THE IMPACT OF WEATHER ON NFL FOOTBALL BETTING
There’s an old saying that “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it”. It’s been attributed to several people including Mark Twain and Twain’s friend and contemporary Charles Dudley Warner. It definitely doesn’t apply to NFL football betting enthusiasts. There’s few subsets of society that fret more over the weather and always bet reflexively one way or the other depending on the forecast. It’s important to reinforce this over and over since bettors never seem to get it—there’s nothing in sports betting that is ‘automatic’ including betting the ‘Under’ in a NFL game simply due to bad weather.
It’s important to understand what impact that the weather has in a NFL game. It’s never a good idea to ‘automatically’ bet anything and particularly something that is known by the entire betting ‘marketplace’ and the linesmakers. If you have ‘inside information’ about the weather—someone that lives across the street from the stadium or a cousin that’s a meteorologist that’s one thing. Betting based simply on a bit of information known by millions is a different thing entirely and a very bad idea.
Here’s what to expect and how to bet various NFL weather situations:
The NFL will play through the rain and snow which can range from a gentle sprinkle to a veritable deluge. Unless it’s a serious downpour it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on how the game or total plays out unless some of the other conditions come into play. Obviously, rain means a wet ball which is more difficult to hold on to and a wet field which makes it harder to get traction and ‘cut’. But just because a condition makes the offense struggle to execute doesn’t mean that the scoring will be lower. What is bad for the offense is usually good for the defense.
A serious downpour or raging snowstorm can make life difficult for quarterbacks and kickers but there’s a problem betting based on a storm—at some point the precipitation stops. Unless you’re confident that the rain will continue throughout the game (and assuming that the line hasn’t already adjusted for this fact) it’s not a good idea to bet based on this factor alone. Now assuming that the line hasn’t been bet down to the point that all value is gone and you already like the ‘Under’ this makes it stronger. It might also make me keep the rubber band around my bankroll for a play on the ‘Over’ unless the line has been pushed down so far that I’m getting good value going that way. The general idea is that rain or snow should be a component of your handicapping, not a justification for a ‘kneejerk’ play.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING
The NFL and NCAA have become very squeamish in the past few years. If there’s even a hint of a thunderstorm that could produce lightning they’ll clear the field and stop the game. Of course, storms often have rain and wind accompanying them and that might have a bearing on gameplay after action resumes.
Games in extreme cold are part of the lore of the NFL. It’s true that games played in extreme cold are usually very low scoring but once again the issue isn’t what happens on the field it’s what happens at the sportsbook—everyone knows this and if the forecast is for single digit or subzero temps it will have been ‘baked in’ to the line. More than likely, ersatz wiseguys will have played the ‘Under’ on a line already shaded in that direction taking any value out of the equation.
Wind is arguably the significant weather condition for a handicapper of any outdoor sport. Strong, gusty winds can make a NFL game a complete freak show. It can have a similar effect on a Major League Baseball game and even soccer can become a dicey proposition in gusty winds. The ‘gusty’ distinction is an important one—a steady wind is a lot easier for quarterbacks and kickers to deal with. It might add to the degree of difficulty but part of the job at these positions is understanding how to compensate for the direction and velocity of the wind. Gusty winds—particularly those that change direction and speed significantly—make passing and kicking very difficult.
The problem in football is the same in baseball–wind has a tendency to be very uncooperative and change direction and velocity without regard to your wager. It can come and go without notice which is why betting exclusively based on a weather condition is unwise. The other problem takes us back to what we were discussing at the outset of this article—the daily weather report isn’t privileged information. That means that any wind issue significant enough to impact betting has already been ‘baked into the line’. The moral of the story is that sports betting and handicapping isn’t as easy as just betting one way or the other due to the direction of the wind.
Serious handicappers in all sports are more nuanced in their use of weather. They understand how weather conditions impact conditions in a specific stadium—not just in a general area. Is the design of the stadium such that it becomes a ‘wind tunnel’ and make things all the more difficult? Does the turf become especially slippery when it rains? How does all of this impact what a team wants to do on offense? Weather can be important but again it’s not as simple as betting ‘Under’ when the forecast looks bad.