When conditions are just right outside, it’s known as perfect football weather. Think partly sunny skies and temps that are neither too hot nor frigid. There might be a slight chill in the air, or it could be just warm enough that extra layers are optional.
Then there are the games on the opposite end of the spectrum. We’re talking games that are impacted by wind or rain, and sometimes even both. Early in the season, heat and humidity can be an issue in some NFL stadiums.
As the season gets long in the tooth, temperature readings become more of an issue as some locales get downright frigid. And then there’s snow and other wintry mixes that can pop up here and there.
Do any of those outside factors really impact the product that teams put on the field? What about from a sports betting perspective? Are some weather impacts simply more important to watch out for than others?
We’re going to cover the answers to those questions and many more right here. You can consider this your complete guide to how the weather can impact things for NFL betting. By the time you’re through, the forecast will be nothing more than another item that you’ll know how to deal with as you handicap the games each week. Read on.
Can weather impact NFL games?
Of all the sporting leagues out there, the NFL attracts the most attention here in the US. Each game is an event, and there’s tons of coverage about the happenings surrounding it. By the time kickoff rolls around, engrossed fans will know all of the ins and outs.
If it happens to be a game in which the weather may be a factor, then a good amount of the discussion will revolve around that. There will be plenty of insight and speculation devoted to how it may impact the proceedings and what we can expect as a result.
While it all makes for an interesting discussion, the reality is that we just don’t know what will happen until the two sides line up. As an example, the weather could prove to be a non-factor, or it could have an even bigger impact than many were anticipating.
As bettors, is there any way that we can gain a better sense of what’s to come? Are certain conditions more of a red flag to watch out for than others? Let’s find the answers to those questions. We’ll begin by looking at the types of weather that could have an effect on the proceedings.
Types of NFL weather to watch for
Since NFL games are a weekly event for each team, there’s time to monitor the forecast in advance of game day and gain a sense of what may be to come. While we can do the same for a daily betting market such as MLB odds, the extra time is a bit of a bonus.
That said, it can also be a detriment when it comes to weather, as the extra time opens the doors to endless amounts of speculation. Games slated to be played in the so-called perfect conditions can be placed aside, but others with a hint of a weather impact are ones that get dissected backward and forward.
Here are the specific situations that tend to capture lots of attention.
- High heat and humidity: A potential threat for this comes in early-season games and with contests played in warmer climates.
- Rain: No area is immune to precipitation, but thankfully the forecast points to spots with the greatest chance.
- Wind: Light winds aren’t much of a factor, but those that rise can be an issue, while strong random or steady gusts could be a greater one.
- Snow: While fun to watch from the comforts of home, snowy and wintry conditions aren’t all that pleasant to play in.
- Cold: As the season moves along, temps are going to dip. When they hit the freezing mark or below, problems may arise.
For games that fall on the slight end of any of the above conditions, then the weather might not be much of an impact. When it skews toward the extreme side — think torrential downpours or gale-force winds — then it’s safe to assume the weather will be a factor.
How the conditions impact the game
So for the conditions that we have to watch out for, what are the potential impacts on the product on the field? Here’s a look at some of the main issues that may arise.
- Fatigue: High heat and humidity in the midst of grueling physical activity can wipe the body out. In extreme cases, cramping and dehydration can set in.
- Vision: If the weather is bad enough that you might have a tough time driving, think what it would be like trying to advance or stop an oblong ball.
- Ball control: Precipitation and other factors can make it tougher to hang onto the ball, so turnovers could be in the offing.
- Passing game: Ultimately, this will depend on the passer, but even the most solid pros can be impacted by high winds or other weather events.
- Running game: When the ground is slippery or frozen, runners can’t get their footing down like they normally can, so moving the ball gets that much tougher.
- Special teams: Weather, like rain, wind or snow can wreak havoc on kicking games, so kickers and punters could be in for long days.
