King Says, Benji Says (Wild Card Weekend)



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.


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