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After the projections for most of the week was below-zero weather, the latest reports indicates that by kickoff, the temperature in Green Bay should be in the single digits. The temperature of a game is more open to interpretation than you think: in a lot of the games below, there are different reports depending on which source you use.  That said, I’ve found six playoff games that had a temperature of zero degrees or colder:

  • The Ice Bowl: The classic cold-weather game: the temperature was reportedly −15 degrees with an average wind chill around −36, although PFR has it at -2 degrees and -23, respectively. The Packers won 21-17, after Bart Starr‘s quarterback sneak for the winning score in the final seconds.
  • The Freezer Bowl: In 1981, the Chargers played in Cincinnati in -9 degree weather; add in the 27 miles per hour winds, and it felt more like −37 degrees. PFR has those numbers at -6 degrees, wind 24 mph, wind chill -32. Cincinnati won 27-7, to advance to the Super Bowl.
  • The 2007 NFC Championship Game: This was the Giants/Packers game where half of Coughlin’s face turned Giants red. New York won in overtime, 23-20, before upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The gamebook lists the temperature at -1 degrees, with a wind chill of -23. PFR has it at -7 degrees, with a brutal wind chill of -27.
  • Washington at Chicago, 1987: PFR has this one at -3 degrees with a wind chill of -20. Classic Ditka weather! Here’s the video to the CBS intro with John Madden and Pat Summerall (note that the broadcast states it was 12 degrees, with a wind chill feel of -5.). Washington won, 21-17, and eventually won the Super Bowl.
  • Indianapolis at Kansas City, 1995. Lin Elliott misses three field goals for the Chiefs, and the Colts win 10-7. PFR has it at 0 degrees, – 15 with wind chill.Some other playoff games come closer.
  • When Los Angeles traveled to Buffalo in 1993, it was zero degrees with, according to NFL.com, a wind chill at -32! Jeff Hostetler, who never had a bad playoff game, lost his only playoff game here despite throwing for 230 yards and a touchdown (with no interceptions) on 20 passes. Jim Kelly threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Bill Brooks, and Buffalo won 29-23. PFR lists the temperature at 3 degrees with a wind chill of -14

A pair of playoff games in Lambeau Field in 1996 and Soldier Field in 1963 probably could have been sub-zero games, but noon-time starts kept the temperature on the positive side of the ledger. Ten years ago, the Titans game in New England got the Saturday Night treatment, which allowed the temperature to drop down to 4 degrees with a wind chill -14. And the Browns/Raiders game known simply as Red Right 88 was at 2 degrees with a wind chill of -20.

It looks like today’s game will join the list of freezing playoff games, but may not make the top five.

San Francisco’s Turnover Margin

I think the 49ers are the vastly superior team here, so my pregame analysis will be limited. The Packers are a very average team, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers only makes them above-average. San Francisco led the league in points differential through two quarters and through three quarters, and I can still see this team becoming the next Lombardi Packers. But here’s an interesting stat from Bill Barnwell:

The 49ers are now 38-4-1 under Harbaugh when they win or tie the turnover battle and 1-9 when they lose it. Everyone does better when they win the turnover battle, but Harbaugh’s 49ers are an extreme case.

That made me wonder: Are the 49ers an extreme case? As it turns out, the answer is yes.

Here’s how to read the table below.  In games where the 49ers won the turnover battle, they are 30-3-1.  In games where they were even in turnovers, San Francisco was 8-1, and when the team lost the battle, they were 1-9.  That gives them an .897 winning percentages when the 49ers win the turnover battle, a .889 winning percentage in neutral games, and a miserable 0.100 win percentage when they have more giveaways than takeaways.  San Francisco’s .897 winning percentage in positive turnover games is the 6th best rate in the league. And the 49ers .889 winning percentage in even games is the 2nd best in the league, while the 49ers are tied for 29th in winning percentage in games where they lose the turnover battle.  The table is sorted by the difference between each team’s rank in winning percentages when winning the turnover battle and when losing it.  As you can see, San Francisco ranks #2.

