Near Zero in Buffalo?
It’s that time of year again - wildcard playoff football! We are expecting a very cold air mass to settle into the Buffalo region for the Saturday night AFC wildcard round matchup between the New England Patriot and Buffalo Bills. We will also be monitoring a wind and rain risk in Tampa for the Sunday afternoon matchup of the Philadelphia Eagles at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Read below for our forecast summary and accompanying player impacts.
Weather and Player Impacts
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
Weather Rating: Extreme
DK O/U: 44 pts
Time: Saturday, 8:15 pm ET
A strong area of high pressure north and east of the Great Lakes will funnel in some very cold air for the Patriots at Bills game Saturday night. We aren’t just talking kinda cold - we are talking single digits cold. Temperatures are forecasted to be a bone chilling 7 F, and although winds will be light, wind chill values could approach 0 to -5 F.
The graph above shows a frequency distribution chart for total points scored in games with similar weather conditions to those forecasted for this game. Notice a pronounced shift in peak distribution (blue bars) to the left compared to control games (orange bars) indicating a statistically significant decrease in average total score (by about 6 points) during extreme cold games. This indicates a potential cap to offensive production for both teams, suggesting a lower scoring game is more probable than in fair conditions.
Josh Allen: If there ever was a “Weather Warrior” award, Josh Allen would be the recipient. It feels like almost every week Allen has been the topic of discussion with regards to weather. With that being said, we don’t have any record of Allen playing in single digits cold weather. However, in the games we have seen Allen play in with colder weather (20-40 F) , we see a 30 yards per game drop in his passing performance and a 12 point drop in his QBR. For historical context, in temperatures below 20 degrees, quarterbacks see a 15-20% drop in overall QB fantasy performance and QB efficiency (see graphic below).
It is also important to keep in mind that the last time Allen faced off against the Patriot in adverse conditions, albeit in windy conditions instead of cold, he posted 145 yards passing with 1TD. However, we have seen Allen use his legs more during inclement weather games, so we do expect him to give you a solid floor with a rushing safety net. We are more concerned about his passing ability with the Patriots ranked #2 in yards given up against opposing QBs. In our analysis, Allen will probably give you a solid enough floor, but an upside boom game is less probable.
Mac Jones: We don’t have a ton of weather-related data on the rookie QB, but even in cooler temperatures (20-40 F) we see the rookie QB struggle with 158 passing yards per game on average, with 2 TD and 2 INTs over a 3 game span. Conditions will be tougher in this matchup with temps barely above zero. Since Buffalo is ranked #1 overall in passing yards given up to QBs (only 104 yards per game over last 3 games), we expect the Pats to keep it more on the ground with Damien Harris and Rehmondry Stevenson.
Frequency distribution chart for QB fantasy points in cold conditions (< 15 F) with light wind and no precipitation (similar conditions for this game). There is a noticeable skew to lower QB performance on average in these conditions with a lower percentage chance of a big game breakout performance. As a matter of fact, only 2 (of 17) QBs have posted more than 20 fantasy points in similar conditions.
Patriots RBs: One thing is for certain, Belichick committed to the run the last time these two teams faced off in bad weather. We believe that another run-first approach is possible with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevensen leading the charge. On average, running backs rush for 20 more yards than their average during extreme cold games (see graphic below) providing a safe floor for the Patriots RB committee.
Devin Singletary: Singletary has been a beast of late, getting 20 or more touches in 3 of his last 4 games. Expect that volume to continue as attempts for RBs in extreme cold increases by more than 20% and rushing yards increase by 30-40%. With this being said, Singletary has struggled against the Patriots this year posting a line of 10 attempts for 36 yards and 12 attempts for 39 years in two matchups. The boom could be big, but so can the bust.
Frequency distribution chart showing strong positive shift in rushing yards during very cold games (blue bars) as compared to control dome games (orange bars).
