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Saturday Sports: NFL playoffs; Australian Open

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: NFL playoffs and an unpredictable first week at the Australian Open. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. Let's begin with the NFL playoffs. We have two games today - Kansas City versus Jacksonville, Philadelphia plays the New York Giants. What are you going to be looking for?

BRYANT: Well, obviously, if you're going to Philadelphia, you're going to get a lot of noise. That's a great divisional game, great rivalry game. Philadelphia and New York - of course, we all know what to expect from that. Philadelphia is supposedly the best team in the NFL. They've been the best team all season long. And this is supposed to be another step on the way to the Super Bowl for them. But when you play a team three times, it's always going to be difficult.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: So I think it's going to be a great game, raucous game, crazy game. But Philadelphia is supposed to be marching to the Super Bowl this year. That would be a pretty good upset for the Giants.

SIMON: Tomorrow's slate - Dallas faces San Francisco.

BRYANT: Huge game.

SIMON: The last - pardon me?

BRYANT: What's that?

SIMON: What did you say, Howard?

BRYANT: I said, huge game.

SIMON: Huge game. Yeah, huge game. But I still - I want to ask you about Cincinnati and Buffalo. They play each other again just three weeks after Damar Hamlin's collapse on the field. The game - this game will be in Buffalo. It should be very emotional.

BRYANT: It's going to be very emotional, and it's also very controversial. I think that it's very difficult for everybody involved as - the things that we've talked about, about the dangers of football and all of the things that have come with that. And at the same time, everyone's getting really, really excited because it's playoffs. And now that Damar Hamlin is doing better, and he's been at the facility - and so, do we just forget what happened? Also, nobody wanted to be or wants to sound insensitive about what's taken place, the way the NFL has handled this, because if you're Cincinnati, you're very upset about the fact that you're playing a road game, you're playing in Buffalo, you're - this game might have been a home game had they won that game. But nobody really wants to have that discussion because you do sound insensitive.

But now that Damar Hamlin is out of the ICU and out of the most dangerous part of, you know, of the ordeal that he went through, then people are now talking about what's taking place on the field. And Cincinnati feels cheated. And if you're going to just make it be about football, then you can't blame them. This is going to be a hard game for them. They're going to be in Buffalo. And I'm sure they're thinking that this is going to be an even more difficult one that maybe should have been played on their home turf.

SIMON: To tie the playoffs to the Australian Open - because, of course, this business is all about smooth transitions - there's a U.S. tennis player who's showing support for Damar Hamlin as she plays in Australia.

BRYANT: Yeah, and that would be Jessica Pegula. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Terry Pegula, her father, is the owner of the Buffalo Bills. And Jessica has a number three on her tennis kit, which is a signal, a shoutout to Damar Hamlin. And it's been a great tournament for her. She is playing really, really well. She and Coco Gauff happen to be doubles partners as well. Those two could very well make a deep run next week.

It's been a crazy, crazy week in Melbourne on the men's side. Novak Djokovic is the last man standing. Like the Philadelphia Eagles, he's supposed to run away with this championship. But you actually have four players from the United States who have made it this far for the first time since 2004 to have this many be involved, which is not - I'm not a nationalist. It doesn't make a big difference to me. But for people who love American tennis, this is a breakthrough because it's been a long time since one of the American men have won. But on the women's side, Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula - right there, ready to win.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

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

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.