Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground

–    Bruce Springsteen

Good NFL predictors understand that the ends justify the means, just as in politics. It doesn’t matter how you got there, as long as you get there. So I am proud to present three new names in NFL predicting. That’s right: Roland Burris, Al Franken, and Caroline Kennedy walk into a bar, and there is an NFL playoff game on…

My name is Roland Burris and I have been appointed NFL predictor from the great state of Illinois.

What do you mean I’m not certified? Fonzi over there appointed me.

All right, fine, I’ll wait but not long. In the meantime, I want to go watch the Cleveland Browns playoff game.

What do you mean the Cleveland Browns didn’t get certified into the playoffs? What’s your thing with certification?

My name is Al Franken and I’m smart enough and I’m good enough because doggone it 225 more people out of about 3 million in Minnesota think I can pick NFL games better than that the other guy whose name I hope you soon forget.

The important thing is that the will of the people – this particular will of the people, not the one that was announced on November 4 – be honored and I believe those people want the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs. I’ve got political capital and I’m going to use it.

I don’t have political capital? A court has to decide if I’m smart enough or good enough? The Browns aren’t in the playoffs? Doggone it.

My name is, um, Caroline Kennedy and, you know, I want to be um, like, you know, the NFL predictor from, um, New York. Did you know my Dad was the Prognosticator of the United States of America? Yeah, just like Barack Obama’s going to be.

So, uh, I don’t follow football, you know, but, uh, Uncle Teddy told me that for the Cleveland Browns the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

The Browns dream died again this year? Oh. He didn’t say that’s whatzgonnahappen.

RAVENS AT TITANS – Form a circle, the bullies in the schoolyard are going to have a fight. First Ray Lewis stops by the Tennessee roadside to admire the beautiful view and is run over by Al Gore’s SUV. Then he goes to find out that LenDale White is the same as Gore’s SUV except that White leaves a bigger footprint, though a smaller carbon footprint. Titans 23, Ravens 17

CARDINALS AT PANTHERS – Every time the Cardinals fly east the team shrinks to the size of an actual cardinal. It’s the playoffs and Kurt Warner is a gamer, so they won’t melt completely. But those uniforms are jinxed, this year by the team wearing Panthers uniforms. Watch Steve Smith, he’ll be electric. Panthers 39, Cardinals 20

EAGLES AT GIANTS – The Eagles are everyone’s hot team but I refuse to join the organization called everyone. The Giants running game is going to eventually wear out the Eagles. Brian Westbrook will break one or maybe two long runs, but neither will be for a touchdown. Meanwhile, look for Eli Manning to rise to the occasion again. Giants 21, Eagles 17

CHARGERS AT STEELERS – Mike Tomlin has not won a playoff game. That continues as the Chargers improbable run goes straight through Pittsburgh with the help of a referee, or a controversial overtime rule, or something cool like that. Meanwhile, the debate about the two quarterbacks – perhaps both heading to the Hall of Fame – should find a lot of arguments in this particular game. Chargers 23, Steelers 20

This column is sponsored by trillion-dollar deficits and countries that love them.

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