LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. And it's time for sports.
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WERTHEIMER: College football fans are saying goodbye forever to the bowl championship series, and as NFL playoffs skip a kickoff today, wild card weather could be a game changer. For more, I'm joined by NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Happy New Year to you.
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much. And you as well. I wonder, Tom, as much as the BCS system was criticized for using statistics instead of actual playoffs, this year's match-ups looked pretty good. Oklahoma beat Alabama at the Sugar Bowl and Michigan State beat Stanford at the Rose Bowl. What have we learned from this much-maligned sports tradition.
GOLDMAN: I think we've learned we're ready for this long overdue change, the playoffs starting next season. In the four biggest, most lucrative bowl games so far, the BCS bowl games, and we've got the biggy to go on Monday night, the BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn. But in the four already played, Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and last night's Orange Bowl, you have the underdogs winning.
Stanford, Ohio State, Alabama lost, and those schools had been fixtures at the top in recent years. And, Linda, it's an example of why there is such anticipation for a playoff because there are teams other than the usual suspects that deserve a chance at the title. A playoff will provide that chance, although it'll just a four-team playoff. But it's a start.
WERTHEIMER: So, over to the pros. The NFL playoffs start today. Who are the hot teams this season?
GOLDMAN: You know, that's a good question because hot has mattered in recent years. The eventual champions started to build momentum with surges late in the regular season. Also, the last three champions, Baltimore, New York Giants and Green Bay, all played the first weekend, wildcard weekend, and they weren't one of the teams that got the weekend off because of a bye.
So the hot teams playing on this wildcard weekend: Indianapolis has won three straight, San Diego has won four straight. San Diego's opponent tomorrow, Cincinnati, had a strong finish and is undefeated in its home stadium where tomorrow's game is being played.
Now, San Francisco has one six straight. And the 49ers are looking more and more like the team that got to the Super Bowl last season, but the 49ers play a Green Bay team in Green Bay tomorrow that squeaked into the playoffs by beating Chicago last week with a last-second touchdown pass thrown by Packer's quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I hope you saw that. He missed seven weeks before that because of a broken collarbone. So you think maybe Green Bay is poised for a magic run too.
WERTHEIMER: So weather has got to be a factor this weekend. I have to tell you that here in the northeast, we are freezing and the Midwest is colder.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the forecast for the game between the Packers and the 49ers at Green Bay's fabled Lambeau Field, could drop to as low as minus 51 degrees with the wind chill. That could make it the coldest ever game in NFL history.
Could it be a factor in Green Bay - also Cincinnati and Philadelphia? Yeah, especially the combination of cold and wind. It's hard to throw, hard to catch; you can imagine it stings even more to get hit. The players say attitude matters. Who will do a better job of not minding?
WERTHEIMER: NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Thank you.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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