We look at the types of weather and what you can be aware of when handicapping games where weather may actually be a factor so you can place your NFL picks confidently.
It seems it’s rainier than ever in North America and Mother Nature and some of her uglier daughters—Cold, Wind, Rain and Snow—often have a definite effect on football games played outdoors, both in the college and professional game. In the NFL, with Domes, Retractable Roofs and Outdoor stadia, and a finite 16 Regular Season games against pretty much known opponents at known venues, weather plays less effect than many talk about and much less than in the old days of the league when everything was outside and there were no Domes, Heaters and modern comforts.
Missy Elliott can’t stand the Rain, but NFL handicappers, like NFL odds makers, have to deal with the reality that sometimes the perceived Weather and the forecasts one hears leading up to a specific game don’t always match up with the reality that ends up happening on any given Sunday. And the different types of weather which can affect a football game—Rain, Snow, Wind and Cold—all have their various different degrees of affecting individual games and the Weather within a given game often changes, especially when fronts are moving through and fronts are what usually bring the most Wind and Precipitation, to whatever degrees. Luckily for football players (and coaches and referees) and fans in attendance at games, when the Lightning comes, the games are almost always delayed these days, and seldom does Fog ever have that big of an effect on a football game save for the occasional Bears-Eagles NFC Playoff game in Chicago in 1988.
Basically, there is no way to put a blanket statement that the weather is a certain way in any of the NFL’s 31 stadiums unless we’re talking about the sometimes wonderfully artificial indoor 72° Suburban Mall Bliss Weather provided by the NFL teams which solely employ Domes as their stadiums. Anyway, let’s analyze the types of Weather, how it may affect players and the game, specify who has Domes and who has modern Retractable Roofs, and see if any Logic can be applied to dealing with Weather information on NFL games. And there’s more information than ever.
Who Got What and When Should We Worry About the Weather in the NFL
There are 4 NFL teams who play their Home games exclusively in Domes and 4 teams who have Retractable Roofs. The 4 teams with Domes are the Atlanta Falcons (Georgia Dome); Detroit Lions (Ford Field); New Orleans Saints (Mercedes-Benz Superdome); and St. Louis Rams (Edward Jones Dome); while the 4 teams with Retractable Roofs are the Arizona Cardinals (University of Phoenix Stadium, in Glendale, AZ); Dallas Cowboys (AT&T Stadium); Houston Texans (NRG Stadium); and the Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium). So if you really think about it, an NFC South division team like the Falcons or the Saints plays at least 9 games every season indoors, so both have a lot less Weather to worry about and handicappers of their games also have one less thing to worry about. But is there anything we can glean from all of this? Maybe when they do finally have to play Outside or in some type of relatively extreme weather conditions that the oddsmakers possibly can’t build enough into the point spread for how hard it will be for Atlanta or New Orleans to be productive in the Snow of Green Bay or maybe the rain in Tampa.
As far as NFL teams who may have a perceived, or maybe a real Snow Advantage, the Buffalo Bills (40/1 to win Super Bowl 50, Sky Bet) and the Green Bay Packers (7/1, Ladbrokes) in the NFC seem to be the types that qualify. It seems the Bills and Packers almost welcome the snow, knowing that their players and fans are used to it, while opponents from warmer climes may actually Fear the Snow and the Cold, and the effect it has on the hands of Skill Position players not used to trying to catch, or kick, a cold, damp football. And, as a matter of fact, over the L4 seasons, the Packers and Bills have done a good job covering the point spread at Home at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. The Packers are 22-12-2 ATS (64.7%) over the L4 years (including Playoffs), while the Bills are 17-12 ATS (58.6%) on their often frozen home turf, where there was actually so much snow for one game (New York Jets), it had to be postponed and moved to Detroit and played at Ford Field.
