|TV Screen Capture of Jim Harbaugh from a Few Weeks Ago|
Well, the preemptive whining has already begun on two fronts: (1) it is so unfair that the 49ers (12-4) have to go play in Green Bay (8-7-1) just because the 49ers are a wild card!; and (2) it is so unfair that the 49ers have to play in such miserable and unsafe conditions!
On the playoff seeding front, here is what Mike Florio, from NBC Sports, has to say:
"Yes, it’s unfair that a team like the 12-4 49ers must venture to Green Bay for Ice Bowl II when the Packers cobbled together a measly 8-7-1 record en route to the NFC North crown.
It’s as unfair as it is for the 11-5 Saints to have to travel to play the 10-6 Eagles on Saturday night. And it’s as unfair as it was when the 2010 Saints, also 11-5, had to travel to Seattle to play the 7-9 Seahawks. And it’s as unfair as when the 2011 Steelers, at 12-4, had to leave safety Ryan Clark home (due to a medical inability to play at altitude) for a playoffs game at Denver against the 8-8 Broncos."On the cold weather front (pun intended), I came across an NBC Sports article about the cold weather games this weekend. Some of the fan comments are priceless:
"What if some player were to be hospitalized for pneumonia and or die? Would NFL do anything? I mean if a fan in the stands is hospitalized or dead who cares, NFL wouldn’t. Sorry brutal weather makes me think of brutal things." [This one was from an apparent 49ers fan, "16x8equal49ers"]
"No freaking chance I would go to that game at Lambeau. No chance."
"Classic example of why all NFL teams should have dome stadiums and all NFL games should be played indoors."
"This is so stupid. Grown ass men feel the need to be tough by playing a game in weather they have no business being outside during."
"Build a retractable roof dome for arctic weather. Or does someone need to have a frost-bitten finger snap off mid-game before the NFL does anything about it?"
"Retractable roof seems like the smart thing to do for both the players and the fans. Who wants to pay a fortune to freeze their butt off? Wouldn’t want to take my kid or my gramp to a game in that kind of weather. Get real NFL."
"This is NOT football weather. This is IDIOT weather."I also read a Live Chat from this morning in one of the local Bay Area papers, which contained this "question" and response:
"I have no feel for this game. Playing in this kind of weather is just stupid. If the NFL were really concerned about player safety they would have moved the game to a warmer venue. Then you have to ask your self WHY does any East Coast team play in an open stadium?"
"If you think this is stupid, what about putting the neutral-site Super Bowl inAnd another NBC Sports article (what is it with NBC?) frets about the fact that the NFL has not set a temperature below which it is unsafe to play:
New Jerseynext month?"
"It’s a bit surprising that the league hasn’t worked with experts to identify a temperature at which it automatically becomes unsafe to be outdoors for extended periods of time. That’s likely because the league has never had to do it.
After Sunday’s game at Green Bay, the NFL may have to do it."But the greatest one I have seen so far brings together both of these themes, the playoff seeding issue and the cold weather:
"The NFL rewards division winners more than it does overall win-loss records when it comes to the postseason, which is why Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers are being punished by having to go on the road to face the Green Bay Packers in what could be almost inhumane, Hoth-like conditions."Harbaugh and the 49ers are being punished? The conditions are almost inhumane? Hoth-like (OK, I admit I had to look that one up)?
The bottom line is that the next couple of days are going to be a lot of fun, leading up to the game. If by some chance the Packers win, look out below!
Here are my thoughts on the outcome of the game. We all know the "on any given Sunday" mantra, and of course it is true at some level. But if I had to bet my house on the outcome of this game, I would reluctantly pick the 49ers. This is based largely on the 49ers defense. On offense, I think the Packers have equal or better players at QB, WR, and RB, while the 49ers have a better TE and offensive linemen. On defense, I think the 49ers have better players on the defensive line and at linebacker, but at least given the current injury situation for the 49ers, I think the Packers are better at defensive back. I don't have much of a feel for the 49ers special teams, but since the Packers' special teams are not that good, I will go out on a limb and say that the 49ers special teams are equal to or better than the Packers.
The biggest wild card of all in this wild card matchup is the weather. We know that the Packers can play well in the cold. They don't always do so, but they have the capability to play well, and while the conditions are colder than anybody is used to, the cold should not have a huge effect on Green Bay. The 49ers are another story. There is just no relevant history on how they will perform in these conditions - as mentioned earlier this week, the 49ers have not played with temperatures below freezing (let alone below zero) in the three years Harbaugh has been coach. Kaepernick's early years in Fond du Lac and Milwaukee are not likely to carry over and help him out many years later. The home field advantage, including the cold weather, give the Packers a real shot in this game. Go Pack!