NFL Playoffs Resume With 4 Weekend Games
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, we got wildcard weekend out of the way, and now it's time to get serious in the NFL playoffs. The four top dogs had last week off. And now we're going to see if the break was a good thing, or if it makes them vulnerable to these battle-tested winners who are coming to town.
One man who never gets any rest is NPR's Mike Pesca. Hello, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
GREENE: So let's try to get through this without mentioning the name Tim Tebow, if that's OK with you.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
PESCA: I cannot. I'm contractually obligated to plug him a few times.
GREENE: Well, let's start somewhere else, with the New Orleans Saints. I mean, their offense looked unstoppable against the Lions last week. Drew Brees threw for something like 2 million yards. But now, they're coming up against the 49ers defense.
PESCA: Yeah, the 49ers defense - and importantly, the 49ers defense at home, on grass. And the Saints have struggled under those conditions. And when I say struggled - I mean, they're still pretty good. But you have to remember, the Saints are one of three all-time great NFL offenses that are still alive in these playoffs; the Patriots and Packers being the other two.
The last two games the Saints played on grass, they scored 22 against Tennessee and 20 against Tampa Bay. That's not so great. And those teams aren't as good at defense as the 49ers are.
You know, we say all this just to hype the drama, because it really does seem that the Saints are unstoppable. Throw into the mix that they've never won a playoff game on the road. But, you know, we're not talking about the Saints of Archie Manning. We're talking about this Drew Brees juggernaut.
GREENE: We'll see if the grass makes him human. Well, OK, let's get to Tim Tebow. There's so much hype - as you used that word - for this Broncos-New England Patriots matchup. I mean, we could see ratings as high as the finale of "M*A*S*H." I don't know. I mean, does Tebow keep the magic, or do you think the Patriots have been studying the mistakes that the Steelers defense made against him?
PESCA: You know, I read a poll this week that said of the 70 percent of Americans who are aware of Tim Tebow, 43 percent believe that divine intervention is somehow at play in his success.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GREENE: That's amazing. I'm one of them; I'm one of them.
PESCA: Two things here: One, only 70 percent? That seems low. And I wasn't aware that putting single coverage on every receiver was divine intervention, you know. I know burning bushes and walking on water, but no safety help over the top?
What I'm saying is, the Steelers did not really have a great game plan against Tim Tebow. They were overly aggressive, and he's a quarterback of limited throwing skills. But one of the things he can do is throw the ball long. And the Steelers were vulnerable.
The Patriots won't make that mistake. These two teams played before, and the Broncos were doing well until they fumbled three times. I don't think the Patriots are shaking in their boots. But like you said, how could there not be drama when that guy is involved?
GREENE: Thanks for trashing my Steelers. I'm not going to ask where your New York Jets are right now.
PESCA: You know, same golf course as the Steelers. But the Jets are guaranteeing they're going to win that golf game.
Yeah, that's great. They're good at golf. I don't know about football this year. Let's talk about the Houston Texans-Baltimore Ravens matchup. Would it be a miracle for the Texans to win, then?
I would say of the eight teams that play, the Texans are the ones who are least likely to win. It's just that they have a rookie quarterback because their starter and their backup got hurt. And they have already played, and that's when they had their starting quarterback, Matt Schaub. And the Ravens have a really good defense. Anything can happen. It's a one-game series. But it's unlikely that the Texans will win.
GREENE: All right. And Lambeau Field, set up the Giants-Packers game for us.
PESCA: You know, probably won't snow. A lot of Giants fans are saying hey, this season and this matchup reminds us of our Super Bowl-winning season, when we narrowly lost to the Patriots, then beat them in the Super Bowl. This year, the Giants narrowly lost to the Packers. Perhaps they could beat them again.
The Packers offense is like the Death Star in that you can't beat them if you're going to try to shoot down TIE fighters or that huge laser gun that is Aaron Rodgers' arm. But if you can get to them before they can launch, you know, with that little photon torpedo in the hole, maybe you have a chance of stopping them. Maybe the Giants defensive line can sack Aaron Rodgers, and that would be the Giants' hope.
GREENE: Really does seem like one of those years when we're going to see the old adage that defense wins championships. That's going to be tested.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GREENE: Well, Mike, enjoy the games this weekend.
PESCA: I will.
GREENE: That's NPR's Mike Pesca, talking about the playoffs moving along in the NFL. And you're listening to NPR News.
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