The Packers have three games left to earn what many consider is a huge necessity heading into the playoffs: a No. 1 seed.
But is it really necessary for this team?
The main component of the Packers’ gameplan is a consistent and reliable passing attack. Rhythm and timing are huge in the passing game but so is throwing and catching. When the temperature dips below zero the ball turns into a leather encased rock. And the average January high for Green Bay is 24 degrees. The low is a modest 9.
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at Lambea Field since 2012. But when the wind starts howling and the temperatures get icy, his surgeon-like precision gets a little numb. He’s played four games in frigid temperatures, which is considered anything less than 21 degrees, and he has completed 61.7 percent of his passes with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He’s also been sacked five times with a couple fumbles.
And remember when Greg Jennings caused the Packers’ fan base to have a heart murmur after saying this? “Absolutely, I would be on turf quick,” Jennings said in 2013 three days before the Packers hosted the Vikings in an NFC wild-card playoff. “Dome? Are you kidding me? Would you rather play outside?”
“No, no, that’s a politically correct answer,” Jennings said. “I’m done with politically correct right now. I’m realistic.”
Jennings left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths but he’s right. Especially with this team. Rodgers is arguably the most accurate passer of all-time. His greatest asset takes a severe hit when he cannot feel the tips of his fingers. Or when he delivers a fastball to Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb and they cannot haul it in because the cold turns normally soft hands into plywood.
“The ball gets harder,” Nelson said before the Packers hosted the 49ers in an NFC wild-card playoff that saw the kickoff temperature dip to 5 degrees with a windchill of -10. “It makes it a little harder to catch the ball when the ball is hard and your hands are frozen. The big thing is to kind of keep your hands as warm as possible, so you don’t get that sting.”
If you don’t think it matters where the Packers play, just go back to 2010. That team had the same principles this team does. A quarterback playing very efficient coupled with an array of weapons around him. Green Bay won road games in Philadelphia and Chicago that had kickoff temperatures at 30 and 20 degrees. But the best playoff game of that run was a trip to the Georgia Dome in an NFC divisional playoff. In an antiseptic environment when everything is equal, Rodgers was 31 of 36 for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Packers routed Atlanta 48-21.
For his career, Rodgers owns a 68.8 completion percentage when playing in a dome along with 47 touchdowns and 9 picks.
Now I’m not saying that Lambeau should have a roof built over the top of it. But the way this team is constructed, playing games away from the icy threat of Green Bay would suit this offense just fine. Not just because of how it would affect the passing game, which is the meat and potatoes of the Packers’ offense, but because the running game has been very inconsistent this year.
It may sound sacrilegious to say, but a cold and windy Lambeau Field is more of a detriment to the Packers’ offense than the offense shivering on the other sideline. And that’s why the NFL usually has the Super Bowl in warm locales or domed stadiums because the weather can be a 12th defender if you’re reliant on the pass.
With 35 touchdowns and 3 picks this year, Rodgers is having one of the best seasons for a quarterback in NFL history. That cannot be argued. But even he isn’t invincible to the assaults of Old Man Winter.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn