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Saturday Sports: U.S. Open; NFL season opener; four MLB races to watch

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The U.S. Open in full swing - get it? The NFL kicks off. Get it? Pennant races in baseball - ah, no pun. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: No. Spared the final pun, Scott? Come on. One more.

SIMON: I couldn't figure it out. Maybe you can.

BRYANT: (Laughter) No.

SIMON: U.S. Open in New York - first of two weeks wraps up tomorrow. Let's begin with the women. Top three ranked players - still in, very few upsets, right?

BRYANT: And 5 of the top 6. Elena Rybakina went out late last night, and I'm sure you were watching intently. But yeah, Scott, this has been a tournament for the women where it's going to be a second-week tournament. One, there's no - Iga Swiatek is the best player in the world. I think people are waiting to see if Coco Gauff can break through. She's been to one final already at the French Open, and this may be her first U.S. Open final, but I think that there's a lot of competition there. Gauff, Swiatek - Sabalenka is my favorite to watch because she's so human.

On the men's side, obviously, there's one battle everybody wants, and that is No. 1, Carlos Alcaraz, against No. 2, Novak Djokovic. And Djokovic had a bit of a scare last night, but it wasn't really a scare - dropped the first two sets and then rolled. So I think that this battle for the second week on the men's side...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...We hope to get the marquee battle that we want - Alcaraz-Djokovic.

SIMON: NFL season kicks off next Thursday. It's the Kansas City Chiefs' world, but I wonder - do the Buffalo Bills keep knocking on the door? Do they or any other team have a chance?

BRYANT: Yeah. I think they do. I mean, one, it's always a new season and, you know - you know how I feel about football. It's very simple. Injuries and turnovers, in that order, will pretty much determine the whole damn season. But it is the Chiefs. They're the best team. They've got the best quarterback. They probably have the best coach as well right now with the best personnel. I am interested in Buffalo. That's a team I'm watching because when you get that close, at some point, you wonder if the window is closing. Obviously, Josh Allen is probably the second-best quarterback in the league. It really does this year. Obviously, Aaron Rodgers leaving the Packers and now he's with the New York Jets - so, of course, the Jets fans have something to cheer about for the first time in a long time. Also, let's not forget the NFC conference champions, Philadelphia Eagles, also very, very good team. It's going to be a good season.

SIMON: Last month of the MLB season, Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers have their divisions locked up. The Red Sox and the Yankees, by the way, are as far away from the AL East title as Ketchikan, Alaska. But the other four divisions look tight. I do what I can for the NL Central. What divisions are you watching?

BRYANT: Well, Scott, today's trivia question for you - who is the - what is the only team in Major League Baseball to never have reached the World Series?

SIMON: To never have reached the World Series...

BRYANT: Play the "Jeopardy!" music.

SIMON: I should know this. And...

BRYANT: You should know this.

SIMON: I don't believe - wait. The Orioles?

BRYANT: No. Come on, Scott. It's the Seattle Mariners.

SIMON: I should know that.

BRYANT: The Seattle Mariners have never reached the World Series.

SIMON: Not even with Griffey Jr. Yeah.

BRYANT: Not even. They made the playoffs for the first time since winning 116 games back in 2001 last year. They are locked in a three-way battle with the world champion Houston Astros and the upstart Texas Rangers. Three-way battle. That's the one I'm watching.

SIMON: Yeah, and that would be nice. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much for being with us.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.