bengals 9

Tennessee Titans (5-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)

The King says:

Titans off a bye? Hide the women and children. And Chiefs.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 31, Kansas City Chiefs 3

Benji says:

As if this pick was not obvious enough already, word just leaked that the Chiefs suspended starting running back Larry Johnson for the game. Yikes…

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 26, Kansas City Chiefs 3

Dallas Cowboys (4-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-4)

The King says:

Before the game, Jerry Jones walks around the Jones Dome field in a daze. “Tony? Adam? Mat? Felix the Cat? Hey, where’d everybody go?” he says.

Prediction: St. Louis Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 15

Benji says:

Your Majesty, you seem to forget that perhaps the Cowboys’ most important player, Marion Barber, WILL be playing on Sunday. Assuming that Dallas calls a smart offensive game, he should get 30+ effective carries against the Rams, who are ranked 30th in the league in rushing defense. If the Cowboys establish the run, their passing game will be successful because they have plenty of weapons, regardless of who the quarterback is. Congratulations to Jim Haslett and the Rams, who won their first game last week against a good team (the Redskins) on the road. They were lucky to win, however. Washington out-gained St. Louis 368 yards to 200 and St. Louis did not score an offensive touchdown in the game. Do not count on the Rams getting that lucky two weeks in a row.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 26, St. Louis Rams 15

Baltimore Ravens (2-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)

The King says:

Underrated stat of this game: Homestanding Dolphins surrendering only 3.5 yards per rush. That puts the game in Joe Flacco’s hands, barring a slew of Miami turnovers. That translates to a win for the home team.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 20, Baltimore Ravens 9

Benji says:

Methinks we are in agreement, Your Majesty. Joe Flacco is terrible and the Dolphins are not going to turn the ball over enough for the Ravens’ defense to win the game.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 20, Baltimore Ravens 9

San Francisco 49ers (2-4) at New York Giants (4-1)

The King says:

Wouldn’t matter if this week’s foe was the ’78 Steelers or the ’08 Niners. They’re going to get an angry Giants team. The loss to Cleveland means the Giants have gone from having their hands around the throat of the NFC East to being the lead dog in a tight division separated by 1.5 games from top to bottom.

Prediction: New York Giants 30, San Francisco 49ers 10

Benji says:

The ’78 Steelers reference might be slightly hyperbolic, but His Majesty and I are basically in agreement here. The 49ers are not very good and the Giants are going to be very motivated this Sunday after being embarrassed by Cleveland on Monday Night Football. This game could get ugly…

Prediction: New York Giants 33, San Francisco 49ers 15

New Orleans Saints (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)

The King says:

One of these weeks, Drew Brees is going to complete more passes than he attempts.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 32, Carolina Panthers 23

Benji says:

His Majesty has reached a new record high on the hyperbole scale with his assessment of Drew Brees’s accuracy passing the ball. I like the Saints here, too, since they really need to win this game and their offense is better than Carolina’s solid but not spectacular defense—I’m not nearly as confident as The King, though, because as we have seen so far this year, anything can happen in the NFC South division games. For whatever reason, home-field advantage has been the deciding factor by a huge margin thus far.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 30, Carolina Panthers 28

Indianapolis Colts (3-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-3)

The King says:

This week — at Lambeau, playing an underachieving .500 team — is a great test for the Colts. Are they the classic Indy, a smooth-running Porsche on offense and athletically opportunistic on defense, that routed the Ravens last week? Or the sputtering Colts of the first four weeks? I say they got their groove back last week.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 27, Green Bay Packers 16

Benji says:

Your Majesty, while I do think that Peyton Manning is back on track and will have continued success throwing downfield against Green Bay’s depleted secondary (top cornerback Al Harris is still out and both starting safeties are banged up), keep in mind that the Colts’ starting running back Joseph Addai will miss the game, making the offense somewhat one-dimensional. Also, while the Indianapolis defense looked good against the inept Joe Flacco and an injured Willis McGahee, facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense (which has averaged 26.7 points per game this season) will be a much stiffer test. I have a feeling that both offenses will overshadow the opposing defense, making for an exciting game that will come right down to the wire. For those of you who read my preseason predictions column, you will remember that I picked these two teams to represent their respective conferences in the Super Bowl. That match-up could still happen, but both teams have a lot of work to do in order to get to that point. I am a firm believer in consistency, so in a toss-up game, I will predict the same outcome for this game that I did in my preseason column: a win for the Colts.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 32, Green Bay Packers 30

New York Jets (3-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-4)

The King says:

Congress should investigate if the Jets aren’t in this race till the end. They’re in the midst of a genial four-week stretch, with Bye, Cincinnati, at Oakland, Kansas City on the docket. If I were a real wise guy, I’d say Bye’s the toughest test of the four.

Prediction: New York Jets 23, Oakland Raiders 9

Benji says:

The Raiders are a mess right now. I’m not sure if the Jets’ defense is any good at all, but it matches up well against the Raiders’ offense. The Jets cannot defend the pass effectively, but are third in the league in rushing defense; The Raiders cannot pass the ball effectively (quarterback JaMarcus Russell has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in three of Oakland’s five games and less than 40 percent in two of those games) but have a good running game. Oh, I almost forgot: Brett Favre plays for the Jets. He likes to throw the ball a lot and Oakland’s overpaid secondary has been horrendous this year. Yikes.

Prediction: New York Jets 31, Oakland 9

Cleveland Browns (2-3) at Washington Redskins (4-2)

The King says:

The real Browns are stepping up, apparently. The other night, I thought Cleveland cornerback Eric Wright said precisely the right thing when I asked, “Do you think you guys can still be a playoff team?” His words: “We can’t think about the playoffs. All we can think about is the next practice.” Right answer.

