Archive for January, 2009

King Says, Benji Says (Super Bowl Edition)

January 31, 2009


The outcome of the “real” Super Bowl has yet to be decided, but the winner of the King/Benji/Brian picking title has already been crowned. So what if I went 0-2 last week…the Super Bowl was already mine! Did you hear that, Your Majesty? The Super Bowl is ALL MINE! Unless you ask really nicely, in which case I might offer you and Brian some popcorn too…

Last Week:

Peter King (1-1)
Benji (0-2)
Brian (1-1)


Peter King (5-5)
Benji (7-3)
Brian (5-5)

Regular Season:

Peter King (162-93-1)
Benji (155-100-1)
Brian (166-89-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) at Arizona Cardinals (12-7) (Neutral Site)

The King Says:

Why the Steelers will win: I see the Steelers not doing anything revolutionary on defense, just playing their base defense more than anyone does against the Cardinals. They’ll keep safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark back in two-deep coverage on most snaps and make the Cards take 12 or 13 plays to score. If Arizona can do that and win, then God bless ’em.

Don’t take it to the bank, but…I think Kurt Warner will play well, not give the ball away, and will have a chance to win it in the last 10 minutes. I just think Pittsburgh will make more plays on defense than any other team Arizona has seen in the playoffs.
The Super Bowl MVP will be… Willie Parker

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Arizona Cardinals 21

Benji Says:

The Steelers may win this game, Your Majesty, but there is no way in hell that Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker will be the MVP. Parker played well against the Chargers (a team with a terrible defense) but was awful (24 carries for 47 yards and a lost fumble) against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. I’m not sure if the Arizona pass defense is for real, but I know that the Cardinals can stop the run. The Pittsburgh offense will be almost solely in the (shaky) hands of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The real story in this game will be the match-up between Arizona’s passing game and Pittsburgh’s top-rated defense. If someone from Pittsburgh wins the Super Bowl MVP, it will likely be a defensive player. Otherwise, I expect it will be an offensive player from the Cardinals. My pick is wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The Steelers’ defense will focus on top wide-out Larry Fitzgerald (who has been brilliant in the first three rounds), leaving Boldin with a chance to perform on the big stage and earn a new contract in the off-season. As good as the Steelers’ defense is, much of its success is based on its perpetually changing pass-rushing schemes. The Cardinals have had two weeks to break down film and their coach, Ken Wisenhunt, was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator during its recent Super Bowl run and thus knows the ins and outs of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defense as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the Pittsburgh offense. The last time that these two teams met, back at the beginning of Wisenhunt’s tenure as the Arizona head coach, the result was a stunning victory for the then lowly Cardinals. Willie Parker’s stats in that game? 19 carries for 37 yards. I believe that history will repeat itself on Sunday night…

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 16


Brian’s Turn:

I’m going with the Steelers, with Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu as Super Bowl MVP. I really don’t think the Cards are on the same level as the Steelers. Maybe the Cards will stay hot; maybe they’ll finally come crashing down. I will honestly root for the Cards though. I liked it when the 9ers were the first team to five Super Bowl victories and I don’t want the Steelers to be the first to six. Then again, the 9ers have never lost a Super Bowl, so they have that going for them. I wonder if I have to become a Giants fan now. . .


King Says, Benji Says (Conference Championship Edition)

January 18, 2009


In my experience, there is only one activity more exhilarating than giving yourself a Vitamin Water bath after a successful playoff picking round…giving yourself a Vitamin Water bath for the second consecutive week! His Majesty and Brian have gone the way of the Giants and the Chargers while the Craftsbury “Cardinals” continue their quest for the postseason picking championship. In last week’s column, Brian made a point of revealing our playoff picking twins in the sports media, and I would like to continue that line of thought. This week, The King and Brian have chosen to forge another picking alliance (their second in three weeks) while I have abandoned the almighty “Don” (Banks) and thrown my support behind the venerable Chris “Boomer” Berman. What does all this rumbling, stumbling mumbo jumbo mean? Read on and discover what all three of us have to say about what should be another exciting weekend of football…

Last Week:

Peter King (2-2)
Benji (3-1)
Brian (2-2)


