Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 6:00 PM
Old-timers remember watching the 1967 NFL Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys that went down in football lore as the “Ice Bowl” because the wind chill made a run at 50 degrees below zero. Jethro Pugh of Dallas and others suffered frostbite. The refs couldn’t blow their whistles because they would stick to their lips. An older fan died of hypothermia.
It may not be quite that bad this Sunday in Green Bay…but it’s going to be the worst anyone has seen since the Ice Bowl. This is a whole new world for the coaches, the players on the field, and handicappers/sports bettors trying to figure out what’s going to happen in these unique, bizarre conditions.
We can make some logical assumptions about what style of play is most favored. Let’s do that as we run through our key indicator stats…
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
San Francisco: 12-4 (#7 schedule in USA Today)
Green Bay: 8-7-1 (#30 schedule in USA Today)
We start with the knowledge that San Francisco is the better team. They had a great record playing a brutal schedule. Green Bay isn’t as bad with Aaron Rodgers on the field as 8-7-1 would suggest. But, even with Rodgers, they played a very easy schedule. San Francisco is the defending conference champion. Green Bay just last week finally got it’s ducks in a row for a postseason run.
San Francisco: 6.0 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Green Bay: 5.4 on offense, 5.9 on defense
If you assume that toughness on defense is going to be a huge factor in these kinds of conditions, then San Francisco jumps right out as having a very important edge. You know they have a fantastic defense, and compiled that very strong 5.0 average against a tough schedule. Rodgers doesn’t matter on this side of the ball. Green Bay struggled while facing a soft schedule. Even if you give Green Bay credit for having the better offense with Rodgers…you have to acknowledge that game conditions won’t favor passing…and that it’s the 49ers who have the clearly superior defense.
San Francisco: +12
Green Bay: -3
Normally, you’d have to assume that the numbers above give SF a meaningful edge. But, in reality, we’re dealing with a visiting quarterback who has limited experience in this kind of weather…and a veteran home quarterback who’s been playing in the late season cold for years now. Turnovers could end up playing a huge role here (as often happens in the playoffs)…and it’s far from a sure thing that regular season data is going to be relevant.
San Francisco: 11-5 ATS
Green Bay: 7-9 ATS
San Francisco was amazingly underrated all season. We say that because this team went to the Super Bowl! Worth nothing though, as we did a few times during the regular season…that San Francisco offered great value when facing non-contenders, but struggled badly vs. expectations when facing playoff caliber teams. Handicappers have to determine if Green Bay is technically a playoff caliber team in these conditions…with a bad defense on one side and a QB whose strength may be neutralized by game conditions on the other.
Current Line: San Francisco by 3, total 45
San Francisco is getting a lot of respect in the market considering they’re an out of climate team laying points on the road. That would equate to -6 on a neutral field and -9 at home. It’s very unlikely San Francisco would be -9 at home in good weather! So, it’s clear that oddsmakers and the Wise Guys believe the forecast conditions favor the Niners more than the Packers.
Handicappers will have to make a determination of whether or not Colin Kaepernick can make plays at quarterback for the Niners…and if his inexperience will trump the edges they have at the point of attack on defense.
It’s been true all over the pro and college schedule in recent days…we once again have a matchup where INFORMATION means everything! You can throw a lot of stats out the window. Past playoff trends may not matter because no games on record the past 40 years have been played in conditions like these. JIM HURLEY has sources on the scene (bundled up and guzzling coffee) who have been reporting in all week. He’ll have the right side or total for you in this matchup!
You can purchase the final word for Sunday (this game, Chargers/Bengals, and possibly the Go Daddy Bowl too) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, or you’d like to talk to a live person about “rest of football” options and value-priced seasonal basketball packages, call our handicapping office at 1-888-777-4155 before kickoff of Chargers/Bengals Sunday morning.
Back with you tomorrow to run the numbers for the BCS Championship featuring Florida State and Auburn. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!