FOX Game of Week: Packers more worried about 49ers than sub-zero temps
Green Bay has won three of its past four games. The last one was a fourth-quarter thriller at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears to claim the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is back as the master of the NFL universe.
They are so excited you’d swear they’re from Jacksonville.
This week’s big story in Wisconsin hasn’t been how to break the 49ers’ winning spell in Sunday’s FOX Game of the Week. It hasn’t been Rodgers responding to rumors by confessing “I’m not gay.” It’s been the possible TV blackout because one of the NFL’s most loyal fan bases isn’t snapping up tickets.
Various excuses have been offered, ranging from the weather to the ticket policy to the impending end of Wisconsin’s bow-hunting season. A better explanation might be the numbers.
San Francisco is 12-4; Green Bay is 8-7-1.
San Francisco has eight Pro Bowl players. Green Bay has none.
San Francisco is four points away from a 13-game winning streak. Green Bay is four points away from qualifying for a top-eight draft pick.
“I’m not concerned about it,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Lambeau Field, I fully expect and have great confidence that it will be an incredible environment come Sunday. We have great fans. These are the games our fans live for.”
He’s right about the stadium. It will be filled even if management has to grab bow-hunters off the street. But as McCarthy also noted, this is Lambeau Field, not EverBank Field, or Sun Life Stadium or the Staples Center when the Magic are in town.
No regular season games have been blacked out since 1959, which is pretty darned near the invention of television.
According to the Packers’ website, 81,000 people are on the season-ticket waiting list. The average wait is 30 years. Cheeseheads are supposed to show up through rain, snow, sleet and Lindy Infante.
Sure, it’s supposed to be Ice Bowl conditions. What else is new? If fans were confident that Sunday were the start of a Super Bowl run, do you think they’d let a little hypothermia keep them away?
The bigger concern is the 49ers, who are built for this kind of weather. They can slog it out on the ground with Frank Gore and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. They have tough-guy receivers like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Their defense can be suffocating.
None of this is exactly a secret, but San Francisco glided through the season relatively unnoticed. Seattle got much of the attention, especially after it crushed the 49ers, 29-3, in Week 2.
A loss at Indianapolis the next week reinforced the notion that the power out west has shifted to Seattle and Colin Kaepernick really isn’t all that good. But the 49ers’ only losses since then are by three points to New Orleans and one point to Carolina. Kaepernick has shaken his early blahs and the 49ers are arguably the NFL’s hottest team.
“In this league I think everybody bases that on your last four quarters of play,” Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s very much how you’re playing at the moment.”
It’s not just the last four quarters of play. It’s the last 24 based on their six-game win streak. Then there are the Packers, who needed one-point wins over Dallas and Atlanta in the last month to be in the position to win the division last week.
Of course, Green Bay’s entire season turned into a waiting game after Rodgers broke his left collarbone Nov. 4. He returned in time to play hero last week, and that gives the Packers a slugger’s chance against anyone.
“Aaron Rodgers is clearly our best player,” McCarthy said. “When he’s on the field we’re a different team.”
Green Bay fans could also be encouraged by the fact San Francisco’s one weakness is its secondary. The 49ers have allowed 740 yards passing the past two games, and cornerback Carlos Rogers is questionable with a hamstring injury.
There’s reason to hope, right?
“I’ve got to give our guys credit for fighting through some difficult periods in the season,” Rodgers said, “put us in a position to be right here and to be the division champions, host a playoff game.”
The Packers’ official Twitter account sent out a plea Wednesday to its 609,000 followers. “Keep Lambeau Loud, Get Your #Packers playoff tickets.”
The real message: Please ignore the numbers and impending sense of doom. If the Packers surprise and start doing Lambeau Leaps, they’d like somebody there to catch them.