Peter King (4-4)
Benji (7-1)
Brian (4-4)

Regular Season:

Peter King (162-93-1)
Benji (155-100-1)
Brian (166-89-1)

Philadelphia Eagles (11-6-1) at Arizona Cardinals (11-7)

The King says:

The longer the week goes, the more reason I find to like Arizona. The defense has been reborn in January, the players have perfected the Rodney Dangerfield no-respect rant, Larry Fitzgerald is playing like Superman, and they’ll be home, inside their weather-controlled dome. However, what this pick comes down to is my late-season belief in Donovan McNabb … 217 yards passing in the Meadowlands wind tunnel last week, 68-percent passing in Minnesota’s noise machine the week before, and a 9-to-1 touchdown-to-interception differential in the five games since Andy Reid pulled the plug on him in Baltimore. And though I trust the Arizona defense to stop the Eagle run, I trust McNabb to make the right decisions and move the Eagles consistently against Arizona.

On the other side, I don’t think Kurt Warner will have the time to throw that he’s had in his first two playoff games, which means he probably will have to throw more checkdowns than he likes. The Eagles linebackers ate up the checkdowns against the Giants last week. McNabb’s out for redemption, whether he says it or not, and he’ll get it near his winter home in the desert.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 24, Arizona Cardinals 19

Benji says:

I’m not buying the “rebirth” of the Arizona running game—the Panthers and Falcons ranked 20th and 25th in rushing yards allowed per game during the regular season. I have been impressed with its passing offense, however, especially given that the team was without the services of number-two receiver Anquan Boldin. Still, the Cardinals have yet to face a real defense in the playoffs and the Eagles have been playing exceptionally well in that department. Ignore His Majesty’s obsession with the Donovan McNabb “redemption” storyline—McNabb has played well but the team’s playoff run has happened first and foremost because of its defense. The Eagles held the Giants’ vaunted running game in check last week (stopping New York on two key fourth and short plays) and made quarterback Eli Manning look like the incompetent Eli of two or three years ago (15 of 29 with two interceptions and no touchdowns). Philadelphia should be able to shut down Arizona’s running game, and force the Cardinals to revert to the one-dimensional passing-based offense we saw for much of the season. Arizona’s receivers are very talented and Warner is a playoff-proven quarterback, but the Eagles pressure the quarterback better than any other team in the league (with a variety of blitz schemes) and have the personnel at defensive back to play honest defense on those receivers.

Finally, I’d like to turn your attention to a recurring storyline during this postseason: regular season meetings between teams DO matter. The Chargers lost to the Colts on a last second field goal in Week 12; San Diego “shocked” Indianapolis in overtime in the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals lost to the Panthers in Carolina by four in Week 8, after committing costly turnovers in the second half; Arizona had “one of the biggest upsets ever” when it beat Carolina in the second round of the playoffs. Sorry, Cardinals fans, it works both ways: the Eagles trounced the Cardinals 48-20 in Week 13. History is poised to repeat itself…

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 27, Arizona Cardinals 13

Baltimore Ravens (13-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4)

The King says:

As a reporter, or a fan, when you get to the big games, you just hope both teams come in healthy so when the ball’s kicked off, you can say, “Let the best man win.” In this game, I’m afraid it’s about the healthiest team winning. The Steelers’ running game has come alive with a healthy Willie Parker gashing the Browns and Chargers for 262 yards on 50 carries in his last two starts. And Roethlisberger has made a real alternative out of Santonio Holmes in the passing game, so he now has three guys — Holmes, Heath Miller, Hines Ward — he trusts implicitly when he throws.

I fear the Ravens will have to play the pass with Fabian Washington and Frank Walker — good, hard-trying guys but not shutdown corners — playing most of the snaps at corner with Chris McAlister long-gone and Samari Rolle likely out with a thigh injury. Two huge Ravens in this postseason, McClain and Terrell Suggs, will either be out or severely limited with injuries. I loved the Ravens two weeks ago. I still love their gumption, but I don’t think that’s enough to beat the hottest team playing, and playing at home.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Baltimore Ravens 13

Benji says:

While His Majesty is correct to point out that injuries may play a part in the outcome of this game, he has, per usual, chosen to embellish his point artificially. Even if running back LeRon McClain cannot play, Baltimore has plenty of depth at the position. The Ravens’ replacement cornerbacks have actually played better than Chris McAlister (who has also been out for several months) and seemed to have no trouble covering for Samari Rolle last week. The strength of Baltimore’s team is its front seven, so I do believe that losing linebacker Terrell Suggs will hurt the defense a bit. What His Majesty fails to mention in his injury analysis, however, is that safety Troy Polamalu, one of the Steelers’ best defensive players, will also be out or hampered by injury. In my mind, the injury situation is basically a wash. My concern with Pittsburgh, as it has been all season, is its pass-blocking. The Steelers’ offensive line protected Roethlisberger well against the Chargers, but that may have been a misleading performance as San Diego has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks all year. Baltimore will do a much better job of rushing the passer and will force Roethlisberger to make tough plays all afternoon. That being said, the Ravens are relying on a rookie passer, Joe Flacco, who is already in uncharted postseason territory (the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game on the road).

What swung this pick for me was my novel theory that regular season match-ups * gasp! * actually matter. The Ravens played the Steelers close in two regular season games, losing one in overtime and the other on a controversial replay reversal. What are the chances that a team (the Steelers) wins three toss-up games against the same team in the same season? It very well could happen, but I’ll go with the odds here…

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 16


Okay, now it’s Brian’s turn:

Well in Happier News, Circuit City Got Liquidated…
Peter King likes to tell random stories, so I feel like I’m allowed to too. Back in high school I went to Circuit City to buy some headphones—these special over the ear, ear-bud hybrids. I was all set to buy them, but on the off chance they didn’t fit my ears, I asked an employee if I could try them on to make sure that they fit. The man said, “No”. I explained that I just wanted to make sure they would stay in my ears, but he would not let me. So I stormed out of the store, but before I left, a nice young consumer service representative stopped me and asked if I would like to take a survey about customer service at Circuit City. I said, “You caught me on the perfect day,” and I explained to her that the man would not let me try on the headphones, even though I had already made up my mind I was going to buy them. I then told her that I would be walking across the street to The Good Guys electronics store and buying the exact same pair from them. I told her I would never shop at Circuit City ever again, and I would tell my friends to do the same. Today I read that all of Circuit City’s stores are closing and the company has been obliterated. Brian 1, Circuit City 0.
Now on to my picks:

Eagles win.
Steelers win.

I’m not copying Peter King, I’m just sticking with my picks from Week One…you know, the picks that said the Eagles and Steelers would play in the Super Bowl. Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to root for those two teams—I like the Ravens (There’s a Middlebury player on the team) and I like Flacco’s unibrow—but there’s no way I’m abandoning my preseason picks after watching them advance all the way to the Conference Championship Round.

Pennington’s Market Value

January 14, 2009


This week in MMQB Tuesday Edition, a reader suggests that the Dolphins take Chad Pennington and trade him while he is at his highest value, then continue the rebuilding process with a young QB. From the Reader:

NOT A GOOD PLAN, ADAM. From Adam Walberg, of London, Ontario: “Despite their season, the Fins are still re-building. The schedule won’t be as easy next year and Pennington has a history of regressions and injuries. With what may end up being a career year [for Pennington], coupled with a few teams in need of a QB, and the dearth of available ones, I think the Fins should deal him for picks. Surely the Vikings, Bears, Panthers and Bucs would have a level of interest. A first-round pick isn’t out of the question. Not bad for something they got for free just last year.”

King’s response:

I doubt anyone would pay a first-round pick for a quarterback who might (might, I emphasize) have two or three years left, and who has just a so-so arm. Plus, the Dolphins don’t want to give away a sure thing when they’ve got to compete against the Patriots every year.

King downgrades Pennington as a player with questionable arm strength and a looming retirement, but then in the next sentence calls him a “sure thing” for Miami’s yearly battles with the Patriots. Certainly a “sure thing” would be worth some draft picks (maybe even a first rounder). Furthermore, if Pennington might only have a few years left, and King is concerned that the Dolphins play the Patriots every year, it seems logical that they get a QB for the future. Peter, how can Pennington be a “sure thing” to go against the Patriots every year and also be a weak-armed passer with maybe two years left in his career? Your logic eats itself.

Historically Speaking…

January 13, 2009


This week, in MMQB, His Majesty decides to make a direct comparison between former Minnesota, Atlanta and San Francisco defensive end Chris Doleman (up for Hall of Fame consideration this year) and recently retired New York Giant defensive end Michael Strahan:

b. Defensive end Chris Doleman. Doesn’t bode well for Michael Strahan. Look at their numbers. They’re twins, and you could argue that minus the Super Bowl ring, they’re historically the same.

The comparison works quite well—Doleman had nine more career sacks (150.5 to 141.5) in 16 more games than Strahan—until His Majesty decides to proclaim that the two players are “historically the same.” Historically, they are not the same, because Strahan holds the record for the most sacks (22.5) in a single season. To use an example from a different sport, despite the fact that Roger Maris and Dante Bichette have practically identical career power numbers (275 homeruns to 274), there is no questioning Maris’ greater historical significance—because he broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. Strahan’s career statistics are nearly identical to Doleman’s but his single-season sack record (a record unlikely to be broken), as opposed to Doleman’s zero all-time records, makes Strahan, not necessarily a better player, but a more historically significant figure.

Brian is Smart, Vegas Takes Notice

January 12, 2009


Well, it seems like the rest of the world is catching up to my predictions. As Benji is my witness, I have had these two teams (the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles) in the Super Bowl since Week One.

King Says, Benji Says (Divisional Round)

January 10, 2009


I know, I know, I should probably act like I’ve been here before. The truth of the matter, though, is that I haven’t been here before. Like the Arizona Cardinals, I’ve decided to over-celebrate my first round victory while I still can. In the spirit of good-natured trash talking, I ask you, King and Brian, do you like apples? Four and Oh. How do you like them apples?

Last Week:

Peter King (2-2)
Benji (4-0)
Brian (2-2)

Regular Season:

Peter King (162-93-1)
Benji (155-100-1)
Brian (166-89-1)

Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3)

The King says:

If these teams played 10 times, I guarantee each would win five. Then again, if these teams played 10 times, the equipment guys would have to suit up because about 33 guys per team would be on IR by game nine. I really like that Kerry Collins, the last time these teams met, had the gumption to take the Titans on scoring drives of 80 and 81 yards after doing nothing for 40 minutes; Tennessee won, 13-10.

I’m going with the Ravens because I think their defense will make a couple more plays than they did last time, and because of Flacco. I loved what his college coach at Delaware, K.C. Keeler, told Damon Hack in this week’s Sports Illustrated: “Ice water in his veins. Nothing bothers him. To him, he was just wearing a blue uniform last year and he’s wearing a purple uniform this year.”

At first glance, Flacco didn’t do much to help the Ravens win in Miami the other day, but look deeper. He did play mistake-free — no sacks, interceptions or fumbles. The Titans will have to force him into some uncharacteristic errors to win.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 16, Tennessee Titans 12

Benji says:

Your Majesty, if you really believe that these two teams are equal (as implied by your “guarantee” that each team would win five games if they played ten times), then why would you pick the road team to win, especially after you sing the praises of Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins? I mean, I agree with your pick, but all season long you have been right for the wrong (or nonsensical) reasons. I’m taking the Ravens because I do not believe these two teams are equal—I believe that Baltimore does everything that Tennessee does and more (The Ravens finished second in total defense while the Titans were seventh). Both defenses can pressure the quarterback and shut down the run but are somewhat susceptible to the deep pass play. A team with a good quarterback and a true deep threat can beat the Ravens but the Titans are not that team. Joe Flacco may be a rookie, but his mobility and his ability to throw the deep ball give Baltimore a clear advantage at the quarterback position. Unless Flacco has a terrible game, I do not see the Titans advancing.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 20, Tennessee Titans 13

Arizona Cardinals (10-7) at Carolina Panthers (12-4)

The King says:

