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Four Teams Will Narrow To Two On This NFL Playoff Weekend


Ahoy, mateys. Time for Sports.


SIMON: The NFL playoff games this weekend will decide who goes on to the Super Bowl and who just watches from the sofa. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the magazine. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The Seahawks play the Packers in Seattle tomorrow. And I saw a story, the city manager of Bainbridge Island, Washington, has banned cheese from city hall there. It's really getting dirty.

Let me ask - doesn't any game in which Aaron Rodgers might take 50 snaps give a little edge to the pack?

BRYANT: I'd have to disagree with you on that one. I've been saying that for the majority of this football season that I'm going to stick with champions. The Seahawks are the best team. They've got an underrated quarterback, even though he won the Super Bowl last year, in Russell Wilson. Obviously Aaron Rodgers is a dynamic player, but up there the Seahawks do everything that you need to do to win a championship. They play great defense, they've got a great running back with Marshawn Lynch, they've got a great, young quarterback. And they're playing in a place that's very, very difficult for opposing teams to win. I don't see anybody beating them and I'm going to stick with it. However, if anyone can beat them, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers can because they've got a wonderful offense, they've got a fantastic offense. But, I just don't fall in love with offenses in January.

SIMON: OK. Tomorrow the Colts play the Patriots. Last week the Colts made Peyton Manning look like he'd wished he was playing shuffleboard in Fort Lauderdale, but Tom Brady's just a few months younger. He's almost never looked better. So what do you see in this game?

BRYANT: Well, I think the Patriots are going to win the game, and I think the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, but I think the Patriots aren't as good as the Seahawks. So I think you're going to get a Patriot-Seahawk Super Bowl with a Seahawk's victory. But it's wonderful what the Patriots have done - four straight AFC Championship games. And I think that Tom Brady, at 37 years old, he really needs another championship because they've come so close. They were undefeated back in 2007 and got upset by the Giants. Then they lost to the Giants again in the rematch in 2012. And at 37, how many more chances are you going to get? And I think they recognize as a team that this is one you just can't let get away. And they've destroyed the Colts last four times they've played them. I don't see it, but anything's possible. But I think the Patriots are going to win.

SIMON: Quick question while we're in the neighborhood - the Broncos were 12 and four this season. Do you see Peyton Manning coming back despite that last game - or because of it?

BRYANT: Or because of it. You know, I always look at it, Scott, from the standpoint that if the tank - you know, you play - you only come around this way once. So you play until the tank is empty because you're not coming back. So for me, if Peyton Manning feels like he can still play, I think he can still play. I just don't think that he can carry a team anymore the way that he used to. But he's still a great football player, but he needs much more help now.

SIMON: The NCAA has ordered Penn State to pay a $60 million fine to settle the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They also restored all those team's voided wins, which makes Coach Joe Paterno again the winningest coach in college football history. Does he get his reputation back?

BRYANT: No, he doesn't. And really, this to me really doesn't mean a whole lot to me. It means a lot to Penn State fans. But I have no problem holding the Louis Freeh report accountable. I have no problem holding the NCAA accountable. But we're always talking about leadership and character, but the Joe Paterno supporters still hold no responsible for the coach. And everybody failed here, including him, and so I think the victims - we should remember exactly who the victims were in this case.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.