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NFL Totals and Cooler Weather

   by Bryan Leonard - 12/03/2011


The weather is getting colder for football teams in the northern parts of the country. That means wind, rain, sleet, snow – and potentially lower scoring games. Lovie Smith, the head coach of the Chicago Bears, is a proponent of conservative play, running the football and playing tough defense. The Bears started last season 8-2 under the total and have gone back to running the football the last month, which has helped key their win streak.
The Bears play their home games in cold, windy Chicago and appear built to win low scoring games outdoors now that it is getting colder. This is nothing new. One their way to winning the NFC in 2006, Smith had an abundance of defensive talent, and limited offensive options along with a young quarterback. It was no surprise that Smith preferred to win games with his defense and play conservative offensively with a rookie QB.
The Bears started 8-2 under the total that season. Smith ran the same formula the previous year ago as Chicago went 10-6 under the total, meaning they started 18-8 under when he become Bears coach! Last season that formula worked as the Bears got to the NFC Championship game again.
Handicapping totals is about line value, but it's also about the styles a football team plays. Another factor to keep in mind as we come down the stretch of the NFL season is weather. Northern cities like Chicago, New York, Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh are getting cold this time of year. It's essential to check weather conditions on game day. Cold weather is tougher on offenses, as is chilling winds and snow which is also something that will become more common.
You might classify the Bengals and Browns in the Chicago Bears category, too: Plodding offenses, tough defense (at least the Bengals can play D). The Browns were tough defensively last season under defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, but he bolted for Dallas. The Patriots are different in style, with an uptempo attack and a young defense that has given up a lot of yards and points, a team that has been great over the total.
Injuries, too, can change a team significantly. One season the NY Jets had an incredibly anemic offense rotating four QBs in 2005. The Jets started 4-2 under the total on the road where the offense was averaging just 7 points per game! When Ben Roethlisberger was out for the Steelers to start last season, they began 3-1 under the total with a super-conservative offense.
That was actually nothing new. When Big Ben had that motor cycle accident, Pittsburgh started 5-0 under the total on the road with a tough defense and a conservative offense without Big Ben. Stats, styles, coaching and weather all contribute to overs and unders.

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