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Frigid forecast impacting wild-card matchups

The SportsXchange

All three home teams in danger of having their wild-card playoff games blacked out this weekend rallied to sell enough tickets by Friday's deadline to have their games televised locally.

The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts announced earlier in the day they had accomplished the goal after receiving an extension from the NFL until Friday afternoon, and the Cincinnati Bengals later announced their 1 p.m. game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday has also been declared a sellout.

The Bengals needed a final push with P&G buying the remaining tickets with the plan of having Kroger distribute them to US Military veterans and Active Duty service members.

A major part of the issue has been frigid temperatures expected for much of the midwest this weekend.

The forecast for the Packers' game on Sunday against the visiting San Francisco 49ers calls for a high in the single digits, lows hovering around 20-below and a windchill factor that could reach minus-30 degrees.

Only two Packers games in history have featured temperatures below zero at kickoff - the famous Ice Bowl that was minus-13 in 1959 and the 2007 NFC Championship Game (minus-1).

"You just have to dress warm," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this week. "The cold is a part of winter in Green Bay. You get kind of used to it. You deal with it."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy insisted this week that he was not concerned with the weather, and had his team practice outside on Thursday and Friday.

"It's definitely going to have an effect on the game," Rodgers said.

However, Rodgers, a Northern California native, isn't sure whether the Packers will have much of a home-field advantage playing in bitterly cold conditions against a team accustomed to warmer temperatures.

"You know, not everybody in this locker room is from the great state of Wisconsin," Rodgers said. "We do practice in it, live in it. I think we're going to be better adapting to it initially, but once the game starts, it's about who can execute in the cold weather. It does some different things to the football. It's about taking care of the football in the playoffs and making some big plays.

"It definitely does change the texture of the football," he added. "So, you have to factor that in when you're tossing the ball to a (running) back or when you're throwing it. You have to make some small adjustments."

Cincinnati's forecast is balmy in comparison to Green Bay, with a high expected in the mid-30s but plummeting throughout the day toward zero and a likelihood of snow.

On Saturday, the Colts will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs while the New Orleans Saints visit the Philadelphia Eagles.

While the forecast is for a high of 36 degrees in Indianapolis on Saturday, the weather isn't a factor with the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he hasn't "paid any attention" to the team's struggles to reach a sellout.

Philadelphia will be cold Saturday, with a forecasted high of around 31 degrees, but the Eagles had no trouble selling out and the much bigger question is how the Saints will cope with the cold.

New Orleans was 8-0 at home during the regular season, but just 3-5 on the road with three consecutive losses and has never won a playoff game away from home.

Quarterback Drew Brees inserted a bit of humor after the Saints were bombarded all week about their poor record in cold conditions, particularly in the postseason.

"It is all about the new sweatsuits, the beefy mac and the Gatorade flavor. We feel really good about what we have going this week with that," he joked. "I can't wait to see those new sweatsuits and hopefully that will change our luck."

Joking aside, Brees believes the key for the Saints is not over-analyzing the situation.

"At times you know you do have to kind of change things up so psychologically (and) you say it is going to be different this time around," he said. "Our preparation, I feel like throughout this week as we lay it out is going to be a big part of that. What you do Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in preparation for this Saturday game is what is going to allow you to play great regardless of what the conditions are.

"I think our past history, if you look at our long-term history, it speaks for itself in regards to the road. Like I said, the last couple of outings have not been what we want, but we know we are about to break the seal. We have no other choice, heck, it's the playoffs. It doesn't get any better than this."
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