NFL Playoffs: 8 Musicians Make The Picks, Round 2
The 2011 NFL postseason continues into the divisional round on Saturday (Jan. 14), and like the rest of us, many music artists will be tuning in and rooting for their favorite teams. To celebrate the NFL playoffs and get some predictions on second-round matchups, Billboard.com spoke with eight artists about their favorite pro football teams and how they see their beloved teams faring in the race to the Super Bowl.
Artists like Lil Wayne, Asher Roth and the Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey are ready to see their top-seeded teams kick into high gear, while Birdman, Bun B and The Fray's Joe King think their squads will continue their winning ways from last weekend . Check out all of the NFL Q&As for this week, and revisit the wild card round Q&As by clicking here.
NEW YORK GIANTS (Waka Flocka Flame) vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (Lil Wayne)
One year after winning the Super Bowl, the Packers enjoyed their best regular season ever with 15 wins and 1 loss; the Giants' road to the postseason has been rockier, but the team has won 3 games in a row and finally has its pass rush in order. Packers super-fan Lil Wayne checked in with Billboard.com about Sunday's matchup with the Giants, while "No Hands" MC Waka Flocka Flame returned to once again guarantee a championship for his G-Men.
Lil Wayne, Green Bay Packers Fan
Billboard: How long have you been a Packers fan?
Lil Wayne: Since '95, because they won the Super Bowl in the Superdome. Jumped on the bandwagon and never jumped off. Plus I'm a super fan of Brett Favre.
What do you think is the greatest strength of this current Packers team?
Are you worried about facing the New York Giants, currently riding a 3-game win streak?
I am because they are on the high, playing out of their minds and Green Bay hasn't been on the field. The Giants are amped, and I don't know what Green Bay has been doing. Hope they are working hard during this off time. Also I'm worried, because they could have lost the first game against the Giants [a 38-35 win on Dec. 4].
How far do you see this Packers team going in this year's playoffs?
Waka Flocka Flame, New York Giants Fan
The Giants blew out the Falcons last weekend, 24-2. Now they face a much tougher opponent in the Green Bay Packers. How do you think the Giants do this week?
It's gonna be a close one, but we're gonna take it home. We're winning the championship! I think we gotta play all four quarters, but I know the Giants will come out on top. And Eli's gonna prove that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
The Green Bay offense has been explosive this season. Do you see the Giants' defense being able to shut down Aaron Rodgers and his receivers?
I don't see them shutting them down, but I can see them stopping them. I think we're gonna throw them in the mud.
If the Giants win this week, they head to either San Francisco or New Orleans. What team would you rather draw in the NFC Championship game?
The 49ers would be a run-over (laughs). I want to see the Saints, because I think it would go down to the last second.
You talked a lot about Eli Manning before last week's game. Is there another player on the Giants that's just as important to their success?
[Justin] Tuck could be a key player. But Eli's crazy; I think it's all up to him. It's like, who does he feel like throwing it to today? Eli gets it done -- he's the reason I watch football.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (Dropkick Murphys) vs. DENVER BRONCOS (The Fray)
The Denver Broncos continued to ride the unlikely Tim Tebow tidal wave to success with a shocking win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Now the team faces an even tougher opponent: the New England Patriots, who snagged the top seed in the AFC for the second straight year. The Fray guitarist Joe King returns to try and explain Tebow-mania, while Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey remains confident that Tom Brady and his veteran Pats team will take care of business.
The Fray's Joe King, Denver Broncos Fan
Last week, the Broncos won on the first play of overtime. How did it feel watching that dramatic 80-yard touchdown come together?
Oh man, it was literally one of the top games I've ever seen of the Broncos. It ranks up there with The Drive, Elway's drive back against Green Bay in the Super Bowl -- this was a huge game! Top 5 for me, for sure.
Now that they have a little bit of confidence in them, they have to travel to New England and play the top seed in the AFC. What are your expectations?
It's all gravy from here. I still love the position we're in, because we really have nothing to lose in this game. They're gonna go out and just have fun. Tebow, for instance, is just enjoying himself right now. This season has been more than they ever expected, and the team is totally pumped up that they're even this far.
What's the atmosphere like in Denver now?
I don't think there's one person I know that didn't watch the game on Sunday in Denver. At least 80 percent of Colorado was watching that game. There hasn't been this much excitement about the Broncos since Elway, and that's when I was a little kid.
Watching Tim Tebow week in and week out, how do you explain a game like the last regular season game where they scored three points against the Chiefs, and then he looks great against a top-tier defense like the Steelers?
