Behold! A Battle Of The Titans On Soldier Field

Standing tall as Zeus upon the fields of Thessaly, the Monsters of the Midway gird for battle Sunday upon the frozen tundra of Chicago's Soldier Field, dreaming of Packers vanquished, like Typhon beneath Mount Etna. Oh, and the Jets are playing the Steelers. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman about Lance Armstrong's latest troubles and Sunday's NFL conference playoffs.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of music) Time for sports. Standing tall as Zeus upon the fields of Thessaly, the Monsters of the Midway Sunday gird for battle upon the frozen Midwest tundra, dreaming of Packers vanquished like Typhon beneath Mount Etna. Yeah, and the Jets are playing the Steelers.

Joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: You're nutty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, oh, what big revelation to people listening, especially.

Listen, I guarantee you are mostly going to talk about football. But I want to begin with a story this week youve reported: The latest Lance Armstrong controversy. New charges have persisted in blood doping. If a cc of this is true, is there a consequence or end to all this?

GOLDMAN: Possible indictments, possible trials, more mucks certainly for the sport of league cycling.

You know, Scott, an interesting small print story amidst these headlines about Armstrong. You remember Floyd Landis, the cyclist who's doping admission last year and doping allegations against Armstrong prompted the current criminal investigation? Landis announced he's retiring from the sport and he had this parting shot.

He said: The fight versus doping can't be won. You have to legalize it, medically monitor it, and make sure people dont hurt themselves.

Is that crazy or maybe worth it to make it part of the discussion?

SIMON: Okay, the main event. New York Jets play the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Jets beat the Steelers last month, the regular season. But would any sane man or, for that matter, you or me, bet against Ben Roethlisberger in the playoffs?

GOLDMAN: You know, the Jets have been wonderful on the road, beating Peyton Manning and the Colts, of course, and Tom Brady and the Patriots - the Porsches and Cadillacs of quarterbacks and team. But, you know, with Big Ben and the Steelers, they're playing a big four-wheel drive rig that loves going off-road.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: You know, if the Jets bring the rush on Ben Roethlisberger, it's hard to bring him down. He's as big as many of the defenders. He loves going off-script. When the game breaks down into a schoolyard game, as they like to say, Roethlisberger shines.

So combine that with super safety Troy Polamalu, the best run defense in the NFL, big game experience. Scott, this is the fourth AFC Championship for all these guys since 2005. No, in answer to your question, I wouldnt bet against Pittsburgh.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah, Im going to say Steelers 28, Jets 17. Now...

GOLDMAN: I think thats good.

SIMON: Okay. And you? Huh? Huh?

GOLDMAN: I dont know about the score but I think the Steelers, yeah.

SIMON: All right. Now, I dont have to tell anybody about how I feel about this game. But devoted a Bear fan, as I am, nobody has a hotter hand now than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. And the three-point advantage the odds makers have given them seems even a little small to me.

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, I think the odds makers are very cognizant of a very good Chicago defense. You know, a classic Chicago Defense: great pass rush, linebackers, theyve got good defensive backs, too. Aaron Rodgers is as good as his offensive line is. And certainly the, you know, the Bears are going to be bringing it.

SIMON: Yeah, I want to know how he throws the ball sitting on his keister

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: with Julius Peppers all over him.

GOLDMAN: He's good enough to maybe do that.

SIMON: Yeah, you know he is. Now could the great Devin Hester make the difference?

GOLDMAN: He could. You know, in a tight game, certainly field position is a big issue here. And, you know, especially if it's cold, any - you know

SIMON: It'll be cold, Tom. It'll be cold.

GOLDMAN: It'll be cold, yeah. But, you know, with his great punt returning, yes, putting the Bears in good position he could, as he often does, make the difference.

SIMON: Okay, predictions.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right, Ill go first.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: President Obama, Im going to go with his prediction. He said Bears 20, the Packs 17; Bears 20 on a Matt Forte touchdown run, a Cutler to Hester pass and two Robbie Gold field goals.

GOLDMAN: I like it. Im not going to go to the - against the president or you. I like the ring of that Pittsburgh-Chicago Super Bowl. You got to use the John Facenda voice with that.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. Two great Midwestern teams joined in battle upon the throes and tundra that stretches between the Alleghenies and Lake Michigan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Oh, my God.

SIMON: And - oh, Matt Forte, how could I mispronounce his name?

NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks.

GOLDMAN: It's always a pleasure.

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