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You can always get it right next time, next time

You can always get it right next time. (2x)

-The Barenaked Ladies, “Next Time”

This song goes out to all the teams who, after this weekend is over, will find themselves not playing football for a while.  Unless the Saints magically win the sixth seed, the turnover in the NFL playoffs is quite impressive – 6 teams will be in the postseason who missed out last year; the Bucs (4-12 last year), the Steelers, Jaguars, and Packers (8-8), either the Browns (4-12) or the Titans (8-8), and the Redskins (5-11) or the Vikings (6-10).  So there’s always next year.  Of course, if you’re the Cardinals, some other lyrics from that same song might fit better:

You can count on me

To mess it up

You can count on me

To let you down again

Many musicians aren’t big fans of the Barenaked Ladies, probably because they aren’t very complex in terms of chord structure.  They don’t have stunning instrumental solos or anything like that.  And most of the stuff that makes the airwaves is their trite, poppy stuff with fast lyrics (which they pretty much abandoned in last year’s independent release).  It’s frustrating, because I consider myself a man of musical sensibility, and they’re probably my favorite band.  That’s probably because I’m more of a vocalist, and their songs are fun to sing, and they have great lyrics. 

But enough about music – this is a football blog, after all.  I’m only bringing this up because for this week’s predictions (and sorry they’re so late), I have a Barenaked Ladies lyric for each NFL game of week 17.   

 

New England at NY Giants

from “Bull in a China Shop”

I’m a kid in a candy store

I’m a bull in a china shop

I’m a tired old metaphor for everything you can’t afford

And everything you can’t afford to be

That’s right, you can’t afford to build a team like the Patriots.  You don’t have a star quarterback who’s willing to take less pay than many inferior passers so that you can surround him with better talent, and you can’t have theirs.  You don’t have the best talent evaluators in football to enable you to make the most of your drafts.  And Tom Brady is throwing passes to Randy Moss and racking up stats like a kid in a candy store, and this final game against the Giants will have the aftermath of a bull in a china shop, especially since New York has little to play for.  Patriots 38, Giants 17.  Game co-MVPs: Tom Brady and Randy Moss, 3 TD connections; Moss 8 catches for 115 yds, Brady 30 for 35 passing, 356 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs.

 

Seattle at Atlanta

from “Break Your Heart”

And if I always seem distracted

Like my mind’s somewhere else

That’s because it’s true

It’s this stupid pride that makes me feel

Like I have to follow through

Even half-assedly…

And half-assedly will be enough to beat the hapless Falcons, though not by a lot.  The ‘Hawks will have their minds on the playoffs, and I could see them making a few major errors that allow the other birds to look better than they actually are.  This one accidentally gets pretty high-scoring.  Seahawks 35, Falcons 28.  Game MVP: Nate Burleson – 8 receptions for 146 yds, TD, return TD.

 

New Orleans at Chicago

from “Jane”

Jane, divided, but I can’t decide which side I’m on

Jane decided only cowards stay while traitors run

Jane is clearly a Bears fan.  She’s fickle, and sees the worst in everybody.  She boos Rex Grossman, calling for Brian Griese.  She boos Griese, calling for Kyle Orton.  And on Sunday, she’ll probably boo Kyle Orton, and start calling for Matt Ryan or Brian Brohm.  Then again, the Saints don’t exactly have a monster secondary, and they’re used to playing indoors down south, and they’re playing in Chicago.  35 degrees with a slight chance of precipitation, moderate wind.  Well, it’s not great passing weather, but it won’t be enough to throw off Brees’ passing game.  Give me the team with something to play for, as the Saints take it late.  Saints 24, Bears 19.  Game MVP: David Patten – 6 catches for 139 yds, game-winning TD.

 

San Francisco at Cleveland

from “Never Do Anything”

Don’t write me off as an also-ran

Just mark me down as an angry man

Got a big chip

You want a fat lip?

How ‘bout a mouthful of Chiclets?

Life passed me by, but it’s not my fault

I’ll lick my wounds, could you pass the salt?

