Late during the morning of Week 12, we saw something that we hadn’t seen so far in the NFL season; sideline reporters were focusing their live game day hits on the weather. The Meadowlands, Foxboro, Lambeau Field and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City all had frigid temperatures and blustery
winds. RotoExperts.com writer George Kurtz removed Eli Manning from his starting lineup because of the wind and cold in The Meadowlands in a cushy matchup against the worst pass defense in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys. In Foxboro on Sunday night, we saw Knowshon Moreno tote the rock 37 times for 224 yards. We saw Peyton Manning pass for a season-low 150 yards, just 4.2 yards per pass on average, and throw repeated fluttering balls into the Foxboro wind. Bill Belichick deferred possession to the explosive Broncos, preferring the wind at their backs to the ball in their hands to start sudden death overtime. A late OT punt deemed too risky to catch by Wes Welker, one of the most sure-handed punt returners in the history of the NFL, led to a turnover that ultimately cost the Broncos the game. Mother Nature has officially made her appearance and announced that she will now start being a factor in Fantasy leagues. On the other side of the coin, Tom Brady dominated the Broncos to the tune of 177 yards and 21 points on three consecutive drives against the wind in the third quarter alone. At Lambeau Field, the Vikings and Packers scored a combined 52 points. The Patriots and Broncos combined for 67 points in the toughest conditions of the week. The Cowboys and Giants scored 45 points combined, and the Chargers vs. Chiefs game at Arrowhead was a shootout that ended with a last second TD pass and a final score of 41-38.
Weather is an element to deal with, both for offenses and defenses. Sometimes it prohibits Fantasy points and sometimes flying in the face of common sense and rational thought, it actually contributes to more scoring, not less. What we do know is that the weather is getting blustery and going forward you have to factor it into your Fantasy starting lineup decisions. This week, we debate players potentially impacted by that pesky Mother Nature.
POINT – Brandon C. Williams
“Do you feel the force of the wind; the slash of the rain? Go face them and fight them. Be savage again.” — John Facenda, The Championship Chase, NFL Films, 1974
Mother Nature becomes a Fantasy Football player as the chill of November morphs into frozen no man’s land in December; making freeze pops out of must-start performers while turning nondescript players (see Harrison, Jerome, 2009 season) into Fantasy Rudolphs who guide their teams to titles.
The weather will factor in your Week 13 decisions, and while forecasts won’t deter you from starting Drew Brees (at Seattle) or Jamaal Charles (vs. Denver), it will give you a moment or two of pause when it comes to deciding on a WR2 or Flex play. For example, are you willing to play the hot hand of Cardinals QB Carson Palmer as he plays at Philadelphia, where the Eagles, though improved, remain near the bottom of the league in defense? Palmer has thrown two TD passes in four straight games, yet with game time temps expected to be in the low 40s with a 30 percent chance of rain, is the temptation to forgo the weather a better play than, say, Josh McCown (Bears) at the Vikings, or the slowly improving Colin Kaepernick (49ers) at home against the Rams?
Seven of Sunday’s and Monday’s games will be directly affected by the weather. Perhaps the two biggest games of concern to Fantasy owners will be the Broncos-Chiefs matchup on Sunday afternoon and Saints-Seahawks Monday night. Peyton Manning’s mediocre outing last week raises questions about whether he can be effective in the cold, which definitely raises questions about his receiving corps. Meanwhile, Brees not only has to deal with Seattle’s defense and an ear-shattering crowd, he’ll also have to confront temps in the mid-30s and rain. This is the time of season when the Fantasy gamblers roll the dice, throwing caution into the wind. Safe and snug in a dome or mild weather isn’t for everyone, so as you set your lineups take heed of Mother Nature’s call.
COUNTERPOINT – Chris Mitchell
In my gambling days, when I saw snow in the forecast, I instinctively thought “bet the under.” I was young, naive and much more often than not relieved of my hard earned cash. I came to learn the hard way that just because you see inclement weather doesn’t mean you will get low points, low yards and lots of punts. Often times it goes the other way. We saw this in Week 12, when two of the highest scoring games featured the worst weather conditions of the week, New England vs. Denver at Gillette Stadium and San Diego vs. Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. In blustery conditions there are a lot of things to consider; owners should be looking at weather as an opportunity and not necessarily a wet blanket for Fantasy points. When the Fantasy gods close a door they often open a window and we should look at Mother Nature’s impact on our Fantasy teams in the same way.
When it comes to kickers there really is no open window in this scenario. Accuracy and opportunity are both negatively affected in anything but ideal conditions; so swap out any kickers that play outdoors, even in mild conditions, when you can.
A tough wind shortens both the length and width of the field for a quarterback. It also challenges a quarterback’s arm strength and their ability to throw consistent spirals to cut through the wind in the middle of the field. In Week 12, Tom Brady showed he is able to handle this while Peyton Manning showed he cannot. If you have a QB lacking in arm strength then wind is a situation to be concerned about, but if your game is in rain, sleet or snow things are very different. It can challenge the QB but it can also help him. Wide receivers have the advantage over cornerbacks in these conditions and that can lead to big play opportunities down the field. It also poses real problems for linebackers covering faster, more agile tight ends and pass catching running backs in the flats, which can lead to big plays on high percentage throws. Sloppy conditions also slow down pass rushers. Corner rushers rely on first step quickness, which can be tough when the field is slippery and wet.
Quarterbacks that could be affected by weather:
Russell Wilson: Sloppy conditions should help, not hurt Wilson. A run-heavy offense in bad weather should lead to great play action opportunities as well as screens and short passes. In the worst-case scenario it could lead to Russell pulling it down and running, which is when he becomes an elite Fantasy quarterback. So welcome the slop; Wilson is a mudder.
Peyton Manning: We saw in Week 12 that Manning is mortal in adverse conditions. We have also seen throughout his career that in pressure games in cold weather he is very much mortal. Weeks 13-15 (KC and back to back in Denver) will all be outdoors in potentially difficult conditions. It would take some real cajones, managerial overthinking, or a truly amazing matchup for your second stringer to bench the best QB in Fantasy Sports but it is something to consider in one and done situations.
Wide Receivers, Tight Ends and Running Backs
When it comes to the skill positions, it is all about helping or hurting what they do best or increasing their targets or opportunities. Bad weather helps possession receivers and tight ends get open, but it hurts the deep passing game. For running backs it either gets them more rushing attempts, earns them seven and eight man fronts, or in the case of the passing game it almost always helps.
Wide Receivers that could be affected by sloppy weather:
DeSean Jackson: D Jax lives and dies with the big play down field. Sloppy conditions slow him down, allow for more bump and run coverage, and make it more difficult to get him the ball down the field. D Jax is the player I would be most concerned about if the conditions get messy. Adding to the difficulty is that he faces a very good Arizona defense. If the weather is rough seriously consider benching D Jax.
Torrey Smith: He lives and dies with the deep ball much like DeSean Jackson, and bad weather makes things difficult. He was great in Week 12 in cold but otherwise perfect conditions. Flacco has a cannon that should minimize your concerns but difficult conditions make it more challenging to throw downfield successfully. Bad conditions don’t make Smith a must-sit but it does downgrade him. He is not a red zone target as shown by his four touchdowns in 12 weeks and he doesn’t run possession routes, so if the downfield passing game is limited for any reason it hurts Smith’s production.
Donnie Avery: This is one wideout I like if the conditions are difficult. If it’s sloppy it should help him create separation, and if it’s windy it should increase his targets. Jamaal Charles is a player that the defense probably clamps down on even more in bad weather, which is rare. Running backs normally benefit from bad weather in the passing game but I think Charles is one player that gets extra attention if it’s sloppy. It should lead to more play action opportunities and I expect those passes to go to Avery and not Dwayne Bowe. It all helps Avery, and it showed in Week 12 when he had four catches for 91 yards and a TD.
Percy Harvin: Harvin could be listed as a WR or an RB because of the wide array of skills and athleticism he brings to the football field and that is why in bad weather I would upgrade his value when he can play. Harvin can run the ball out of the backfield as an RB, he is a target in the screen game and he can take a short crossing route to the house. I also expect him to score a special teams TD or two before the season is over. Wet and sloppy conditions make it difficult to cut and juke but it makes it almost impossible for a corner to stay with Harvin. It also makes it very difficult for linebackers to help in pass coverage on short plays and screens. Seattle has four of their next five games in bad weather locations and I expect Harvin to benefit from tough conditions in the Fantasy playoffs.
Running Backs that could be affected by weather:
Darren Sproles: I think Sproles could be the biggest beneficiary of bad weather situations. Sproles won’t have to worry about eight man fronts because he doesn’t run the ball, but he would benefit from them. If the weather dictates a focus on the running game, that would open up space in the flats and create an even tougher job for linebackers trying to cover Sproles one-on-one in space. I expect Sproles’ targets to increase significantly in Seattle this week specifically, and Fantasy owners will benefit from the extra opportunities and better one-on-one matchups in any game where the weather plays a factor.
Blustery weather sparks fear in Fantasy owners and in some cases it very much is justified, but don’t always assume the worst. There will be some players that benefit from the bad fortune of others. You just need to figure out who the beneficiaries are. Going forward you will hear more and more discussion about the weather and its impact on player rankings, but you will hear almost all warnings of bad things to come. Get the edge on your Fantasy friends and enemies by using the bad conditions to your benefit and it could win you a title. Good luck in Week 13 and beyond ladies and gents.