As the Packers prepare for a battle with the Los Angeles Rams, there remains a chance that Saturday’s weather in Green Bay will dip below freezing, giving at least a presumed edge to the team that routinely plays on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field.
But just how great of an edge is it, especially against a team from a “warm-weather” city like Los Angeles?
Using data from Pro Football Reference, which dates to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, we can take a look at games in which the temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees or below. Naturally, we didn’t include games played at indoor venues, but we did include road contests to see what impact chilly temps had on the Packers’ performance. It bears mentioning that plenty of games started just above 32 degrees and sank below at one point, but we don’t have the data to follow that, so we’re working with a somewhat incomplete picture.
With no context, how good are Packers in cold games?
Green Bay’s record since 1970 in games at 32 degrees or less at kickoff: 90-49-3. That’s a 63% winning percentage overall and 65% if we eliminate ties from the equation.
Most NFL data will tell you that the home team wins 55-60% of its games (although that advantage has waned in recent years and was basically 50/50 in the weirdness of 2020).
Of the 108 freezing games played at Lambeau, the Packers are 78-29-2, winning 72% of the time (and 74% if we subtract the ties). In the road games, they’re 16-20-2.
When it’s really cold, that seems to be bad
Sure, the Ice Bowl is part of the brand that we associate with the Packers — that idea of success in the most frigid of deep freezes. But since 1970, the Packers are just 3-9 in the games played at 5 degrees or colder.
At least Green Bay triumphed in the coldest of those (Dec. 10, 1972, at Minnesota, negative-2 degrees) and the third-coldest (Dec. 26, 1993, vs. Los Angeles Raiders, zero degrees). The latter was a memorable game when the Packers clinched an elusive wild-card berth and LeRoy Butler performed the first Lambeau Leap.
But the batch of losses in that group includes the NFC Championship game on Jan. 20, 2008 (a 23-20 loss to New York in negative-1 degree), and a loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football on Dec. 22, 2008 (20-17 in overtime, 2 degrees).
If we extend that to games that are less than 11 degrees at kickoff, the Packers are 9-14. But they’re also 15-6-1 in games between 11 and 20 degrees.
What about against ‘warm weather’ teams?
It’s hard to classify what makes a “warm weather” team, so we’ll classify it this way: A team that hails from a city with an average December or January (based on when the game was played) temperature of greater than 50 degrees.
Tennessee (in Nashville) is right on the border at 51 degrees in December, but we considered the Titans warm weather. The same goes for the Carolina Panthers, who play in Charlotte — where 51 degrees is the average temperature in January. It also includes San Francisco and Oakland, even though we may not view the Bay Area as “warm weather.”
We didn’t include Minnesota or Detroit, even though they’ve played in domes, given that they’re regular visitors to Lambeau and Soldier Field and thus have plenty of cold-weather experience in the upper Midwest. To keep it consistent with the dome teams, we also didn’t include the dome-bound St. Louis Rams or Indianapolis Colts (Green Bay is 3-0 in those games under our circumstances).
8-0 vs. Tampa Bay
3-0 vs. Tennessee
1-0 vs. Arizona Cardinals
1-0 vs. Carolina Panthers
1-0 vs. Los Angeles Raiders
1-0 vs. Los Angeles Rams
1-0 vs. Oakland Raiders
4-1 vs. Atlanta Falcons
3-1 vs. Dallas Cowboys
2-2 vs. San Francisco
1-1 vs. Houston Texans
1-1 vs. Miami
1-1 vs. New Orleans
0-1 vs. Houston Oilers
0-1 vs. Jacksonville
All told, that’s 28-9 vs. warm-weather teams. All but one of those games is at Lambeau Field; oddly enough, a 1989 game at Texas Stadium (the one with the hole in the roof) registered at 23 degrees. The Packers won that game, so they’ve gone 27-9 vs. warm-weather teams at Lambeau in sub-freezing temperatures, good for 75%.
What about in the playoffs?
In freezing playoff games since the merger, the Packers are 14-6. Of those losses, only twice (Atlanta in 2002 and San Francisco in 2013) did those setbacks come against “warm weather” teams. Again, don’t forget this is since the 1970 merger, so you won’t see the Ice Bowl on the list below.
In freezing playoff games at home, the Packers are 12-5 (71%). Again, that’s better than the 55-60% standard for home games, but it also bears mentioning that if Green Bay is hosting in the playoffs, then the Packers are already classified (typically) as the better team, so it stands to reason they should have a natural advantage in team talent.
One exception to that logic is a 2013 loss to San Francisco, when Green Bay won the division with an 8-7-1 record and was the underdog against the 12-4 49ers at Lambeau.
2019 vs. Seattle, W 28-23
2016 vs. New York Giants, W 38-13
2014 vs. Dallas, W 26-21
2013 vs. San Francisco, L 23-20
2012 vs. Minnesota, W 24-10
2011 vs. New York, L 37-20
2010 at Chicago, W 21-14
2010 at Philadelphia, W 21-16
2007 vs. Seattle, W 42-20
2007 vs. New York, L 23-20 (OT)
2004 vs. Minnesota, L 31-17
2003 vs. Seattle, W 33-27 (OT)
2003 vs. Philadelphia, L 20-17 (OT)
2002 vs. Atlanta, L 27-17
2001 vs. San Francisco, W 25-15
1997 vs. Tampa Bay, W 21-7
1996 vs. Carolina, W 30-13
1995 vs. Atlanta, W 37-20
1994 vs. Detroit, W 16-12
1982 vs. St. Louis, W 41-16
What about since the dawn of the Favre Era?
Sure, we get it. You don’t really count the 1970s and 1980s because, well, the Packers were bad. That “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field” thing didn’t totally catch on until Brett Favre was under center, starting in the 1992 season. Since the Packers have become a true powerhouse in the NFL, is the cold advantage even better in these glory years?
The answer is yes. Since the start of the 1992 season, Green Bay is 67-21-1 in games with freezing-or-worse temperatures at kickoff. That’s a winning percentage of 75% (and 76% if we weed out the tie). That ledger includes an 8-8 mark on the road, with the rest of the games at Lambeau Field, so the home winning mark under these conditions is 59-13-1 (81% or 82% success).
As you may have gleaned from earlier information, it’s still not a great mark in the coldest of temperatures. At 10 degrees or lower, the Packers are just 3-5 since 1992 and 3-4 at home. But again, they’re 7-1 between 10 and 15 degrees, so the ranges start to get meaningless after a while.