You can't! It's literally one of those situations that you cannot explain… The guy had the worst game of his life the week before; he's at rock bottom as far as his performance. But then he comes back a week later and completely changes everything about how he plays. When you see someone fall like that, you just want him to get up and do exactly what he did. It's hard to wrap around it because I see both sides of the story. But you just believe in the guy!
What chance do you give the Broncos against the Patriots?
I think we went up against the best defense in the league last week, and now we're going up against pretty much one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. I like our odds. I think we have the edge on this.
Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey, New England Patriots Fan
How you feel about the team going into this game?
It's exciting to watch this year, because with a strong offense and a first rate defense, anything can happen. You know they could steamroll right through the Super Bowl or go out in the first round. But I obviously feel pumped. We played Denver a couple weeks ago [and won], so what should be different? It is sports, and you never know what's going to happen. But Tom Brady is the man, and in Tom we trust. The other team can trust in God; we'll trust in Tom.
The Broncos won in stunning fashion against the Steelers last week. As a Patriots fan, how do you view all the hype about Tim Tebow's piousness and his "miraculous" wins?
I don't know; I think God has better things to do than win or lose football games, so I don't really buy into that. But the guy seems devoted to his faith, and I don't see what the problem is - people get really upset sometimes when you talk to them about it. I think it is what it is, but I can respect that he's dedicated to something like that.
Out of the eight remaining team, what would you be most scared for the Pats to play?
I'd definitely say the Packers, though I'd like to see us play the Packers almost just to make for a good old-fashioned Super Bowl. The Saints are playing well too now. And revenge on the Giants [after losing to New York in Super Bowl XLII] would be amazing!
The Patriots have a lot of role players on this team now. Aside from Brady, who is going to be a key player this weekend?
I got to give a shout-out to my boy Julian Edelman. That kid's amazing -- I mean, have you seen that kid miss a tackle this year? I also like the young running back Stevan Ridley; I can see him having a big game.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (Birdman) vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (Asher Roth)
The 49ers have been a surprising powerhouse in the NFC this season, with quarterback Alex Smith finally finding his groove and a tenacious defense leading the way. That D will be tested by the Saints and Drew Brees, who threw for a record 466 yards against the Lions last week. Def Jam rapper Asher Roth broke down the 49ers' goals for Saturday's matchup, while Cash Money founder Birdman spoke to Billboard.com last week about the power of Drew Brees and his relationship with Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Asher Roth, San Francisco 49ers Fan
For their first playoff game, the 49ers have to play the Saints, probably the hottest team in the league. Do you wish they were playing someone else?
Absolutely not. I want to play the best of the best. To win the Super Bowl, we gotta beat the best of the best; I want to beat the Saints and I want to beat the Packers on the way in. With the Saints coming to town - they're coming to Candlestick [Park], and Candlestick is no joke. I'm just happy they're coming to our place. I'm really happy we're not going to the Superdome.
The Saints' Drew Brees just set a record for passing yards in a single playoff game, while the 49ers are the polar opposite, where they don't have to rely on their quarterback, Alex Smith, as much. Are you more confident with that balanced attack?
I still think, at the end of the day, it's about defense. We're on the flipside: the Packers, the New England Patriots and the Saints all have fantastic offenses, but all are in the bottom half of the league in defense. I know the Niners' red zone scoring is kind of shoddy, but we have a great run game and a phenomenal defense. So we create turnovers, and we don't turn the ball over. We're gonna hope to pressure Drew Brees with our great defense, get him to throw the ball, get him to make some mistakes, and capitalize on those mistakes.
If the Niners win, who would you rather draw in the NFC Championship game, the Packers or Giants?
I'd almost rather draw the Packers just cause they're susceptible. The Giants defense is gearing up, and with the run game going, the Giants are hot… I want to beat the Saints and I want to beat the Packers. We beat the Giants [earlier in the season], so if we don't have to face them again in the playoffs, that's very cool by me.
So are you seeing a Super Bowl victory for the Niners?
Nah, I'm not gonna go there yet. If they do, I would like to see a rematch -- I want Baltimore again [the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 in November]. I want Baltimore again because stuff went down in that game that I wasn't too fond of -- a bunch of really weird calls. So if we can meet in Indianapolis and slug it out with Baltimore again, I think it'd be a great Super Bowl.
Birdman, New Orleans Saints Fan
If the Saints make it to the Super Bowl, is there any team you'd want them to play?
