GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — As a reward for finishing the regular season tied for the second-best record in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers get what may be one of the coldest playoff games in league history.
Doesn't seem fair to the defending NFC champions. But the playoff-tested 49ers are up for the challenge of hitting the road, trying to return to the Super Bowl. It starts Sunday with a wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers at frigid Lambeau Field.
"Even when you have a home playoff game it's not easy. We understand that it's all about the team that's playing the best at the moment and that's how you do it," safety Donte Whitner said. "It doesn't matter where we play."
Well, maybe this weekend it might.
The high temperature on Sunday might be in the single digits — if the 49ers (12-4) and Packers (8-7-1) are lucky. The wind promises to make it feel even colder.
The coldest game on record is the 1967 championship game, known as the "Ice Bowl" won by the Packers 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau on New Year's Eve. The temperature dipped to minus-13, and the wind chill that day made it feel like minus-48.
"Cold weather in Lambeau Field, it's a tough place to play," Packers fullback John Kuhn said. "I'm sure they've got all kinds of ideas and plans of how they're going to prepare for the weather, so it's going to come down to execution on game day and whoever does that best."
Five things to watch ahead of Sunday's game:
WARM-WEATHER TEAM?: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers shared his trick for playing in the bitter cold: "Eat a lot of chicken noodle soup."
San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis liked that one: "Chicken noodle soup's pretty good, can't argue with that. Give me a 'W' and that will take care of all the warmth I need."
The 49ers took the practice field on New Year's Day with the temperature in the mid-60s. Sunday's high in Green Bay is projected to be 8 degrees.
Coach Jim Harbaugh spoke of "keeping it simple" on the road regardless of thermometer reading.
"Just get warm and make plays," tight end Vernon Davis said.
CAPTAIN COMEBACK: Funny how one player can change the Packers' playoff outlook.
When that guy is Rodgers, anything is possible.
Green Bay won a third straight NFC North title in large part because of the fourth-quarter drive led by Rodgers last week in a 33-28 win over the Bears. It culminated with a stunning 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-8 with 38 seconds left.
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