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Friday, June 14, 2024

Winter Storm Has Thrown NFL Betting, Fantasy Football Into Chaos

  • At least seven Week 16 games have betting totals below 40.
  • “The totals opened and fell off a cliff,” sports weather expert Kevin Roth says.
Players warming up in snow for NFL game in Buffalo
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A barrage of extreme winter weather is making its way across the United States — and the NFL’s special slate of Christmas Eve and Day games is set to take the brunt of it.

With the precipitous rise of legalized sports betting and the fantasy football playoffs taking the forefront at this time of year, there’s simply too much money on the line to be ignored. Sportsbooks are paying attention.

“The totals opened and fell off a cliff,” RotoGrinders chief meteorologist Kevin Roth says.

Indeed, at least seven games have totals below 40 — and Saturday’s Saints-Browns game currently stands at an extremely low 32.5.

Millions of fantasy football managers are also starting or are in the thick of their playoffs, meaning there are agonizing decisions to be made.

As such, the demand for “sports weather” experts is increasing — and a weekend like this is when people in his very specific line of work shine.

“This is my Super Bowl,” Roth told Front Office Sports. “The need for sports weather and the desire for sports weather is only growing, and I’m very pleased to be in the situation that I’m in with the current sports betting climate.”

Roth began his career as a TV news meteorologist working at local stations in Texas and Louisiana before he was approached by RotoGrinders to be their chief meteorologist — a job he didn’t even know existed in the sports space.

Each week, he analyzes every outdoor game, rating them on a color-coded scale that predicts how much scoring the game will have based on the weather.

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He has also worked to clear up several misconceptions about the NFL as it pertains to weather — including which weather phenomenon plays the biggest role in the outcomes of games.

“The answer is wind by a mile,” says Roth. “It’s wind, then there’s a line, then there’s another line, and then it’s heavy rain.

“Most weather variables — whether it’s the rain or the snow or the temperature — impact both teams equally. But wind is the only one that impacts the offense because the offense is the only team that’s throwing the ball through the air.”

Rain and snow, he adds, end up affecting offenses and defenses effectively equally: While they make it harder to throw and catch the ball on offense, they make it harder to get foot traction and make tackles on defense.

Roth is also trying to bust the myth that teams that play their home games in frequently cold and/or snowy locales — such as the Buffalo Bills — somehow have an advantage.

“It’s one of my least favorite narratives out there,” he says. “If there is an edge, it’s so slight that it’s not a bettable edge. I don’t think that Buffalo is inherently better at playing in the cold than warm weather teams.”

So which of this weekend’s wintery games will be affected most by the conditions? Roth has three at the top of his board.

It begins Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, where the New York Jets will be taking on the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars in a constant rainfall with temperatures forecasted in the 40s.

“My general rule is don’t trust a rain forecast until an hour before the game,” says Roth. “But just looking at models this go around, the rain is so widespread across the entire Northeast that it looks like it’s going to pour… It’s just kind of a nasty game in New [Jersey].”

Next, Saturday’s game in Chicago between the Bears and Bills will see 20 mph winds that will make a chilly 10 degrees feel like negative-10. Roth expects Justin Fields and Josh Allen to have difficulty throwing the ball — and defenses to stack the box.

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But easily the ugliest game on the slate weather-wise — “in a tier of its own,” according to Roth — is the Saturday contest in Cleveland between the Browns and the New Orleans Saints.

“It’s cold. There could be some blowing snow. But the main issue is 20-30 mph sustained winds,” he says. “Wind gusts are probably over 40 mph. It’s so windy that I just don’t see a viable route for these teams to move the ball consistently.

“It’s so windy that if you hand it off three times and then just punt it, I don’t even know what direction the punt is going to go — and I don’t think they do either.”

From a fantasy perspective, Roth generally recommends the tried-and-true method of playing your studs regardless of weather — but a game like New Orleans-Cleveland may constitute an exception to that rule.

So while bettors and fantasy players will obsess over sharp movement or public plays, this weekend at least, the biggest indicator is Mother Nature.

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