Prediction: Washington Redskins 20, Cleveland Browns 19

Benji says:

The Browns really put on a show in the Monday Night game against the previously undefeated Giants, but they will be hard-pressed to repeat that performance on the road against the Redskins. Washington was embarrassed at home last week by St. Louis and will respond with an inspired effort on Sunday. His Majesty’s score-line looks about right—I think that the Redskins’ defense and running game will keep the score down but the Browns will do just enough offensively to keep things close.

Prediction: Washington Redskins 20, Cleveland Browns 19

Detroit Lions (0-5) at Houston Texans (1-4)

The King says:

Nine people watch this game on TV, and all have the last name “Marinelli.”

Prediction: Houston Texans 27, Detroit Lions 13

Benji says:

It is match-ups like this one that have allowed and will continue to allow Matt Schaub to be the Texans’ starting quarterback. The Lions are ranked 30th in total defense, but more importantly cannot sustain a consistent pass rush. When Schaub is given time to throw, he is very successful; when he is pressured, he makes mistakes. Congratulations, Houston. You can beat up on the Detroit Lions, a winless team that cannot score or defend and whose starting quarterback does not know where the back of the end zone begins. Better start punching your playoff tickets, right?

Prediction: Houston Texans 38, Detroit Lions 13

Seattle Seahawks (1-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)

The King says:

Seneca Wallace fed to wolves! Film at 11! On a lighter note, this is some Sunday-nighter, isn’t it? I hear NBC Sports honcho Dick Ebersol, one of my 432 bosses, had a dream the other night. In the dream, he kept calling Roger Goodell. Over and over and over Ebersol called, and he kept getting one of those old-fashioned, before-the-days-of-voice-mail busy signal, and he could never get through, and he woke up in a cold sweat, screaming, “We’ve got to start flex-scheduling this week, not in November!”

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Seattle Seahawks 9

Benji says:

I actually think that Charlie Frye will be starting at quarterback for the Seahawks, Your Majesty, not that it would in any way affect the outcome of the game. Seattle has looked really bad on both sides of the ball this year, and with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck out indefinitely the future looks bleak. As for the present, I cannot help but shudder every time that I hear Charlie Frye’s name. Why is this guy still in the league? I think I may shy away from watching this game so as not to give myself nightmares. There’s nothing that scares me more than a completely inept passing game.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34, Seattle Seahawks 13

Denver Broncos (4-2) at New England Patriots (3-2)

The King says:

For all those dancing on the Patriots’ 2008 tombstone, I would say this: New England has averaged 13.2 wins a year over the previous six seasons, and it’s not all because of one player. I still say I’d be stunned if this team doesn’t win seven of its last 11 and contend for January football; five of the next seven are at home, with an eminently sweepable Seattle-Oakland road daily double to follow.

Prediction: New England Patriots 28, Denver Broncos 23

Benji says:

I am not exactly “dancing on the Patriots’ 2008 tombstone”, Your Majesty, but I did lay out an all-black outfit on my bed and pick some roses from my garden. I understand that, as a long-time Patriots fan, you are in denial, but New England is no longer a good team. Tom Brady was not the sole reason that the Patriots were successful, but his injury coincided with key defensive departures (Randall Gay and Asante Samuel) and age finally catching up with linebacker Teddy Bruschi. The defensive line is still one of the best in the league, but overall the defense is a mediocre unit, full of holes that can be exploited by a good offense. And to return to the quarterback situation, over the last two games Matt Cassel has thrown four interceptions as opposed to only two touchdown passes against two middle-of-the-pack defenses. Denver’s defense is not very good, and New England’s offense will probably have more success than it did in San Diego last week—but New England’s defense will not be able to stop Jay Cutler and the Broncos’ passing game, and its offense is not good enough to win a shootout.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 33, New England Patriots 23

Prison Break?

October 13, 2008

In the lead story of this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, The King reports that the Cowboys’ recent struggles are the result of inner turmoil and a lack of leadership or accountability within the organization. In His words, “We’ve got an asylum here, and the inmates are running it”. His Majesty’s assessment of the situation in Dallas may very well be true—his sources are better than mine—but I take issue with a misleading statistic that he uses to illustrate the quality of the Cowboys’ three most recent opponents and therefore the direness of the Cowboys’ current state.

In the last three games, Dallas is 1-2 — and that’s against teams with a combined record of 8-10.

Dallas’s lone win in the past three weeks came against the winless Bengals. The Cowboys were obviously expected to win that game, and while they did allow Cincinnati to forge a comeback in the fourth quarter, they ended up winning by multiple scores. If you remove the Bengals’ record (0-6) from The King’s statistic, you will note that the Cowboys’ two losses in that span were against teams with a combined record of 8-4. Both of the 4-2 teams that beat the Cowboys this year, the Redskins and the Cardinals, are likely to make the playoffs. The Cardinals are currently leading the NFC West by two games and the Redskins, who made the playoffs last year, are in great position in the NFC East (despite their loss this week to the Rams) after finishing up their inter-division road games with a record of 2-1. Both losses were close, and this most recent one was an overtime defeat on the road. In summation, the Cowboys have lost two close matches to likely playoff teams in the past three weeks. Disappointing, to be sure. But the sky is hardly falling down in Dallas. It took two fluky plays, a kick return for a touchdown to start the game and a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown to end it in overtime, for Arizona, a team that had scored 44 points against previously undefeated Buffalo the week prior and had the home-field advantage in this match-up, to beat the supposedly self-combusting Cowboys.

From misleading to useless and counterproductive—take a minute to analyze the next two statistics that King uses to back up his “Storm Clouds in Dallas” storyline:

Score: Dallas 79, Foes 78.

First downs: Dallas 54, Foes 54.

If a team loses two games in a three game span, an intelligent observer would expect said team to be outscored and to have fewer first downs than its opponents. That goes without saying. The fact that these two comparative statistics are even suggests that the Cowboys played their opponents evenly over that span. In other words, from these statistics alone, one would probably conclude that the results of those games could have gone either way.

The King may be right to criticize the way that this team is being handled internally—again, he is the lead NFL writer for Sports Illustrated with all of the inside sources, not me—but his flawed use of statistical analysis in this article severely detracts from the argument that he is attempting to make about the Cowboys’ lack of discipline.

Update:

The King, as of 1:24 P.M. has edited his original MMQB posting and added several paragraphs to his lead story after the news broke from Dallas that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a broken pinkie and is expected to miss the next three games. His Majesty now has a stronger case for Dallas’s playoff hopes being in jeopardy, but his misleading and unhelpful stats STILL strongly detract from, rather than strengthen, his overall argument.

King Says, Benji Says (Week 6)

October 10, 2008

Close, but no cigar.

I apologize; it’s just that whenever I come within ten feet of something that The King wrote, I start spouting off clichés in order to explain myself.

Translation: While I came close to dethroning His Majesty last week (or at least tying him for the week), I inexplicably picked the Lions to beat the Bears—the same Lions that had been behind by 21 points or more in each of their previous games. Not a very smart pick on my part…

Moving along…here’s to a different week finally bringing with it a different result. I’m really starting to get sick of losing to the Monarch formerly known as Doofus…

Last Week:

Peter King (9-5)
Benji (8-6)
Brian (8-6)

Overall:

Peter King (51-23)
Benji (41-33)
Brian (44-30)

Chicago Bears (3-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-2)

The King says:

Surprising Stat of the Week: Bears are averaging 27 points a game over the last three weeks. Kyle Orton plays better here than Matt Ryan. Bears put salve on Cubs-related Chitown wounds.


Prediction: Chicago Bears 24, Atlanta Falcons 13

Benji says:

His Majesty’s “Surprising Stat of the Week” is somewhat misleading, given that the Bears played the Lions last week. Still, their offense has been much more productive than I ever anticipated it being. I am still worried about Orton’s decision making when faced with an onslaught of defensive pressure (see the Tampa Bay game when he essentially gave away 21 points). The Falcons are not going to cause him or the Bears much trouble though. They capitalized last week on a depleted Green Bay secondary, but Chicago’s defense should have no trouble shutting their offense down. Mixing Michael Turner runs with play action deep throws to Roddy White will only take them so far. They need to find a way to get other receivers involved and sustain drives through short and intermediate passes. Their offensive shortcomings will become very apparent against the tough Bears’ defense.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 24, Atlanta Falcons 12

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

The King says:

People who have seen Peyton Manning’s knee (the one with the removed bursa sac) without the brace say it’s still very much a recovery in progress. You’ll see teams playing eight in the box to stop Joseph Addai and pressure Manning until he hits some throws over the top on first and second downs.


Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 20, Indianapolis Colts 17

Benji says:

The King is correct to point out that Peyton Manning is still not back to full-strength and the Colts’ offense has resultantly not found its rhythm up to this point. But I believe that he has gotten better every week and with his offensive line back up and running, I think this team has nowhere to go but up from this point forward. What His Majesty does not say (but implies in his prediction) is that the Ravens’ defense is very good and will be able to keep the score down in this game. I agree with that assessment, but do not trust Joe Flacco, especially in a hostile environment. In my mind, any quarterback who tries to make sideline-to-sideline throws has questionable decision making skills.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 22, Baltimore Ravens 15

Detroit Lions (0-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-3)

The King says:

Big test for interim GM Martin Mayhew with the Lions falling to 0-5. Trading deadline comes two days after this game. If he holds a fire sale for Roy Wiliams and Jon Kitna, and brings back, say, third- and sixth-round picks for them, ownership looks at Mayhew and says, “Is this really the guy for the job? All he can get for our quarterback and Pro Bowl wideout is a three and a six?” So Mayhew will be under the gun to bring back primo picks, and if he doesn’t, my guess is both guys will be on this luckless team until Detroit freezes over.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 26, Detroit Lions 13

Benji says:

His Majesty continues to confuse the NFL with Major League Baseball. High profile players are almost never traded during the NFL season! As for the game, I want to apologize for insulting the intelligence of my readers by picking the Lions to win last week. They are atrocious.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 28, Detroit Lions 13

Oakland Raiders (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-3)

The King says:

No team in the NFL has to win Sunday more than the Saints. They’re a shaky 2-3. They face a ridiculous schedule — no games in New Orleans after this one till Nov. 24 — and can’t fall behind the Panthers any more than they are now. One good sign with Darren McFadden coming to town Sunday: With the defensive front all beat up (Hollis Thomas waived, Sedrick Ellis and Antwan Lake gone for now), they held Adrian Peterson to 32 yards on 21 carries. “This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league,” Sean Payton said on Sirius NFL Radio this week. “We played the run pretty well Monday night.”

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 33, Oakland Raiders 10

Benji says:

The Saints lost a fluky game on Monday Night. How often do you have a field goal blocked and then returned the other way for a touchdown? That was a really bizarre (and lucky) 10-point swing for the Vikings. And two punts run back for scores by Reggie Bush? What a strange game. If you look past the strangeness, though, it seems clear that the Saints’ passing game is really good. Brees threw for over 300 yards again, and the Saints were one first down away from being able to end the game with a short field goal. The Raiders’ organization is a mess right now, and I do not think that Oakland will be adequately prepared for this game. His Majesty and I actually agree about something—this game will be a blowout.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 35, Oakland Raiders 20

Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) at New York Jets (2-2)

The King says:

After the game, after the Bengals snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the fourth straight week, a crestfallen Carson Palmer steps to the podium and says, “Close only counts in horseshoes. There are no moral victories. Winning is contagious and so is losing. And I must stop spouting cliches now or my head will explode.”