Okay, I’m giving away the ending here, I have the Titans winning later.  The Browns have no control over their destiny.  For anyone who hasn’t figured this out yet, if the Browns and Titans both lose, the Browns make the playoffs due to having a better conference record.  If they both win, they have the same conference record (since Tennessee is playing a conference opponent and Cleveland is not), and the first applicable tiebreaker becomes strength of victory, which the Titans win.  So it doesn’t matter what Cleveland does.  But they’re ticked off about it, and they’re going to take it out on the 49ers, who are feeling good about themselves after beating Tampa Bay last week (of course, Gruden was just trying to get a matchup against the Giants, not the Vikings or Skins who are playing better right now).  So after the Titans win the last game of 2007, the Browns will be saying “That guy should be me / I’d look much better on TV. / Then the world would see / That I can do anything.”  49ers 13, Browns 31.  Game MVP: Jamal Lewis – 28 carries for 133 yds, 3 TDs.

 

 

Detroit at Green Bay

from “Wind It Up”

If you are leaving, then I wish you luck

I hope someone can make your heart warm

I was a baby when I learned to suck

But you have raised it to an art form

No, that’s not about Brett Favre, how could you ever think that?  It’s, of course, about Matt Millen, and anyone on the Lions who runs away from everything Detroit’s ever hoped for after this season, as Roy Williams has talked about doing.  Favre is going to start the game to keep the streak alive, and build a nice lead for Aaron Rodgers to have all the comfort he needs to play a solid game.  This one’s never close.  Jon Kitna, that preseason prediction… looks kinda stupid now, doesn’t it?  Guess I’m out of line, but you’re out of your mind.  Lions 10, Packers 31.  Game MVP: Brett Favre – 8 for 9 passing, 141 yds, 2 TDs.

 

Cincinnati at Miami

from “Humor of the Situation”

I’ve never felt so small, I’ve never been so dissed

As I shivered, dripping, while the chorus goes

Come on, now now, come on, now now

Enjoy the humor of the situation

A week after stunning division rival Cleveland to ruin their chances at the division title, Cincinnati, true to form, will lose to Miami.  They lost to Kansas City and San Francisco, but somehow killed Tennessee.  And the celebration on the sidelines, though it won’t equal that from Miami’s first win against Baltimore, will be hilarious.  Never will a 2-14 finish be so celebrated.  Bengals 16, Dolphins 20.  Game MVP: Cleo Lemon – 23 for 30 passing, 244 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.

 

Buffalo at Philadelphia

from “I Live With It Every Day”

I live with it every day, even though we’ve moved away

Our yesterdays are on a loop, a marathon of heartbreaking moments

I live with it every day, with every step I’ve had to pay

Aah, to be an athlete in Philadelphia.  Every mistake you’ve ever made, haunting you even after you move away.  The same could be said for New York, which makes one wonder if East Coast bias is really all that enviable.  But I digress.  Really, the Eagles’ second half of the season hasn’t been bad.  4 wins, 3 against teams in playoff contention; 3 losses, all by 3 or 4 points to teams who’ve clinched playoff berths.  Donovan McNabb hasn’t thrown a pick since returning from injury, and has only thrown six on the year, yet his bad decisions to open the season 0-2 still have the fans at his throat.  If the team can shut out the noise and hold together, they should be back in the playoffs next year with a much easier schedule.  I’m ignoring you, Bills, I’m sorry.  Buffalo, you have fought hard through a lot of adversity.  I don't think you’ll win this game, but with another strong draft and better injury luck and an easier schedule next season, I think you’ll be in the playoffs as well.  Bills 16, Eagles 23.  Game MVP: Donovan McNabb – 21 for 31 passing, 289 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.

 

Jacksonville at Houston

from “Why Say Anything Nice”

Why’d you take your glasses off if you don’t intend to fight?

Frankly, I’d be out the door if I thought I’d last the night

No screaming or fighting, no scratching or biting,

We’re just shaking hands good night

Typically, I’d love to watch this game.  David Garrard is to me what Vince Young is to Josh (man-crush, just with less drooling), and I love the Jacksonville backfield, as they’ve catapulted to #3 or #4 on my favorite teams list (battling with Cleveland).  But we won’t see much of them.  I’d say Jacksonville has the most legitimate concern in benching their QB and RB, as Taylor and Garrard both have some injuries in their history.  So there won’t be much screaming, fighting, scratching, or biting in this game.  For a division rivalry, it should be a fairly civil affair, and the Texans will keep it on the ground for a very low-scoring second half.  Jaguars 16, Texans 24.  Game MVP: DeMeco Ryans – 9 tackles, INT.

 

Tampa Bay at Carolina

from “Maybe You’re Right”

It was often talked about

It was often raised

But nothing was ever done about it.

