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Record cold blast will impact playoff chances leaguewide

Week 15 is a time when playoff dreams are built or dashed, but the biggest impact on several games could be Mother Nature, not a game plan.

The memory of last January’s playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks is still fresh in the minds of players who lived through it. It was one for the record books – cold that resulted in players getting the symptoms of frostbite and fans being bundled up as much as humanly possible to say they attended the first playoff game of the Mike Zimmer administration and the last game played by the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.

On Sunday, the forecast is calling for it to be as bad or worse for playing football than that game, but this time around the Vikings have U.S. Bank Stadium as their home. Otherwise, players would be enduring a high temperature of 5-below zero with wind chills well into the double-digits below zero.

The deep freeze that much of the country is going be facing this weekend will be its own version of the 12th Man – an outside force having an impact on a game being played.

Minnesota is under a winter storm warning today with the expectation of 6-10 inches of snow falling before all is said and done. After that, bone-chilling temperatures are going to take over.

For a team like the Green Bay Packers, who will be playing in Chicago, where the forecast is calling for a game-time temperature at or around zero, the weather could play as much a role as Aaron Rodgers.

In many ways, it’s a shame that the weather can be a determining factor as to who wins or who loses a game. It’s nothing new to the NFL experience. The Los Angeles Rams of winning vintage saw their Super Bowl dreams routinely die when they had to come to Minnesota in January to face the Vikings four decades ago. Many of the old-school rivalries in the NFL faced the same issue – warm-weather teams traveling to cold-weather cities to face the elements as well as their opponent.

We’ve already seen weather play a critical role in games of postseason importance, as snow has limited some games to being run-first, run-second, run-often type of affairs.

As the Vikings try to make a playoff push, the last thing they need would be a game that could be impacted adversely by the intangible of weather. If Sunday’s game with the Colts was to be played at TCF Bank Stadium, the majority of what had been game-planned could well be scrapped because football is a sport that lends itself to being played in bad weather, but not in dangerous conditions.

Games this weekend of playoff importance are going to be played in the ice box not only in Chicago, but in Kansas City, New York, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington.

For many of the teams involved, the elements are going to play as important a role as the preparation for the opponent at hand.

Fortunately for the Vikings, their playoff aspirations won’t be impacted by the projected record-setting cold. Others won’t be so lucky. It’s part of the game that is played in the NFL – a season that starts with temperatures in the 90s can be decided by games played in temperatures almost 100 degrees colder. If the Vikings win or lose Sunday, it will be based simply on their on-field performance. The seasons for other teams may well rise or fall based on how they can handle the weather extremes that will be coming this weekend, an unfair disadvantage that is part of the game and a sad reality that a season might be derailed because of the mistakes that will come from players with frozen hands trying to handle a frozen football.

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