King Says, Benji Says (Week 1)



“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana

Rephrased, a pseudo sportswriter who makes brash, overly presumptive judgments about NFL teams before the season even begins risks suffering the same fate he did last year—when he finished seven picks behind Peter King and a whopping eleven picks behind Brian. I would love to say that I have taken these words to heart, but, as my premature obituary for the Titans before Thursday’s game might suggest, I need to proceed cautiously. Remember, after all, what His Majesty and I had to say about the Falcons (who finished the season at 11-5) before they played the Lions (who ended up going 0-16) in Week One last year:

Detroit Lions (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)

King says:

I don’t remember a rookie coach, starting a rookie quarterback with a rookie left tackle, faring too well in the opener. Maybe that’s just me.

Prediction: Detroit Lions 20, Atlanta Falcons 6

Benji says:

What an eerie coincidence that King chose the most obvious pick of the 1:00 games as his first Sunday prediction. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and agree with you, Mr. King. The Falcons are probably going to struggle with a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback and a rookie blind side tackle. As much as I loathe the idea of picking the Lions to win on the road, this match-up leaves me with no choice but to do so.

Prediction: Detroit Lions 24, Atlanta Falcons 6

We all know how that one turned out…the point is, when trying to analyze a league defined by its parity and yearly turnover, the only thing King and I know for certain heading into the season is that everything we think we know is far more uncertain than either of us would like to admit. Anyway, now that I have that rant/drawn-out caveat out of the way, let’s make some picks:

Thursday Night:

Benji (1-0) (barely!)

Peter King (1-0)

Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)

King Says:

My first upset of the year, albeit a mild one. Falcs are still juggling a new secondary (get ready for lots of Chad Pennington throws over your head, Brent Grimes), and Matt Ryan’s going to be chased all over the Georgia Dome by one of the top five front sevens in football.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins 29, Atlanta Falcons 24

Benji Says:

If there’s one thing I do know for certain, Your Majesty, it’s that the weak-armed Chad Pennington is not the type of quarterback who will take advantage of shaky defenses by throwing deep passes over their cornerbacks. That being said, I see this game as a toss-up. I think that both of these teams overachieved last season and I do not see either of them making it back to the playoffs again. I’ll take Atlanta here, because it’s playing at home, but I wouldn’t bet any money on that outcome.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 20, Miami Dolphins 17

Denver Broncos (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)

King Says:

No teams has a bigger game in Week 1 than Cincinnati. The Bengals, if they’re to have a prayer to compete for the Wild Card in the AFC, have to beat a nascent Denver team at home, with the Broncos still semi-reeling from a very strange offseason. Carson Palmer simply has to hit the ground running against a bottom-quartile defense.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals 27, Denver Broncos 17

Benji Says:

The Broncos’ defense finished 30th in points allowed last year and the team did not do enough to address its defensive deficiencies during the off-season. With a healthy Carson Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco, I also believe that the Bengals can put some points on the board in this game. It certainly does not help Denver’s case that replacement quarterback Kyle Orton, whose ability to be a successful quarterback is entirely dependent on his accuracy, has an injured finger on his throwing hand.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals 30, Denver Broncos 17

Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)

King Says:

America, meet Percy Harvin. At some point at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Harvin’s going to run a reverse or Wildcat-sprint up the gut or catch a deep 9-route from Brett Favre. But I guarantee you the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will have an impact on this game, and on many others this year.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 33, Cleveland Browns 13

Benji Says:

I know, it’s Week One, and I should not make hasty judgments about teams without watching them play…but the Browns are really bad. Neither of their quarterbacks (Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn) was able to wrest the job away from the other as both failed to impress in the preseason. Enjoy feasting on your early cupcake schedule, Favre…

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 30, Cleveland Browns 13

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-0)

King Says:

Margins of victory in the past five Jags-Colts games in Indianapolis: 2, 3, 7, 7 and 3 points. The first post-Marvin Harrison game in Indy is sure to feature eight or 10 catches from Peyton Manning’s targets of the future — Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon. You’ll enjoy getting to know Garcon, the 2007 sixth-rounder from mighty Mount Union who opens as the fourth wideout. He’s a quick, tough ping-pong-ball of a receiver who can hold onto it in traffic.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Benji Says:

