Between the new retractable roofs and old indoor stadiums, bad weather games are becoming less and less frequent in the NFL. But as the 2022 season proved, there are still some games where Mother Nature plays a significant role. One game (Bills vs. Browns) was even moved to Detroit last year after so much snow fell so quickly in Buffalo.
Not only can weather destroy the over/under for total points but it can even the playing field between two teams by creating a playing surface so sloppy that skill advantages are lost. More fumbles also lead to more random outcomes and variance.
Does anyone think the Bears win 19-13 against San Francisco in Week 1 if the game was not played in a monsoon? The Bears would go 2-14 the rest of the way while the 49ers were in the NFC Championship Game.
- Date: Sunday, December 31, 2023
- Time: 01:00 PM EST
- Odds: Bills -6 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook (check our Caesars Sportsbook Review)
Buffalo is always a given for this topic, and you could write a whole series on bad-weather games between the Bills and Patriots. Who can forget the meeting in 2008 when it was so windy that the goalposts were swaying? The Patriots threw 8 passes that day and won 13-0.
But Bills-Patriots is actually a great example of what matters with weather in the NFL. Just take a pair of meetings in 2021 as an example. In a Monday night game in December, the wind was so bad again, in Buffalo, that the Patriots threw the ball just 3 times (with 46 runs) in a 14-10 upset win.
However, the teams met a month later in Buffalo in the wild-card round, and despite the temperatures being in single digits with snow on the field, the Bills rolled New England 47-17. It was arguably the greatest offensive performance in NFL history as the Bills scored a touchdown on all 7 possessions that night.
That is why severe wind is a far greater weather warning sign than freezing cold and snow. Wind is going to cut into the passing game more, which will make scoring harder on average.
The NFL will play 5 international games this season in London and Germany. If there was another Mexico City game, we would be mentioning that because of the high altitude, but that stadium is being renovated before the NFL returns there in the future.
Rain, Go Away
However, the game to watch is in Week 6 between the Ravens and Titans in London. That game will be played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has an open roof and is susceptible to the elements. Rain is not uncommon in London, so it could end up being a rain game between offenses that ideally want to run the football.
Overall, the London games have rarely featured terrible weather, but the playing surfaces have sometimes left much to desire. In a season where Lamar Jackson would love to get back to MVP form, it would be a shame if a more pass-happy Baltimore offense was to be grounded by a sloppy field.
But with Derrick Henry, the Titans would probably welcome that. The uglier, the better.
If any coach could conjure up some dark magic to change the weather in his team’s favor, it would be Bill Belichick. Remember how the Patriots made the playoffs almost every year for two decades? Yet, the only real playoff snow games they played during that whole time was the 2001 Tuck Rule Game against Oakland and the matchups with the Colts in 2003 and 2004.
Those were all “finesse” passing offenses with receivers built for running perfect routes and quarterbacks throwing on time with precision. Throw some snow into the mix, get physical with the receivers, and you can put the game in your favor on defense. That is what Belichick did to those teams and won all those games.
Well, his strategy against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs is not that much different as far as getting physical with the receivers. While Mahomes has done some good things in his few opportunities against Belichick, he was also held without a touchdown for a whole half in 3-of-4 meetings. That’s not the only shocking fact for Belichick vs. Mahomes.
Patrick Mahomes’ Highest Bad Throw Rate in a Game Since 2018
- 31.0% vs. 2018 Patriots in AFC Championship Game
- 29.6% vs. 2019 Raiders in Week 13
- 28.6% vs. 2020 Patriots in Week 4
- 27.8% vs. 2018 Patriots in Week 6
Source: Pro Football Reference
Three of the 4 times Mahomes had his highest bad throw rate in a game, he was facing Belichick’s defense. The Patriots will hope to make it tough on him again on a Monday night in Week 15. Some classic terrible weather in New England could help even more to produce an off night for that Kansas City offense.
- Date: Sunday, September 24, 2023
- Time: 01:00 PM EDT
- Odds: Dolphins -3.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
The Dolphins open the season on the road, but the team’s first home game is in Week 3, almost a year to the date since Miami hosted the Bills in a scorcher in 2022. It was 89 degrees at kickoff but temperatures on the field were much higher.
Miami is no stranger to having a heat advantage early in the season, as even Tom Brady and the Patriots would struggle down there many times no matter if the Dolphins had a lousy season.
The Bills melted that day and lost the game, 21-19, despite outgaining the Dolphins by over 275 yards, a stat that leads to a win over 95% of the time in the NFL. But Buffalo really looked gassed at the end of each half, and Josh Allen was unable to set up a game-winning field goal opportunity despite having ample time to do so.
This year, it could be Denver playing in a very hot game that will also be an early body clock game with a 1:00 p.m. ET start time. The Broncos have Sean Payton trying to fix the offense this year, but that is going to be a tough wake-up call to face a speedy, talented Miami team, especially if the temperature gets near 90 degrees again.
This is a different era in the NFL as many of the top passing teams play in outdoor stadiums in cold-weather cities, including Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. Not many of the indoor or dome teams that rely on a passing game are successful right now, but one that hopes to be in that group is Detroit, the favorites in the NFC North for the first time in decades going into a season.
Size Could Matter
But the Bears get to host the Lions in some of that December weather in Chicago, which can mean bitterly cold. Jared Goff is a California quarterback with a history of having small hands that could lead to fumbles and mistakes in bad-weather games.
Goff fared fine in Chicago last year in a 31-30 win when it was 34 degrees last November, but his first game in Chicago back in 2018 during a Super Bowl year is probably the one he’s remembered for since it happened in prime time. Goff tossed 4 interceptions in a 15-6 loss, but that also said a lot about how good that Chicago defense was in 2018. The Bears have a long way to go to get to that level again after finishing dead last in points allowed last year.
But the Lions will have to answer why the home-road splits were so weird last season for Goff:
- Home: 23 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
- Road: 6 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
Throw in some classic Chicago weather and this is a key divisional game that Goff will have to play well in for the Lions to have the season they hope to finally have.