Go back to draft day. Remember the deal Panthers GM Marty Hurney made in the middle of round one? He dealt second- and fourth-round picks in the 2008 draft, and a first-rounder in 2009, for the Eagles’ first-round choice (19th overall). Was right tackle Jeff Otah really worth that kind of quarterback-ish ransom? Apparently he was because the Panthers rushed for 30 touchdowns this year. Thirty! John Fox wanted an offense that was more slug-it-out than throw-it-deep. Luckily for him, the Panthers are blessed with the ability to do both, and I don’t trust Arizona’s running game to be as good this week as it was last week against Atlanta, when Edgerrin James swam in the Ponce de Leon pool. I think Carolina controls the clock and the game.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 26, Arizona Cardinals 17

Benji says:

Say what you will about The King’s anecdotes, but it kind of seems like he has a point here. The Panthers’ successful shift in offensive identity has made them a formidable opponent for any team they might face in the playoffs, let alone an upstart team with a terrible defense. Despite playing six games against teams from the NFC West, Arizona allowed 26.6 points per contest (good for 28th in the league) during the regular season. I went with the Cardinals last week, because I (correctly) thought that their offense would lead the way at home against another team with a mediocre defense. The Panthers, though, are better offensively and defensively than the Falcons and have the home field advantage (they are 8-0 at home this season). Enjoy the lingering odor of your Gatorade bath while you still can, Ken Wisenhunt…

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 30, Arizona Cardinals 23

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6-1) at New York Giants (12-4)

The King says:

The reason the Eagles are major-league dangerous Sunday at 1 is what Brian Westbrook told me the other day: “We feel like it’s our goal to right the wrongs of the whole season.”

I’m hearing things like that more and more out of these Eagles — that they’re determined to prove the ups and downs of the season are out of their system, and they may not be a great offense, but they’re good enough to win any game they play, and they have the kind of veteran presence and experience that will allow them to win a big game. Look at Westbrook’s game last week, for instance — held to nothing for 53 minutes, he takes a screen pass 71 yards to the end zone to turn a nail-biting, two-point lead into a busted-open game.

But the difference here, I believe, will be Brandon Jacobs. Even if Eli Manning can’t go deep two or three times in this game — which he couldn’t do in the Eagles’ 20-14 win over the Giants five weeks ago — I think Jacobs will be the kind of physical presence the Giants need to make it to the NFC title game. I am hedging my bets because of the Westbrook factor. He could win this game by himself. But I think Jacobs and ball-control will win it for New York.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Philadelphia Eagles 20

Benji says:

I find it interesting, Your Majesty, that you place so much faith in New York running back Brandon Jacobs, a player whose health is uncertain and who, even if he is healthy, will likely be rusty after not playing for the past month. The way you seem to see it, the game will come down to the two starting running backs, Brian Westbrook and Brandon Jacobs, and thus, you have chosen uncertainty (Jacobs) over certainty (Westbrook, who as you pointed out, was the difference against the Vikings). You may get this pick right, but you sure as hell will not get it right for the reasons stated above. The reason that I am picking against the Giants is because, as you mentioned earlier, Eli Manning does not have a deep threat at wide receiver. I believe that defensive coordinators have figured the Plaxico-less Giants out and are loading up the box in order to stop the run, knowing that they will not get burned long. I still believe New York can win this game, though, on the strength of its defense and the inconsistency of the Eagles’ passing game. It’s about time I won a toss-up pick…

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 23, New York Giants 20

San Diego Chargers (9-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The King says:

I still can’t believe if the Chargers and Ravens win, a team that was 4-8 just 33 days ago would host the AFC Championship Game. That’s not just a great story, it’s an all-time story. But I can’t predict it. Michael Bennett and Darren Sproles won’t be able to dent this version of the Steel Curtain for more than 100 yards; if you wonder why I don’t include LaDainian Tomlinson in the San Diego rushing attack, it’s because he won’t be there — and if he is, he’ll last about three runs.

