Brrr! While Packers prepare in cold, Cowboys appear unfazed
The elements are just where the Green Bay Packers want them for the visit by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL playoffs on Sunday.
The forecast for the lunchtime kickoff calls for partly cloudy skies and minus-6 degrees C. That’s balmy compared to the arctic front that encased Green Bay at midweek, when temperatures hovered near minus-18.
Ball security is at a premium in the playoffs, and receivers — and the defensive backs trying to snare interceptions — must be prepared for the sting that comes with trying to catch a cold ball.
“Whoever handles the ball best in the cold is going to come up on top. We definitely have the advantage,” Packers cornerback and special teams ace Jarrett Bush said.
The weather won’t be as cold as when the teams last met in Green Bay in the postseason, for the 1967 NFC Championship, dubbed the Ice Bowl after being played in brutally cold conditions. It was minus-25 for that game at kickoff.
According to STATS, the Cowboys are 11-13 since 1991 in games played with the temperature lower than 5 degrees. Their most recent game in that category: Dec. 4, when Dallas beat host Chicago 41-28.
“It comes down to what is your resistance to the cold, how much can you tolerate it,” Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. “This game, this time of the season, get comfortable. ... Just be comfortable to be at your best.”
Despite the result of the Ice Bowl, after which the Packers went on to win the second Super Bowl, Dallas leads 4-2 in playoff matchups. This marks the first time a team with an 8-0 home record in the regular season hosts one with an 8-0 road record.
Dallas clearly plays well away from home no matter the conditions, and after a comeback home win over the Detroit Lions last Sunday, bring a high-powered offense paced by league rushing leader DeMarco Murray, quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Dez Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been battling a left calf injury, but at less than 100 percent is still better than most passers in the league. He hasn’t had an interception at home since December 2012.
Two other elite passers, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, headline the late Sunday matchup between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. It’s the five-time MVP against the young master who took his place in Indy when Manning headed to the Rocky Mountains.
Luck has thrown for 300 or more yards in three straight postseason games and comes off a strong effort in the win over Cincinnati: 376 yards and a touchdown. He broke Manning’s team mark with 4,761 yards through the air this season.
Manning, who led the Colts to eight division championships, two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl title, has the Broncos tied for the second-most wins (46) in the league since joining them.
As for the home-field thing, the Broncos are 8-0 this season, including 31-24 over the Colts in September.
Manning’s numbers tend to dip when the thermometer does. He’s 12-13 in his career when the temperature is 5 degrees or below, according to STATS.
This should warm up Manning and Broncos fans, however: Forecasters are calling for balmy conditions on game day, with the temperature starting off at 5, maybe a cool breeze, and no precipitation.
“Peyton is going to go out there and play well,” declared running back C.J. Anderson. “But it takes a team and we have to help him.”
Even if a cold front were to suddenly descend upon the city — this is Denver, after all — the Broncos are built for harsher conditions these days. They no longer rely so heavily on Manning’s right arm but on a revamped running game and a dominant defense that features five Pro Bowlers.
On Saturday, it’s New England vs. Baltimore, and Seattle vs. Carolina.