You may have heard about the windy weather forecast in the Northeast this past Sunday. If not, Twitter.com is what they call a “social media website,” and you should look into getting an account there as soon as possible. There is a cornucopia of valuable fantasy football information on Twitter, and every great player knows how to find it and use it.
Inclement weather can impact how football teams choose to play the game. Rain can cause an increase in dropped passes and fumbles due to the slippery ball. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, can impact players’ muscles and bring on fatigue faster. However, research has shown that high wind speeds impact the game of football more than any other weather event.
High winds can change the intended course of a football in flight and render the passing game less effective. General logic says teams faced with unusual winds will run fewer pass plays and attempt passes that do not travel as far through the air. In windy games, quarterbacks are often stuffing the football into the running backs stomach more than usual.
Fantasy footballers need to be cognizant of games forecast with high winds and plan accordingly. In Week 11, three games were forecast for high wind speeds, and I’ll look at the fantasy impact of each. I have put together a table for each of the three games to show how players actually performed versus what we would expect. The expectations are based on each player’s average fantasy points per game this season and adjusted for how much they played in the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Forecast wind speed: 25-30 mph
However, winds in PIT/CLE slightly concerning. Forecast calling for 27-29mph sustained. pic.twitter.com/dHPTGbwgSi
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) November 20, 2016
The wind forecast in Cleveland was the highest of the day, upwards of 25 miles per hour. This game opened with an over/under at 49.5, closed at 43.5, and ultimately 33 points were scored. As you can see in the following table, the wind clearly played a role in limiting the fantasy output of this game.
|PIT @ CLE||ACTUAL PTS||EXPECTED PTS||+/-|
The passing game was dramatically affected. quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends all performed well below expectation. Only the running backs were able to harvest any points in this game, as they performed about in line with what we would expect.
Chicago Bears @ New York Giants
Forecast wind speed: 15-25 mph
The Bears pilgrimage to East Rutherford was met with a stiff wind in the open-roofed MetLife Stadium. The wind forecast in this one was 15-25 miles per hour with sustained gusts of winds. This game opened with an over/under of 45.5, closed at 41, and 38 points were scored. From a fantasy perspective, this game was not affected quite like the Steelers-Browns game.
|CHI @ NYG||ACTUAL PTS||EXPECTED PTS||+/-|
Overall, this game produced more fantasy points than expected (+5.9%). It is interesting to note how the wide receivers did perform below expectation, which is probably attributable to the wind. Running backs saw 19 targets in this game, as the quarterbacks clearly wanted to throw shorter/safer passes to lessen the impact of high winds.
Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins
Forecast wind speed: 15-20 mph
Weather still seems fine for GB/WAS. Game total holding around 49. Above freezing, no precipitation, winds only 15-20mph. pic.twitter.com/XAIn2j0z3T
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) November 20, 2016
The Sunday night game in Washington was the final game of Week 11 forecast with high winds. This game also featured the best combination of fantasy quarterbacks of the three high-wind games. This contest’s over/under opened at 51, closed at 48, and 66 points were scored in the end. A lot of people will tell you to always start your studs, and maybe those people are right.
|GB @ WAS||ACTUAL PTS||EXPECTED PTS||+/-|
The quarterbacks squashed all expectations, and once again the running backs and tight ends performed above expectation. However, as was true in the Bears-Giants game, the wide receivers performed below expectation (albeit only 6.2% below).
Thoughts in the Wind
In all three high-wind forecast games, wide receivers performed below what their seasonal averages would lead us to expect. The quarterbacks were most impacted in the Steelers-Browns game. Running backs were able to feast in all three games, boosted somewhat by an increase in pass-catching usage. Finally, two other tweets caught my eye regarding the wind (again, from that Twitter.com website):
QBs in games with 15+ mph winds pic.twitter.com/4xoit5h9x3
— Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball) November 20, 2016
According to FantasyLabs.com, winds greater than 15 mph result in quarterbacks scoring 1.42 points below their salary-based expectation.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) November 19, 2016
This last tweet from Graham Barfield shows some great work done by Brian Burke to quantify the impact of wind on passing games. Less effective passing games lead to fewer fantasy points scored, plain and simple.
Three games is an extremely small sample, but history has shown us passing games and fantasy scores are negatively impacted by winds of 15+ mph. Keep this in mind next time you throw caution to the wind making your lineups.
Week 12 PAVE Update
On Tuesday, I tweeted out my weekly update to PAVE for all positions through Week 11:
Defenses ranked by Pts Allowed Vs Expectation (PAVE) by position. What % above/below expected pts allowed vs 2016 opponents (thru week 11). pic.twitter.com/x6cKV2L9S7
— Sean Fakete (@FantasyProcess) November 22, 2016
As Sal Stefanile referenced in his Ryan Fitzpatrick week 12 hype piece, the New England Patriots defense has been incredibly forgiving to quarterbacks. The Patriots defense now ranks second in Points Allowed Versus Expectation (PAVE) against quarterbacks. If you have the yams to start him, Fitzpatrick has a very good match-up this week and is playable as a QB2. Having said that, keep your expectations in check. He averages 10.7 points per game and literally scored negative fantasy points in a full football game this season. On a personal note, I will start Fitzpatrick in a league this week and expect around 13 points from him. Anything more would be just gravy.
Another QB2-type player with a great match-up this week is Sam Bradford against the Detroit Lions. Still the worst defense against quarterbacks according to PAVE, the Lions are coming off a game where they “held” Blake Bortles to 12.4 points. Bortles is known to risk the biscuit more than he should and would have scored over 16 points in Week 11 if not for his two interceptions, which bodes well for check-down Sam and his candy-corn arm. I would rather play Bradford than Fitzpatrick if I had to choose between to two.
Thanks for checking in this week and have a great Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes.