BOSTON (CBS) — Whether Bill Belichick admits it or not, the weather plays a HUGE role in football this time of year.
I’m sure if you asked him, he’d say something like, “It is what it is.” And to some extent, he’s right.
But I would say that, if anything, the weather has been a big factor in the Patriots’ success over the past few decades.
It seems like all my memories of the Patriots playing in the snow, wind, or bitter cold are of them absolutely destroying the opponent.
Is it because they are better prepared than other teams? Or is it that they are more used to winter weather? Either way, it seems that the worse the weather, the better the Patriots play.
Can we continue to assume that this is true?
The answer is that we just don’t know. The jury is still out.
Tom Brady has been replaced by Mac Jones, who, until recently, has spent most of his life playing football in Florida or Alabama.
Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski have been replaced by Nick Folk, a California native who played his college career in Arizona.
That brings me to the big Monday Night Football game. The Patriots will play the Buffalo Bills in what is arguably the biggest game of the year so far for both teams. And it will probably also be the worst weather both teams have played in so far.
The forecast calls for heavy rain throughout the day Monday in Buffalo before ending in the afternoon. Temperatures drop sharply at night. By game time, temperatures will be in the low 30s with winds gusting to 20 to 40 mph. It will feel like 15-20 degrees for most of the game.
The “X factor” will be the snow. Buffalo is located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. This time of year, before the lakes freeze over, is the best time for lake-effect snow. Conditions on Monday night will be quite favorable for the production of lake effect snow bands.
Cold Canadian air will flow easily over the relatively warmer waters of the lake. This causes immediate and dramatic cloud formation over the lakes (almost like a summer storm). The moisture from the lake is essentially picked up and thrown downwind in the form of snowfall.
Because these snow bands tend to be small in diameter, wind direction is key in lake-effect snowfall. A change of a few degrees in direction can mean a lot of snow in one city and almost none a few miles away.
On Monday night, Buffalo will be right on the edge of the snow bands. Current thinking is that the heaviest snow will be just south of Buffalo, with winds forecast to come primarily from the west. However, a very small change in wind direction, a little further southwest, would bring the snow bands directly to Highmark Stadium in Buffalo.
Either way, Monday will be a very windy and cold night, that’s a guarantee. How will Mac, Nick and the rest of the Pats hold out? That remains to be seen. Clearly, the Bills also have some experience playing in these conditions. It may depend on who has the best running game. Passing the ball deep down the field will probably be very difficult.
Something else to keep in mind… this could be one of those games where the coin toss is vital. It’s not that the team gets to choose which half to receive the ball, but rather they get to choose the end zone to defend and kick in the fourth quarter.
Bills Stadium is oriented northwest to southeast on a diagonal, with westerly winds that are largely crosswinds. That’s not necessarily good for the team or the kicker. However, kicking and throwing into the end zone on the southeast side will likely have more of a tailwind, albeit with a bit of oomph to the left. Kickers will no doubt be on the field early before each half tests their limits and see how much they have to adjust to the wind. They will likely try to keep the kicks low in an attempt to lessen the impact.
I think this will be a low score game. Both coaches will try to minimize errors that may be exacerbated or enhanced by poor weather conditions. More running plays than passing plays. In my opinion, this plays more to the Patriots’ strengths than the Bills’. The Bills’ high-flying offense with stud receivers and Josh Allen’s big arm should be neutralized to some degree. The Pats certainly have the best running game and the smartest coaching staff.
My final prediction: Pats 20, Bills 17. The Bills’ game-tying field goal attempt goes wide and the Pats walk away with a big win, thanks in part to the weather!