Prediction: New York Jets 20, Cincinnati Bengals 17

Benji says:

I would not want to be the New York Jets this week. The Bengals are playing much better than their winless record might suggest, and with nothing left to lose at this point, they may take chances (surprise onside kicks and fourth down plays) and try whacky plays that other teams would not. That being said, the Jets really need to win this game if they are going to make up ground in the AFC East. I think that Favre manages to put up just enough points on the board to hold off a dangerous Bengals team.

Prediction: New York Jets 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Carolina Panthers (4-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)

The King says:

No worries about the loss, Panthers fans. You’ll be 8-2 in a month. You’ve got New Orleans, Arizona, Oakland and Detroit, three at home, after this one.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Carolina Panthers 13

Benji says:

While I think that the Buccaneers really need to win this game, I am not sure how they can. The Panthers’ run defense has been phenomenal this year—it has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, and limited the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson to only 35 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ pass defense has allowed the third fewest passing yards per game in the league. Can Earnest Graham succeed where Larry Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson could not? Can either Brian Griese or Jeff Garcia rise to the occasion and muster up a strong performance out of a receiving corps devoid of playmakers? While I do think that Tampa Bay’s defense will hold up its end, its anemic offense (which only scored 13 points against a dreadful Denver defense) will inevitably prevent it from winning the game. Carolina will make it six wins in a row in Tampa on Sunday.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

St. Louis Rams (0-4) at Washington Redskins (4-1)

The King says:

‘Skins have Rams and Browns in FedEx over the next two weeks. Hey, I picked Washington to make the playoffs this year, and even I didn’t think they’d be 6-1 after seven games.

Prediction: Washington Redskins 30, St. Louis Rams 17

Benji says:

I think that a major part of the problem in St. Louis has been that Scott Linehan lost control of the team. The switch to Jim Haslett might not save the Rams’ season, but I at the least expect them to try harder now. The Redskins have played very well over the past month, but they need to be careful not to let their guard down in this game.

Prediction: Washington Redskins 24, St. Louis Rams 20

Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Houston Texans (0-4)

The King says:

“We’re not in this just to win one or two games,” Tony Sparano said the other day. Dolphins are a surprising 2-2. Texans are a more surprising 0-4. Under-fire quarterback Matt Schaub will be playing for his job with Joey Porter breathing down his neck. Steve Slaton’s rushing for five yards a pop, and this is the week, against a stout run defense, that he needs to grab the full-time rushing job by the throat for Houston.

Prediction: Houston Texans 23, Miami Dolphins 17

Benji says:

The only reason that Matt Schaub still has the starting job for the Texans is that Sage Rosenfels inexplicably fell apart at the end of the game against the Colts. But as much as Sage deserves to be recognized as the reason that the Texans lost that game, he is also the reason that they were in position to win. Against defenses that put a lot of pressure on the passer, Sage has consistently shown that he sees the field better than Schaub. Schaub has remained the starter because of his ability to put up big numbers against both bad defenses and defenses that have good coverage players but do not have a consistent pass rush (read: Jacksonville). Do not be fooled. He is the second coming of David Carr. Against a physical Dolphins’ defense that harassed Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel into miscues and throw-aways time and time again over the past two weeks, Schaub is unlikely to succeed and will likely hold back the Texans from picking up their first win.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 20, Houston Texans 13

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) at Denver Broncos (4-1)

The King says:

Last year at Invesco, Jacksonville outrushed the Broncos 186-47 and out-possessioned them 39 minutes to 21. Has that much changed since then?

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 26, Denver Broncos 20

Benji says:

Actually, Your Majesty, quite a bit has changed since then. The Jaguars’ rushing attack has been much less effective this season due to a decimated offensive line and Jay Cutler has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the league and captains a Broncos’ offense that is one of the best in the league. Your predicted score seems reasonable to me, however, because of the desperation factor for the Jaguars (I buy into this argument when it is applied to talented teams) and Denver’s inability to stop the run. The Jaguars should and will follow the blueprint for beating the Broncos that the Chiefs displayed two weeks ago—run the ball, control the time of possession and keep Cutler and co. off the field.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 26, Denver Broncos 20

Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-2)

The King says:

In the Emmitt Smith Alumni Bowl, the Cardinals feel like diamonds surrounded by trash. (If you don’t get that one, google “emmitt smith diamond trash.” Just what you needed while the economy crashes! Wasting time on an internet search!) Speaking of trash, Adam Jones is perilously close to getting thrown there.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 30, Arizona Cardinals 25

Benji says:

I was planning on sticking to my “pick the NFC East team to win in every game against the NFC West” formula with this pick, but the fact of the matter is that the Cardinals match up really well with the Cowboys. Did Arizona’s shellacking of previously undefeated Buffalo play into this pick at all? Not really. All that game did was reaffirm my belief that the Cardinals can beat (as well as lose to) any team in the NFL depending on how Kurt Warner plays. Warner is still a fumble meltdown waiting to happen, but if he has time to sit in the pocket, his plethora of talented receivers will get open and he will find them all game long. Dallas’s defense is the shakiest of any team in its division. The Cowboys struggle to generate a consistent pass rush and their secondary is banged up (safety Roy Williams and top cornerback Terrence Newman are out with injuries)—a bad combination when facing a Kurt Warner-led offense. The Cowboys, of course, have one of the best offenses in the league, though, and are very capable of winning a high scoring game, especially against a so-so defense like Arizona’s. My guess is that the Cardinals will focus defensively on their greatest strength, their ability to stop the run, and try to turn the Cowboys into a one-dimensional offense like the Redskins did when they beat them two weeks ago. This pick is by no means a lock, but I like the Cardinals’ chances.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 34, Dallas Cowboys 30

