King Says, Benji Says (Week 14)



After dealing with The King’s absences and tardiness numerous times over the past few weeks, I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine: instead of showing up for work at the usual time, I came in several hours late, long after our scheduled photo shoot and pre-picks buffet lunch. As you can see from the picture, His Majesty did not handle my absence very well. I was told that he quickly brightened up, however, when he was reminded that he has a thirteen-pick lead over me in the standings. He may be an emotionally needy doofus with questionable writing skills, but dammit, the man knows how to pick football games!

Last Week:

Peter King (10-6)
Benji (9-7)
Brian (11-5)

Overall (not including the Thursday game):

Peter King (125-66-1)
Benji (112-79-1)
Brian (125-66-1)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) at Chicago Bears (6-6)

The King says:

This game’s got Matt Forte written all over it. Strange that a guy in Chicago would be underrated, but Forte is. No other player in the NFL has touched the ball from scrimmage as much as Forte — 296 times for 1,360 yards and 10 touchdowns. (Adrian Peterson has 288 rushes/receptions, Michael Turner 286, Clinton Portis 278.) And Forte’s the reason the Bears — with three straight home games now, in December weather, in the Windy City — are still in the pennant race.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Benji says:

I was a little thrown off by your mention of the Bears’ involvement in a “pennant race,” Your Majesty, but I suppose that even playing a different sport, they have a better chance of making it to the World Series than the Cubs do. As for the Bears’ chances of making the NFL postseason, they still have a shot at winning the division if they are able to win all three of their home games down the stretch. Jacksonville should not pose much of a threat, with an offense that can only succeed by running the ball effectively matched up against Chicago’s third-ranked run defense.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Minnesota Vikings (7-5) at Detroit Lions (0-12)

The King says:

Vikes make deal with NFL devil: Take the Williams tackles back with help of some very good lawyers, win game, then lose Williamses for four games, including the wild-card game they’d have to play the first weekend of January.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 26, Detroit Lions 6

Benji says:

I know that the Lions are terrible, but I do not believe that any team in the modern era is capable of losing all of its games. Detroit will find a way to win one of its four remaining contests and as of right now this one looks like the most winnable game. The Lions are at home, against a team that does not have a consistent offense, has a weak secondary and is dealing with the distraction caused by looming suspensions to its star defensive tackles. I should also add that no team with a quarterback (Gus Frerotte) who throws an interception returned for either a touchdown or inside the ten-yard line in every game deserves to make the playoffs. At some point, these horrendous turnovers will come back to haunt Minnesota…

Prediction: Detroit Lions 20, Minnesota Vikings 16

Houston Texans (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-7)

The King says:

“We’re not worried about the playoffs right now,” Green Bay safety Nick Collins told us on Sirius NFL Radio’s “Opening Drive” this week. Hmmmm. Confucius say, “Man not worried about playoffs in December will be on Florida golf course in January.”

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 23, Houston Texans 20

Benji says:

Confucius say, “Man not worried about context of quote doomed to misinterpret meaning.” Your Majesty, would not your natural assumption be that Collins means the Packers are focused on winning one game at a time right now, realizing that there is no margin for error? That is, unless there is something imbedded in the rest of the quote (which you conveniently failed to disclose) that leads you to believe otherwise? As for this particular match-up, the Packers will be playing with a sense of desperation that should be enough to overcome another big game from Texans running back Steve Slaton against Green Bay’s porous run defense.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 30, Houston Texans 20

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Tennessee Titans (11-1)

The King says:

When Josh Cribbs is taking practice snaps at quarterback, it’s time to start dreaming of April 25, 2009. NFL draft day.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 37, Cleveland Browns 12

Benji says:

Your Majesty, you seem to have completely forgotten about Ken Dorsey, the star-in-waiting quarterback primed to make his first start on Sunday. Dorsey will…ah, who am I kidding…

Prediction: Tennessee Titans 37, Cleveland Browns 12

Cincinnati Bengals (1-10-1) at Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

The King says:

Bengals radio voice Dave Lapham on Marvin Lewis’ future: “If he doesn’t come back next year, it’s his call.” Agreed. And I say he returns, unwilling to forego $7 million over the next two years.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 23, Cincinnati Bengals 9

Benji says:

