For a second consecutive season, the Green Bay Packers hold the ticket for home-field advantage in the NFC. This year, it will be in front of a full-capacity crowd. For years, Lambeau Field has been known as treacherous territory come playoff time for visiting teams. However, the numbers in recent years suggest a different narrative. It begs the question: Can Green Bay get the magic back at Lambeau Field this year?
From 1993 to 2001, the Packers went 6-0 in home playoff games. With Brett Favre under center, Lambeau Field morphed into a torture chamber for all who entered once the calendar turned to January. The home-field advantage in Green Bay got to the point where it was impossible to pick against them in home playoff games.
It hasn’t been quite the same since then.
Since 2002 when they lost to Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs, Green Bay is just 6-6 at home in playoff games. That includes losses for both Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Favre’s last snap in a Packers uniform came in an NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau. Favre threw an interception in overtime that all but sealed Green Bay’s fate.
Rodgers has piled up plenty of great wins in the playoffs. Still, a lot of the noteworthy work has come on the road, including the Super Bowl run where they went to Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago before knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dallas. Rodgers often mentions how big the home-field advantage is. This year, Green Bay has a chance to prove it. He wants all the cold weather possible, something he noted after a frigid Sunday night victory against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks back.
“Last year, we didn’t get that good Green Bay weather,” Rodgers said. “Tonight was one of those nights. We haven’t had a game like this in a while, temperature-wise. It’s just different. The whole feel of it. I feel like teams can break a little bit easier when it is this cold because there’s an excuse: the weather.”
Last year, the Packers also had home-field advantage, but it came with its own set of caveats. Attendance was sparse given the limited-capacity crowd restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic. This year, Lambeau will be rocking once again. Secondly, the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took place on an unusually warm day in late January in the great state of Wisconsin. These aren’t excuses; Green Bay still got to play at home. But this year could bring about all the elements that the Packers usually bank on to make it a true Lambeau Field advantage.
One thing that has stayed the same throughout despite the 6-6 home mark since 2002 is the perception and how others view it. You wouldn’t know that the Packers have held just a .500 mark since the loss to the Falcons way back when based on how Lambeau is discussed when the playoffs roll in. It is still viewed by most as the biggest home-field advantage in the NFL. This year could set up perfectly for them to reclaim that narrative.
In the divisional round, Green Bay’s four potential opponents are the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and Arizona Cardinals. It would take a near-perfect game for the Eagles to beat the Buccaneers this weekend. But they will head to Lambeau the following week if they do. They are the only ones in the bunch that is a cold-weather team.
Both Arizona and Los Angeles play in cushy stadiums. The Cardinals have a retractable roof, and the Rams have a canopy-type setup. San Francisco’s home isn’t quite as glamorous, but they’re a West Coast team not accustomed to sub-freezing temperatures. Still, all those teams pose their own threats that could wash out the Packers.
This year feels like the best chance Green Bay has had to win the whole thing in quite some time. Last year was great, but the limited crowds and fizzling defense didn’t help. This year Rodgers is on his way to back-to-back MVPs, Lambeau will be jam-packed, and, perhaps most importantly, Green Bay is getting healthy at the right time. David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers have returned, and they expect to get Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander back.
The Lambeau magic still feels present, even though the numbers indicate otherwise. This year, the Packers have a chance to show how valuable it is to play in the Frozen Tundra.