This Weekend in Football Our regular sports husband and occasional host Bill Wolff talks with Deadspin blog editor Will Leitch about the best weekend for watching football.
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This Weekend in Football

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This Weekend in Football

This Weekend in Football

This Weekend in Football

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Our regular sports husband and occasional host Bill Wolff talks with Deadspin blog editor Will Leitch about the best weekend for watching football.

BILL WOLFF, host:

As BRYANT PARK PROJECT host Alison Stewart is about to be reminded, the impending weekend is the best weekend of the year for America's most elusive voting bloc, the pitifully sports obsessed. That's because it is divisional play-off weekend in the National Football League with four glorious, single elimination games.

The league's top teams - New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay are seeing their first play-off action. The competition is fierce and unpredictable. And at the end, only four teams remained. And it takes almost all day, both Saturday and Sunday, so let your mom go to voicemail and let's get ready for some football.

ALISON STEWART, host:

So the bottom line is I know where you will be.

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: Umm.

WOLFF: It will be very easy to keep track of my movements, darling.

STEWART: Well, maybe out of your - there'll be couch to Bud Light, Bud Light…

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: There'll be bathroom breaks during commercials.

Anyway, joining us now to break down the action is Will Leitch. He is the editor of the essential sports blog, Deadspin.com. That really is the essential, independent sports voice in America. He's also the author of the forthcoming book, "God Save the Fan: How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports."

Hello, Will.

Mr. WILL LEITCH (Editor, Deadspin.com): Good morning to you.

WOLFF: How are you?

Mr. LEITCH: I'm well. Actually, I'm already well into my Bud Light-couch, Bud Light-couch, Bud Light-couch rhythm. So I don't even need football for that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: God bless you, and it's early, too. Do you concur that this weekend is totally awesome?

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah. It's definitely the best weekend for real NFL fans. And I think, you know, obviously, the highest profile weekend is the Super Bowl. But like, there's so much, when it comes to Super Bowl, even the conference championship games a little bit, there's so much talk and there's so much hypeness. So many things that surround the games themselves that, you know, that people who really, really love football - they don't really care about that stuff.

This weekend, there's so much going on. Just four huge games, back to back, on two consecutive days. There's no time to do anything else but just simply enjoy them. And it's definitely a good day to do the Bud Light-couch combo.

WOLFF: Yeah. The Super Bowl is sort of like New Year's Eve. It's amateur's night out.

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah. Exactly.

WOLFF: The true party who doesn't actually even go out on New Year's Eve.

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah. This is a football weekend of a really, really, good day for the guys to sit at the end of the bar and just have the lady refill the Bourbon.

WOLFF: Yeah, you're talking to him. You're talking to one of them now, Will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Wait. Who refills the Bourbon in our house?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: The idea - the experience - this weekend is the experienced drinker weekend, more on Super Bowl than New Year's Eve...

STEWART: That's our next…

Mr. LEITCH: Better than that.

STEWART: That's our next…

WOLFF: Precisely. You don't want to stick around for our segment where we discuss the definition of alcoholism, Will. Anyway, let's take these games, I guess, in the order that they're played rather than the order of our anticipation about them. The first game of the weekend is Seattle going to Green Bay to play the Packers and, of course, Brett Favre, whom I read this morning, is leaning toward returning for another season next year.

What do you think - first of all, who do you think is going to win the game -Seattle at Green Bay?

Mr. LEITCH: Well, you know, actually, my advice, I'm actually predicting Green Bay hesitantly. They have not played that well of late and they're actually have not been strong this year at home as usual. And - but in a way, I almost find it difficult that at least Favre had said that he may - that he's leaning towards coming back but, of course, it's very possible that tomorrow he'll be leaning against coming back and becoming some weird mystical statement. It depends on - like, he changes his mind pretty much every five or ten minutes anyway. But, in a way, it will save us a lot of the trouble of having to hear the is this the last time Brett Favre will be at Lambeau Field and playing us from the Green Bay fans.

WOLFF: No, it won't. They're all going to say that, anyway. Are you kidding me? ESPN's going to do that for two hours tomorrow.

Mr. LEITCH: I have every NFL telecast on mute so I don't know what they're actually talking about.

WOLFF: Okay, here's a more important question: Do you watch the pre-game shows on mute?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: No. I watch the pre-game shows from the other room, with the television on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: All right. So you like the Packers by a little bit?

Mr. LEITCH: Yes. Yes.

WOLFF: Okay.