His Majesty has spoken: Marvin Lewis will return as coach of the Bengals next year, if he so desires. Bengals owner Mike Brown apparently has little say in the matter—after all, to fire Lewis would mean going against a royal decree. As for this game, the Colts are poised to make a run to the playoffs and the Bengals are looking to make a run at a high pick in next year’s draft.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 27, Cincinnati Bengals 10

Atlanta Falcons (8-4) at New Orleans Saints (6-6)

The King says:

Matt Ryan haiku, just for the fun of it. At home or on road, This rook’s mindful of one man Named Peyton Manning.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 31, New Orleans Saints 30

Benji says:

It turns out King’s a poet and I didn’t even know it. His clever haiku, however, fails to mention the trend that has dominated the NFC South divisional match-ups this season: the home team wins every time. I have picked the Saints to buck this trend twice already and there is no way I let them snooker me in again just because their season is basically over and they are playing a team that has a realistic playoff shot.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 30, Atlanta Falcons 27

Philadelphia Eagles (6-5-1) at New York Giants (11-1)

The King says:

Or, should I say: Giants 19, Distractions 9.

Prediction: New York Giants 19, Philadelphia Eagles 9

Benji says:

Say what you will about the Giants being able to play through distractions and without Plaxico Burress—I, however, believe that the controversy surrounding Antonio Pierce (the Giants’ defensive signal caller) and his involvement in the Plaxico fiasco will end up hurting the team in the short term. Do not sell the Eagles short, either—Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook both looked much better last week and while their success came against a weak and tired Arizona defense, the Eagles’ offense is much better than it showed against the Bengals and Ravens. Remember the first match-up between these two teams: The Giants won a 36-31 shootout that could have gone either way. The Eagles know they can put up points against the Giants and need to win far more than their opponent does…

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 30, New York Giants 27

Washington Redskins (7-5) at Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

The King says:

I wouldn’t say the Redskins are in free-fall just yet, but I did note how strange it was the other day to see them all lined up in the locker room being fitted for parachutes.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 29, Washington Redskins 16

Benji says:

I also heard that Tom Petty is scheduled to sing the national anthem for this game. I cannot say I am altogether surprised to see a team that allows more points (18.5) than it scores (17.3) start to play down to statistical expectations…

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 23, Washington Redskins 17

Miami Dolphins (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-6)

The King says:

This goes against the grain of everything about the Bills playing in Toronto. This is the biggest scheduling break any road team could get in 2009. Instead of playing in December in lovely Orchard Park (forecast: 23 degrees, snow showers, 20-mph winds), Bills will play host on the fast track of Rogers Centre in Toronto, where it will be 72, or warmer. So why am I making this pick? Because I trust Marshawn Lynch. He’ll have a big day.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 23, Miami Dolphins 16

Benji says:

So let me get this straight, Your Majesty—the conditions completely favor the Dolphins, the team that is used to playing in warmer weather and would have been at a disadvantage had the game been played in Buffalo, but you favor the Bills based on your trust in Marshawn Lynch? The same Marshawn Lynch who has averaged fewer than four yards a carry in seven of the Bills’ twelve games this season? I suppose believing in Lynch is better than placing your support behind Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards, who only completed 10 of 22 passes against the 49ers last week and has more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (17). I think I’ll stick with the team that the conditions favor (Miami) and the quarterback (Chad Pennington) who takes care of the football (only eight interceptions thrown this year).

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 27, Buffalo Bills 16

Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) at Denver Broncos (7-5)

The King says:

The two-headed, first-round running-back combo platter from Arkansas, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, have a combined 671 rushing yards through 12 games. The guy who got them coffee and shined their cleats, Peyton Hillis, drafted in the seventh round (227th overall), has 285. I’ll bet you an egg nog latte Hillis outrushes the one inactive back (Jones) and the one active one (McFadden), combined, in December by more than 150 yards.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 42, Kansas City Chiefs 13

Benji says:

As impressed as I am by Peyton Hillis’ ability to out-rush a player who is out for the year with an injury, I do not think that this game will be a walk in the park for the Broncos. Kansas City defeated Denver rather easily earlier this season, and I believe that its offense has improved significantly since then. Luckily for the Broncos, cornerback Champ Bailey is finally healthy and should be able to contain the Chiefs’ top receiver Dwayne Bowe. If Bailey were still out, I might have favored Larry Johnson (who is sure to have another big day against the league’s 30th ranked run defense) and the Chiefs to pull off the season sweep; as it is, I can still guarantee it will be a much closer game than His Majesty seems to think it will be.

