(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Booger McFarland interview click on the audio attached here: Ep 18: Conference Championship Weekend w/ Booger McFarland | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
Booger McFarland played for the Tampa Bay Bucs and is a Tom Brady believer. So it’s no surprise that he favors the Bucs in Sunday’s conference championship game at Green Bay.
But the former defensive lineman-turned-ESPN-analyst is quick to contradict those who insist the pressure is all on the top-seeded Packers and that never-say-die Tampa Bay is, in effect, playing with "house money.".
“I disagree,” McFarland said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com “Because when you say they’re playing with ‘house money,’ (you’re) meaning the expectation was to get this far.
"When you get Tom Brady, and you couple him with ‘Gronk’ (tight end Rob Gronkowski) and ‘AB’ (wide receiver Antonio Brown) and Mike Evans and (Chris) Godwin and everybody that they got, you’re not making those moves to say, ‘Let’s get close.’ You’re making those moves to see 'if we can win it all.'
“So, nah, it’s not icing on the cake. To me, if they don’t win Sunday it’s going to be a failure. And they will treat it like that.”
The Packers are three-and-a-half-point favorites to advance to their first Super Bowl since the 2010 season when they won Super Bowl XLV. And they’re favored because they have Aaron Rodgers … they’re on a seven-game game tear … they won nine of their last 10 … they’re at Lambeau … and the weather will be sub-freezing.
But the elements shouldn’t be a concern, McFarland said. He played in Green Bay in December, 2000, when the temperature was 18 degrees and the wind chill was 15 below-zero. He survived, though the Bucs did not. They lost, 17-14, in overtime.
It wasn’t the weather that beat them. It was the Bucs themselves, with kicker Martin Gramatica missing a game-winning 40-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in regulation.
“The cold weather is not what bothers athletes,” McFarland said. “We’re used to dealing with cold weather. As long as the wind is not blowing 20 miles an hour, it really doesn’t matter if its 25 degrees or 40. It’s all going to feel the same.
“More than anything it’s trying to keep your feet and your hands as warm as possible. The rest of your body is going to stay warm because you’re going to be moving around.”
So maybe, just maybe, the weather won't affect the Bucs as severely as some believe. However, history may not affect the Packers, either. They played the Bucs earlier this season and didn’t just lose; they were demolished, 38-10. But that was three months ago, and it was in Tampa. Different time. Different place. Different stakes.
Nevertheless, McFarland is sticking with the Bucs.
“Of course, I’m a little biased,” he said. “I’m going with Tampa. I think Tom Brady is the key to a team that was talented enough last year to go deep into the postseason. But they didn’t get that opportunity. But now you have a defense that’s a year older, that’s starting to play its best football (and has) the weapons on the outside.
“You know, a lot of people made a stink about ‘Gronk’ and ‘AB.’ It’s amazing when you go back to the game the other day (the 30-20 defeat of New Orleans last Sunday), it was ol’ faithful: It was Scotty Miller. It was the new draft pick in (Tyler) Johnson. It was Mike Evans. It was the guys that have been here a long time making the plays last Sunday.
“Now, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to need something from ‘Gronk’ and ‘AB’ this week. But I just think that Tom Brady has been the decisive factor for a team that’s been talented enough to get to this point. He puts them over the hump this year.”