Despite Vegas's best efforts, determining who's going to win any given week's football game is not an exact science. Some choose to look at who the oddsmakers favor or follow the talking heads on the pre-game shows. Some people stick to the Balki System, and for a good two-week stretch during the middle of the season, we made it through our pick-'em league by writing both teams' names on sheets of paper, placing a Beggin' Strip on each one and letting the dog decide.
But now that it's time for the divisional round of the playoffs, we have to get serious. It's time to look at who's got the strongest hip-hop fan tribute so we can better understand which direction the emotional energy will be flowing.
Nearly every NFL team has an obsessive fanbase that consists of at least a couple of aspiring rappers. Those rappers, in turn, record tribute songs for the team of their choice. Some of them are pretty great, while others get points just for trying. We took a look at the best songs on YouTube for each team playing this weekend and matched 'em up head-to-head in order to discern what might happen on the field.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Steelers song: "Black and Yellow," by Wiz Khalifa
Ravens song: "Ray Lewis (I Tried to Tell 'Em)," by Terry Motivation
Analysis: Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" is almost a ringer in this contest, as it's a legitimate single from an artist on a major label. As of this posting, in fact, it's a gold record, while Baltimore MC Terry Motivation has yet to hit 150 followers on Twitter. But just like the Steelers are the home team with a Super Bowl–tested quarterback while the Ravens are playing on the road with an offense that's been less than spectacular this season, the whole story isn't just in the pedigree.
Wiz Khalifa's song, while obviously catchy, is full of shoe-horned references to the Steelers, and he recently recorded a remixed version of the song called "Purple and Yellow" to celebrate the L.A. Lakers. Terry Motivation's "Ray Lewis (I Tried to Tell 'Em)", meanwhile, is a full-throttle tribute to his team's greatest icon, and the passion he brings to his tribute to the Ravens' star: "the best to ever play middle linebacker / Super Bowl MVP / quarterback sacker" -- overpowers the relatively mellow "Black and Yellow."
Our pick: We've got to go with the upset pick here. Wiz Khalifa and the Steelers put up a good showing, but the underdog Terry Motivation and the Ravens ride Ray Lewis to the victory.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers
Falcons song: "Rah (It's Game Time)," by DJ Kidd Star
Packers song: "Green Bay Packers Anthem," by Def Crew
Analysis: "Green Bay Packers Anthem" loses points for its unimaginative title, which is perhaps similar to the team's uncreative and inconsistent ground game. They can get into the end zone through the air, though. The Def Crew's guitar-based song scores with trash talk like "The Packers having the season you thought your team should" and wordplay like "Got the defense feeling dizzy / Now they seeing Bart Starrs."
However charming Def Crew's approach may be, it still falters when up against the more complete game played by DJ Kidd Star, whose "Rah (It's Game Time)" pays tribute to the Falcons with some much-expected Southern bounce. Like a pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White, it may be predictable, but it's still almost impossible to stop.
Our pick: The Falcons take it in a squeaker, despite an overachieving effort from the Pack.
Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks
Bears song: "Bearin Down da Song," by Covelli Productions
Seahawks song: "Seahawks' Time," by K Cartier
Analysis: Give the Bears fans points for name-dropping just about every starter on both sides of the ball for the team. In addition to predictable shout-outs to Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler, the Covelli Productions crew manages to work in references to offensive lineman Olin Kreutz and second cornerback Charles Tillman. Their boasts are also surprisingly specific. "We the best in the league on special teams," an MC asserts, a hard-to-argue statement about the third phase that only really makes sense when you consider that their recording runs over six minutes long.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, are repped by K Cartier's "Seahawks' Time," which gets points for its correct usage of the possessive apostrophe in the song title but loses a bunch more when you consider that the opening line references tailback Julius Jones -- who was cut by the team in week one and who lined up opposite the 'Hawks last week in their win over the Saints. Unfortunately, "Seahawks' Time" was recorded in 2009, but there isn't a more recent Seattle-based tribute on YouTube yet and this one is here mostly just because something had to qualify. Much like the Seahawks' surprising playoff appearance, in fact.
Our pick: If all of the specific (and up-to-date) references in "Bearin Down da Song" weren't enough to give them the win, the fact that they just hit you over the head with six stifling minutes -- much like the Bears' D -- gives them the edge. Maybe next year someone will record a Marshawn Lynch–inspired song for the Seahawks called "Beast Mode."
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Jets song: "N.Y. Jets," by Prolyphic and Buddy Peace
Patriots song: "Pats Music," by NBS
Analysis: "Pats Music" comes out strong and stays that way, painting the picture of a perfect Patriots performance -- Brady passing to Welker, handing off to Woodhead, or hitting Gronkowski in the end zone. It also doesn't waste any time, clocking in at an economical 2:49. In fact, on paper, it may be the best fan-based rap tribute to a football team.
However, New York's Prolyphic brings one crucial attribute to "NY Jets" that NBS doesn't exhibit: personality, the same thing that Rex Ryan's band of morally ambiguous misfits showed this year, from "Hard Knocks" to knocking off the Colts. Rather than fitting the prototype of a fan tribute, Prolyphic opts instead to tell a personal story about Jets fandom, starting with the green-and-white hat his father gave him and including the disappointments he's witnessed -- from Ken O'Brien being drafted ahead of Dan Marino to Boomer Esiason, Vinny Testaverde and Brett Favre's lackluster stint with the team. Instead of boasts, he shares the heartaches and frustrations of fandom, packing a much more powerful punch than the boilerplate boasts in "Pats Music."
Our pick: Despite seemingly having all of the momentum coming into the contest, the Pats are one-and-done, while New York continues on like a team of destiny.