Ahead of their NFC wild card matchup at Lambeau Field, the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers awoke Sunday to subzero temperatures.
Unfortunately for both, things will only get colder as the day progresses, which could challenge the coldest game in league history. According to Daily Beast, when factoring the wind chill, the 1981 AFC title game between Cincinnati and San Diego reached -59 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the game kicks-off at 4:40 p.m. ET, the forecast calls for temperatures to feel as low as minus-19 degrees in the greater Green Bay area. Wind chill could even drop that number.
Even for the NFC North champion Packers those are horrendous conditions. The Packers are fresh off blistering returns from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb that earned the franchise a third straight division title and an opening-round playoff game.
However, much of the burden will be placed not on Rodgers but the Green Bay defense charged with containing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore.
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The Packers defense is already limited with linebacker Clay Matthews out for the rest of the season with a second thumb injury, and while the rest of the Green Bay frontline is listed as probable they too are battling injuries. Linebackers Brad Jones (ankle), Mike Neal (abdomen), and Nick Perry (foot), along with defensive tackle Ryan Pickett are all dinged up ahead of Sunday’s elimination game.
In the second half of the season, Kaepernick looked more like the player that led San Francisco to the Super Bowl last season, averaging 232 yards passing and a 107.0 passer rating with 10 touchdowns to one interceptions during the 49ers six game winning streak.
In last year’s divisional round, Kaepernick burned the Packers for 263 yards passing and two touchdowns, with 181 rushing yards and another two scores in the 45-31 victory.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh protected Gore for the playoffs by giving him just 13 hand offs for 14 yards in San Francisco’s 23-20 win over Arizona last week. Already the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, Gore notched the seventh 1,000 yard season of his career and scored nine touchdowns.
San Francisco’s defense has their own concerns against Rodgers, with cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries, and so is second-string linebacker Dan Skuta.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Donte Whitner, combining for 27 passes defended and seven interceptions, will try to slow Rodgers, who’s totaled 18 touchdown passes to five picks around a 6-3 postseason record.
The Packers also have their own dominant rusher in rookie Eddie Lacy, who ripped off 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in his inaugural season. Lacy was limited in practice all week with an ankle injury, but the same injury has made the team’s report since Week 15 and he hasn’t missed a game.
In six previous playoff meetings, the Packers own a 4-2 all-time record, and are 2-0 at home.
Betting Odds: San Francisco -2.5
Over/Under: 46 points
Time: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Live Online Info: NFL Sunday Ticket
Prediction: Green Bay 20, San Francisco 17