King Says, Benji Says (Week 6)

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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

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