On the other side of the ball, doesn’t it seem like about three months since the Steelers have played a football game? Time enough to get Willie Parker closer to good health and to get Ben Roethlisberger’s head cleared. But I don’t see this as a big game for Roethlisberger. I think Mike Tomlin wants to play January football in the northeast, and he wants offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to try to pummel the Chargers into submission. This game is going to be won by ball-control and by Parker and Mewelde Moore.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 19, San Diego Chargers 13

Benji says:

Stop the presses: Peter King says that LaDanian Tomlinson will not be a factor in this game. Thanks for breaking that story, Your Majesty, I should have a much easier time making my pick now. Seriously, though, the Chargers’ running game will struggle to gain positive yardage against the Steelers. In an NFL season filled with uncertainty and inconsistent play, the Pittsburgh defense has been constant. The Steelers allowed the fewest yards and the fewest points in the NFL during the regular season and only allowed a team to score more than 21 point in a game once (a Week 10 loss to the Colts). If the Chargers were matched up against any of the other remaining AFC teams, I would give them a fighting chance—against the Steelers, though, I will pick against them without hesitation.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, San Diego Chargers 13

Brian’s turn:

Well, I can’t make excuses because Benji did out-pick me last week. I will only say this: How impressive is it that Benji went 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs? Don Banks did it too. So there you have it, I picked the same as Peter King, and Benji picked the same as Don Banks. I’m embarrassed for both of us.

Titans over Ravens

I just feel like too many people like the Ravens. Not the best reason to go against them (I really like the Ravens too) but I feel like I need to pick an upset. I really like Jeff Fisher. I think both teams have great defenses, but the Titans have two good runners. But then again, I thought the Falcons had a good running game and they came out flat last week, so who knows.

Panthers over Cardinals

Just like the Ravens in the last game, everyone is picking the Panthers to win. But I will forgo my analysis from my previous prediction and go with the flow of consensus.

Eagles over Giants

I’m picking the Eagles because I picked a Steelers/Eagles Super Bowl. Philly made it this far, so why would I abandon it now?

Steelers murder the Chargers

I hate Philip Rivers because he makes too many faces and looks like a frat boy. Benji and I have discussed this topic in depth (editor’s note: Jagerbomb!). I can’t root for him and I don’t want him to win. Therefore, the Steelers will crush him. Big Ben’s due for a big day.

Apples and Oranges

January 6, 2009


I assume you are all familiar with the idiom “that’s like comparing apples and oranges?” Apparently His Majesty has never heard of this old saying or has decided to wage a blind war against it. In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, The King attempts to make not one, not two, but three comparisons that defy any sense of correlation and/or logic.

First off all, let’s consider his one sentence analysis of the New York Giants, the top seed in the NFC:

3. New York Giants (12-4). I think if the Yankees fired Joe Girardi tomorrow, the Steinbrenners would want to interview Steve Spagnuolo.

His Majesty’s ill-fated attempt at singing the praises of the Giants’ defense (and their defensive coordinator) falls flat because the notion that a defensive football coach can coach defense in baseball is both distracting and absurd. I get The King’s juvenile joke—the Yankees were terrible at defense last season and the Giants are really good—but what could Spagnuolo possibly do to change the situation for the men in pinstripes? Teach them how to “tackle” fly balls more effectively? Come up with a sneakier way for players to “blitz” the pitcher’s mound if someone gets beaned? More importantly, however, what does this single sentence, consisting solely of an incongruous comparative statement, tell us about His Majesty’s feeling about the Giants (again, one of the top teams in the league) and their chances of advancing in the playoffs?

Secondly, let’s flip the page and take a look at his pick for “Special Teams Player of the Week:”

Mike Scifres, P, San Diego. Plaxico Burress had one of the best playoff games ever by a wide receiver with his 11-catch masterpiece in last season’s NFC Championship Game. Scifres had the same kind of performance Saturday night against the Colts. The numbers are great enough — six punts, 52.7-yard average, 51.7-yard net. Now, do you understand how monumental a 51.7-yard net average is? It means the Colts had six return yards. SIX! And here’s where Scifres’ punts pinned the Colts: Indy 10, Indy 15, Indy 3, Indy 5, Indy 9, Indy 1. I cannot stress this enough: Mike Scifres just had one of the best punting games in NFL history.

