In the weekly Fantasy Trends, we leverage the Trends tool to find quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs with notable data points for the upcoming DFS slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
This week’s NFL slate features two games currently projected for a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower: The Atlanta Falcons at the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets at the Buffalo Bills.
Both of the home teams in these contests routinely deal with frigid winter temperatures and play in uncovered outdoor stadiums. However, the visiting teams are markedly different from one another. The Falcons are geographically located in the southeast United States and play in a dome.
The New York Jets, on the other hand, play outdoors in New Jersey. From December to February, the state of Georgia averages a temperature of 47.8 degrees Fahrenheit. To contrast, Wisconsin averages 17.2 degrees, and New Jersey averages 33.0 degrees.
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Given the intriguing differences between these two cold-weather games, I wanted to use our Trends tool to challenge some commonly-held beliefs about playing in wintry conditions:
- Do players experience a decline in fantasy production due to cold weather? If so, is this the same across all positions?
- Do warm-weather teams perform poorly in the cold compared to northern teams? Do low temperatures affect all football players equally?
- Do home teams boast an advantage dealing with these conditions due to their familiarity with the local weather?
To answer these questions, I examined quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers based on game temperature. Then, I compared dome teams and non-dome teams playing below 32 degrees, and I compared teams based on home vs. away splits.
A few additional notes before we dive in:
We experience sample size issues for dome teams in particular. First, closed domes are a relatively modern architectural trend for the NFL. Second, most of these domes belong to teams in the southern United States (Cowboys, Texans, Saints, etc.). Third, sub-freezing games typically occur in the back-half of the NFL season when many teams are playing divisional opponents.
As a result, some dome teams from warm weather areas of the United States have never played in sub-freezing conditions during the regular season. Such teams include, for example, the Chargers, Buccaneers, Saints, and 49ers. Due to all these sample size issues, treat dome vs. non-dome team results with some skepticism, and temper your conclusions accordingly.
Additionally, in the FantasyLabs system, dome games default to a temperature of 72 degrees. Because of this, I have identified 72-degree games as a unique category in our temperature-based analysis for each fantasy position.
Quarterbacks suffer the most substantial decline in production among all three of the skill positions analyzed. On average, quarterbacks experience a -1.84 Plus/Minus when playing in games below freezing. As expected, dome teams fare particularly poorly in the cold, averaging just 12.84 points, a -3.49 Plus/Minus, and 21.4% consistency in those contests. Similarly, visiting team quarterbacks also suffer a decline in Plus/Minus over -3.00.
All of these findings suggest that Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons carries ample downside risk this week. The Falcons fit every negative statistical split in our analysis. Sam Darnold of the New York Jets is also in a poor overall spot as a visiting quarterback. Moreover, the Bills secondary has ranked in the top-five of nearly every defensive metric this season, which should further suppress the Jets passing attack.
- Matt Ryan: $5,600 DraftKings
- Sam Darnold: $4,400 DraftKings
In general, running backs actually perform better in cold temperatures. This increase in production is likely due to an increase in rushing volume. Cold temperatures reduce blood flow to an individual’s extremities, which disproportionately affects the quarterback’s grip on the football and wide receiver’s ability as a pass catcher. Accordingly, most offenses prefer the running game for ball control and overall efficiency.
However, while running backs may improve performance in the cold, it comes at a DraftKings premium. Running backs in games below 32 degrees Fahrenheit have the highest Average Expected Points of any running back group. This elevated Expected Points result reflects higher DraftKings salaries on average. So, while you may get increased production out of these running backs, you likely won’t find drastic value in them.
Additionally, non-dome teams dramatically outperform dome teams — as expected — and home running backs edge visiting running backs in every statistical category except ownership percentage. These findings suggest that Aaron Jones and LeSean McCoy could offer reasonable upside this week.
It also implies that the Falcons running back duo of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith could be in for a rough day.
- Tevin Coleman: $4,400 DraftKings
- Ito Smith: $3,400 DraftKings
We already concluded that quarterbacks — especially visiting quarterbacks — perform poorly in colder temperatures. It should therefore be no surprise that wide receivers fare approximately the same. Interestingly, however, home wide receivers actually boast a positive Plus/Minus split, compared to a -1.35 Plus/Minus for visiting wide receivers.
The resiliency of home receivers could suggest that Zay Jones could deliver sneaky value this week. He’s coming off a 4/67/2 performance against the Dolphins, and the Bills announced this week that they have released Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes.
Our results here also suggest that wide receivers for the Falcons and the Jets could carry substantial downside risk on the road. The situation is even more grim for the Falcons in particular as a dome team.
- Julio Jones: $7,900 DraftKings
- Calvin Ridley: $5,200 DraftKings
- Mohamed Sanu: $4,300 DraftKings
- Quincy Enunwa: $3,700 DraftKings
- Jermaine Kearse: $3,600 DraftKings
- Robby Anderson: $3,600 DraftKings
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players mentioned here. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed.
Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured Above: LeSean McCoy