Team
+ TO
Even
- TO
+ TO%
Even%
- TO%
Rk +TO
Rk Even
Rk -TO
Diff
New York Jets12-17-13-240.9230.8750.11133.52724
San Francisco 49ers30-3-18-11-90.8970.8890.16229.523.5
Miami Dolphins11-28-72-180.8460.5330.1121329.517.5
Tennessee Titans14-26-82-160.8750.4290.11110202717
New York Giants23-34-52-150.8850.4440.11881923.515.5
Philadelphia Eagles13-13-66-190.9290.3330.24225.51210
Green Bay Packers23-1-19-53-90.940.6430.251810.59.5
Buffalo Bills14-63-31-210.70.50.0452616315
Carolina Panthers18-45-72-120.8180.4170.14315.521.5204.5
Indianapolis Colts14-36-44-180.8240.60.182149.5173
Atlanta Falcons16-38-44-160.8420.6670.2137152
Kansas City Chiefs13-45-92-150.7650.3570.11822.52423.51
Jacksonville Jaguars10-81-100-190.5560.091031.531320.5
San Diego Chargers15-23-76-150.8820.30.286927.58.5-0.5
Pittsburgh Steelers10-19-69-140.9090.60.39149.53-1
St. Louis Rams11-53-72-19-10.6880.30.1142727.525-2
New Orleans Saints16-28-38-130.8890.7270.381754-3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers10-73-102-160.5880.2310.111303027-3
New England Patriots28-35-47-60.9030.5560.5385111-4
Houston Texans16-45-55-170.80.50.22717.51613-4.5
Seattle Seahawks24-45-73-70.8570.4170.31121.56-5
Chicago Bears18-44-64-120.8180.40.2515.52310.5-5
Minnesota Vikings11-75-52-18-10.6110.50.119281622-6
Washington Redskins12-53-93-170.7060.250.15252918.5-6.5
Detroit Lions14-53-64-170.7370.3330.192425.516-8
Oakland Raiders9-64-43-220.60.50.12291621-8
Dallas Cowboys13-47-64-140.7650.5380.22222.51214-8.5
Cincinnati Bengals15-410-45-120.7890.7140.2941967-12
Arizona Cardinals10-37-76-150.7690.50.28621168.5-12.5
Cleveland Browns10-80-103-170.55600.1531.53218.5-13
Baltimore Ravens21-67-17-120.7780.8750.368203.55-15
Denver Broncos12-314-19-120.80.9330.42917.512-15.5

In the least surprising result I’ve ever found, the Jets had more games where they lost the turnover battle and the game than any other team over the last three years.

San Francisco Passing

The 49ers don’t pass often, and as a result, the team ranks just 30th in passing yards. But Colin Kaepernick ranked 8th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt this season, and that was without Michael Crabtree for most of the year. Vernon Davis has been a playoff superstar in recent years, but the real story of the 49ers is the marvelous season Anquan Boldin produced. Only three receivers this year recorded at least 36% of their team’s receiving yards: Boldin, Josh Gordon, and Vincent Jackson.

The 49ers threw 417 passes this season, and Kaepernick was sacked 39 times. Boldin gained 1,179 receiving yards, which means he gained 2.59 receiving yards on every 49ers pass attempt (including sacks) this season. How impressive is that? It’s the best rate in the league. Now, to be fair, both Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon misses two games this year — if you exclude their team’s number of pass attempts in those games, they both just so slightly edge out Boldin for the lead. But the 49ers star still comes in at a respectable #3.

Here’s how to read the table below: Josh Gordon played in 14 games, caught 1,646 yards, and was responsible for 37.6% of all Browns receiving yards. Cleveland had 629 attempts (including sacks) in the games Gordon played1 As a result, he recorded 2.62 Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt, the best rate in the league.

