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Frigid start to playoffs could set record for coldest games

Frigid start to playoffs could set record for coldest games

SNOWY SUPER BOWL: In this Feb. 9, 2013, file photo, snow is piled high in a parking lot outside of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Instead of shrinking from the possibility that football’s ultimate championship could be played in a blizzard, organizers of the first outdoor, cold-climate Super Bowl have decided to embrace the snow as the game’s unofficial theme. Photo: Associated Press/Bill Kostroun, File

By Larry Fine

(Reuters) – The wintry motif for an NFL postseason that climaxes next month in the first cold weather Super Bowl will have a fittingly frigid launch in this weekend’s opening NFC playoff games.

A snowstorm sweeping through the U.S. Northeast on Friday is expected to set the scene in Philadelphia, where the NFC East champion Eagles (10-6) host the wild card New Orleans Saints (11-5) in sub-freezing conditions on Saturday.

Sunday follows with NFC North winners Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) entertaining the wild card San Francisco 49ers (12-4) in temperatures that could hit zero Fahrenheit.

The Eagles-Saints showdown holds the potential for a high-scoring clash with potent offenses directed by tried and true New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Philadelphia’s second-year sensation Nick Foles.

Brees, who marched the Saints to the Super Bowl title in 2010, finished the regular season with 39 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, and 5,162 yards, second only to Peyton Manning’s record 5,477. New Orleans ranked fourth in total offense.

Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, and a league-leading passer rating of 119.2 after taking over as starter and directing the Eagles’ No. 2 ranked offense.

Besides passes, Brees and Foles could swap high school stories as the dueling quarterbacks share even more on their resumes having both attended Westlake High in Austin, Texas.

Brees, who at 34 is 10 years older than Foles, marveled at the job his younger counterpart has done.

“Those are pretty impressive numbers, especially for a guy who’s in his first year as a starter,” Brees told reporters.

“I’m very happy for his success. Not just the fact that we’re from the same high school and I kind of know the road he’s traveled. But he seems like a tremendous young man.”

The contest will test the road readiness of the Saints, who were 8-0 in their climate-controlled Superdome home and 3-5 when playing in hostile environments.

Philadelphia, after struggling at home, have run off four victories in a row at Lincoln Financial Field and won seven of their last eight games to snare the division crown.

While the Saints, under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, ranked fourth in fewest yards allowed per game, they must deal with a balanced Eagles attack that also features the nifty running of LeSean McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing this year.

New Orleans ranked 19th in the 32-team league defending against the run.

Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had 1,332 receiving yards this season, felt that being home could prove to be a strong advantage.

“Our fans are going to go wild,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring the playoffs to Philadelphia.”

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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