GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will have an ice-cold advantage at quarterback for the divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.
With the Los Angeles Rams’ upset victory at the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ victory over the Washington Football Team on Saturday, the list of opponents for next weekend’s playoff game has been narrowed to two: Jared Goff and the Rams or Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears. Neither can hold a candle to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, especially when it’s cold.
First, the long-range forecast. It will be perfectly nice by Green Bay standards, with a predicted high of 25 for Saturday and 23 for Sunday with light winds and only a slight chance of snow.
If Chicago can pull off the big upset at New Orleans on Sunday, the Bears would be coming to Lambeau Field. The Packers swept the Bears this season: 41-25 at Lambeau on Nov. 29 and 35-16 at Chicago last week.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is 1-6 against Green Bay with seven touchdowns, six interceptions and a 79.5 passer rating. That includes 0-3 in Green Bay with four touchdowns and four interceptions. When the teams met last week at Soldier Field, Trubisky was an efficient 33-of-42 but for only 252 yards. He threw only seven passes 10-plus yards downfield and couldn’t make the big play in the red zone.
If New Orleans beats Chicago, it would be Los Angeles making the trek to Lambeau Field.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is 1-0 against Green Bay. That came at home in 2018, when the Rams rolled to the Super Bowl. However, his cold-weather experience is minimal and not good. He’s played twice in subfreezing temperatures, both in 2018. He scored a 23-20 victory at Denver, with Goff going 14-of-28 for 174 yards with zero touchdowns, one interception and a 58.8 rating when it was 25 at kickoff. Two months later on national television, the Rams lost 15-6 at Chicago on a 29-degree night in the Windy City. Goff was a horrific 21-of-45 for 162 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions.
Over the past two seasons, Goff has played in only one game with a kickoff temperature of colder than 45. That was Saturday’s playoff victory at Seattle. On a 39-degree afternoon and 12 days after surgery on his thumb, Goff came off the bench and was mostly miserable: 9-of-19 for 155 yards, one touchdown and a 93.1 rating.
The Bears and Rams, of course, didn’t get to the playoffs because of their quarterbacks. They got there because of their defenses.
Los Angeles limited Seattle to just 278 yards on Saturday. Russell Wilson, who finished second in touchdowns, sixth in completion percentage and seventh in passer rating, was a woeful 11-of-27 for 174 yards. While he did throw two touchdown passes, he was sacked five times and threw a critical pick-six on a botched receiver screen.
It was a fitting performance by a defense that finished No. 1 in scoring (18.5), No. 1 in total defense (281.9), No. 1 in passing defense (190.7), No. 2 in sacks (9.7 percent) and No. 3 on third down (35.4 percent). That dominance would make for a dramatic matchup against Green Bay, which finished No. 1 in the NFL in scoring (31.8), No. 2 on third down (49.4 percent) and No. 1 in the red zone (80.0 percent, perhaps the best in NFL history).
The availability of All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald (rib) will be a huge story line this week.
Chicago’s defense finished 12th in points allowed (23.1) but could get off the field on third down (10-for-18 conversions) and was crushed in the red zone (8-for-9 touchdowns) in the games against Green Bay.
During the Rodgers era, the Packers are 22-8-1 at Lambeau Field when it’s 32 or colder. Four of those losses came with Rodgers on the sideline.