King Says, Benji Says (Divisional Round)



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.


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