They laughed at Jon Gruden when he stacked his roster with 4 or 5 NFL-ready quarterbacks.  And some raised the possibility that Carolina would be in trouble with only Jake Delhomme and David Carr on the roster at quarterback; that maybe they should look into some backup help.  Well, here we are, week 17, and Carolina is playing one of the four starting QBs they’ve had this year, an undrafted rookie.  Who’s smart now?  There was other concern about the Panthers’ depth, and those needs weren’t adequately addressed.  This is why Tampa Bay has won the division.  But Gruden clearly didn’t care to win last week’s game against the 49ers, and won’t care much about this one, preferring as I earlier said to secure the 4th seed and play the Giants.  So this will be another ugly-fest, but Luke McCown puts together a nice enough game and wins.  Buccaneers 20, Panthers 13.  Game MVP: Luke McCown – 20 for 35 passing, 266 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT.

 

Kansas City at NY Jets

from “The Old Apartment”

Only memories, fading memories

Blending into dull tableaux

I want them back

I always thought Herm Edwards looked better in green.  And while both his new team and his old team made the playoffs as wild cards last year, both have been downright embarrassing this year.  So when Herm breaks into the old apartment this week, and wonders about the neighbor downstairs and how his [Tom Coughlin] temper is this year (It’s vastly improved, apparently), and wonders why they kept the mousetrap and the dishrack (that is to say, Jonathan Vilma and Chad Pennington – “These things used to be mine / I guess they still are, I want them back”), he’ll start feeling all nostalgic.  The Ken Whisenhunt Principle (by which I predicted Arizona’s win over Pittsburgh) doesn’t apply here; I don’t see Edwards returning and beating up his former team, because it wasn’t a case of them giving up on him – he left them.  The Jets leave the Chiefs with broken hearts and broken bones (hopefully no further ones beyond those already on IR), as Kansas City finishes the season on a 9-game losing streak.  Chiefs 9, Jets 16.  Game MVP: Leon Washington – 10 carries for 98 yds, TD, 144 return yds.

 

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

from “Unfinished”

I played along, but it was not for recreation

I left my home, but it was not evacuation

I made a pact, that I would finish what I started

I admit the fact I was distracted and outsmarted

If any team in the NFL would throw in the towel for a better draft pick, it’s Baltimore, even against a division rival.  They have talent on their team, but they’ve seemed distracted all year long, and have been consistently outsmarted in close games.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, would be smart to do everything in their power to not play Jacksonville in the first round of the playoffs.  They need a win and a Chargers loss, and can only do anything about the first.  After an injury scare, however, Mike Tomlin pulls the plug on Roethlisberger and puts in Charlie Batch.  Can’t go into the playoffs with your star QB and RB hurt.  Roethlisberger gets checked out and he’s fine, but Batch wins the game anyway.  Steelers 29, Ravens 10.  Game MVP – Charlie Batch – 20 for 26 passing, 178 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.

 

St. Louis at Arizona

from “Too Little Too Late”

One day, this embarrassment will fade behind me

And that day, I could think of things that won’t remind me

Of these days; it’s unbearable for both of us, we can’t discuss it this way

I’m gaining strength, trying to learn to pull my own weight

I’m gaining pounds, at the precipice of too late, just wait,

I could be good, and I would, if I knew I was understood

And it’ll be great, just wait

Or is it too little, too late

Oh, man, how perfect is that song?  Life in the NFC West, summed up very neatly.  Always hope for the future, always an embarrassing present.  But the Cardinals, with all the promise they’ve shown lately, are at the precipice of too late.  They’re young, but not green anymore, and the time to break out is now, not next year.  But it’s too late.  As for the Rams, their backups are trying to learn to pull their own weight due to all the injuries, and have shown in a couple of games that they can be good, but shown in more that they can be very bad.  For this day, it’s unbearable for both of them, but the Rams show more heart and pull it out.  Rams 20, Cardinals 17.  Game MVP: Steven Jackson – 25 carries for 108 yds, TD.

 

San Diego at Oakland

from “I Can, I Will, I Do”

Friend, this shouldn’t be the way things end

But then, a break is just around the bend

And when you tell me as I leave

You’re scared you’ll never see my face again

Well I’m not sure it’s the truth.

