Weather or not, here come Giants
C'mon, admit it: You peeked.
Once it became evident Sunday that the Giants would reach the divisional round against the Packers, it was impossible not to wonder about the weather and consult the nearest website dedicated to such matters.
The Giants couldn't help being curious themselves, which was understandable given that only twice in the past 50 years have they played in Green Bay after Thanksgiving.
Most recently, they visited on Dec. 26, 2010, with the temperature at kickoff 25 degrees for a game the Packers won, 45-17.
The time before that . . .
"I remember David Diehl's sweat had frozen on his hair, so he had icicles on his hair,'' Justin Tuck recalled, referring to the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 20, 2008, which the Giants won, 23-20, in overtime.
Tuck also compared the way coach Tom Coughlin's face looked that day to the purple shade usually associated with Barney the Dinosaur. Added fellow defensive lineman Dave Tollefson, "Tom's face almost fell off, if I remember right.''
Moral of story: Weather is a fact of life in January in Wisconsin, and attention must be paid.
What other potential Giants playoff opponent would inspire fans to check the 10-day forecast during the two-minute warning in the wild-card round?
So what to expect for the big game? On Sunday evening, Weather.com was showing an expected high of 25 degrees.
By yesterday -- a day in which the temperature was in the mid-40s in Green Bay -- the forecast for Sunday had changed to a high of 18 and a low of 16.
Who knows? Last Wednesday, Coughlin fielded several questions about the forecast for cold, snowy weather at the Meadowlands come Sunday. As it turned out, it was partly cloudy and 44 degrees at kickoff.
Eli Manning has no plans to obsess about it. "I've heard a little, that it's going to be in the 20s, and I said, 'Well, that'll be hot compared [to 2008],' " he said. "It'll be 40 degrees warmer than the last time we were there . . . We know it's going to be cold. It's January. It's cold everywhere. But it's not something I'm going to look at every day or get concerned with.''
The Packers haven't played a home playoff game since that bitter loss to the Giants. The week before that, when they defeated the Seahawks, it was a toasty 31 degrees -- and snowing heavily.
When the Giants visited Milwaukee for the 1939 NFL Championship Game, it was 46 degrees at kickoff, the warmest for a Packers home playoff game. But the wind was blowing at 34 mph.
In January 1997, several Packers officials standing near me on the frozen tundra took off their jackets in the single-digit temperatures to bask in the sunshine during the NFC championship trophy presentation.
The most important question is how frigid conditions might affect the game. Manning badly outplayed Brett Favre in the extreme cold four years ago but was badly outplayed by Aaron Rodgers in the moderate cold two Decembers ago. The Packers are built around their passing game; so are the Giants. Rodgers grew up in northern California, Manning in New Orleans. "I don't know how much the weather is going to play into it because we're both from cold climates,'' Tollefson said. "I don't think it's even going to be an issue.''
Easy for him to say. What about the face of his coach, who by the way grew up in upstate New York? "It was pretty impressive that he came out of that game alive,'' Osi Umenyiora said after comparing the color of Coughlin's cheeks in '08 to the red of a reporter's shoes.
Coughlin said he was so caught up in the game that he thought the weather was "fine'' in the second half. But many among the 53.9 million television viewers that day were deeply concerned for him.
Might he take other precautions Sunday for his first road playoff game since then? "I don't know what else you do,'' he said. "I'm not wearing a mask. I scare people enough with this one.''