Handicapping 101: Cold Weather

Ever wonder why your fingers, toes, ears and other extremes get especially cold in frigid weather?

The body adjusts to extremely cold weather by adjusting the flow of blood. Crucial organs, such as the heart and liver, get more blood which is diverted away from the extremities, such as the fingers, toes and ears. Blood vessels in the extremities constrict, nearly shutting off, leaving the skin at increased risk of frostbite.

That's the medical definition, but anyone who's ever laced on skates in an outdoor rink, hit the slopes, or even engaged in a friendly snowball fight can tell you that your motor skills decrease in frigid weather. Throwing a football with numb fingers is not only tricky, it can be painful. In fact, playing any position with numb fingers increases the chance of "finger jams", which is simply when numbness prevails you from squeezing the ball the way you normally would and increases the chance of an injury on the impact with the ball or an opposition player . It's just one of the many small inconveniences of playing in cold weather. Everything constricts in cold weather, including the pigskin, leaving the ball with an entirely different feel – throwing a cold football is entirely different than throwing a warm football with an expanded hide.

Playing in the cold is perfected through practice, so teams that are forced to practice in the cold are invariably going to do better in that situation. Pay particular attention in cold weather games to the quarterback, and his experience in the situation. Teams that practice in the cold primarily include Green Bay, Chicago, Denver, The Giants, Jets, Eagles, Steelers, Bills, Ravens, Patriots, Browns, Bengals, Redskins and to a lesser degree – The Chiefs and Titans. Players who practice in cold weather changes year to year; Brett Farvre is one of the all time best – in any weather.

There were 10 regular season games in 1998 (our test season) where the game time temperature was recorded at less than 40 degrees. Those games were;

Week 10 – San Diego @ Denver – 37 degrees

Week 14 – Kansas City @ Denver – 35 degrees

Week 16 – Baltimore @ Chicago – 36 degrees

Week 16 – Tennessee @ Green Bay – 29 degrees – snow

Week 17 – Minnesota @ Tennessee – 35 degrees

Week 17 – Tampa Bay @ Cincinnati – 39 degrees

Week 17 – Detroit @ Baltimore – 39 degrees

Week 17 – Chicago @ Green Bay – 39 degrees

Week 17 – NY Giants @ Philadelphia – 37 degrees

Week 17 – New England @ NY Jets – 37 degrees

Do you know what the 10 coldest games of the year have in common, other than the fact they were the 10 coldest games of the year? In each of the 10 games, the favorite won the game, usually by a landslide. In fact, the favorite had an ATS mark of 8-2 in the 10 coldest games of the year.

Not only did the favorites in these cold wars win the game, like their hot air cousins, the favorites dominated. In fact, of all the underdogs in these 10 contests, only twice did the underdog score more than 16 points, Kansas City in their 35-31 loss to Denver, and Tennessee in their 30-22 loss at Green Bay. In the other eight games, the underdogs scored just 72 points combined, or, nine points per game on average. The favorites scored 263 points combined, for better than 26 ppg on average. Again, UNDER THE TOTAL dominated the sportsbooks in these games, as the under played out to a tune of 7-2-1 in these 10 games.

It's interesting to note that the NFL was pretty fair in the scheduling of the cold wars, as only San Diego & Tampa Bay were asked to go "out of their element" with regards to playing in cold weather. San Diego was wasted in Denver, managing just 10 points, but Tampa Bay shocked many in a 35-0 rout of the Bengals at Synergy Field in 39 degree weather.

In other words, it certainly appears that favorites in a cold weather game are favored for good reason.