Buffalo WRs: Allen has struggled getting the ball to his receivers when weather becomes a factor. Unfortunately, this struggle resonates across the entire Buffalo wide receiver unit. Stefon Diggs is still the go-to WR1 in this offense, but Diggs numbers drop in cold weather games. In a limited sample size, Diggs only has 40 yards per game receiving with 8.8 yards per catch compared to his career average of 71.4 yards per game and 12.4 yards per reception respectively. Diggs will still be Allen’s first look - especially near the endzone - but we need to limit our expectations for a breakout performance. This is further propelled by the Patriots typically shutting down top offensive options, and Diggs is that #1 option. Aside from Diggs, we suggest staying away from all other Buffalo pass catchers including TE Dawson Knox as playing the game of touchdown roulette with the rest of the Buffalo receivers is not fun.
Patriots WRs: We are not excited for any of the wide receiver options in New England this week. We expect the Patriots to rely on their ground attack limiting any upside for Kendrick Bourne, Jacobi Meyers, and company. If you had to pick a horse, we would probably go Meyers as he is at least guaranteed looks, but we don't see the touchdown upside, limiting his ceiling. Keep in mind that Buffalo has also been shutting down big-play passing weapons, further limiting Patriot WR upside.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Weather Rating: Caution
DK O/U: 45.5 pts
Time: Sunday, 1 pm ET
There will be a major winter storm developing over the Tennessee River Valley this weekend that will push north and east on Sunday. As this storm tracks north, a front will drape across the southeastern coast tracking west to east across Florida. This front will provide periods of rain and wind over the Tampa Bay region early Sunday into Sunday afternoon. The forecast is a bit uncertain at the moment, but we do anticipate most of the rain to move out of the area by game time. With that being said, we expect the wind to remain elevated at 15-20 mph throughout the game with gusts of 20-25 mph possible. At this time, we do not expect this to be an overly impactful event. However, we will continue to monitor and provide updates on player risks when and if necessary.
The forecast for this game is still not 100% clear, but if there is rain with winds >15 mph, we do see a reduction in total points scored in historical games with similar conditions. The O/U for this game is 45.5 points, which is higher than the 38 point average we typically see in games with wind and rain metrics similar to those being forecasted. But Tampa has the Brady factor - a one man cheat code - and it's hard to bet against that regardless of weather.
Tom Brady: Statistically speaking, Tom Brady is not significantly impacted by wind or rain. However, we do see a slight dip in passing yards and efficiently, including a slight uptick in interceptions. With that being said, we don’t expect weather to be overly impactful to Brady’s performance.
Jalen Hurts: Hurts is a young QB, so we don’t have a lot of data points to go off of, but what we have seen is Hurts struggles in inclement weather. In the wind and rain he averages 25-35 yards per game with 0 TDs and an average QBR of around 50. Additionally, in general QB performance drops 10-15% in these conditions. It also doesn't help that the Tampa passing defense has stepped up of late allowing 212 yards passing on average over the past 3 games. It’s important to keep in mind that Hurts always has the possibility to save his performance using his legs, making his fantasy performance actually look better than his on-field performance.
Miles Sanders (Q): RBs don’t see a huge change in usage until the wind and rain become more extreme. Sanders is also coming off having hand surgery, so he may not be as heavily relied upon, limiting his upside especially in the passing game. Against a tough Tampa front, we don’t think Sanders has an overly productive day unless he gets into the endzone.
Leonard Fournette (Q): Even though Fournette is coming off a hamstring injury that put him on the IR, you get the feeling that the Bucs will want to try and rely on Fournette. With the Tampa receiving core in shambles, it would not be surprising to see the Bucs use Fournette as a multifaceted rushing and receiving threat. If conditions get messy, this tendency may become exacerbated giving Fournette a safer floor.
Bucs WRs: With Brown and Godwin out, you know that Evans will get targets. Expect Evans and Perriman to get opportunities and provide a safe floor.
Rob Gronkowski: Gronkowski actually sees his metrics go up with inclement weather. Both his yards per game, and touchdowns go up in windy and rainy conditions. This may hint toward Brady looking to Gronk as a safety valve (especially in the redzone) in these conditions.
Eagles WRs: The only receiver we would consider here is Devonta Smith. All other options are too boom/bust to be intriguing, and if the weather picks up, this could further cap any potential for other Eagles receiving options.