This game is shaping up to be the best of the early match-ups. Jacksonville is my pick to be this year’s surprise playoff team. All the Jaguars were missing last year was a healthy offensive line—and a receiver who can catch an accurately thrown ball. With both of those problems solved, I would not be surprised to see them steal a win here. This game could go either way, but in a toss-up, I’ll take the home team…

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Detroit Lions (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-0)

King Says:

A nice, representative, two-touchdown game from Matthew Stafford in his NFL debut. And it’s more of a game than it probably should be, because the Saints’ running game enters the season hobbling. But New Orleans is going to score in the thirties 10 or 12 times this year, so this is just an average day.

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 33, Detroit Lions 20

Benji Says:

This game, like seemingly every one that New Orleans has played over the last three years, will probably be a high-scoring affair. The Saints cannot play defense but their offense seems to improve every year. If nothing else, they’ll be fun to watch this year—and their defensive shortcomings will make some bad teams that they play fun to watch in the process. I guess everybody wins?

Prediction: New Orleans Saints 38, Detroit Lions 27

Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

King Says:

I’m shocked too to see the Bucs put up 27 on anyone, given Byron Leftwich is a statue and they’re still adjusting to the new way of offensive play-calling, with Greg Olson (passing game) and Pete Mangurian (run game) running the show. But Leftwich gets outdueled at the end by Tony Romo, who’s out to prove he’s not the old Romo.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Benji Says:

I may be alone in this belief, but I do not think that the Tampa Bay offense is going to be that bad this year. The Buccaneers upgraded their quarterback (even if Leftwich is a bit immobile) and have three legitimate running backs. Why should I take Dallas seriously? It had serious problems at the end of last season on both ends of the ball, and say what you will about Terrell Owens—every team that he leaves gets worse the next season.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28, Dallas Cowboys 24

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-0)

King Says:

NFL receiving leader after one week: Brent Celek — 9 catches, 101 yards, one touchdown. Donovan McNabb and Celek are going to make beautiful music together this year.

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 23, Carolina Panthers 20

Benji Says:

The Panthers have a serious problem in the form of quarterback Jake Delhomme. A team with as dominant a running game as the Panthers have does not need a risk-taking passer who is not capable of making the same throws he could during his prime. If any team was going to make a deal for Matt Cassel during the off-season, it should have been them…

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles 26, Carolina Panthers 20

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)

King Says:

Crabcakeville is about the worst place a Chiefs team with one of the league’s weakest offensive lines can open. Baltimore gets Kelly Gregg, an invaluable defensive tackle, back from injury to buttress the Haloti Ngata-led front, and I think they’ll overwhelm the patchwork Kansas City line. I know Todd Haley’s not thinking about shelving Matt Cassel so he can make his Chiefs debut against a friendlier Raider D at home in Week 2, but I also know if Cassel’s less than 90 percent with his gimpy knee, there’s no sense of him risking a beating just to prove he’s a gutsy guy.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 33, Kansas City Chiefs 9

Benji Says:

Matt Cassel, if you’re reading this, here’s a piece of advice: sit this one out and get healthy. Is it bad that I am in complete agreement with His Majesty here?

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 33, Kansas City Chiefs 9

New York Jets (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)

King Says:

Everyone will tune in to see Mark Sanchez’s rookie debut, but it’ll be a dud. This is not his game, not with Mario Williams steaming around end; this is a day for the Jets’ run game, because Houston’s run defense is anemic. On the other side, Matt Schaub has to wrap that sprained ankle tight enough and make enough plays to survive a tough opening game.

Prediction: Houston Texans 19, New York Jets 17

Benji Says:

I need to tread carefully after what I wrote last year about Matt Ryan’s rookie debut, but I still think that King is in the right here. A rookie quarterback making his debut on the road is probably not going to be very successful…I feel safe saying that, because the Texans are definitely not last year’s Lions.

