Football Betting: Handicapping the Weather
by Trevor Whenham - 11/18/2008
Winter may not have officially started yet, but as I look out the window of my office at the snow and ice I can't avoid the inevitability that cold weather is here, and it's staying for a while. Cold, snowy weather can add an extra wrinkle to our football handicapping efforts. It doesn't have to be difficult, though. Here are six tips to help you incorporate cold weather issues into your handicapping effectively.
Check multiple forecasts - The first key to effectively determining the impact of weather is actually determining what the weather is going to be. If you look at forecasts you can actually find quite a variance in what they say. It would obviously be disastrous to pick the wrong forecast to base you decision on, so you'll want to make sure that you are checking multiple forecasts to make sure that there is a consensus before you make a decision. You'll also want to make sure that you are using a reputable source, and that the forecast is updated in real time - things can change rapidly with the weather.
When in doubt, wait as long as you can - If you suspect a game is going to be impacted by weather, your best bet is often to wait until just before game time to make your bet. That way you can actually see what the weather looks like before making your bet. This can help you avoid mistakes or situations where the bad weather doesn't materialize. The only real case where this wouldn't make sense is if you are confident in the weather and you want to make your bet before the line moves significantly to compensate for the weather.
Think of the stadium - I'll never forget a preview of the Syracuse-South Florida game I read last year. The weather forecast was miserable. The author of the preview eloquently explained how the South Florida players weren't used to cold weather or snow, and how they wouldn't be at their best. Further, he broke down the Bulls' offense, and looked at all the ways that their speed would be impacted by slippery conditions. I'm sure all of his insights were strong. There was only one problem - Syracuse plays in a dome. Unless all of the Bulls players slipped on the ice on their way to the stadium the weather wasn't going to be a problem, and the Bulls speed would benefit from the fast artificial surface. South Florida clobbered Syracuse, covering easily. This is an extreme example, but an important one - know your stadiums so you can know the impact.
Avoid obvious assumptions - Weather can be an easy excuse for people to get lazy with their handicapping. You know what I mean - things like automatically taking the under because it's snowing, or discounting the team from the south in cold weather. Those assumptions may actually prove to be true, but you need to do further investigating to be sure. Look to see how that southern team has done up north in winter in the past. See how the quarterbacks play when the mercury dips. A little bit of research can often help you to uncover situations where the public is overreacting and the line is moving too much given the characteristics of the teams involved. That can lead to real value opportunities for you.
Remember both sides of the ball - Everyone tends to focus on the offensive side of the ball when they are looking at bad weather - quarterbacks won't be able to throw as well, and running backs and wideouts will be slipping and sliding. This may be true, but it's also important that you consider the defense. They have to play in the same conditions, too, and they will face the same problems. In a lot of cases, it's actually harder for the defense. The offense has one key advantage that helps them when the footing is bad - they know where they are going. The defense doesn't, so they have to react to what the offense does, and that can be especially hard when they can't be sure of their grip. Often times the problems of the offense are made up for by the struggles of the defense when the weather is bad.
Always underestimate the impact - This might seem contrary to logic, but it actually is a good rule of thumb. The public is always going to overestimate two things: the ferocity of the impending weather, and the impact that that weather will have on the game. If you go the other way and underestimate the potential impact you will often be right, and even when you aren't you will avoid falling into the traps that linesmakers set to take advantage of people in bad weather circumstances.