Weather is a factor in the outcome of both NFL and college football games, and something that a lot of sports handicappers like to consider before making a decision. Everyone knows that. Though a lot of football bettors know that weather is a factor, I suspect that fewer spend any time actually thinking about what impact that weather might have and how to deal with it. Let’s look at the basic impact of different kinds of weather, and then look at the two key mistakes that bettors often make in dealing with weather and football games. Some of this will seem pretty basic, but this is a good time to review it again:
Types of weather
Cold – Cold weather can most obviously impact the quarterbacks. It’s harder for them to get a grip on the ball when it is cold, and harder for them to keep their hands warm and functioning. Generally, the colder it is the harder it is going to be to pass effectively. Cold weather’s impact goes deeper than that, too. It’s harder for players to keep warm and loose when it’s cold, so explosive teams might suffer. It also hurts more when you get hit when it’s cold, so teams playing physical opponents can be in for a long day. Cold obviously often goes with snow or frost. That compounds the problems we have discussed by adding in issues with traction, and with keeping the ball dry and easy to grip. Cold also impacts the kicking game as well because a harder ball can be tough for a kicker who isn’t comfortable with it to deal with. As with other factors we will discuss, the impact of cold weather is going to be bigger the more foreign it is to the football team.
Heat – The impact of heat is under-appreciated compared to cold, but it can definitely be a factor – especially in September. When games are played in extreme heat teams can find it hard to stay hydrated, and the football can be harder to hold onto. Heat will especially impact teams that aren’t used to it. There are two qualifiers here, though. First, teams practice through the summer, and extensively through August, so many teams see more heat than it would seem like. Second, in order for the heat to be an issue it really needs to be extreme – 85 degrees won’t bother anyone.
Rain – Rain can be nasty because it can impact so many aspects of the game and for sports handicappers the final score. Passing is made more difficult because the QB struggles to get a grip and visibility can be a problem for receivers. The running game can be affected because the ball is harder to grab on to, and because traction can be a problem. Defense will also be compromised if the traction is an issue – offense has an edge in bad traction because they know where they are going while the defense has to respond. The thing to consider here is not only what the weather is like at game time, but what it was like before kickoff, what the field surface is, how well it drains, and what impact rain typically has on it. Some new synthetic surfaces are virtually unaffected by rain.
Wind – Wind is a problem primarily for quarterbacks and kickers, and it’s for the same reason for both – wind affects accuracy of a football in the air. As a general rule, the less experienced a kicker is, the bigger factor the wind is. Also, the more a team relies on passing, the more significant the wind. What you really have to consider here, though, is not just how strong the wind is going to be, but where it is likely to be coming from, and how that affects the building the game is being played in. If a football stadium is located somewhere where the winds are often strong and consistently from the same direction then the stadium will likely be built to minimize the impact of that wind.
Over-reacting – As a general rule the sports betting public over-reacts to the impact of weather. The weather often isn’t as bad as it is forecast to be. Even if it is as predicted the public will often assume that it will have a bigger impact than it really will. The public over-reacts here just like they over-react to other things – major injuries, benched players, and so on. Your challenge as a handicapper before making your football picks, then, is to not only think about the weather and its impact, but also think about how the public will react to that weather, and where the value really is as a result.
Ignoring the setting – Sometimes people will an impressively thorough analysis of the impact of weather. They’ll study the forecast, where the teams come from, and so on. They’ll think of everything – except where the game is being played. At the extreme, weather doesn’t really matter when a football game is played in a dome no matter what it’s like outside. Beyond that, when handicapping remember that some football stadiums and some field surfaces are hit harder by some types of weather than others.