Prediction: Denver Broncos 26, Kansas City Chiefs 20

St. Louis Rams (2-10) at Arizona Cardinals (7-5)

The King says:

Odd. The Cards are going to be 8-5, with a playoff spot locked and only three games remaining … and we’re not going to have any idea if they can win a game in January.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 37, St. Louis Rams 13

Benji says:

Odd. An adjective with a period after it is not a complete sentence. On the other hand, the use of this flawed writing technique, in this instance, does create a sense of melodrama that might momentarily pique the reader’s interest in a lopsided match-up. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Your Majesty, since I was so mean to you earlier.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 40, St. Louis Rams 16

Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

The King says:

Flip a coin. Really. I have no clue who’ll win. I’m picking the Steelers because I don’t think we’ll see any sort of impact game from Marion Barber and whatever device they put on the bottom of his shoe to help him run in pain with his bad toe. If the Cowboys just run spread formation stuff primarily and the Steelers can tee off on Tony Romo, I think it’s trouble for Dallas.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Dallas Cowboys 15

Benji says:

According to the guys at Football Outsiders, “the only skill position player to play on a dislocated toe without missing a game is Antonio Gates, and he was a non factor for all of last season’s playoffs because of it.” The track record for this type of injury suggests that Dallas running back Marion Barber, who sustained a dislocated toe last week against the Seahawks, will either miss the game or be ineffective. The Cowboys are pretty thin at running back behind Barber and will likely be forced to pass on nearly every down. I cannot see them winning on the road with a one-dimensional offense against the league’s top defense.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Dallas Cowboys 17

New York Jets (8-4) at San Francisco 49ers (4-8)

The King says:

Fear this game, Fireman Ed. Shaun Hill is playing well, and the Jets had better pressure him or he’s going to strafe that secondary.

Prediction: New York Jets 22, San Francisco 49ers 16

Benji says:

If I’m Jets coach Eric Mangini, I’m terrified of Shaun Hill right now. I mean, he quarterbacked an offense that scored a whopping ten points against the Bills’ defense last week—ten points, against the Bills! For those of you scoring at home, that would be the same Bills team that allowed 31 and 29 points to the Chiefs and Browns over the previous two weeks. I realize that the Jets’ secondary is weak and Hill could have a decent day throwing the ball, but do not give that much credit where it is not due, Your Majesty.

Prediction: New York Jets 26, San Francisco 49ers 16

New England Patriots (7-5) at Seattle Seahawks (2-10)

The King says:

Most impressive player on a loser on Thanksgiving: Seattle rookie tight end John Carlson. Second-most impressive player on a loser on Thanksgiving: Matt Hasselbeck. That’s why this will be a game at the two-minute warning.

Prediction: New England Patriots 30, Seattle Seahawks 26

Benji says:

I cannot decide what impressed me more about Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s Thanksgiving performance: the nine points his offense scored or his 3 of 13 conversion rate on third down passing plays. There’s no way this game will be “a game at the two-minute warning,” because as bad as New England’s secondary is, Seattle’s is worse and the Seahawks really do not have the type of personnel to capitalize the way that the Patriots will.

Prediction: New England Patriots 35, Seattle Seahawks 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3) at Carolina Panthers (9-3)

The King says:

You want to watch a great TEAM defense, with examples of players running from across the field on practically every snap to make sure there are seven men around the ball on running plays instead of four, and to assure that every receiver is tackled by a unit and not a man? Watch the Bucs on Monday night. I love the way the defense is flying around. You’re not going to see five great offensive highlights out of this game, that’s for sure.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Carolina Panthers 13

Benji says:

Your Majesty, I believe that both of these teams have solid defenses—Tampa Bay’s offense leaves a lot to be desired, though. The Buccaneers simply do not have any playmakers on offense now that age and injuries have finally caught up with Joey Galloway. Carolina’s offense, particularly its passing game, has been inconsistent at times, but the Panthers still have receiver Steve Smith (whose long reception in the fourth quarter led to the winning score against the Packers) and a very effective running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams (who had four touchdowns last week) and Jonathan Stewart. Plus, do you really want to pick against the home team dominance trend in NFC South divisional games? Look at how well that worked out for me last week…

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13


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