Looking Forward To Sunday Championship Football

Conference championship Sunday is almost as big as the Super Bowl, but without all those distracting halftime wardrobe malfunctions. Host Scott Simon is joined by NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman to discuss the upcoming games.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Hard hits, cheap shots, huge stakes. Well, enough about the primaries, time now for sports.

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SIMON: Tomorrow - conference championship Sunday, almost as big as the Super Bowl, just not without all those distracting halftime wardrobe malfunctions. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Scott.

SIMON: And AFC plays first tomorrow. The Baltimore Ravens hope to say nevermore to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Pats didn't seem to have a weakness last Saturday against the Broncos, though.

GOLDMAN: No, they didn't. Brady and his super-duper tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, they were unstoppable. But, Scott, it will not be target practice like that for Brady against Baltimore. At least it shouldn't. The Ravens guard opponents very well.

SIMON: They've got a great defense. Yeah. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: They do. A little long in the tooth, but great. They guard opponents well. They allowed the third fewest yards to tight ends in the NFL this season. And if Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs can bring the heat on Brady like he's done in the past, it can make things very uncomfortable for New England's golden boy quarterback.

SIMON: Second game, of course, is the NFC. And it's the New York Giants versus the San Francisco 49ers. Now, I, I must say, underestimated the Giants all year. Seen them only a couple of times, but the 49ers have made the best comeback since Seabiscuit against Man O' War. And they've got a relentless defense. How do you see this falling?

GOLDMAN: This is a really tough call. I would say the Giants probably are the more complete team. They've got a very strong defense, especially their pass rushers. They've got the better quarterback in Eli Manning. But San Francisco's defense is really good, a great tackling team. And a very hard-hitting team. The Niners lead the league in knocking out opposing running backs. Meaning, they hit them and they don't come back into the game.

Now, a couple of factors in the 49ers' favor. They have the best field goal kicker in the league this year, left-footed David Akers. He's a very good guy to have in a close game. And also, Scott, the game time forecast is for rain in San Francisco, and that might diminish Eli Manning's passing advantage. Also, a slick football might also play into San Francisco's strength of forcing turnovers. Niners are one of the best in the league at that.

SIMON: What matchup would you like to see in the Super Bowl, Tom?

GOLDMAN: I have decided late last night after pondering this, I want to see the 49ers in the Super Bowl. They've had a really special season under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Pats versus the 49ers. It's East Coast versus West Coast. Best offense versus best defense. Bring it on.

SIMON: Yeah. I agree. A quick baseball question. Tonight, the National League Most Valuable Player banquet. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers is expected to be there to pick up his award and maybe say a few words. But that could be awkward, right?

GOLDMAN: Could be. You know, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone back in November, and he faces a 50-game suspension if his appeal fails.

SIMON: And what do you think he might do? Any indication?

GOLDMAN: Oh, you know, I think people are thinking maybe he'll say something. I don't think so. He's going to pick up his award and not say much and probably nothing about the drug situation, which is too bad. It would be great if Braun got up on the dais and started a dialogue about performance enhancing drugs, all about it. If he's innocent, say that. If he's guilty, admit it. You know, we can dream about something like this, but it probably just isn't going to happen.

SIMON: Ah, you dreamer. Tom Goldman, NPR's sports correspondent.

Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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