I would like to see New England, because they got a great team and my nephew plays running back -- my brother's son, BenJarvus [Green-Ellis]. I'd love to see him get a ring.
He's had a solid year for the Patriots, with 11 rushing touchdowns.
Yeah, since he's been out of college he's been doing great. He didn't have any fumbles this year. He's really focused, and he takes pride in what he does -- he works real, real hard. He never got caught up in our life, because he wanted to play football. We're all so proud of him, and want him to get that ring. I'm sure he will, with Tom Brady and their coach [Bill Belicheck].
A lot of people are talking about Drew Brees being an MVP candidate. I know Aaron Rodgers has had an insane season, but do you see Brees possibly taking the award?
It could go either way. Aaron did have a great season -- I mean, [the Packers] lost one game this season -- but I think what Brees did with the team, as a unit… it could go either way. To me, both of them deserve it.
So you're thinking Co-MVP, like Peyton Manning and Steve McNair in 2003?
I don't think Drew deserves it over Rodgers, and I don't think Rodgers deserves it over Drew. If it could go both ways, it should.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (O.A.R.) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (Bun B)
The Houston Texans rolled through the first round of the playoffs with a resounding victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Next up is a game against the Baltimore Ravens, who took hold of the AFC North this season and are betting on a reliable defense to guide them to the Super Bowl. UGK rapper Bun B is fully on board with his hometown Texans, while O.A.R. musician Jerry DePizzo thinks the Ravens can win a close matchup in Baltimore.
Bun B, Houston Texans Fan
The Texans are playing the Ravens this week-how are you feeling about the game?
I'm feeling good. This Texans team has been down and out pretty much since [Matt] Schaub's been out, which is basically the last time we played the Ravens. You know they pretty much had this team broke, and now look at us, we're back in the playoffs playing the Ravens again. I feel very proud of what this team has accomplished and how far this team has gone despite the fact that we haven't had our number one quarterback, or even number two quarterback for that matter.
They've overcome a lot of injuries this year, and T.J. Yates had a solid game against the Bengals last week. Are you feeling confident that he can go up against a Ravens defense that is really strong?
It's not going to be easy, but I believe we can still score against that defense. They had a good chance of coming back in that last game. We were losing, but we were not out of the game, and this time we've watched tape, we've really studied these guys, we understand what it's gonna be. A lot of it's going to be up to our offensive line giving T.J. enough time in that pocket to make plays.
What was it like watching the Texans' first-ever playoff win against Cincinnati in Houston last week?
The city's been electric -- it's been electric all week. Everyone, everywhere has been very excited for the Texans… the city really stood up for this team, and the team understands what football means to this city. And they understand the fact that, despite that they haven't really been a very strong team, this city has been there for them. They worked extremely hard, every player has stepped up, and I don't think this city could be any prouder.
If the Texans win this week, they're either playing against the Patriots in New England next week, or against the Broncos at home in Houston. Who are you rooting for?
I mean, of course we want that championship game at home, so with us having the number 3 seed, of course we wanna push for Denver. But that being said, the number one team has been beaten before this year, so there's no reason why they can't be beaten again.
O.A.R.'s Jerry DePizzo, Baltimore Ravens Fan
Have you always been a Ravens fan?
I have kind of an odd relationship with the Ravens: I grew up about an hour outside of Cleveland, and the Ravens were taken from Cleveland [in 1995], put into Baltimore and have enjoyed a very successful franchise. So it's bittersweet for me, but I gotta live vicariously through somebody, and that's the Ravens.
They're coming into this weekend with a big game against the Houston Texans, who are missing their starting quarterback but are still playing very well.
I think, on paper, they're pretty evenly matched. They both have strong run games and quarterbacks who control the ball. I think it's going to come down to home field advantage and who wants it more.
What do you think is going to be the biggest key for the Ravens to win this week?
Holding onto the football. If you don't turn over the football, whoever wins the turnover game is going to win the game overall. Both have strong defenses, and both can really run the football. [Joe] Flacco definitely has an edge at quarterback -- he can launch that ball, and he's a big guy. If he's accurate and gets the ball to his receivers, I think they'll come out and win that game.
How far do you see this Ravens team going? Do you think they have a shot to win the whole thing?
If Baltimore's defense stays healthy and strong, and they don't turn the football over, I think they'll be successful and can go deep in the playoffs. New England's offense is unbelievable… and then you go against Green Bay, and Aaron Rodgers is on a tear. But I think Baltimore is a complete team. And I think complete teams can go pretty darn deep in the playoffs.