The King’s choice for the award, Mike Scifres, seems logical. His attempt at putting Scifres’ statistics in context, however, is entirely illogical. What does Plaxico Burress’ performance in last year’s NFC title game as a wide receiver have to do with Scifres’ excellent game this year as a punter? If one wants to make the argument (as King seems to be doing here) that Scifres performed at a historic level, would it not make more sense to compare his game last Saturday to that of one by another successful punter or kicker in the playoffs? To use another example, would it make more sense to compare New England quarterback Tom Brady’s record-setting 2007 season (50 touchdown passes) to Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning’s 2004 season (49 touchdown passes) or Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s 2001 season (when he set an NFL record with 22.5 sacks). My guess is that King would choose the latter…

Finally, let’s turn to the last page and my favorite section in King’s column, “Ten Things I Think I Think:”

d. Andy Reid: Ernest Hemingway with wire-rims.

On one end, we have an American literary legend who has become a symbol of masculinity and general badassness; on the other, we have an aging, overweight football coach with questionable decision-making skills. I think we’re done here…

P.S. I get it. They both have beards…

Peter King’s Name Game

January 6, 2009


Once again, Peter King proves himself to be a master of words. In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, King writes the following in his analysis of the upcoming Baltimore/Tennessee second round playoff match-up:

Game 1, Saturday, Ravens (6th seed) at Titans (1st). Earlier this season, Oct. 5, at Baltimore: Tennessee 13, Baltimore 10. They should call this one the “First Team To 10 Bowl.” Baltimore led 10-3 late in the third quarter, and this is when Kerry Collins cemented his 2008 legacy.

Why does King insist this be called the “First Team To 10 Bowl” when last time these teams played, the first team to 10 lost. I understand that King is trying to say the game will be low-scoring, but unless he calls it the “First Team to 13 Bowl,” his made-up name doesn’t actually make any sense.

update: Ravens won 13-10. See, I was right, First Team to 13 won.

King Says, Benji Says (Wild Card Weekend)

January 2, 2009


With the New Year comes a new picking season. His Majesty may have defeated me in our regular season battle, but the playoff war begins now. The stats over the past four weeks (Benji 43-21, King 37-27) tell an interesting story: When the weather cools down, so does The King. His Majesty enters postseason play as an unquestioned favorite over yours truly, but one of us is clearly more prepared for the winter weather. Unfortunately for me, I dressed up a week too early—the four wild card games will be played outside in the warm weather climates of Arizona, Florida and California, and inside a dome in frigid Minnesota. Maybe I should just go ahead and let Brian do the picking from now on? After all, he was the winner of our three-way picking contest. For those of you who have been waiting all year for Brian to back up his picks with some analysis of his own, look no further than the end of this post. Let the playoffs begin! I feel as though a wild weekend is in the cards, so to speak…

Regular Season:

Peter King (162-93-1)
Benji (155-100-1)
Brian (166-89-1)

Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

The King says:

Obviously, it’s hard to not sing the praises of Matt Ryan, the Offensive Player of the Year. Let’s look at how Ryan performed on the road in the most hostile of environments, in games at 2008 playoffs teams: lost at Carolina and Philly, won at San Diego and Minnesota. Total interceptions: two. Total time sacked: six. Ben Roethlisberger on the road against playoff teams this year: 1-2, two picks, 11 sacks. My point is, I don’t think Ryan flew cross-country Thursday night thinking to himself: “Gee, this game’s going to be too big for me.”

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 33, Arizona Cardinals 17

Benji says:

The Roethlisberger/Matt Ryan comparison is totally relevant—in an alternate universe where the Falcons and Steelers play in the same conference and face each other in the first round of the playoffs. What about the Cardinals? Arizona’s offense scored the second most points in the NFC (tied with the Giants) and veteran quarterback Kurt Warner threw for over 4,500 yards with 30 touchdown passes. The Cardinals may not be able to run the ball effectively, but in temperate conditions, their aerial attack should be successful against an Atlanta pass defense that was ranked 23rd in the league. The Falcons should be able to score plenty of points against the Arizona defense as well, but in a shootout-style game, I’ll take the team with the playoff-proven quarterback over the one with the outstanding rookie passer.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 33, Atlanta Falcons 30

Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-8)

The King says:

The Chargers have the best shot of any home ‘dog to win this weekend. Peyton Manning is on a ridiculous late-season run, but Philip Rivers might be individually hotter (11 touchdowns, one interception in San Diego’s 4-0 December). While I don’t think the Colts will go into this game thinking it might be the swan song for Tony Dungy, who is expected to ride off into the real-world sunset after the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the trusted defensive vets like Dwight Freeney goes around to his guys when things get hot late in the game and says we’re not letting our guy go down like this again, in the first game of the playoffs.

