GREEN BAY, Wis. – Because of the wrath Hurricane Ida inflicted on New Orleans, the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening game against the Saints on Sept. 12 will be played in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is located about 550 miles from New Orleans, so it’s not like it’s an easy hop, skip and a jump for the Saints. But, having been forced from their home at the deafening Superdome, the Saints were looking for something resembling a homefield advantage for this Week 1 showdown between perennial NFL powerhouses.
According to NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan, there was a precise method to the Saints’ perceived madness. Playing the game in Florida would ensure a weather advantage for the Saints, who are used to dealing with the exhausting heat and humidity of late summer. With Tampa Bay, Miami and Jacksonville all on the road for Week 1, the Saints had their choice of Florida’s NFL stadiums. Fearful of Packers fans taking over the stadiums located in tourist-friendly Miami and Tampa, the Saints honed in on Jacksonville.
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The Saints even … had a staffer look up Green Bay flights on Expedia and compare the difference in costs and itineraries between Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. Predictably, Jacksonville was the most difficult and costly destination for Packers fans.
United Airlines had added nonstop flights from Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport to New Orleans. The cheapest round-trip flight from Green Bay to Jacksonville, with one stop in Orlando, is $419 at Expedia.
As for the weather, the Saints will get their wish with a predicted “feels like” temperature of 102. Meanwhile, it will be in the low 70s on the Packers’ practice field.
“First, our thoughts are with everybody in New Orleans,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said before Wednesday’s practice. “That’s a bad deal that they’re going through, so we’ll adjust. There are some positives that it probably won’t be quite as loud, but the negative is that it’s hard to simulate that kind of heat, so our guys are going to have to do a great job of hydrating and taking care of their bodies all week.”