Welcome to the 2022 NFL season! We hope everyone is as excited as we are for the start of fantasy football this year! From a weather perspective, contrary to how we typically start the year, things will be fairly active over the eastern half of the country for Week 1 of the NFL with several rain (and some wind) risk for games this week. The games we will focus on include:
San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears (extreme risk);
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals ( elevated/limited risk);
New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans (limited risk); and
Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers (limited risk)
The most eventful game, and the game we will focus on in this blog, is the San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bear matchup in Chicago. This game has been identified as “extreme” or “significant" (as indicated by red circle below). Read below for more forecast and player impact details. Note that the below rating system is a modified version of the one we have on our website.
A mid-latitude system will spin up over the midwest US this weekend and bring widespread areas of rain and wind. There is also a chance of convection associated with this system that could impact two games to the south including the New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans (Nashville) and Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers (Charlotte).
Wind is forecasted to be an issue over Chicago, where wind gusts could reach 25-30+ mph throughout the game. As a result, we have labeled the Chicago game as “Extreme”.
The Cincinnati game is labeled as “Elevated” based on our algorithm, but with impacts being isolated and intermittent, a "limited" designation is more appropriate.
Both the Tennessee and Carolina games are marked as "Limited" as we are not confident these games with have significant impacts due to the convective nature of the forecasted conditions over these areas.
Game Impacts: San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears (1:00 pm)
DK Sports Book O/U: 40
With moderate to heavy rain possible in Chicago with wind gusts 25-30+ mph for almost the entirety of the game (see graphics above), things could get messy very quickly. It also doesn’t help that you have two young QB’s who have yet to prove themselves in second year QBs Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Sports books are already anticipating a low scoring affair with a low O/U line of 40 pts (dropped from 40.5 yesterday). According to our analysis, this game has a ~66% of hitting the under even with this already low line.
The box and whisker plot above demonstrates that there is a high likelihood the total score of this game will be lower than what is experienced during normal or fair weather conditions. This also means that it is statistically less likely that a higher total score will occur given the forecasted weather conditions and that a significant amount of the total score distribution is within a fairly narrow range (28-45 points).
This is further explained by the floating bar chart above. This graph shows that on average, in similar weather condition games (green bar), an average score of ~35 pts is scored which is over 10 points below the control mean (black bar). Given the Vegas line of 40, there is a ~66% chance the score of this game hits the under. Notice that the green bar (indicating weather games) is shifted strongly to the left, indicating a shift in the distribution to lower scoring games.
Because this game includes one unproven offense and one (historically) poor offense, the prop bet lines for this game are already low. However, there are a few areas that might be worth investing, with one being the passing work for the RBs and TEs. On average, we see additional targets for RBs as shown in the below box and whisker plot, as QBs need to dump passes off more frequently.
Additionally, we observe 10 more receiving yards per game for RBs on average during similar games . With the O/U set for David Montgomery and Elijah Mitchell at 15.5 and 8.5 receiving yards respectively, we may see more dump off passes, especially if the offensive lines start to break down. Speaking of short passes and dump-offs, Cole Kmet (Chicago TE) may see a few more targets come his way, and with a 33.5 receiving yard line, it may be worth taking a shot on him. A baseline of 5+ targets for Kmet is well within reason as we typically see a larger market share of the targets go to tight ends in these games.
Lastly, we need to address the QB situation(s). We don’t have many data points on either QB, and this is especially the case for Trey Lance as this will be his first official NFL start. We do know that both of these QBs can run, but both are also unproven passers, and as such, it is hard to get a barometer reading (pun intended) on what to expect passing-wise. With that being said, we are confident that these QBs will trust their legs more in these conditions, and Vegas agrees, giving Fields 39 rushing yards and Lance 42 rushing yards.
Currently the O/U on the passing yards prop bet for Justin Fields and Trey Lance is set to 198.5 (blue line on below graph) and 207.5 yards respectively. The below graph demonstrates that on average QBs throw on average -34.5 yards per game than during normal game conditions with a strong skew of the distribution to the left. For reference, Justin Fields averaged 155 yards per game passing and the 49ers ranked 7th in passing yards given up to the QB last year for the 2021 season. For Lance, he has a better receiving core, but how he will perform at Soldier Field in treacherous weather conditions on game #1 of the season/career is anyone’s guess.
Game Impacts: New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans (4:25 pm)
DK Sports Book O/U: 44 pts
This game is more tricky, as there could be short, but heavier, periods of rain. Because this type of convective precipitation is more difficult to forecast, it is harder to make a forecast for impacts. At this time, we are not overly concerned about impacts as if it does rain, it will be short lived. However, if conditions do deteriorate, we expect more emphasis to be placed on Derrick Henry as the Titans may count on Henry for an increased workload. DraftKings already has Henry at nearly 100 yards (99.5 to be exact), with 23.5 rushing attempts. This is high, but it would not be surprising to see this number higher if they get up early and conditions get messy. The graph below shows rushing attempts by RBs in similar weather games. It demonstrates that during games with rain (green bars), teams that trust their RBs have a higher likelihood of giving them a heavier workload with 20+ carries.
Game Impacts: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 pm)
We do not expect significant impacts for this game at this time. Although the game is evaluated as “Elevated”, the nature of the conditions over Cincinnati will include isolated showers and thunderstorms. Conditions may deteriorate for periods of the game, but we don't expect this to be consistently impactful. If rain does become a factor, count on Najee Harris to play an increased role as a Mitch Trubisky led offense may struggle to move the ball consistently through the air. On the other side of the ball, we do not expect any significant impacts for the Bengals.
Cleveland Brown @ Carolina Panthers (1:00 pm)
This game is similar to the Tennessee game, but we are less confident convection will be impactful over the Charlotte area. There may be an isolated shower that pops up, but nothing noteworthy at this time.