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Weathering the Storm

   by Al McMordie - 11/05/2006

As the pro and college football seasons slip into November, it’s time to think about important changes taking place. No, not how much turkey and pie you can stuff down your face on Thanksgiving, but factors that are beginning to seep into sports handicapping analysis that weren’t there in September. In case you haven’t noticed, the weather has begun to change. For sports bettors, this is essential to be aware of when handicapping games each weekend, especially if you live in a warm weather climate. It’s easy NOT to think about winter weather patterns approaching if you look out your window and see warm sunshine. But astute bettors must expand their critical thinking in November and December.

Here some recent newspaper quotes from football games. “The Jaguars kept it simple on offense. A swirling wind made it difficult for both offenses but Jacksonville’s superior ground game was the difference.â€쳌 And a game from the Meadowlands: “On a cold, blistery afternoon, the NY Giants displayed the depth of their defense.â€쳌 Not the game stats, but the weather conditions should jump out to those who want to wager on either the side or the total.

Teams in the south are less affected by cooler weather, of course, but many northern areas, such as the Big 10 schools, can have much cooler and windier weather this time of year. Boise State is a good example. The Broncos regularly put a ton of points on the board in September and October, which often pushes their totals higher. However, keep in mind that they play outdoors in Boise, Idaho, a very cold climate late in the year. A year ago Boise had two of its least productive offensive games at the end of its schedule, scoring 30 points against La Tech and 7 against Fresno. Both those games sailed under the total. There is also the Humanitarian Bowl played on their home field in December. They may have a funky blue carpet that gives the appearance of an indoor facility, but it’s not. This is an outdoor stadium, so check weather conditions for that bowl game and Boise’s remaining home games. Sometimes there is sleet, rain or snow, and other times cold wind can be howling, which can severely influence play on the field.

Check the times that games are played, too. Cold, windy weather can be more severe at night than during the day. This is something to keep in mind when teams play in northern cities, like in the Big East or Big 10 conferences. When Ohio State and Michigan clash in Ohio in a few weeks, pay close attention to what the weather conditions will be.

Drizzle or heavy rain can hurt teams that rely extensively on the passing game, like Hawaii or Texas Tech. Rain can be less of a detriment on teams that have a powerful running game as an option, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Navy or Arkansas. This is also evident in the NFL. The Bills, Patriots, Packers, Steelers and Bears play in outdoor stadiums and will have to contend with cold wind and frozen fields soon.

Sunday’s Packers/Bills game was played in cool weather up in Buffalo, and the game sailed under the total. Buffalo won despite finishing with just 184 yards on offense. The Bears were at home in cool Chicago and had their worst offensive performance of the season with just 13 points.

Several snow games in recent years were hammered under the total, as well. The Steelers played in a blizzard at New York in 2003, and it sailed under in a 6-0 NY win. You probably remember the conditions for the Raiders/Patriots night playoff game in 2002– a snowstorm! Sports bettors hammered the under for that game, and they were right. Even overtime couldn’t get it over the total in a 16-13 snow-filled Patriots win.

Back to back playoff games between the Colts and Patriots in frigid New England also sailed under the total, in 24-14 and 20-3 finals. It didn’t help that the Colts high-flying passing attack had to face cold, windy conditions in Foxboro. In 2003, the teams had combined for 72 points when they met a few months earlier indoors at Indianapolis, but combined for 38 in the January cold. With bowl games, and late-season NFL games still on the schedule, include a look at weather conditions for every game you plan to place a wager on. Because it’s better to have Mother Nature on your side than against you! Good luck as always...Al McMordie.

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