The latest weather forecast for the Wildcard game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers is calling for a high of four degrees. The wind chill, according to the National Weather Service, could dip to 30 below zero. This game will not be the right time for anyone to play tough guy and not wear sleeves. “You can get frostbite within 30 to 40 minutes in these temperatures if you’re not covered up,” said Roy Eckberg, a meteorologist with the weather service in Green Bay. The elements are going to be extreme. How well will the 49ers fare in ice cold Green Bay?
The 49ers are what I call a “Pack and Play” team. Their offense is based off of a power running game. They look to pound the ball with their massive offensive line. This unit is a bully that has been built primarily via the draft and with some timely free agent signings. Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis and Joe Staley are all first round picks. Jonathan Goodwin was a solid free agent signing and Alex Boone was a great find from the rookie free agent pile.
Behind this line is a perfect place for Frank Gore to hide before he pops out and squirts through the smallest hole. He is so good at letting plays develop and accelerating to the second level of the defense. You can be sure that we will see more of the same against the Packers. Kendall Hunter will get his share of carries on quick hitting run plays as well. One thing that will be a major factor on lead dive plays is the 293 pound full back Will Tukuafu. His crushing blocks will not be a welcome experience for the Packer defenders.
Another thing to consider is the way the receivers, specifically Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin play. These are two hungry receivers. They play with a sense of urgency. Their physicality at the line allows them to get open quickly on slants, hitches and other short routes. They have the ability to make defenders miss or simply make them bounce off of them. Their yards after catch ability and sure handedness makes them both a great option in the slot. Colin Kaepernick will be able to throw short passes to them in the cold weather and rely on them to turn it into a solid gain.
The 49ers also have Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers over the last couple of years. He has done well in San Francisco this year but more remarkable is his accuracy kicking in the AFC North as a member of the Cleveland Browns. He is no stranger to the cold weather.
Defensively, this game really plays into the 49ers favor. Their defense consists of veteran players that take pride in stopping the run. The 49ers have not allowed a 100 yard rusher all season. They will look to continue that streak against Eddie Lacy and the Packers. Lacy is nursing an ankle injury and has been limited in practice this week. The 49ers will want to see the Packers run the ball more, thus taking it out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands. It should be noted however, the Packers have given Lacy 20 or more carries in ten games this year. They have won seven of them while they tied once and loss two.
This kind of weather favors the 49ers because they are more of a cold weather team than the Packers despite the cities that they represent. As strange as it may sound, the San Francisco 49ers are more suited to play in these elements than the Green Bay Packers.
The field will be frozen so it will be extra hard. That can’t bode well for Aaron Rodgers. As we know, he is coming back from a collarbone fracture. The 49ers like to get hits on the quarterback. There will be some opportunities to get good shots on Rodgers if the Packers have him make numerous pass attempts. The force of a 49er defender tackling Rodgers and his body hitting the frozen tundra will surely hurt Rodgers. By no means am I hoping for an injury but the fact remains, there is an injury risk whenever Rodgers is forced to the ground.
Some of the 49ers were asked about the weather and they were quick to say it will be cold but they have a job to do. Kaepernick simply said that “you have to block it out.” He also referred to a cold weather game that he played against Louisiana Tech in which he passed for over 400 yards. Kaepernick said that he will probably not wear gloves for the game.
Justin Smith acknowledged the cold but as he said; “Everybody is going to be out there in it. I don’t think anyone will have an advantage or disadvantage.” Smith went on to say; “We will go outside, see what the field is like, how hard it is and see what cleats we need. You aren’t going to scare the opponent by having no sleeves on. There’s no tough guy stuff.”
The 49ers will be up for the task when they go into the cold weather at Lambeau Field. It will be win or go home. This could be the final ride for some players such as Jonathan Goodwin, Carlos Rogers, Justin Smith and Frank Gore. All of these players could be gone next year due to financial reasons. Despite being a 12-4 team, the 49ers are an underdog. It is not unreasonable to predict that they will advance to the next round of the playoffs.