Winter is coming. Or, if you live in Buffalo, it’s already here.
Either way, weather is inevitably going to affect NFL games the rest of the way. But all conditions are not created equal as we attempt to project impact. What to look for:
Wind is king
Ask any NFL quarterback or coach what bothers the pass game most and they won’t say rain, snow or cold. They’ll say wind. We also have data on this, as winds over 15 mph have been proven to sharply decrease the always-telling Yards Per Attempt (YPA) statistic. Wind speed is simple to monitor on Sunday mornings while setting lineups and gives us a hidden edge. Borderline QBs and WRs just can’t be used with sustained 15-plus mph winds – unless you have Tom Brady (see below).
Know your arm
Of course, there are some quarterbacks who fare better in poor conditions. The aforementioned Brady is perhaps the greatest bad-weather quarterback ever and he put that on display in Week 9, ripping through strong winds and the Broncos for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterbacks with weaker arms, such as Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers or Matt Ryan, come with more red flags. Expectations need to be tempered when they’re outside braving winter elements.
On the defensive
The owner that streams D/ST (defense/special teams) is the successful one. We can use weather reports to our advantage here as well. Slick conditions are great for producing fumbles and crooked plays, and even cold temps can really bother some quarterbacks. Mark Sanchez, a California kid, went to sub-freezing temps at Lambeau last week and predictably melted down, leading to a massive day for Green Bay’s D/ST. This week, dome quarterback Matthew Stafford has to go outside to Foxboro and the fair-weather Dolphins go to Denver with Ryan Tannehill.
Pickups of the Week
Coby Fleener, TE, Colts – Fleener gets a little uptick with Ahmad Bradshaw out, but will get a big bump if Dwayne Allen (ankle) sits.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns – Crowell fumbled in Week 11 and CLE went right back to him, signifying he’s ahead of Terrance West. Then they cut Ben Tate.
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders — If the 0-10 Raiders have any football sense, they’ll see what the size/speed freak Murray has down the stretch. Just don’t start him against KC Thursday.
Fire up these borderline players in Week 12
1. Rashad Jennings vs. DAL – Jennings ran fine in his return from a knee injury, there was just nowhere to go. That changes against Dallas.
2. Mark Sanchez vs. TEN – The Titans are primed for a letdown after losing their Super Bowl on Monday night. Eagles ready to bounce back off GB humiliation.
3. Shane Vereen vs. DET – The Lions have the league’s best run defense in multiple categories. It’s a Vereen game, not a Jonas Gray spot.
Brandin Cooks (thumb) is done for the season. The speedy rookie was seeing 7.0 targets per game in this Drew Brees pass attack, so we’re going to see some other Saints get a boost. Expect Cooks’ production to be spread between Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham. Stills is the most intriguing one as he’s available on waivers and can do both vertical and possession things. Note that between Weeks 13 and 16, the Saints will face the Steelers (No. 14 pass defense), Panthers (23), Bears (25) and Falcons (32).