STONE COLD: Not Intimidated, Saints Still Hope to Avoid Playoff Game at Green Bay

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

The “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field, in Green Bay. Wisconsin. It’s well-known that temperatures there can reach as low as 13 below zero degrees fahrenheit, with a wind chill factor of minus 36 degrees, just as it did once upon a time during the infamous “Ice Bowl” some 50-plus years ago.

And it’s for that very reason that the current version of the 2019 New Orleans Saints are hoping to avoid going there in a few weeks from now, should they end up having to play there next month during the NFL Playoffs.

The Black and Gold currently are the #3 overall seed in the NFC as they head into this Sunday’s final regular season game at Charlotte, North Carolina against their division rivals, the Carolina Panthers. But New Orleans needs to beat Carolina and then hope for a loss later that night by the current #1 seed San Francisco 49ers; who will face the Seattle Seahawks needing a win of their own to clinch the NFC West Division Championship along with the top seed in the conference.

But should the (12-3) Saints either get upset by the Panthers or the (12-3) 49ers emerge victorious later that night at Seattle, the most likely scenario would then put the Saints at home against the Minnesota Vikings (who are “locked in” currently as the #6 seed and second Wild Card team) in the opening round of the NFC playoffs at the Superdome in a week and a half from now.

Should the Saints beat Minnesota, then their next game in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs would then take them on the road to ⁠— you guessed it ⁠— the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field to face the #2 seed and NFC North Division Champion Green Bay Packers.

Now while to a man every Saints player will tell you that they aren’t (or won’t be) intimidated by having to travel to Green Bay regardless if the weather for that possible game will be forecast to be very cold or not, the reality is that it will certainly be on their minds, whether or not they want to admit it.

Frigid or arctic-like temperatures in a well-known cold-weather environment like the upper Midwest in January affect must normal human beings mentally, just as much as they do in the physical sense.

In a 2012 story in the New York Times, writer Sam Borden noted that a typical January day in Wisconsin can have an adverse affect on a player’s vascular and respiratory systems respectively; which in other words can hinder one’s capability to feel objects with their hands (like carrying or catching the football) as well as being able to simply breathe.

That loss of feeling in one’s extremities such as your fingers or toes, are a direct result of the human body’s internal organs such as your liver, kidneys, and heart, working extra hard to continue functioning properly and for a duration long enough to last the expected period of exposure to the elements.

While not ideal, it’s a scenario that you can rest assured that the Saints are hopeful that can be averted as this weekend’s final week of the 2019 NFL Regular Season ultimately determines who will end up playing where.

The Saints have purposely been practicing outdoors since last week, because they wanted to be prepared for the rainy weather and slippery field conditions at Nashville last Sunday at Nissan Stadium against the Tennessee Titans, whom they rallied to defeat by a score of 38-28.

However, if they should eventually end up having to play at Green Bay later next month, it’s not something that they are overly worried about, as Saints head coach Sean Payton has alluded to in the past when the team has played at other notable “cold weather” venues such as Chicago’s Soldier Field or New Era Field in Buffalo.

As Payton has said to reporters in previous situations when the Saints have had to potentially play in games where the temperatures can reach below freezing, the tougher challenge most often are the field conditions — which most obviously are things such as ice, snow, wind, and rain.

For Payton, it’s actually the speed of the wind or extremely breezy conditions that he feels can adversely affect his team the most. “Wind, it’s like golf”, Payton has said previously. “Wind at times, and then obviously, heavy rain”.

While no one knows yet just what type of weather conditions that the Saints will ultimately face once the NFL Playoffs get underway in a week and a half from now, the likelihood that they might have to eventually travel to the “frozen tundra” of Eastern Wisconsin to face the Packers, remains a strong possibility.

And even though it might end up that the Black and Gold will find themselves feeling a bit “stone cold” if temperatures reach well below the freezing level that day, one thing that you can remain confident in as a loyal ‘Who Dat’ fan is that your New Orleans Saints will NOT be intimidated by it.

Especially if the Saints hope to achieve their ultimate goal: a trip to the warm and welcome tropical-like weather at Hard Rock Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LIV (54) in Miami, Florida on February 2nd of early next year.

So in that case: bring on the cold….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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