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This Week In Sports


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The NFL playoffs kick off - get it? - with the wildcard round this afternoon. The Kansas City Chiefs play the Texans in Houston. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It's a pleasure, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thank you.

Every time, one team or another seemed to be preeminent this season, they lost, though Cam Newton and the (laughter) Carolina Panthers managed to do that just once. Are these playoffs going to be unpredictable?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Welcome to the NFL, remember? You know, the NFL is unpredictable. What's up one weekend often is down the next. But, Scott, this postseason in particular you really can't find a team in the playoff field that's a prohibitive favorite. I mean, during most of the season, New England was it, right?


GOLDMAN: But then a rash of injuries and the Pats have looked quite mortal in recent weeks, as have the Carolina Panthers as you mentioned. The Seattle...

SIMON: Bill Belichick looked mortal.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) He looked kind of angry, but that's Bill Belichick, so...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: But, you know, the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks had confounding losses late in the season.

And then you've got Denver, the number one playoff seed in the AFC having a shaky quarterback situation. The great Peyton Manning has been named starter. After sitting out a number of weeks with injury, he's back. But, as you well know, there are questions about his arm strength and whether or not he's a once great quarterback in rapid decline. That's your number one seed.

SIMON: He came from behind, brought his team from behind the other day. Came in off the bench - I thought it was a brilliant moment. And...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It was.

SIMON: ...He was declared the Al Jazeera player of the game.

I saw that on Twitter.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: We will explain totally unsubstantiated, as far as I'm concerned, allegations in an Al Jazeera documentary that he'd received human growth hormones, right?

GOLDMAN: That's right. That's right. And we are - yes, and moving on from that to the playoffs. Yes.

SIMON: The Seahawks play the Vikings in Minnesota tomorrow. The high temperatures expected to get up to four degrees. So what do the guys do, just have a cup of hot cocoa and go out and start banging into each other?

GOLDMAN: You know what? They actually do. Two tips for staying warm I actually thought were kind of interesting from former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen wrote a column in ESPN. Drink cocoa before the game to keep the body temperature up. Bowen did not...

SIMON: I was kidding. Really?

GOLDMAN: I know. I know. Yeah, but Bowen did not say whether marshmallows are required.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: And then slather Vaseline on your bare arms to block the wind, something I know you often do before you host the show.

SIMON: I so that just when I come into the studio. I put Vaseline on my arms, yeah. That way, our technical director can't get hold of me as easily. He's (laughter), just slips...

GOLDMAN: One might ask why football players' arms are bare when it's 4 degrees above zero - because they want to show their opponents they don't mind the weather, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: No one ever said football was logical.

SIMON: However, you're in Santa Cruz, Calif., aren't you?

GOLDMAN: Yes, without Vaseline. I'm here with my colleague Uri Berliner at the NBA's development league showcase event.

The D-league is the NBA's minor league, and the showcase is an annual event where all of the D-leaguers show up, play in front of tons of scouts and try to get noticed.

Uri are following one team the Canton Charge from Canton, Ohio, the entire year. And we're learning all about them, and we're going to tell some stories about them, their unifying dream of taking that last step to the NBA. So they're at the showcase. We talked to one of the most well-known NBA general managers Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets. And he noted how basically unfair it was that the start of the showcase, more than 200 players, many of them really good - NBA good, Scott - but they were vying for eight open spots on NBA rosters.

DARYL MOREY: There's so many ways you can rule a player out. There's so many good basketball players. Our sport's the hardest to make, by far, relative to football or baseball.

SIMON: What do players earn in the D-league?

GOLDMAN: Players earn about 20 - it tops out at about $25,000. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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