It's interesting to watch the mushrooming media dynamic in the NFL Playoffs. The week before the Packers hit the road for the Wild Card round in Philadelphia, the press corps remained primarily local, save a Philly beat writer or two. The following week for the Divisional Round, a couple more visiting writers, maybe a national scribe or two show up, along with a crew from Fox or ESPN. Conference championship week? Mob mentality rules. The Packers played meet the press on Wednesday and about the only one missing was Lawrence Spvak. At least a half dozen anchors and photographers from Chicago stations poured into Titletown along with more ESPN, Fox and NFL network types. The NFL Network even carried the press conferences of Mike McCarthy, Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings live. Same in Chicago from Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs and Matt Forte. It's understandable what with only 4 teams left in the field, the national media descends on Green Bay and players get engulfed 4 and 5 deep at their lockers.
Mike McCarthy was upbeat after the opening practice of the week. The Hutson Center doors were thrown open to cool down the practice facility to around 30 degrees, still warmer than what's expected Sunday in Chicago. The only player who did not participate was linebcker Frank Zombo. His knee sprain has just not come around and he's unlikely to go against the Bears. Erik Walden will get another start at outisde linebacker. The Bears have been ridiculously healthy all season, a big part of their 11-5 record although starting safety Chris Harris is nursing a hip pointer this week that could limit his effectiveness.
The weather and turf conditions at Soldier Field are getting a lot of attention. Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the upper teens with single digit wind chills, passable, not sure about the field. It's been rubbed raw this season and footing could be an issue.
A red flag went up over yellow flags with Mike McCarthy learned Terry McCauley has been assigned to referee the game by the NFL. It was McCauley's crew that flagged the Packers a franchise record 18 times in the 20-17 loss in Chicago back in September. The team became much better behaved after that, finishing third best in fewest penalties on the season. McCarthy isn't worried, calling that game an anomoly and he's right, even after watching a replay of the game this week, there were very few objectionable calls. Mark Tauscher did hold to wipe out a Jermichael Finley touchdown and there was grabbing in the secondary that wiped out a pair of potential game clinching Packer interceptions. It won't be the refs, or the field or the weather that decides this game, it'll be the players.