The Types of Weather and Some of Their Potential Impacts on a Football Game
The bottom line perception with betting NFL and Weather’s effect on sports betting usually comes down to movement in game’s Totals, usually downward with bettors perceiving any type of bad weather is a hinderance to scoring. (And this happens in MLB also.) As a generalization, this pretty much rings true, but in football, a west playing surface caused by Rain or Snow can actually be a benefit to the WRs, TEs and RBs running pass patterns who know where they’re going, while LBs and DBs trying to cover these Offensive skill position patterns have no idea where the players will cut on the field, often giving receivers an extra couple of yards and a half-a-second on newfound freedom, causing many DBs to stumble and fight desperately to get back on their man. This is an example of bad weather being good for scoring, but for the most part, footballs are harder to catch and hold, cold footballs are harder to (place) kick and punt and Offensive Coordinators usually prefer to go conservative when the Cold, Rain and/or Snow comes.
Now when the Wind comes, it comes down to almost a question of whether or not the Wind is actually affecting the flight of footballs enough to not have to adjust the old game plan. Winds of up 5 mph to 12 mph are expected and pretty tolerable in professional football while winds from 12 mph through 18 mph—listed as a “Moderate Breeze” on the Beaufort Wind Scale (would create small waves at sea)—would have some, but not a massive effect on the flight of certain spiralling footballs—a knuckling ball is exposed to more wind—whereas the 19-24 mph (Fresh Breeze), 25-31 mph (Strong Breeze) and up through Hurricane level wind speeds all have a definite effect on the flight of passed and kicked footballs. But figuring out how much you the bettor thinks this may affect a given game and how much of the game if so is another variable—even though in your head—and then trusting and/or getting good Weather Information in the first place is paramount. When your Weatherman Bill tells you there will be gusts of 45 mph and you decide to load up on the Under, perceiving less scoring from that forecast, and then the Wind Speeds only peak out at 20 mph, and have little or no effect on passes or kicks, your information source and your own head were the ones that did you wrong, not the Real Weather that actually happened for those three (usually afternoon sunlight) hours on game day. For most NFL bettors, the Wind and the Cold are as perilous as the Rain and Snow and there are advantages to be had, but maybe not as much as we believe or hear. And too many people get on Weather hype trains and don’t do their own homework or find better sources. And there are plenty of good Weather sources to be had in 2015.
Conclusions and Some Simplistic Weather Wisdom
More often than not, by the time John Q. Public has gotten to the number—be it a Total or a side for a given NFL game—the Wiseguys have already bet into it, here in Las Vegas and Offshore. Because of computers, betting markets move in seconds these days and not minutes. So, John Q. Public worrying too much about Weather for his small or moderate wager seems like wasted energy in my mind. If you are worried or unsure about the weather so much on a one game, why not worry about something you can control like the actual amount of the bet? And be aware of how much your Perception, as well as the public’s (delivered through the media) affects your bet when it comes to Weather, as well as any line movement by the time you get a crack at it. For example, a theoretical (Total of) 43½ in a Steelers-Browns game which has been bet down to 41½ by the time you realize that a nasty storm is headed to northern Ohio and can actually place your own bet—fearing that perceived Weather’s effect on the game and the total points scored by both teams—the value has been sucked dry. 43½ is not 41½. And in your head, you’re betting in to go Under because of the Weather, but even losing those 2 little points is enough to mess everything up. Bettors know this. Timing matters. Sometimes, at least.
And here is something that is never said or written about enough: Sometimes, a lot of times, IT JUST DOESN’T EVEN MATTER what your’s, mine, the public’s perception of what the Weather would have been anyway. we’re talking about the Weather, man. We all bet that theoretical Steelers-Browns Total down to 41½, and no storm passed through, the conditions were normal, and it was a frickin Fumble or something that ended up being the thing that determined who covered and who didn’t and not the over-hyped Weather. But handicappers have short memories of all this, maybe some kind of built-up self-defense mechanism to help them try to forget what just happened each day so they/we can merrily march along on in an endeavor where The House wins 97% of the time. They say that ignorance is bliss or that bliss is ignorance or something I have forgotten like yesterday’s Weather. Anyway, the big points here are have good sources; bet early on perceived good Weather information; by skeptical of Weather reports; play with the amount of the bet if you are unsure; and, don’t worry too much about it as all the Domes, Bettors, Market Movement and Constant Change of Life will flatten it all out anyway. Unless of course you’re trying to middle NFL Totals and bet off the line movement of weekly Weather Hype where it pertains. In that case, carry on.
Weather-Related NFL Games of the Year Pick: Green Bay Packers -5 over Dallas Cowboys, Week 15 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)