(By Daisy Barringer)
I am certain that every single player on the San Francisco 49ers is elated they made it to the playoffs. I am also certain that nary a one is excited about playing in what might be the coldest game in NFL history. The current coldest game happened on Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field during the "The Ice Bowl" between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, with a temperature of -13 degrees and a -48 wind chill
This Sunday the high in Green Bay, Wisconsin is supposed to be -5 degrees with a wind chill that could drop to as low as -51. That’s THE HIGH, people. The High. Last Sunday I debated flying to Green Bay for the game. Let’s all rejoice in the fact that I didn’t since this California girl would certainly die of frostbite in that type of weather.
Even the Green Bay fans aren’t eager to brave those sorts of elements. The game just sold out this morning, narrowly avoiding a television blackout in the local market. I mean, how do you stay warm in temperatures that feel like -51 degrees? Even the best beer blanket in the world isn’t going to help you through that one.
The good thing? These are extreme temps even for Green Bay players so it doesn’t actually give them an advantage. It’s going to be really, really, really cold. For the entire game. The players are never going to be able to warm up and both teams will have to fight through that.
Luckily, I think the 49ers can do that and come out on top.
Colin Kaepernick has played in—and won—cold temps before. In fact, his best game ever at Nevada was when the temps were in the 20s. He is not planning to wear a glove on Sunday as he claims the temperature won’t affect his grip on the ball or the release.
The 49ers running game. If the cold does affect the passing game, the 49ers are ranked No. 3 in the NFL for rushing and can lean on Gore and Hunter to control the clock and the ball.
The Packers are going to try to run the ball (see below), but their run game will have to get past our fourth-ranked run defense.
Clay Matthews. I cannot stand outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Cannot STAND him. Thanks to surgery on a broken thumb, however, Matthews won’t be playing on Sunday. Instead, Joe Staley will face backup linebacker Andy Mulumba. I think we all know who will win that match-up.
This year when Aaron Rodgers was pressured, he either threw the ball away or was sacked 40.9-percent of the time. Guess who’s great at pressure? The Niners.
Boldin, Crabtree and Quinton Patton. We FINALLY have three wideouts to whom Colin Kaepernick feels comfortable throwing the ball. Amen.
The temperature might not affect Kaepernick’s grip, but it will affect the ball, making it harder than in regular temperatures. This could be an issue for the receivers trying to make big catches. (I know, I just said it was good we have three receivers, finally, but still it could be an issue.)
Green Bay doesn’t usually play in conditions as extreme as these, but they have had the “luxury” of getting in a few days of practice in the artic chill.
Eddie Lacy and James Starks. The 49ers defense needs to contain Green Bay’s running game and force Aaron Rodgers to throw (and then throw an INT). I know this sounds weird considering the state of our secondary, but I think this could work. In the last three meetings against Green Bay, the Packers have an average of 70.7 yards on the ground. The Packers lost all three of those games.
Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright. Both cornerbacks have hamstring injuries. This is probably the biggest concern since Green Bay often has three wide receivers on the field. The cold weather won’t help and right now it’s unknown whether either of them will be able to play. The 49ers signed Perrish Cox back to the team on Monday, so they may need to rely on him. At least he knows this defense, since he was just released by the team in November.
The Rest of It
The Niners are hot right now. I’d argue that the Packers, even though they made it to the playoffs, are not. We’re pretty healthy (minus Rogers and Wright), Kap has three receivers he trusts, special teams is doing an amazing job, and our defense is well our defense. We absolutely can win this game.
Personally, I’m rooting for the Saints to beat Philly so that they have to travel to Seattle the following week. I think the Saints could beat the Seahawks in Seattle and even though the Panthers are tough, I think we could beat them in Carolina. Which would mean the Saints would travel to San Francisco for the Championship game. I know, I know. I just got really far ahead of myself and I’ve knocked on wood a billion times.
For now, let’s focus on Sunday. The 49ers have all of the tools they need to dismantle the Green Bay Packers and I’m just glad that I’ll be watching from the comfort of my cozy living room where the temps hover around 68 degrees.
Watch San Francisco at Green Bay on Sunday at 1:40 p.m. PT on FOX.