The Oakland Raiders have been burned before, and they’ve seen Miami get Sabaned and Atlanta get Petrinoed, and have every reason to be scared they’ll never see Lane Kiffin’s face again, but I’m not sure it’s the truth.  Kiffin got some promising play out of long-time Raiders Ronald Curry and Justin Fargas (though Fargas’ injury shouldn’t be the way things end), has doubled last year’s win total, and with a break and a year of practicing, training, and getting comfortable with his receivers, should get JaMarcus Russell in shape to play some reasonably good football next year.  Unlike Miami and Atlanta, Oakland has some hope for the immediate future, and I could see that win total doubling to 8 again next year.  But Dan, you say, what if they win Sunday, then they finish with 5 wins.  Good point.  Well, then, they won’t.  San Diego doesn’t want to play Jacksonville  Chargers 28, Raiders 20.  Game MVP: LaDainian Tomlinson – 21 carries for 103 yds, 2 TDs. either.

 

Dallas at Washington

from “War on Drugs”

Won’t it be dull

When we rid ourselves of all these demons haunting us

To keep us company?

Won’t it be odd

To be happy like we always thought we’re supposed to feel

But never seem to be?

Bittersweet bit of lyric for a prediction of my team making the playoffs, huh?  Well, it’s kind of appropriate.  This season has been marked by pain and tragedy, from Jon Jansen’s early injury to Jason Campbell’s knee injury, and of course Sean Taylor’s death in the middle.  Yet they’ve fought back and are in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot – and the demons of this season seem to be partially responsible for this late surge.  A lot of people have the Redskins and the Titans both winning and thus making the postseason on the logic that the Cowboys and Colts will rest people.  If I’m the Cowboys, I keep Romo, Barber, Ware, Newman, and all the starters in until the game is out of hand.  Why?  Because I’d rather play the Vikings than the Redskins in the playoffs.  Washington came to Dallas and despite their star safety being injured, thoroughly outplayed the Cowboys except for four huge plays to Terrell Owens.  Minnesota came to Dallas and needed all the luck in the world to hang close, until fortune turned at the end to give Dallas a 10 point victory.  But even if Wade Phillips decides to try as hard as ever for the win, I see the Skins taking it, thanks to T.O.’s injury, exuberant home fans, and the same push that drove them to must-wins against the Giants and Vikings these past two weeks.  By the third quarter, this one’s out of hand, and Phillips pulls the starters.  Cowboys 17, Redskins 34.  Game MVP: Clinton Portis – 25 carries for 156 yds, TD.

 

Minnesota at Denver

from “Home”

Stuck in the middle of the road

For better or worse, we compromise

You may have won my hand, dear

But it was the consolation prize

Adrian Peterson has won—maybe not our hands, but our hearts—and he’s likely on his way to becoming rookie of the year.  But it’s a consolation prize, as his Vikings will have missed out on the playoffs.  I assume somewhere on Denver’s field, they post scores around the league.  I assume that generally players don’t look at that scoreboard.  But you know they’re going to be sneaking a peek when the game seems to be going well, and they’ll see Washington very unlikely to lose to Dallas.  This will lead to an emotional collapse, and Denver  Vikings 26, Broncos 28.  Game MVP: Champ Bailey – 5 tackles, 3 PDs, INT return for game-winning TD. comes back and wins a game, leaving both teams stuck in the middle of the road.

 

Tennessee at Indianapolis

from “Upside Down”

Imagine everything you’ve done

Under a microscope on view for everyone

And if the king of circumspection’s here,

He’s come in vain – I won’t be sharing the blame

I wear the crown

And I will not turn my whole life upside down.

The Colts are not neglected like some seem to think they are; they are heavily scrutinized and compared against the Pats, and they’ll wait patiently for their turn to prove themselves again; after all, they wear the crown.  Unlike the Cowboys, they really don’t care whether the Titans or the Browns get in.  The only way it affects them is if one of them wins the wild card, and then beats New England (as sixth seed, there’s no way they’ll play the Colts in round 2).  In which case, Dungy & co. will be happy to face someone other than Belichick and Brady.  Manning will play a series or two, then Jim Sorgi gets his annual week 17 playing time.  Soon, Bob Sanders comes out, along with Joseph Addai and several other key players.  And the Titans run away with it.  Titans 31, Colts 16.  Game MVP: Chris Brown – 14 carries for 111 yds, 2 TDs.

 

And that’s the last week of my regular-season predictions.  I leave you with one more for the Redskins:

 

from “Adrift”

Your heart’s got a heavy load

There’s still a long way to go

Keep your eyes on the road

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