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8 Teams Meet This Weekend In Super Bowl Playoffs

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Mike, good morning.

MIKE PESCA: Sorry to be upon you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Get off of me.

PESCA: Move if it hurts.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Four games this weekend, including the Patriots and the New York Jets. What makes that a marquis game for a lot of people?

PESCA: And his opposite number, the coach of the Patriots, Bill Belichick, the perfect word for him is cipher. The man has never said anything revealing in his life.

INSKEEP: Our teams are equal. We lost by 42 points because of me. And it's all on me. And I'm not exactly sure what he's doing, but he's doing something - I think trying to alleviate pressure from his players. But there's something weird and interesting with Rex Ryan.

INSKEEP: Yeah, well, it's interesting. The Jets themselves have been rather brash this week. The cornerback, Antonio Cromartie - I'm just going to read this bit of wire copy here: Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an expletive on Tuesday.

INSKEEP: You, sir, are an expletive.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: In any event, a little bit of trash talking going on, the way that this (unintelligible).

PESCA: They beat Peyton Manning's Colts last week by neutralizing the quarterback, usually by controlling the ball, by dropping back into coverage, so not blitzing too much. Maybe they'll do the same against Brady. It's the absolute key to the game.

INSKEEP: Just got a minute here to get through three games very quickly. One of them is Pittsburgh versus Baltimore.

PESCA: This is - these two are division rivals. In fact, all the teams in the playoffs have played each other before. The last four games have all been decided by four points. There's no reason to think this won't be tough, this won't be hard-hitting and this won't be close. These are usually great games.

INSKEEP: What about that other conference, the NFC?

PESCA: Let's not give them short shrift. The Atlanta Falcons, they have a great home field advantage. The Green Bay Packers, their opponents, they were supposed to be a preseason favorite, faltered in the middle of the season. I expect both quarterbacks - Matt Ryan, who has a 20 and two record at home for the Falcons - to shine. And I think Aaron Rogers of the Packers can do the same. Again, it should be a good game.

INSKEEP: OK. So that's one game. The other game?

PESCA: Yeah, this should not be a good game. I will say that the Seahawks, even though they beat the Chicago Bears in Chicago earlier in the season, they have a very, very long shot at winning. They're a terrible road team. We said it last week. And everyone who said that the Seahawks wouldn't win looks foolish this week. But it's very hard to see how the Seahawks can beat the Bears in Chicago.

INSKEEP: OK. Mike, thanks very much, as always.

PESCA: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's sports correspondent Mike Pesca.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.