Prediction: Indianapolis 29, San Diego 23

Benji says:

If you recall, I picked the Indianapolis Colts to reach and win the Super Bowl this year back before the season began. So, why, you ask, would I consider picking against them after a 12-4 season, when they are facing a team that squeaked into the playoffs at 8-8? Because the Colts team that I expected to see never quite emerged. Indianapolis has no running game and no deep threat at wide receiver (Marvin Harrison looks washed up) and, therefore, has an offense that cannot consistently score points. The Chargers are hot right now and really have nothing to lose at this point. I may be reading too much into their big win over the defensively challenged Broncos, but I see a team in San Diego that has found its offensive identity and has rediscovered its running game. If you cannot run the ball in the playoffs, you are certain to exit early…

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 27, Indianapolis Colts 20

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Miami Dolphins (11-5)

The King says:

They played in Week 7, at Miami, and Baltimore won 27-13. Lesson from that game: Chad Pennington was an efficient 68-percent passer, and the Wildcat gave the Fish nothing. They ran it five times, for minus-one, five, zero, minus-three and three yards. Pennington will try to test Baltimore’s corners a few times downfield, and his success or failure will determine the outcome. My view, obviously, is that the Comeback Player of the Year will not have one final comeback in him Sunday. Too much front-seven pressure from the unpredictable Ravens.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 16, Miami Dolphins 6

Benji says:

The Dolphins have succeeded all year long by limiting turnovers and capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes…oh, and of course, the Wild Cat formation. That formula failed to work earlier in the season against the Ravens, and I would be surprised to see the Dolphins win this game barring a defensive collapse by Baltimore. The Ravens’ defense can be beaten deep (as the Colts and Cowboys demonstrated earlier this season) but a short passing/running-based offense like Miami’s should not pose any problems for it. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they got stuck with a terrible first round match-up.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 23, Miami Dolphins 13

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) at Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

The King says:

You put Brad Childress on sodium pentathol, and he’ll tell you he wishes he didn’t have to run Adrian Peterson so much this year (363 times), helping him to a bad ankle entering the second season. He’ll admit it was about right to have Peterson and Chester Taylor combine for 464 carries, but Peterson running it 78 percent of those carries was just too much. Well, forget that now. The Vikes have to get on Peterson’s back one more time to have a good chance here, and I say the Eagles — better than you think against the run, 3.5 yards per opposing carry — will hold the gimpy Peterson under 80.

Prediction: Philadelphia 20, Minnesota 13

Benji says:

The Vikings are probably the worst 10-6 team in recent memory. Tarvaris Jackson, as anyone who has been watching him play the past few weeks can attest, has decided to take a page out of Eli Manning’s book (circa ’05-’06) by throwing the ball up for grabs, off his back foot, anytime that he faces a blitz. Against an aggressive defense like Philadelphia’s, Jackson is in for a long game. The Eagles, like the Chargers, are playing with house money at this point.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 30, Minnesota Vikings 13

And now let’s check in with Brian:

Playoffs? Playoffs!?!
Benji will back me up, my Superbowl prediction since Week One has been Steelers versus Eagles. I still have two teams in the playoffs, Peter King has zero (he picked the Patriots and Cowboys). I also beat him in the regular season. I win.

Ravens over Dolphins

Good defense beats gimmick offense.

Falcons over Cardinals

Both teams are inexperienced (the Falcons are young, the Cardinals rarely make the playoffs) but the Falcons can run the ball and the Cardinals fail to impress me.

Colts over Chargers

Peyton Manning will figure out a way to win. I don’t think the Chargers are healthy, and I think they’ll have a let down because they are relieved to sneak into the playoffs.

Eagles over Vikings

McNabb has been here before, a playoff veteran. The Vikings don’t impress me that much and I don’t really think their coach is any good.

Note: I picked the exact same way that King did. I really have no idea. I’d rather go with logical picks and be wrong for educated guesses, than do something random like pick the Cards to win because all home teams “can’t” lose.