As with any other factor surrounding a game, there will be players and teams that can power through any issue, while others may struggle. For example, a running back who has trouble holding onto the ball could have an even tougher time in really wet conditions, or a kicker who is on a bad run could be in line for a day to forget in extreme wind.
Which NFL positions are most impacted by inclement weather?
The answer to this question really depends upon the conditions at game time. Some weather events are all-encompassing in terms of impact, so no position is immune. In this category, we can include extreme heat or cold, for example.
A game with precipitation will be felt by all, but it can be particularly precarious for ball handlers. When the ball gets wet and slippery, it can impact a range of events, including the center exchange to the quarterback, handoffs and pass catching.
As for the wind, the biggest impacts are usually on the passing and kicking games. A strong-armed quarterback won’t see much of an impact at 15 mph or below, but things could get dicey as the winds get stronger.
The same holds true for kickers and punters. In games impacted by high winds, even routine events such as an extra point try could become more difficult than normal. When analyzing the forecast for the week, it’s a good idea to visualize the potential impacts that may occur for certain facets of the game based on the situation at hand.
Does bad weather affect scoring?
If the weather impacts the performance of athletes on the field, then that means that games in bad conditions will be lower scoring? Not necessarily.
For example, back in 2009, the New England Patriots played host to the Tennessee Titans in a snowstorm. The home squad blew the doors off of the visitors to the tune of 59-0. Tom Brady had a particularly stellar day, throwing for 380 yards, six scores and no picks.
As has been the case many times over the past two decades, the Patriots were a playoff team in 2009 and one of the stronger clubs in the league.
While that’s an extreme example, it still builds a case for the following: the stronger clubs will power through adversity, while lesser squads may have a tougher time with roadblocks.
On the direct relation between the weather and scoring, it would have to be a significant weather event to really disrupt things. In this category would be things such as extreme winds, blizzard conditions, torrential downpours or arctic-like temperatures.
If the forecast calls for questionable conditions that may lead to more turnovers or teams having trouble moving the ball, it can be helpful to look toward the strength of the two defenses. When two stout defensive teams square off in less than desirable conditions, then the recipe is there for a potentially low-scoring affair.
Will NFL games get postponed due to weather?
This is a very rare occurrence for NFL games. There have been several contests through the years that have had to be rescheduled as a precaution due to hurricanes, but the end result has been the game being moved to a new location or played at a later date.
Back in 2010, a major snowstorm in the northeast led to the postponement of a Sunday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. That game was able to go on and be played in Philadelphia just two days later.
In 2014, a big snowstorm in upstate New York led to the shifting of a Buffalo Bills home game. Instead of the Bills playing in friendly surroundings, they played host to the New York Jets at Ford Field in Detroit the following day.
For MLB, rainouts and postponements are commonplace. That’s just not the case with the NFL. It would have to be a really big weather event in order for there to be any impact on the schedule.
NFL weather-based betting lines
While we can all spend some time making educated guesses on the impact the weather will have on upcoming games or listening to the betting experts, there’s also a shortcut we can use to figure out how big of a deal it may be in the grand scheme of things.
We can follow the money in the form of watching the twists and turns of weekly NFL betting lines. For potential weather impacts specifically, we can glean some big clues by watching for the following.
- Spreads and moneyline odds grow larger for favorites: The public is leaning toward the weather having a bigger impact on the road side.
- Range of spreads and moneylines tighten: Both sides could be impacted, but the game plan of the favorite might not go as smoothly as initially anticipated.
- Totals noticeably tick up or down: The weather impact is expected to be felt on the scoreboard in one way or another.
This is a valuable clue to watch out for every week, but treat it as that and give it proper weight in your overall handicapping process. After all, the public money isn’t always on the correct side when the final whistle blows.
Does this mean dome teams have a big home-field advantage?
