NFL's Angry Pats to Take on the Unflappable Colts Howard Bryant of ESPN talks about the biggest NFL game of the year so far: the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams are unbeaten.
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NFL's Angry Pats to Take on the Unflappable Colts

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NFL's Angry Pats to Take on the Unflappable Colts

NFL's Angry Pats to Take on the Unflappable Colts

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, Leonard Nimoy photographs the women of the Fat-Bottom Revue.

But first, there's a mid-season showdown tomorrow afternoon in Indianapolis. The unbeaten New England Patriots, who are 8-0, faced the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts who are 7-0.

This is believed to be the first regular season game between two Super Bowl champions who've gotten to mid-season undefeated since Sparta squared off against Athens.

Joining us from ESPN radio studios in Bristol, Connecticut, is ESPN.com's senior writer Howard Bryant.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer, ESPN): As always, Scott, how are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks. Look, Howard I think a lot of football fans around the country think the New England Patriots have been running up the score and they hopeā€¦

Mr. BRYANT: They have.

SIMON: All right, and they hoped they get their helmets handed to them this weekend. Are the Colts the team to do it?

Mr. BRYANT: If anyone's going to do it, it's going to be the Colts. I don't think that's going to happen. I think the Patriots are just on a mission. They're a very angry team after Spygate. Whether they were cheaters or not may have had their accomplishments impugned.

You watch this team and what you're really seeing is an extension of the coach, of Bill Belichick. And this is - I think it's a lot of fun because the thing that I really love about sports is the contrast. And you've got this dignified, reserved Christian coach in Tony Dungy going up against Bill Belichick, whose reputation is taking a worse hit each day and each game he wins.

And so you've got these two contrasting styles, and both of these teams are extremely accomplished. They're both championship teams. They both crashed in to each other. One has to beat the other for one to win the championship. Neither team has beaten the other in the post-season on the road. So it's just a wonderful, classic match-up that - I've actually missed them at NFL.

SIMON: Is asking Brady or Manning these days a bit like asking Rolex or Cartier?

Mr. BRYANT: Or Magic or Bird. Absolutely.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: You've got two players at the top of their games. And they're such great competitors. And they're so good right now. And I think that's one of the things that's really fun to watch.

SIMON: Randy Moss, I got to say, there was a lot of - obviously, lots of skepticism when Bill Belichick acquired him at New England. But he, so far, he's really paid off.

Mr. BRYANT: Well, I didn't understand that, to be perfectly honest with you. I think that when there are players like Randy Moss, and, I think, in this 24/7 ESPN-driven new cycle, the idea of a bad guy isn't always what a bad guy is. I think Randy Moss wanted to win. I think he's always wanted to win.

But, I think, he's one of those players that really didn't enjoy losing and he didn't handle losing very well. And a lot of times when you have players like that, these guys just want to win. And if you put them in losing environment, then they look like troublemakers. But if you put them in a place where they can go out and win, then they give you pretty much the great performances that you expect.

SIMON: Let me ask about Bob Sanders, safety of the Colts. He's five-foot-eight, but boy, is he a force on the field.

Mr. BRYANT: He's a great player, and a lot of people believed that he was the difference. If it's possible to have a 53-man roster football team and have one player really make the difference, that Bob Sanders was the reason why the team peaked defensively in the post-season because he had been hurt coming in.

And he's one of those players, as well, when you watch him, very much like little Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. When you looked at this guy, and you say, how can he be so good playing against these physical giants? Well, because he plays with a lot of heart and a lot of passion.

And, I think, the fun thing about Bob Sanders is he's five-foot-seven and a half or five foot-eight, whatever you want to call him, but, boy, he likes to hit you.

SIMON: And I have to ask now. Joe Torre, obviously, stepped out from the deal that was offered him by the New York Yankees, which he found demeaning. He's heading to the L.A. Dodgers. Joe Girardi has been hired to manage the New York Yankees. Is Joe Girardi going to wish they'd change places?

Mr. BRYANT: I think, he may after that first two-game losing streak when people in New York are saying wait until next year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: I think that - I've never seen anybody handle New York like Joe Torre. I can't wait to see how Joe Girardi handles the Bronx.

SIMON: Our friend Howard Bryant. His day job is with ESPN, the magazine, ESPN.com and ESPN, the frozen green beans. Always a pleasure.

Mr. BRYANT: Thank you so much.

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