Mr. LEITCH: I can see - I can definitely see that one - that one can definitely go the other way.

WOLFF: All right. Next game up, Saturday night - and I read the blog this morning. This is the - I think and I think you think - the game of the weekend. And that's the New England Patriots hosting the upset-minded Jacksonville Jaguars. A, do you think it's the game of the weekend?

Mr. LEITCH: Yes. And I think anything the Patriots do - I think - in a way, right now, the Patriots' practice is almost a game of the weekend.

WOLFF: Right.

Mr. LEITCH: They - everything they do is the biggest chore in the NFL right now.

WOLFF: They're the Brangelina of football.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: I guess so. Wow, I suddenly like them even less.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: If that were possible. So what do you think? Do you think - I read a column yesterday, I think it was on ESPN.com where a writer - a columnist, predicted, in fact, this was the weekend. It all ended for New England. That Jacksonville had the right combination of this, that and the other thing. And they would, in fact, go to New England and beat the Patriots. Your thoughts.

Mr. LEITCH: No. There's an element of truth to that. That Jacksonville does have the type of game that could give New England trouble. They control the clock, they run the ball well. They have a decent secondary, but that said, it's really - for people that professionally pick the - professionally pick football game, there's really no downside in picking the Jaguars because if you're right, like, wow, he's catching at some inner knowledge of football that I do not possess. I would have assumed the Patriots would have won there. But if the Patriots win, no one will remember it. So…

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Yeah. I, in fact…

Mr. LEITCH: It's the fun little part of the game to pick that Jaguars but I have to take the Patriots side.

WOLFF: Yeah.

Mr. LEITCH: They lasted a game against the Giants, when Brady threw that long pass to Moss, they definitely have that general, you know, we're better than you at everything and we're going to show it to you in every possible way. I can't see the Patriots losing again this season.

WOLFF: They are truly - we've been talking about them, even here on NPR, for about four months and they are fairly amazing. Also, I think it's amazing that they came into the season expected to be so good and then they delivered, you know?

They got Moss and they got the linebacker, Adalius Thomas, and they got, you know, Wess Welker and everybody said, whoa, they're loaded. And then it turned out they were loaded.

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah. And it's nice to see Boston finally getting some good luck in the world of sports.

WOLFF: Yeah. I mean, what with the struggles of the Red Sox and Celtics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah.

WOLFF: Anyway, in the next game, Sunday. First game is the Chargers and the Colts in Indianapolis. Colts are the defending Champs. A, do you think the Chargers have a chance? I don't know that they're tied in. Antonio Gates who is excellent is gong to play. And B, do you think that Indi has actually achieved sleeper status despite the fact that they're the defending champs?

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah, well, it's like you're going in to see there are a lot of general talent scouts thought that the most talented team in the NFL was actually the Chargers - even more so than the Patriots. And, you know, their approach to Norv Turner is to make him the punching bag for fans and media alike. So I think he needs to win this game.

STEWART: He needs to win it to keep his job, right?

Mr. LEITCH: I don't think…

WOLFF: No.

Mr. LEITCH: He's not quite in danger of being fired.

STEWART: Oh, who am I thinking of?

Mr. LEITCH: He just might be in danger of being drawn and quartered. So this is - they are San Diegans.

STEWART: Oh, I'm thinking about Schottenheimer, right?

WOLFF: Yeah. Norv Turner saved his job last week by winning.

STEWART: That was it. I'm sorry.

WOLFF: Yeah. That's okay.

Mr. LEITCH: And - but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: …it's funny because - you can write about the Colts. It was funny how, you know, when the Colts and Patriots play each other earlier this year when they were both undefeated. It was a very bizarre thing that the Colts were the defending Super Bowl champion and were undefeated and they were - that was assumed they were going to lose by a lot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: And they actually made it a very close game. Very well could have won that game in the end so. Yeah, but the Colts are a weird team to sweep. The first time I could ever remember the defending Super Bowl champion having an outstanding season, and everyone is like, oh, yeah, the Colts are playing this weekend. That's interesting. Hmm.

WOLFF: Yeah, exactly.

Mr. LEITCH: I guess it would be fun to see when the Patriots - sorry, they're exhausting(ph).

WOLFF: I think they might go to the Super Bowl, the Colts. I think they could be - I think they're the one team that really could beat the Patriots and I think they're going to beat the Chargers handily, personally.

