Weather has a large influence on many sports- sports like golf, tennis, baseball and football to name a few. This time of year, football season is in full swing and we are closing in on the playoffs. This season we have seen a few match-ups where weather affected how the game was played. With the exception of dome/indoor arenas, weather certainly plays a role in game outcome and implementation in each season. It can pose as a big influence to players in many various ways. Weather like snow, rain, temperature, and wind can handicap different players on the field.
Wind seems to be quite a nuisance when it comes to our kickers and quarterbacks. Strong winds loves to take the ball into its hands and redirect where it ends up. For kickers, high winds make it hard for them to kick a field goal. Especially when they have to kick it at a further yard line. Wind can blow the ball out of range and cost the team possible points. Passes are hard to manage in windy conditions. We see a lot of incomplete passes from our quarterbacks in windy conditions. In order to work around the wind, the team may implement more running plays as opposed to passing plays. A good example of wind influence on games for this current season is the Giants vs. the Patriots in week six. We saw a lot of incomplete passes from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, including one that landed in the hands of a Giants player resulting in a turn over. It was clear in the recaps that the trajectory of the ball was taken by the wind, an unplanned trajectory by Brady.
Rain can pose as a big issue to almost all players of the game. Pouring rain makes natural fields muddy and turf fields slippery. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends will find it difficult to run, dodge tackles and block defense on a muddy/slippery field. Rain also makes the ball slippery. Quarterbacks will have a hard time gripping the ball and throwing a passing play while receivers will have a hard time catching the pass. In rainy and slippery conditions, special gloves are worn to increase grip on the ball. Defense also finds it hard to tackle in muddy/slippery conditions on the field. Slipping and falling is a handicap to strategy and the coaches may change up game plays to mitigate the issue.
Temperature can go both ways for football, especially the first half of their season being in the fall where temperature fluctuates significantly on a daily basis. In hot temperatures, defense and running backs suffer the most as they are the players that run, tackle and all around move the most in the game. It’s easy to see why it could slow these players down when making running plays. Heat makes it difficult to breathe and can overwork your body to keep cool, making the body tire quicker. Including the rest of the team, hot conditions increase risk for heat stroke and wearing all that padding makes it hotter. Cold temperatures also seem to slow down the team by making the players who don’t move as much, stiff. Quarterbacks wear special gloves that grip the ball and keep their fingers warm but it affects the feel they have for the ball and could affect their throws. Most of the team can layer up in uniform or cover up with a blanket to keep warm on the bench. Running backs don’t get affected by the cold as much as the rest of the team because they run the most. Running helps them generate heat and keep warm. Moderate temperatures are an ideal condition for football players.
Snow is another form of precipitation that makes the field slippery. It’s also cold while it occurs and if it’s snowing heavily, visibility decreases. This is a triple negative when it comes to football games. It makes it hard to throw and catch the ball, tackle, and make significant runs. In the recent Packers vs. Panthers game in week 10, we saw how snow can affect one of the most significant plays in a game. Lambeau field being an open field in Green Bay northern Wisconsin, home to the Packers, is always open to the elements. Being the home field to the packers, they are accustomed to the cold and snow. This gives them an advantage in every home game where snow falls. The Carolina Panthers have the disadvantage here not being used to playing in cold and wintry conditions. One example of snow playing a significant factor in the outcome of a game was in the second quarter of the same game. The score stood 10-7 with Panthers in the lead. Hoping to continue the score at midfield, Panthers Quarterback, Kyle Allen, took a hand off and slipped, losing control of the ball resulting in a turnover and ultimately allowing the Packers to regain lead and win the game.
It’s interesting to analyze how weather can affect each play of the game and to see it in action in recent games like the Giants vs. Patriots and Packers vs. Panthers. It’s no doubt that weather can ultimately change the outcome of a game if conditions are harsh. It’s possible as we head further into the winter season we will see more games, even playoff games, possibly be faced with cold, snowy and windy conditions.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Alex Maynard
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