John Madden
John Madden
Pack the parkas for this one
By John Madden
ALLMADDEN.com

The Outback Steakhouse Madden Cruiser has arrived in Wisconsin for Saturday night's wild-card playoff game (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) between Atlanta and Green Bay, and this is going to be good.

There are some guys in the league where everyone says, "Jeez, he's one guy I'd pay to watch." Well, we have two of them in this game in the Falcons' Mike Vick and the Packers' Brett Favre. I know I'm really looking forward to seeing them play.

Football like it ought to be:
I have always said that if they're going to build a shrine to pro football, then it ought to be Lambeau Field. That's kind of what pro football and the history of it and the start of it is all about. You just go there and you're reminded of it all the time. It's Lambeau Field, named after Curly Lambeau, who was the first coach of the Packers. And you drive down Lombardi Avenue, named for Vince Lombardi, who was the greatest coach of all-time. You see all of the names up there, like Bart Starr and Paul Hornung and Ray Nitschke and Willie Wood. You see all those things and you just think, doggone, there's a lot of history here.

Green Bay and Lambeau are kind of the roots of football. We don't really have any old stadiums anymore in football. Even though they've refurbished Lambeau Field, it's still Lambeau Field. And the only other old stadium we have in the NFL is Soldier Field in Chicago. We just don't have old, traditional fields, and something that we always have to be reminded of is our history and our tradition. You're reminded of those things when you do a Packers home game.

They have great fans there, too. Heck, you wonder who are the toughest people in the stadium at a Green Bay game. And sometimes over the years, when I've done games there, I thought the toughest people were the fans. It's cold there and you have those elements, but at least the players are moving around. They're out there playing and getting heated up and all those kinds of things. And I know from coaching myself that the coaches, once they get into it, have so much adrenaline going that the cold isn't a problem for them.

And then you just look at the fans and they're sitting in that same weather and they aren't even moving around. You see young ones, you see kids, you see middle-aged ones and you see old ones and you think, how the heck do they do it? But they love their Packers, and games there have been sold out forever and the waiting list for tickets there is like a hundred yards long. It's kind of a state team. It's not just Green Bay, but it's the whole state of Wisconsin and the surrounding areas.

It is going to be interesting because Green Bay in January is always tough at home, and the Packers know how to play in that weather. People say that they like it, but I don't know that they like it and I don't know that Favre likes it. In fact, I know he doesn't because he's told me that he doesn't. But he and his team know how to manage it. That's the big thing.

You don't get used to cold weather where it doesn't bother you. If it's cold, heck, you get cold. But the Packers know what to expect. They know how to get ready for it, and when it comes, they know it's coming, so they don't pay a heckuva lot of attention to it. And that's a big reason why they've never lost a playoff game in the state of Wisconsin.

Yes, they're always a good team, but it's also a tough place to play at because it introduces the elements. When a team like Atlanta comes in there this weekend, the Falcons can't just say that they can't worry about it and they can't think about it because they better worry about it and they better think about it.

It is man against man, it's offense against defense, it's defense against offense and then it's offense and defense against the elements. And so whatever those elements are, they're the ones that you have to deal with. It could just be cold weather, and so the ball freezes and it gets slick. Or it could be the wind -- and throwing into it and throwing with it. Heck, it could even be snow and it could be wet.

So those are things that are introduced into this game, along with things like how is Green Bay's defense going to handle Vick and how is the Falcons' defense going to handle Favre and running back Ahman Green? So, in addition to each team having to deal with those players, you have the elements, which, to me, are always interesting as heck.

The Packers are just one of those teams that's better at home. The Miami Dolphins are the same way, too. They're just a better team when they're playing at home and not on the road. Green Bay has a little bit of that in them. You watch 'em on the road and they look like a different team. But when they're at Lambeau, they're better, and then as you introduce the weather elements, they even become better than that.

They are 8-0 at home this season and there's just a feeling when they play there. There's that whole thing about success breeds confidence, and then you're successful, and you win and you believe you're going to win and so that gives you the confidence that you need. It's all those things that they've done for so long that are real. They just carry themselves differently when they're at home. When they run on the field there they look different, and when they break the huddle they look different. And they sure as heck play different, too.


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