Will Manning freeze in bitter Lambeau cold?

While Brett Favre's cold-weather record is the stuff of legend, Eli Manning has little below-freezing experience. What little he has hasn't been great. PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence explains.

The forecast for Sunday's NFC championship game calls for weather that's fit for neither man nor beast. It's not fit for Manning nor beast either, though it is fit for quarterbacks who are part Eskimo, like Brett Favre.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a quarterback rating of about 58 when the game-time temperature is less than 40 degrees.

He turned into a Manning-sicle during the Dec. 23 game at Buffalo. The temperature at kickoff was 52, but it was snowing like gangbusters later in the game. While the Giants won, a teeth-chattering Manning coughed up the ball five times and was intercepted twice. The week before that, when it was windy and 36 at home against Washington, Manning became the first quarterback in 40 years to throw at least 34 incomplete passes, going 18-for-53 for 184 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a 22-10 loss.

According to Elias, Manning has played in only one game with a temperature below 30 at kickoff. That was in 2004, his rookie season, when it was 24 in a 23-22 loss at Cincinnati. His passer rating was a mere 56.3, with 51.4 percent accuracy, one interception and no touchdowns.

What that will mean Sunday, when who knows what the expected high of 7 will have fallen to when the game begins at 5:30 p.m., is anyone's guess. That 2004 game is ancient history, and Manning has been efficient in playoff wins at Tampa Bay (70 degrees) and Dallas (50). However, the record doesn't lie. This season, he's 11-1 when the kickoff temperature is 50 or above; 1-5 when the mercury dips below 50.

Favre, of course — assuming you choose to discard that game last month in Chicago, when it looked like he was looking for an electric blanket and a mug of cocoa rather than the Bears' defense — is merely 43-5 at home when the game-time temperature is less than 35.

Again, what that will mean on a bitterly cold Sunday is a matter of debate. What isn't up for debate is this: Favre knows he can function in the cold, and the Giants know Favre can function in the cold. Manning doesn't know if he can function in the cold, and the Packers' defense knows it, as well.

All of which makes a fast start the key to Sunday's game. Manning has a tremendous 123.2 passer rating in two playoff games, but in both instances, he's been asked to play a supporting role. After throwing 33 passes per game during the regular season, he's thrown 22.5 passes per game during this postseason.

With the pressure off Manning, he's thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions and hasn't fumbled in these playoffs, compared to 23 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and seven lost fumbles during the regular season.

As Favre said the other day, the Packers have had the luxury of throwing the ball when they want to, and the same has been true for the Giants during the playoffs.

If the Packers can get Manning out of his element and make him beat them in Mother Nature's wicked elements, chances are the Packers will be basking in the sunshine and warmth of Glendale, Ariz.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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