Draft Recommendation: Cold weather has an impact for fantasy football playoff games but not a huge one so use it to break a tie between players or for some of your backups.
The cold northern weather has brought some of the most exciting games in the history of the NFL including the famous “Ice Bowl” and the “Tuck Rule Game”. It is very tough for some teams to have to play in stadiums such as Lambeau Field or Soldier Field in December because the weather forces them to adjust their game plans. December is also time for the fantasy football playoffs and fantasy football players also often have to adjust. You may start a running back playing in the cold because he is likely to have more touches or a quarterback playing in a dome because the weather will not affect his performance. Every year fantasy football players have tough decisions to make later in the year but this made me think: should cold weather affect your draft strategy?
In order to do this I had to group stadiums based on the average December weather in that city:
Very Cold – Bears, Bills, Browns, Packers
Cold – Bengals, Chiefs, Eagles, Giants, Jets, Patriots, Steelers
Average – Broncos, 49ers, Cowboys, Panthers, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks, Titans
Warm – Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans
Indoors – Colts, Falcons, Lions, Rams, Saints, Vikings
Based on my analysis, I determine that it is not a myth that there is more running and less passing in low temperatures. Teams playing in very cold stadiums in December have about 12% less passing yards and 12% more rushing yards per game than they do for the entire year. These numbers will vary from year to year and when there was a big snowstorm in 2007, those numbers went up to 25% in very cold stadiums and 15% in cold stadiums. These are very interesting statistics but the question still remains whether or not this should affect you drafting strategy.
After using a simulation of playoff matches I came to the conclusion that the advantage of having a QB playing indoors versus a QB playing in a very cold stadium is the equivalent of that same QB playing the 23rd ranked pass defense versus one playing the 2nd ranked pass defense in 2008. You cannot apply the strength of schedule advantage for the upcoming season because you cannot predict who the good and bad defenses will be in 2009 (see strength of schedule article) but you do know who will be playing indoors or in a very cold stadium in December. To see where each team will be playing its games in weeks 14 through 16, click here.
If you like a quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers you should not stay away from him simply because he has to play in one cold and two very cold stadiums in weeks 14 to 16. However, if you do draft Rodgers, you may want to consider a guy like Matt Ryan as his backup since two of his games will be indoors during the fantasy football playoffs.
The best example of this was in 2007 when most owners who drafted Tom Brady made it into their league’s playoffs. However, a large snowstorm hit in the northern part of the United States and caused many of the week 15 games to be played in snow and heavy winds. Tom Brady had only 140 yards passing with no touchdowns in that game and cost many people a fantasy football championship. If you knew a snowstorm like this was going to hit before the season started, you still would have drafted Tom Brady but you might have drafted a backup QB who played his final few games indoors or in the south.
There are so many factors that will affect who you select and who you stay away from in your fantasy drafts and this is just another one of them. It is not the most important but it is one to keep in mind if you are hesitating between a few players.