Recent history would seem to favor the 49ers heading into their NFC wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers today.
In coach Jim Harbaugh's first year at the helm, the team got to within a muffed punt return of making the Super Bowl. In year two, they got within one play of winning the Super Bowl. While it's a big leap to assume that forward progress will continue this season, they at least have that going for them.
Not to mention their history against the Packers, their first-round foe. San Francisco has won the past three meetings against Green Bay, including in a 45-31 trouncing in last year's playoffs and a 31-24 victory in the 2013 regular-season opener.
Packers quarterback and former Cal star Aaron Rodgers is 2-3 against the team he rooted for while growing up in Chico. This game, however, will be in Green Bay, with the weather hovering near zero and the famous Lambeau Field serving as the backdrop.
That cold weather could lead to lower scoring, which would be a change for the 49ers, who have scored a combined 79 points and totaled more than 1,000 yards of offense in the last two matchups against the Packers.
“To me it all depends upon what the footing's like,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “It could be just a normal game that's played at a little slower pace. Or it could be where there's a lot of slipping and sliding going on then you have to adjust a little bit. You need to wait to see on Sunday exactly how the field affects the game.”
True to form, Harbaugh kept it much simpler than that in his comments to the media this week.
He said the strategy is to “take our best players, go to Green Bay and see if we can beat their best players.”
For 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, playing his first game at Lambeau Field is something that holds significance for the former Packers fan.
He had some experience playing in cold weather while playing in college for Nevada, including a game at Boise State that he said was about 20 degrees at kickoff, but this game should beat that by quite a bit.
“I don't think my dream was to play in freezing weather,” he said. “But to be in the playoffs and have this opportunity, yes, it's part of the dream.”
Kaepernick said he does not plan on wearing a glove, which can affect the throwing ability of some quarterbacks.
Rodgers would seem to have the advantage having already played plenty of chilly games at Lambeau, but the Super Bowl XLV MVP is still fresh off a broken collarbone. He returned last week after missing the previous seven games with the injury.
The Packers own a 14-4 record in playoff games at Lambeau, dating back to 1961, though the Packers are just 2-3 in their past five playoff games in Green Bay.