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Weathering the Storm

   by Al McMordie - 11/11/2010

As we near the end of the college football season and the NFL dances around the halfway mark, it's time to think about important adjustments taking place. Not just on the gridiron or on the coaching sidelines, but other dynamics that can influence a football side or total. 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 (like I do in the Hollywood Hills). 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.

Boise State is a great 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. Their big showdown with Hawaii on Saturday was played in very nice weather, but that will change soon.

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. A Boise total of, for example, 62 may be a good spot for an over in October, but this can be very different in late-November or December, so be careful.

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. Drizzle or heavy rain can hurt teams that rely extensively on the passing game, like Hawaii, SMU or Texas Tech. Rain can be less of a detriment on teams that have a powerful running game as an option, such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Navy or Air Force.

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. Three years ago the Patriots had that incredible offense that dazzled teams in the first half of the season going over the total often. Then as oddsmakers adjusted and inflated their totals, they were a better under team partly because they played a string of games in colder, windy conditions.

Nine years ago the Raiders had an average defense and a great passing attack behind QB Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice. They lost home field advantage with a late-season swoon, and that became critical when they had to play the Patriots in the AFC playoffs. Instead of hosting the game in sunny California, Oakland had to travel 3,000 miles and play a night game in Foxboro in January. You probably remember the conditions for the game – 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. Think the Raiders would have scored just 13 points if it had been at home in VERY different weather conditions?

Some of the playoff games that the Steelers, Patriots and Bears have been in were icy cold. Chicago won the NFC in 2006 and got to host the championship game against the pass-oriented Saints: at home in frigid conditions. Wonder if that was on the mind of Coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees last season as they locked up the No. 1 seed and had home field (indoors) in the playoffs for their great passing attack. That helped them get to the Super Bowl and win it.

In 2004, the AFC Championship game saw the game sail under the total, too, as the Colts high-flying passing attack had to face cold, windy conditions in Foxboro. 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 upcoming bowl games, and late-season college and 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. And don't miss my NFL Total of the Month this week, as we're 24-7 our last 31 NFL Totals!

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