King Says, Benji Says (Week 5)

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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

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