And then the final game of the weekend is the Giants and the Cowboys ancient NFC East rivals. A bitter rivalry, clash of cultures, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. They've never met in the play-offs so this is a unprecedented event at Texas stadium. Tony Romo spent the weekend last weekend with Jessica Simpson in Cabo. Everybody's freaked out about it. Terrell Owens has a high ankle sprain. Nobody's quite sure if he's going to play. Your analysis of the Giants and the Cowboys.

Mr. LEITCH: Generally speaking, at the end of the day, Eli Manning is still the quarterback of the Giants. And he had a good week last week, but I cannot fathom Eli Manning in a pressured situation late at Texas stadium, possibly being able to pull that off late.

STEWART: I feel so bad for Eli Manning.

WOLFF: Will, this is Bill. And my wife is Alison, who is sitting right here. I am just sitting - I am substituting. We watched the Giants and Alison, who is not a huge football fan, just looks at Eli Manning - doesn't really even know…

STEWART: Not really.

WOLFF: …much about what she's looking at and says, he looks kind of scared.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah. And the thing is - sometimes the problem is he doesn't always look like that. But he looks more like that when he is playing. He just looks more like that. And it's a shame and - you know, I don't - you know, I definitely understand some of the ideas that like, you know, instead of like Tony Romo essentially spent the off weekend before his biggest game of the season, studying his playbook as etched inside of a margarita glass. So…

WOLFF: And accompanied by…

Mr. LEITCH: You know, I understand worries about that. But I don't know, man. It's Eli Manning.

WOLFF: Yeah. So you like the Cowboys.

Mr. LEITCH: I definitely like the Cowboys.

WOLFF: All right. So to review, you like the home teams basically.

Mr. LEITCH: I do like the home teams in these games. Sometimes I like to go on a limb and make crazy statements like that.

WOLFF: Yeah, favoring home teams in play-off games, yeah.

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah.

WOLFF: So which of the games - which of the four games - I guess we agree that the Patriots, by default, are always the most interesting game. Of the other three games, can you rank them one to three by your level of interest in them?

Mr. LEITCH: Honestly, I think the most interesting game - and definitely one of the most entertaining game will probably be the Chargers and Colts, because they're the two high-scoring teams. The Chargers are definitely going to tumble on the late. And all the team closer to where they're supposed to be. And it's in the dome. I consider that being a very high-scoring game and high-scoring play-offs being really fun because really important things happen a lot.

WOLFF: Yes.

Mr. LEITCH: So that's always fun. The Giants-Cowboys game is definitely the next one. Though, my fear is that, like, because it's the last game. And we're going to be very fired up for them. This is the last one - and exhausted - this one thing. It might be the game where - that the Cowboys jump out early. And then we get talked into cleaning the closet or something.

WOLFF: One of those hideous 23-9 snoozes.

Mr. LEITCH: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And - but - and it says something to how outstanding this weekend is - that Brett Favre at Lambeau Field - for the first time in a play-off game in several years - in what could possibly maybe - who knows - maybe - I don't know. It could be his last game…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEITCH: …in Green Bay. That's probably the least exciting game of the weekend. It pretty tells - it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this weekend.

WOLFF: Oh, I can't wait. And Will, thank you so much for coming on for our listeners who want to get into sports or already are into them. Deadspin.com is just absolutely fantastic. And Will Leitch, very importantly, Alison…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

WOLFF: …is a fan of those St. Louis Cardinals. The 2006…

Mr. LEITCH: Go, Cardinals.

WOLFF: Me, too, buddy. I'm from St. Louis. God bless you. I read you every day.

Mr. LEITCH: Okay.

WOLFF: Thanks for coming on, man.

Mr. LEITCH: Of course.

STEWART: So out of that 11 or 12 minutes, I guess we're watching football this weekend is what you're telling me.

WOLFF: We don't have to.

STEWART: We do have a birthday party. Jimmy Joe Haley(ph) turns one. That's got to be in there somewhere.

WOLFF: That's right up there with the Giants and the Cowboys.

STEWART: But I know John Haley's father has a very large TV as well.

WOLFF: Yes, he does.

STEWART: And it will probably be on.

WOLFF: Yes, he does.

STEWART: Coming up next on the show, are you a boozer and you don't really know it? Well, it turns out, a lot more people have a problem with the sauce than you might think. We'll get into that next.

WOLFF: And Alison, we will get into adventure - going on a cruise not good enough for you - not content to lounge on a beach in Hawaii. We will talk adventure travel - jumping off cliffs, bridge jumping, base jumping - all sorts of stuff that is very adventurous. That's coming up next.

This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

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