Rk
Receiver
Team
G
Rec Yards
% of Tm Rec Yd
Tm Att
Rec Yd/TPA
1Josh GordonCLE14164637.6%6292.62
2Calvin JohnsonDET14149232.1%5742.60
3Anquan BoldinSFO16117936.7%4562.59
4DeSean JacksonPHI16133230.2%5542.40
5Antonio BrownPIT16149934.8%6292.38
6Alshon JefferyCHI16142131.9%6092.33
7A.J. GreenCIN16142633%6162.31
8Vincent JacksonTAM16122438.5%5612.18
9Jordy NelsonGNB16131429%6152.14
10Brandon MarshallCHI16129529.1%6092.13
11Andre JohnsonHOU16140733.6%6752.08
12Pierre GarconWAS16134633.2%6542.06
13Demaryius ThomasDEN16143025.7%6952.06
14Vernon DavisSFO1585026.5%4561.99
15Dez BryantDAL16123329.2%6211.99
16Keenan AllenSDG15104623.4%5741.94
17Golden TateSEA1689825.6%4641.94
18Kendall WrightTEN16107929.1%5701.89
19Victor CruzNYG1499825.8%6071.88
20Eric DeckerDEN16128823.1%6951.85
21Jimmy GrahamNOR16121523.5%6881.77
22T.Y. HiltonIND16108327.4%6141.76
23Michael FloydARI16104124.3%6151.69
24Torrey SmithBAL16112828.8%6671.69
25Doug BaldwinSEA1677822.2%4641.68
26Nate WashingtonTEN1691924.8%5701.61
27Greg OlsenCAR1681624.1%5161.58
28Julian EdelmanNWE16105624.3%6681.58
29Rod StreaterOAK1688824.5%5631.58
30Hakeem NicksNYG1589623.1%6071.57
31Brian HartlineMIA16101625.6%6521.56
32Larry FitzgeraldARI1695422.2%6151.55
33Steve SmithCAR1574522%5161.54
34Denarius MooreOAK1369519.2%5631.52
35Antonio GatesSDG1687219.5%5741.52
36James JonesGNB1481718%6151.52
37Harry DouglasATL16106723.5%7031.52
38Riley CooperPHI1683519%5541.51
39Cecil ShortsJAX1377720.7%6421.49
40Marques ColstonNOR1594318.3%6881.46

Regular readers know that the better metric would be to use True Receiving Yards, but I decided to keep things simple here. In any event, Boldin has had a magnificent season, and I expect that to continue today.

Revenge Games

One stat you might hear today: Teams like San Francisco who won at home against a non-division opponent but then had to play that team on the road in the playoffs have a 9-20 record since 1970. Of course, the Ravens did this last year, beating the Patriots in Foxboro in the AFC Championship Game after defeating New England at home in the regular season. The two teams in this situation to be favored since 1978 both lost, too: New Orleans in Seattle in 2010 and Philadelphia in Arizona in 2008. But it’s never wise to take too much from just two examples. Since 1978, teams in the 49ers situation are 8-15 with the average spread of 4.5 points, which is not far out of line with what you would expect from that sort of points spread. In other words, the spread matters more than this bit of trivia. The 49ers are 3-point favorites, and I expect them to cover that line.

Stat of the Day

The 49ers trailed with the ball for only 84 minutes and 18 seconds of game time this year. That’s by far the best in the league. Seattle was second at 118 minutes, 7 seconds. In road games, the 49ers only trailed with the ball against the Seahawks (for 12:46), Rams (for 7:19), and Saints (for 8:39). In eight road games, the 49ers offense was only on the field while trailing for 28 minutes and 44 seconds. That was also the best in the league (the Chiefs were second at 50 minutes, 39 seconds…. and didn’t trail for too much of the game yesterday!).

Prediction: San Francisco 30, Green Bay 23

  1. Note: For each receiver, I calculated their number of Team Pass Attempts based on the formula Games Played * Team Pass Attempts / 16. In other words, I simply used a pro-rated number of pass attempts. However, for both Gordon and Megatron, I actually went back and checked the specific games they missed, and used the correct (and not pro-rated) numbers. []
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