New England Patriots (3-1) at San Diego Chargers (2-3)

The King says:

We get the game of the weekend at NBC, and this is a good old-fashioned John Madden drooler. He’ll be really fired up Sunday night, and it’ll be because of the new star that flies across the American TV sky: Darren Sproles.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 26, New England Patriots 23

Benji says:

The King has a point here—if the Chargers are going to run the ball with any success, they need to get Darren Sproles more involved. LaDanian Tomlinson is clearly still hurting, and is not producing at the level we have all come to expect of him. For the Chargers to utilize Sproles effectively, they will need to mix things up and use more outside running plays and screen passes than they have been doing in the first five weeks. The other receivers will also have to step up and perform at a higher level, as Chris Chambers is unlikely to play this weekend. Obviously the Patriots played at a much higher level last week in San Francisco than the Chargers did in Miami, but I have to give San Diego the edge based on my version of the desperation factor: The Chargers are talented, playing at home and really need to win this game.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 20, New England Patriots 17

Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

If my picks this week are correct, think of this amazing stat: The NFC East will be 14-1 in non-division games through six weeks.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 26, San Francisco 49ers 9

Benji says:

What became evident to me by the end of the Patriots/49ers game, which concluded with him intentionally throwing the ball out of bounds on fourth down, is that J.T. O’Sullivan can be rattled by persistent pressure. Jim Johnson, defensive coordinator for the Eagles, thrives on his complex blitz schemes. Even if Westbrook does not play and Donovan McNabb has another sub-par game, the 49ers and their shaky pass-blocking do not stand much of a chance. The Philadelphia defense (a much better unit than New England’s) is going to completely flummox them.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 24, San Francisco 49ers 9

Green Bay Packers (2-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-3)

The King says:

I can feel the atmosphere around the Seahawks from 3,000 miles away. This is one of those the-more-desperate-team-wins game. Mike Holmgren, I’m sure, has made this Armageddon week, and that has nothing to do with the fact that he has a street named after him a half-mile from Lambeau Field. It has to do with the very near future (at Tampa Bay, at San Francisco, Philadelphia, at Miami) and the very real possibility the season will be over by Halloween. “I put people on notice today,” Holmgren said Wednesday. Uh-oh.


Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 23, Green Bay Packers 20

Benji says:

Your Majesty, as previously stated, I buy into the whole “desperation factor” thing, but I just do not believe that the Seahawks are a very talented team. Defensively, Seattle’s secondary is terrible and gives up far too many big plays, and its run defense is a non-factor now that teams have learned (using Green Bay’s blueprints from its playoff win over Seattle last season) to utilize power-running formations to subdue its speedy but undersized linebackers. Overall, the defense ranks 27th in the league in yards allowed, ahead of only the Rams and Lions in the NFC. Offensively, while the reanimated corpse of Julius Jones is having a good season, no one else is. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck does finally have his top receiver Bobby Engram healthy and back on the field, but has no one else of note to throw to now that Deion Branch is injured again. Hasselbeck, who has completed less than 50 percent of his passes this season, is also playing hurt—he hyperextended his knee last weekend and also has been playing through a back injury. I would not like Seattle’s chances against most teams in the league this weekend, let alone against a talented Packers team that DESPERATELY needs to win this game to keep pace with the Bears in the NFC North. “Uh-oh” indeed.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31, Seattle Seahawks 17

New York Giants (4-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-3)

The King says:

Moral victory for the Browns. Average score of the Giants’ first four wins: 32-12.

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Cleveland Browns 16

Benji says:

I almost feel as though my version of the desperation factor (talented team, must-win game, at home) might apply here—I’m just not entirely convinced that the Browns are that talented a team. Maybe opposing defenses have just figured out Derek Anderson to the point where he is no longer an effective starting quarterback. This game will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Browns are any good or at least if they have any pride whatsoever. If they lose, their season is essentially over. If you compare common opponents, both teams barely won against the Bengals—of course, the Bengals that the Browns defeated for their only win of the season were quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzpatrick rather than Carson Palmer. I just do not think that the Browns have it in them to pull off the upset unless the Giants play really sloppy…like they did in their overtime win against the Bengals. It could happen…

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Cleveland Browns 20

King’s “Most Offensive” Comment of the Week

October 6, 2008

In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, His Majesty bestows the third of his “Offensive Player of the Week” awards upon Tony Gonzalez, the long-time star tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs:

Tony Gonzales, TE, Kansas City. It’s a token award, but a deserving one for a great player who will toil in obscurity all season. His three catches for 17 yards gave him 841 receptions for an NFL tight-end-record 10,075 yards, passing Shannon Sharpe. Amazing thing is, he’s as healthy as a horse, is only 32, and could surely get to 1,000 catches, which I’m certain no forefather of this great game ever conceived a tight end would reach.

While I appreciate fully what Gonzalez has done to revolutionize the tight end position, and I believe that his career statistics are phenomenal, his offensive performance THIS WEEK was quite pedestrian. His team lost 34-0 to the Carolina Panthers and he only caught three passes for 17 yards. 19 other tight ends had better performances than him on Sunday, including such household names as the Colts’ Tom Santi (four catches for 27 yards and a touchdown) and the Packers’ Tory Humphrey (four catches for 67 yards). I understand that Gonzalez broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in this particular game, but his performance THIS WEEK, the week that he happened to break the record, was inconsequential. Let me put it in pop culture terms: Would awarding Robin Williams an Oscar for his acting in “License to Wed” be an effective way to honor him for his brilliant performances in “Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Death to Smoochy?”

