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NFL's Wild Card Playoffs Are Anybody's Game


The NFL postseason is underway. Last night's games included a record-setting performance by the New Orleans Saints. Today's feature two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, plus a third who still manages to grab headlines, Tim Tebow. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us for more now. OK, Mike. In yesterday's AFC wildcard matchup, both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans started a rookie quarterback, right? That's never happened before. How did the young'uns do?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Well, actually, the younger of the young'uns, or actually the less-experienced young'un - T.J. Yates, the quarterback for the Houston Texans - he outperformed his rival, Andy Dalton. But Houston really trounced Cincinnati. The Cincinnati defense didn't look up to the task. And this is a theme that happened yesterday and it's kind of happening all over the NFL. Even good teams have defenses that are quite porous. So, in the second game yesterday, you had the New Orleans Saints, literally every single drive except the very end of the game they scored a touchdown and they killed the Detroit Lions, who are great on offense but the defense wasn't there.

MARTIN: And we should mention that score, of course, the New Orleans Saints besting the Detroit Lions 45-28. And Drew Brees, quarterback for the Saints, I mean, he had an amazing game, right? He set a record.

PESCA: Yeah. And the Saints had 626 total yards of offense. That's the most in NFL history. And Drew Brees, I mean, the word extraordinary means you don't expect it, but the Saints offense - and Brees has become routinely extraordinary. I don't know if it's extraordinary if he does it all the time. You know, Drew Brees just showed why he's so good.

MARTIN: OK. So, today's games start off with the Giants hosting the Falcons. Home field advantage - is that going to make a difference?

PESCA: I think it should because the Giants have something that not too many teams have, which is on defense, a front four; their down linemen, could really put pressure on the quarterback. And they're all healthy, or at least all playing. The edge is towards the Giants just because of that defense, their ability to sack the quarterback.

MARTIN: OK. And the Steelers today are going to Mile High Stadium to play the Denver Broncos - a team, we should note, that finished the season 8-8, but they have Tim Tebow, right?

PESCA: Yeah, which could be the problem these days. It used to be that he was the difference, winning games in the middle of the season. But in the last three games he really has been awful. He's not a good thrower - we all knew that - but his running antics haven't been proven fruitful at all. This is one of the reasons why the Steelers are heavily favored. And the Steelers are favored even though Ben Roethlisberger is a little hurt, Ryan Clark, their starting safety, lost a couple of internal organs, literally, due to complications from playing in the altitude at Denver in years past. He won't be playing. Despite all that, Pittsburgh still the favorite, as I say. And the Broncos at 8-8, you know, will be lucky if they even put up a close game.

MARTIN: All right. We'll see. That's NPR's Mike Pesca talking football. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.


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