As the NFC Wild Card game between the Packers and San Francisco 49ers approaches, the media focus in order is the weather forecast, the lagging ticket sales and the game itself.
Let's start with mother nature. It's January, she can be a bitch. The biggest cold snap in nearly 20 years is on the way. The high temperature Sunday is moving downward by the day. Was going to be five above, now it might be closer to zero. That's the high temperature. The game kicks off at 3:40 PM, the sun will set before halftime and the thermometer mercury will shrink very quickly to perhaps -10, -15 or even colder. Even with a whisp of a wind, the chill factor could plummet to -30 or worse. Trivia fans...the kickoff temp for the Ice Bowl was -15. Dress in layers, buy some hand and foot warmers and enjoy the game fans.
Now the sellout drama. Late this afternoon, the Packers, along with the Bengals and Colts were given a 24 hour extension to sell the remaining tickets or face the prospect of having the game blacked out on local television. The Packers say they have about 3000 tickets to move before Friday at 4:00 PM, the new deadline. How could a stadium that hasn't had an unsold ticket for 40 years have such trouble filling up for a playoff game? Several reasons. First, the playoff ticket invoice was mailed out around Thanksgiving, right around that 40-10 drubbing by the Detroit Lions which didn't inspire a lot of confidence. The playoff payment was due the first week of December. The two seats I inherited from my mother came to more than $600.00. That's for both a wild card or divisional game and the conference title game. A pretty hefty check with Christmas shopping right around the corner. The Packers used to give season ticket holders an option of getting a refund if they didn't make the playoffs or have the money put toward the next year's season ticket cost. That option was withdrawn, no refunds. That had to turn off some fans. Don't forget, Lambeau added 7000 seats this year, taking capacity to near 80,000. Finally, the team didn't have Aaron Rodgers back in uniform when the decision had to be made and they didn't clinch that playoff spot until about 6:30 PM Sunday night. The media coverage seemed bent on instigating panic among fans over the possibility folks in the Green Bay, Milwaukee and Wausau TV markets wouldn't get to see the game. That's preposterous. There's not a chance in Antarctica the Packers would allow the game to be blacked out. Either they, or corporate partners, or the Fox affiliates will pony up to make sure all the ducats are accounted for. Enjoy the game from your couch, family room or man cave.
Now on to the game. The Pack practiced outside today, in balmy single digits, not the entire workout but a few team and ball security periods. The team's injury report is about as good as it's been. Yes, Clay Matthews is out but Brad Jones, Eddie Lacy, Mike Neal, Nick Perry and Ryan Pickett were all limited and should all be available. Come back tomorrow, I'll break down the matchups in detail, serve up quotes from the guys, and offer a prediction.