It’s not that I believe that giving Tony Gonzalez recognition for his fantastic career numbers in a season which, as The King points out, he “will toil in obscurity”, is a bad thing—I just think that said recognition is out of place in the weekly awards segment of His column. His Majesty has a section of MMQB completely dedicated to random thoughts and commentary, “Ten Things I Think I Think,” and that is where this paragraph about Gonzalez’s achievement would be placed, if He were to organize His column in a sensible and coherent manner. Finally, I hate to be nitpicky (okay fine, I lied, I actually kind of enjoy it), but if you are going to honor a talented player whose career you have followed and admired for the past twelve years, I would, at the least, expect you to know how to spell his last name. Gonzalez, not Gonzales.

King Says, Benji Says (Week 5)

October 4, 2008

Different week, same story—despite my cheesiest attempts to inspire myself into out-picking The King, he once again rose to the occasion and defeated me rather handily. So where do I go from here? I could just hide up in my room and cry and regret that I ever became a football fan. Or I could remain calm, grab another Vitamin Water from the fridge and remind myself that we are only four weeks into the NFL season—although I have dug myself a hole in my competition with The King, over 75 percent of the games have yet to be played. His Majesty may have won the battle (or several battles really) but he has not yet won the war…

Last Week:

Peter King (10-3)
Benji (7-6)
Brian (7-6)

Overall:

Peter King (42-18)
Benji (33-27)
Brian (36-24)

Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (0-3)

The King says:

Twelve weeks to job-save, Rod Marinelli.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 24, Detroit Lions 20

Benji says:

Your Majesty, why does your analysis for this game consist solely of a single sentence belittling the Lions? This dismissive approach might make more sense if you expected the Lions to lose in devastating fashion to a team that is far superior to them, but as your predicted score indicates, you expect it to be a close game. I also expect it to be a close game, but I will actually take the time to explain my pick. I have not bought into this “resurgent” Bears team, because I am not sold on either its defense or its offense. Against the Buccaneers, Chicago struggled to manage the game on offense (Kyle Orton seemingly committed a turnover every time that the Buccaneers pressured him) and allowed a mediocre passing attack to gain over 400 yards through the air. Yes, Chicago beat Philadelphia last week, but Philadelphia was without its most explosive offensive weapon (Brian Westbrook), got poor play from its secondary, and left a lot of points on the field. The “dominant” Chicago defense in no way controlled the outcome of that game. As for Detroit, do not be fooled by its 0-3 record—the Lions have a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the field. They also have a recent track record of success against the Bears—they won both meeting between the two teams last year, and quarterback Jon Kitna has thrown for just over 1,000 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in four career games against Chicago. Lastly, Chicago will likely be without the services of its top receiver so far this year, Brandon Lloyd, who left last week’s game with a knee injury. The way I see it, Detroit is poised to pick up its first win of the season this week.

Prediction: Detroit Lions 28, Chicago Bears 20

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-2)

The King says:

I’m not saying Aaron Rodgers’ throwing shoulder isn’t sore, and perhaps very sore. I know it is. But you’ll be able to knock me over with a feather if Rodgers doesn’t play. Ol’ blood-and-guts Favre has started 6,000 games in a row. Rodgers has started four in a row, and one of the big questions about him entering his starting career in Green Bay was his durability. So the only way he’ll be on the sidelines is if the arm below his subluxed shoulder is hanging by a tendon.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 30, Atlanta Falcons 19

Benji says:

The Packers are not going to cave to the interests of the media over the interests of their franchise quarterback’s health no matter how badly you want them to, Your Majesty. They want Rodgers to play, but they are not going to put him on the field with an incapacitated throwing shoulder simply to prove a point about his durability in the context of the media-fueled Favre/Rodgers debate. Anyway, they have a strong enough team in place to beat the Falcons even if Matt Flynn starts at quarterback instead of Rodgers (which at the moment looks pretty likely). The Falcons looked great at home against two mediocre teams and terrible on the road against two playoff contenders. I expect this trend to continue this week.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 24, Atlanta Falcons 17

San Diego Chargers (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)

The King says:

What haven’t the Chargers been able to stop so far this year? Efficient quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme, Jay Cutler) who can make long drives and don’t succumb to pressure. Meet Chad Pennington.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 24, San Diego Chargers 23

Benji says:

Your Majesty, while I certainly agree with your assertion that Pennington is an efficient quarterback, I do not agree with you comparing him to Delhomme and Cutler. Both Cutler and Delhomme have the arm strength to challenge the defense by throwing downfield. Pennington is exactly the type of quarterback that the Chargers’ opportunistic secondary (specifically Cromartie) thrives upon. As we saw in his final two seasons with the Jets, Pennington is unable to get enough velocity on his passes to the outside and thus speedy cornerbacks (such as Cromartie) have learned to jump these routes. The real key to New York’s offense is the running game. Both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown looked great against the Patriots, even when they were not operating from a trick formation. Pennington is only as effective as his running game allows him to be (which, when you think back to the Curtis Martin-led playoff teams he was on with the Jets, has really always been the case with him). I like Miami’s defense, but I think that the Chargers’ balanced offense will still prove to be too much for the Dolphins to handle. Hey, beating last year’s AFC Championship game entrants in consecutive games is a lot to ask of any team.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 28, Miami Dolphins 20

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at New York Giants (3-0)

The King says:

Loved what Mike Holmgren said Wednesday about how reporters write so much about the incredible pain and strain of fit and strong men flying somewhere for five hours and then not being able to cope with the rigors of a three-hour sporting event.”Anybody that gets too concerned with your biorhythms and the seat on the airplane and all that stuff, it’s a bunch of bunk,” sayeth the wise old Holmgren. “You lose a football game for the same reason you lose a football game at home, on the road, a two-hour time change, when we go to Arizona, San Francisco — you lose because you played lousy. You fumbled the ball, and you threw interceptions, and you missed tackles. Period. I don’t want to hear it … We go on Friday. We try and get acclimated just a little bit. We have no excuses. If we lose a three-hour time change game, it’s because we didn’t play well enough. We weren’t good enough that day. Not because of the travel and all that stuff. We travel as well as anybody. We stay in the best hotels, we feed them properly, we do all those things, we’ve studied it, all that stuff. We give them sushi, jeez. We do it all for them.” Big question, Mike: You give them the California roll or the Secaucus roll?

Prediction: New York Giants 23, Seattle Seahawks 21

Benji says:

Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are expected to make their season debuts for the Seahawks on Sunday, which is both good and bad news for Seattle. The good news, of course, is that the Seahawks finally have experienced receivers back in the starting lineup. The bad news is that Branch and Engram are likely to be pretty rusty. A road game against the defending champions is a difficult setting for a wide receiver to re-acclimate himself to the speed and rigors of an NFL game. As for the Giants, because of their depth at wide receiver and Seattle’s leaky pass defense, they can afford to prove a point to top receiver Plaxico Burress and not critically damage their chances of winning this game.

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Seattle Seahawks 17

Washington Redskins (3-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)

The King says:

Great, great football game. What’s incredible to me is, we’re four weeks into this season, and the four NFC East teams have lost a total of one game outside the division. The power of the NFL has shifted from Indy-Foxboro-San Diego to this division.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 26, Washington Redskins 14

Benji says:

The Eagles really blew it last week, even taking Brian Westbrook’s absence into account. They failed to take advantage of the opportunities that the Bears gave them to score, which is why they lost. My bet is they get it together this weekend against Washington though. Westbrook will probably play and McNabb, despite the Redskins’ depth at the cornerback position, should be able to take advantage of Shawn Springs’s absence. I want to pause for a moment and reflect upon the superb effort that Washington showed in its win in Dallas last week, in all facets of the game. That being said, it’s tough, if not damn near impossible, for any team to defeat two of the best teams in the league on the road in consecutive weeks.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 24, Washington Redskins 17

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-1)

The King says:

Thirty-two years ago, the two coaches in this game — John Fox and Herman Edwards — were defensive backs at San Diego State. Thus the Panthers’ total here. You want science? Go to MIT.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 32, Kansas City Chiefs 10

Benji says:

What really kills me about you, Your Majesty, are your lopsided scores that do not take into account how a team played the previous week. You really think that the Panthers are three touchdowns better than the Chiefs? Maybe with Thigpen as the starting quarterback, but Kansas City’s offense is at least decent with Huard at the helm. You do realize that the Chiefs shut down the previously unbeaten Broncos’ vaunted offense last week and beat them, right? I am not saying that I necessarily expect them to follow up with a win on the road against a solid (but not great) team, but show them a little respect. The Chiefs will keep this one close, but in the end, despite your ignorance of basic football logic, our picks will both be the same and will be correct. If only our predicted scores actually counted for something…

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 24, Kansas City Chiefs 20

Tennessee Titans (4-0) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

The King says:

I say this to Chris Johnson without knowing him or ever having met him. And I say this because I want Chris Johnson to have a long and successful career in the NFL, because he’s an exciting player. But, Chris, I want you to look very closely at the tape of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. Notice this one thing: Ray Lewis, on a tackle you see 1,000 times a weekend in the NFL, broke Rashard Mendenhall’s shoulder cleanly, knocking the kid out for the year. Ray Lewis is coming at you hard Sunday, and he’ll have his friends with him. A word to the wise, kid.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 16, Tennessee Titans 9

Benji says:

As far as upset picks go, I cannot come up with much of a counterargument for not picking this one. The Ravens have a dominant defense again this year (Ray Lewis and co. look like they are on a mission), and I still do not feel very confident about the Titans’ ability to move the ball down the field. That being said, something smells fishy here. Picking Baltimore just somehow seems like too obvious of a pick. Maybe the Titans’ defense is dominant enough so that they are really as good as their record indicates. Maybe Baltimore’s defense looked better than it actually is against a Steelers’ team with horrendous pass-blocking and a third string running back playing for most of the game. Maybe the Ravens will be just a little beat-up after an overtime loss on Monday night. Maybe I am changing my original pick as I finish writing this paragraph…

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 20, Baltimore Ravens 13

Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Houston Texans (0-3)

The King says:

Close but no cigar. The Colts are healthier than they’ve been all year. Tony Ugoh should be back at left tackle, and Jeff Saturday should be absolutely fine at center. So I like the Texans to play an inspired game and put some pressure on Peyton Manning, but I don’t like them to win.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 20, Houston Texans 16

Benji says:

I love Steve Slaton, and I think he is going to have a big day against the Bob Sanders-less Indianapolis defense. That being said, His Majesty is right to point out the return of Ugoh and Saturday—a healthy Colts’ offensive line is very bad news for opposing defenses.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 31, Houston Texans 20

Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

The King says:

Not sure this is entirely fair, but if we see the best game of Chad Ocho Cinco’s/Johnson’s season, we’ll think it’s because he views this as an audition a week before the trading deadline.


Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 31, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Benji says:

Newsflash, Your Majesty: this isn’t baseball. High-profile players DO NOT get traded during the season in the NFL. Thus, you will be the ONLY ONE who views Ocho Cinco’s performance in this game as an “audition” for a trade. As long as we are on the subject of Ocho Cinco, if he makes good on his threat to kiss the Dallas star, I am pretty sure he will be seeing stars long after this game is over. The Cowboys are mad enough already after their home loss to Washington last weekend…

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 38, Cincinnati Bengals 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (3-1)

The King says:

And warming up in the bullpen: Jeff Garcia. Or Luke McCown. Or Josh Johnson. Or Doug Williams. Or Steve Spurrier.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Benji says:

In the battle of two teams that are undeserving of their 3-1 records, I will take the home team as well. Tampa plays a blitz-happy zone defense that can be beaten. It looks good when it gets pressure on the quarterback, and looks terrible when it does not. Denver chooses not to play defense at all. Luckily for the Broncos, Jay Cutler knows how to move the ball down the field and he has a couple of very talented receivers. Brian Greise can move the ball down the field too; unfortunately, he is also apt to turn the ball over on any given play.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2)

The King says:

Trent Edwards has been the best second-half quarterback in the NFL through a month. Kurt Warner can’t afford another horrible game. This one will come down to the last drive of the game.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 33, Buffalo Bills 29

Benji says:

Put simply, the Bills are not as good as their undefeated record. They play pretty good defense and have a pretty good offense but are not great in either respect. Roscoe Parrish, their special teams ace-in-the-hole, is injured. The Cardinals have a shaky defense and a quarterback who can have a multiple fumble meltdown in any given quarter. But that same quarterback is also capable of scoring 35 points in a half and leading his team back from a 34-0 half-time deficit and keeping it in the game. The Cardinals’ passing attack, when it’s working properly, is better than anything the Bills have going for them.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 34, Buffalo Bills 27

New England Patriots (2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

The King says:

Most compelling game of the weekend. The 13-day rehab of Matt Cassel will be in full view, and my take is that the Patriots will have figured out a way to make him succeed — and not just by having him throw safe passes. I think they’ll have him throw it deep to Randy Moss three or four times and basically say to their own team and the other 31 in the league that they’re not going to play the rest of the season by trying to hide Cassel.


Prediction: New England Patriots 20, San Francisco 49ers 16

Benji says:

I do think that Cassel will play better, Your Majesty, but I think you are missing the real storyline of this game. The 49ers’ pass blocking is atrocious, and the Patriots have one of the best defensive lines in the league. New England has a flawed defense that a good team can pick apart, but San Francisco (despite the fact that it has a chance to win its division) is not a very good team and does not match up well with it.

Prediction: New England Patriots 24, San Francisco 49ers 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

The King says:

Before the season, I said the Steelers were facing the toughest schedule in NFL history. I should have called it the most physically demanding. Imagine facing the blitzing Eagles, the blitzing and slug-you-in-the-mouth Ravens and the brutish Jags in the span of 15 days — the final one on a short week, on the road. I hope the Steelers have 45 guys to suit up when December comes.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 13, Pittsburgh Steelers 9

Benji says:

I think we are pretty much in agreement here, Your Majesty. That Monday Night victory against the Ravens came at a heavy cost for the Steelers. They were already beat-up and now are down to their third-string running back and minus two starters from their fearsome defensive line for their game on Sunday. Jacksonville did not look particularly impressive against the Texans last week, but Houston seems to play very well against the Jaguars as of late. I think that the Jaguars will take advantage of Pittsburgh’s injuries up front and establish their running game, while the Steelers’ offense sputters without an effective running back or pass blocking.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 28, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-2)

The King says:

One scary stat for the Vikes one month into the season: four games, seven sacks. Simply not enough instant impact from Jared Allen and the Williams boys.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 27, Minnesota Vikings 17

Benji says:

Your Majesty, I have noticed that your football analysis improves when your preseason picks are disproved. You are very aware that the Vikings’ defensive line is not creating any pressure on the quarterback because you were so sure, before the season began, that it would do just that. I would add to your analysis that Minnesota’s off-season acquisition of Bernard Berrian is not paying off because its passing game is simply not making plays downfield, no matter who the quarterback is. Finally, it should be noted that while the Vikings are very good at stopping the run, they are shaky at defending the pass. Drew Brees and the Saints are very good at making plays in the passing game, and should be able to successfully move the ball and win the game, because the Vikings are not capable of winning a shootout.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 34, Minnesota Vikings 20

Fantasy Land

October 2, 2008

In this week’s MMQB, The King gave out a little piece of fantasy football advice, and I have inexplicably decided to listen to him.

6. I think if I had a spare spot on my fantasy team, I’d claim Ryan Torain, injured rookie Denver running back. Just do it. You’ll thank me when you win your league.

My team, the Green Mountain Boys, currently resides in second place in my eight-team fantasy football league. I have been happy with my team’s performance thus far this season, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to win my league. Thus, under His Majesty’s guidance, I have dropped injured Bengals backup running back Kenny Watson in favor of the immortal Ryan Torain, in the hopes of putting my team over the top. I believe that Torain will be the good luck charm that my talented squad has been missing. While His Majesty did not explicitly state his reasoning for his belief that Torain will help me “win [my] league”, I can only assume that he also sees Torain as the fantasy equivalent of a lucky penny or a rabbit’s foot. After all, in order to even have the opportunity to become a relevant fantasy player, the injured Torain would have to beat out three players currently ahead of him on the Broncos’ depth chart: a respected veteran (Michael Pittman) and two younger backs (Selvin Young and Andre Hall) who have run the ball quite successfully thus far this season (averaging 6.2 and 4.9 yards per carry respectively). Assuming that Torain did beat out these three players for the starting job, he would still need to hope for injuries to all three of them, assuring himself a full load of carries. Mike Shanahan has shown over the past few seasons that he is committed to a running back timeshare, no matter who his backs are and thus none of his running backs this season are likely to be consistent fantasy scorers regardless of how successful the Broncos are at running the ball. Finally, Denver’s offensive philosophy this season has been to pass whenever possible—and with a defense that would have difficulty stopping a college intramural team, I expect that to continue to be the case for the rest of the year.

But I am sure that His Majesty was not implying that Torain would be a high-scoring fantasy player by the season’s end; I just think that we are both very superstitious guys. Has anyone seen my lucky thong?