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Saturday Sports: Football Playoffs, The Australian Open

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Football playoffs, the Australian Open opens - we're joined by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN, the magazine. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Let's begin with the marquee game this weekend. I hope I offend no other markets from referring to it that way, but the Dallas Cowboys versus the Green Bay Packers. But this time, no ice bowl, is it? It'll be...

BRYANT: No, no, no ice bowl.

SIMON: ...Sixty degrees in Dallas.

BRYANT: And it's great. This is exactly what the - what the NFL needs. You have two iconic franchises. All you need now is the great John Facenda in the background with the - with NFL Films because this is what football is - Packers, Cowboys. And I think it's going to be great. You've got the Dallas Cowboys 13-3 this season. They have not been to the Super Bowl in 21 years. You're looking at a franchise that has never gone this long without appearing and playing for a championship.

And then on the other hand, you've got the Packers, who, of course, are the signature franchise, as well. And this is what, I mean, when you think about sports, I always talk about dynasties and how much I loved dynasties and circling games. This is a game to circle, especially because the Cowboys need this game. They went out this season. They were supposed to be a good team, and they ended up being a great team. And to go out in their first playoff game would be devastating. And on the other hand, you've got the Packers. And everyone talks about how great Aaron Rodgers is and how tremendous a quarterback he is.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And he is a superstar, but here's the thing. The Green Bay Packers have only been to one Super Bowl under Aaron Rodgers, so I understand why the coach Mike McCarthy has gotten so much grief. They're too good a team for that quarterback to only have played for one championship. Tom Brady's been to six championships - six Super Bowls. He's won four championships.

SIMON: Yeah. So they haven't surrounded him in Green Bay? Is that with the charge is?

BRYANT: That's the charge, and it's also that the coach hasn't called the right plays and that they're underachieving. And I think that when they killed the Giants last week, which was a tremendous game. They should have gotten blown out, and Aaron Rodgers just showed up and was amazing. This is the kind of performance where you look and say wow.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: This team...

SIMON: When Aaron Rodgers throws a long pass, it's not a Hail Mary.

BRYANT: No, it's not a Hail Mary. It's a Hail Mary for the defense. And I think that when you watch him play, you're looking at this guy, and you're saying he should be in the Super Bowl. The Packers should be the best team in the NFC, and they really haven't been.

SIMON: Yeah. Quick question - do the Houston Texans have any chance against the New England Patriots.

BRYANT: No.

SIMON: Well, I thought I'd ask.

BRYANT: No.

SIMON: OK. I know they're, like, 116 points down, but Seahawks - yeah, OK. Yeah.

BRYANT: Well, let's put it this way, Scott. Let's just put it this way. They've played the Patriots twice. They've scored six points in the last two games. And Tom Brady, once again, home game - first playoff game. I don't see it. Sixteen points is an insult in terms of - if you're Texans defense - but I don't see it.

SIMON: Seahawks Falcons?

BRYANT: I like the Seahawks. I like the Seahawks just because when it's go time, I believe in defense. And I - and you look at the Seahawks. They've been that team for the past four years. I have a feeling that - no disrespect to the Atlanta Falcons - but - OK, yeah, a lot of disrespect to the Atlanta Falcons. Prove it.

SIMON: Yeah, I was about to say. Yeah.

BRYANT: Go ahead and - go ahead and prove it. Every time they get this close, they haven't proven it, so I'd rather see it. I'm going with the Seahawks.

SIMON: Yeah. WABE and Georgia Public Radio listeners, please stay with us.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: Mr. Bryant doesn't know what he's saying. Let me ask about the Australian Open coming up this week. I got one question for you - Serena? - three question marks.

BRYANT: Well, good question. Serena is 35 years old. Serena just got engaged. Serena is no longer the number one player in the world. Serena lost the Australian Open final last year to Angelique Kerber, who is now the new number one. On the other hand, Serena did go to three finals last year, and she's still Serena Williams, but it would not surprise me. This is going to be a tough haul for her. You're starting to look at that second chapter in her life. She's about to get married, and she's 35, but once again - crazy to bet against Serena Williams, isn't it? It's not a way to make a living.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.