Just four of the league’s 32 teams currently play all of their home games inside of a domed stadium. There’s another handful that play in stadiums with retractable roofs which will be open or closed depending on the weather. That being the case, the overall edge for those teams while playing in a dome or not is open for debate.
However, we can find more clear cut answers on the teams that play all of their games in that environment. The exception to that rule is the Las Vegas Raiders. They’ve only played a single season under a dome, so we’ll have to wait for more clarity. Here are the records for the other three dome clubs at home over the last three seasons in the major betting categories.
|Team||Moneyline||Against the Spread||Over/Under
|New Orleans Saints||20-9||13-16||15-14
If we look at the moneyline, the Saints have been really strong at home, the Vikings are in the middle of the road, and the Lions have struggled. but it has been a different story for the Lions. This all correlates perfectly with the overall strength of the three squads over the same time frame. New Orleans has contended, Minnesota has been in the hunt, and Detroit has had a rough road.
Against the spread, the cumulative record for the three dome teams is 34-42-1 for the last three years, so there’s no meaningful edge to be found. If we look at totals, the overall record skews toward the Over, which aligns with conventional wisdom that shootouts can happen in domes, but it’s far from an overwhelming margin in that direction.
Overall, the biggest takeaway is that the stronger teams perform well and may have a slight home field advantage at home in domes. If we dig into the overall numbers for the better teams in the league in general, they tend to do quite well at home regardless of stadium type.
How to use weather forecast sites as part of your strategy
Visiting a site or app that focuses on the weather and typing in the location for each NFL home game would be quite the tedious and time-consuming process each week. Thankfully, there’s no need to do that.
The forecast for NFL games is a key piece of intel, so there are a number of spots to easily find the information each week. Among the specific resources you can lean on is NFLWeather.com, a site that’s dedicated to — you guessed it — the forecasts for upcoming games.
Additionally, many of the major sites that preview the weekly games will include forecast information right alongside the article. You can easily find what the weather looks like for each game on the docket, so be sure to take the time to do so.
Is weather an overrated factor for betting on the NFL?
It certainly can be, but we also have to factor it into the thought process regardless. As we’ve outlined, finding the information itself is simple. It’s a necessary piece of the handicapping process that we all need to make time for.
As a general rule of thumb, we can give more weight to the more extreme weather events — high winds, heavy precipitation, extreme cold — while slightly poor conditions may not mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.
However, we should also factor in the overall strength of the two teams involved for further clues on how the weather may impact the proceedings. Teams with better offenses can figure most things out, but even they may be affected by very adverse conditions.
The squads that have trouble moving the ball in general may be further impeded by even slightly less than optimal conditions. Meanwhile, stout defenses could suddenly become even stronger in a contest that has a poor overall forecast.
In a nutshell, the weather needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis and examined. Since the same holds true for each game on the NFL docket, we can build it right into our handicapping process to ensure we aren’t missing anything along the way.
Key takeaways on how weather can impact your bets
The weather forecast generates a lot of chatter in NFL betting circles. There are times when the attention is well-warranted. Other times? Not so much.
For contests in which the conditions are only slightly off, then it shouldn’t be a huge factor. When thinking these contests through, we can lean on the overall state of affairs for the two teams.
The impact should be minimal on the league’s better teams. When clubs can’t seem to get out of their own way in normal conditions, then another impediment surely won’t help.
When the circumstances are more extreme, we should perk up and pay attention. To recap, here are the main ones to watch out for.
- Extreme temperatures: Incredibly hot and humid conditions can inspire fatigue and other issues, while frigid cold can hamper overall cohesion.
- High winds: When the wind is blowing steadily or gusting strong, passing and kicking games can suddenly be less effective than normal.
- Heavy precipitation: Whether it’s snow or rain, lots of wet stuff can make holding onto the ball even more challenging.
The weather is a piece of the handicapping puzzle that is worth examining for each game you plan to bet on. However, you should be careful not to place too much weight on its impact unless the situation really warrants it.