Prediction: Houston Texans 27, New York Jets 16

Washington Redskins (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0)

King Says:

Clinton Portis, unexpectedly, runs wild, but Brandon Jacobs runs wilder, winning it when Tom Coughlin puts the game on his back in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: New York Giants 23, Washington Redskins 21

Benji Says:

I don’t think I’ve ever liked a team I picked to make the playoffs less than I like this year’s Giants. Who is Eli Manning going to throw to? What if Brandon Jacobs gets hurt? What if their defense regresses? I like the Redskins even less, however…

Prediction: New York Giants 20, Washington Redskins 16

San Francisco 49ers (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0)

King Says:

Somewhere, Michael Crabtree is smiling.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 17, San Francisco 49ers 6

Benji Says:

Does Crabtree have the early advantage over Tony Romo for “leading the league in smiles,” Your Majesty? As for this game, since one of us should probably spend a little bit of time talking about it, I like the Cardinals. They have so many weapons on offense and should be able to beat the ‘9ers without too much trouble. Still, I think you give a little bit too much credit to the Arizona defense—that unit barely finished ahead of Denver in points allowed last season.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 30, San Francisco 49ers 23

St. Louis Rams (0-0) at Seattle Seahawks (0-0)

King Says:

The rebirth of the Seahawks begins. Steve Spagnuolo finds out just how much work he has in front of him, though he does get a nice piece of salmon out of the trip at his pregame meal.

Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 29, St. Louis Rams 6

Benji Says:

I was totally ready to jump on the Seahawks’ bandwagon this year—until I realized said bandwagon was being driven by a past-his-prime, injury-prone Matt Hasselbeck. It’s okay, though, they should look great against the Rams, which will completely validate your point, Your Majesty…

Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 26, St. Louis Rams 17

Chicago Bears (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)

King Says:

For all the pregame hubbub about the quarterbacks, I say the biggest factor in this game is the Packers front in the new 3-4 scheme — specifically 900 pounds of the three rotating ends on early downs, Culllen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly and B.J. Raji. I think the Packers will chase Jay Cutler all over Lambeau, too.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 23, Chicago Bears 16

Benji Says:

Both of these teams should be pretty good, but I am not as convinced of Green Bay’s defensive prowess as King is. Get used to hearing quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler mentioned in the same sentence—this rivalry begins on Sunday night and should last for the better part of the next decade, health permitting. I’ll take the Packers here, because I think Rodgers has a better supporting cast on offense. Don’t be surprised, however, if Cutler’s arrival helps Devin Hester develop into a legitimate number one receiver.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 26, Chicago Bears 20

Buffalo Bills (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)

King Says:

Gametime is 7:10. I predict by 7:33, after Jarvis Green’s second sack of the night, the Gillette crowd starts chanting, “Rich-ard Who?” On the visitors’ side, I have some progress to report. The Bills scored three points on 15 first-team offensive possessions in the preseason. They get six on 12 possessions in this one. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get to hear Terrell Owens give us more enlightening opinions detailing his feelings about the no-huddle offense. Tell us more, Mr. Offense!

Prediction: New England Patriots 31, Buffalo Bills 6

Benji Says:

Was this game chosen as the first Monday Night match-up just to make Brady look good in his return to the national stage? I’m a Patriots fan, and I’m still a little suspicious…

Prediction: New England Patriots 35, Buffalo Bills 6

San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0)

King Says:

One piece of advice for all you Fantasy wonks out there: If you’ve got LaDainian Tomlinson, and you’re down by 30 points entering the Monday night games, get the victory cigar ready. Three things are in LT’s favor in this one: Norv Turner is determined to re-establish him as the centerpiece of the San Diego offense, Tomlinson wants to stick it to every naysayer who thinks, at 30, he’s should apply for AARP membership, and seeing Silver and Black is Tomlinson’s personal fountain of youth.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 37, Oakland Raiders 13

Benji Says:

Echoing my sentiments from my last pick, was this game chosen as an opening Monday Night Football game just to make the Chargers, and specifically LaDanian Tomlinson, look good? I get it already—the Chargers and the Patriots are the best teams in the AFC. I don’t need a view that I already hold to be artificially reinforced by watching them play against abysmal teams.

Prediction: San Diego Chargers 35, Oakland Raiders 13


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