Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Dec 2005

FO in the NYTimes: The Numbers for Numbing Cold

New York Times readers, let me introduce THE SYSTEM. That, of course, is the infamous rule that Southern/dome teams struggle when playing in a colder climate after October 31. But wait, you say, THE SYSTEM hasn't worked very well this year. I've got three words for you: abnormally warm autumn. So instead, we checked out records by kickoff temperature rather than date. Since 2000, dome teams are 15-41 when the kickoff temperature is 50 degrees or below -- and 2-13 when the temperature is freezing or below.
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Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 17 Dec 2005

22 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2005, 9:10pm by Richie


by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 10:36pm

Just want to make sure there's a shout out to the guy who wrote the first article on THE SYSTEM (I think): Anthony Brancato, here.

And am I the only one that's utterly and completely sick of "such and such QB is unbeaten in weather under X degrees"? C'mon, it's silly data mining.

And for the silliest, of course, Brett Favre is unbeaten (35-0 or so) when playing at home in weather under 34 degrees when not facing an African-American quarterback with the number 7.

I used to have a similarly stupid stat for Tom Brady involving the month of October except for the week of Halloween or something like that, but I can't remember it right now.

by the what? (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 10:51pm

aarron you are a jerk. why are you biased against proffessionnal football teams and their fans? i hate you.

by top flight security (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 10:59pm

what was the temp when culpepper beat favre last year in the playoffs?

by Gatts (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 12:27am


26 degrees, the 5th coldest game since 2000. The others:

12/8/2002 Minnesota Green Bay 11
12/11/2005 Detroit Green Bay 14
11/23/2005 Atlanta Philadelphia 17
1/16/2005 Indianapolis New England 25

by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 4:28am

Of course, it's hard to disagree with the numbers, but what of the suggested cause, that the cold itself somehow deters the dome teams?

I'd suggest that just as strong a factor is that dome teams create teams (through personnel decisions) that thrive with great footing on a fast track. In other words, quick teams versus beef teams. So, while it's surely cold outside in December up here in NE (22 degrees right now), it's also very true that any outdoor footing will be slick or mushy at best, and that teams build for quickness will lose to teams made for tug-o-wars.

by Francisco (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 5:36am

Just to build on #5's idea, are any statistics avaliable on dome teams playing in the rain?

by Ted Max (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 12:49pm

The bit about "no dome team has ever won the Super Bowl without playing all of its playoff games in a dome" makes me wonder: Is this another way of saying that teams with home field advantage throughout the playoffs have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl? If so, is that news? There isn't room for these kinds of issues in the NYT, but I'm curious how much of this is just home field advantage of the traditional kind.

That said, I can totally buy the argument that dome teams have a hard time playing outside in cold weather. Why not? This observation proves nothing, but I look back to how cold I felt at the beginning of this ridiculously cold December compared to how cold I feel now ("Wow, it's warm outside, almost 25 degrees!"), and it's hard to believe that acclimatization wouldn't make a difference in high-stakes outside games in the cold.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 1:08pm

If anybody has the insight, I'd love to know how this relates specifically to the Cowboys and Dolphins. The reason I bring this up is that they are two "southern" teams who have often been very good over their histories. Some other southern teams, eg Saints, Bucs and Falcons, have for extended periods of time in their histories been complete doormats.

by Doug (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 1:47pm

Re #4:

Gatts, can you elaborate? Surely there have been more games since 2000 played in colder weather? One that comes to mind is the NE-Tenn playoff games in Foxborough 2 seasons ago. That was in single digits.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 2:20pm

Doug (#9 )--

Kickoff temperature for the Tennessee-New England divisional playoff game was 4 degrees (NFL gamebook linked).

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 4:23pm

Probably doesn't help that DET and MIN were dome teams who were horrible on the road everywhere over that timespan, not just in the cold.

by admin :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 6:28pm

That's why there's a table comparing those teams on the road in good weather vs. on the road in bad weather.

by emcee fleshy (not verified) :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 7:03pm


by admin :: Sun, 12/18/2005 - 7:14pm

On the left, you'll find a little graphic in the section marked "multimedia" -- that link brings up the table that appeared in the print NYT.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 1:44am


Your timing is impeccable; I was just asking my buddy about whether any team has played a home Super Bowl. The answer, of course, was no. Miami, Phoenix/AZ, San Diego, Tampa, Jacksonville, Houston...now, with some of those teams, there are obvious institutional Super Bowl-barring issues (The Bidwill Effect, etc), but it is neat to see you all tackle this question.

Too bad the Lions blew the season away...though the sea of Orange in Ford Field must have been quite the spectacle..."Fi-re Mil-len!"

by Ryguy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 1:45am

Yeah Aaron, not to plug something totally different but just to let all the readers know, the NYT story ahead a few pages: The Marist Red Foxes (my boys') stunning the St John's Red Storm 56-53 for their first Big East win ever! but yeah good article..

I wonder, on an Outsiders topic, since you guys say that teams should win 50% of their close games (unless they're the Pats), do you think that applies in Basketball too?

by Gatts (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 4:08am

re #9

I was referring only to the subset discussed in the article

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:39am

But wait, you say, THE SYSTEM hasn’t worked very well this year

even after going 3-0 this weekend, THE SYSTEM is 9-14-2 this year

by savac (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 5:49pm

Is it possible that during the time period presented the cold weather teams were simply better as a group? In other words, during the last few years beating NE, Pitt, Denver, KC and Philly/GB (at least until this year) at home in any temp was difficult. Are these dome teams losing at a greater rate to these teams when it's cold?

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 6:51pm

Interesting article. Obviously this is a really small sample. How many times have dome teams made the playoffs?

by EJP (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 8:32pm

I was in Lambeau field on Dec. 11 of this year. While kickoff temperature may have been listed as 14 degrees, I don't think that takes into consideration the wind chill factor, which I think made the temperature 4 below. Ungodly cold.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 9:10pm

I was just asking my buddy about whether any team has played a home Super Bowl.

Two teams were close. The Los Angeles Rams played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl.

The San Francisco 49ers played Super Bowl XIX in Palo Alto.