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Lab Test: The Weather

I should have known better. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a young, inexperienced, career backup quarterback born in Arizona, who went against a good Pittsburgh defense, playing in the snow. I haven’t had to think twice about starting T.J. Houshmandzadeh in my PPR leagues since his early season funk, even with Fitzpatrick under center, and there wasn’t much made of the back issue that had Houshetc listed as probable, so I wasn’t worried.

I think most correctly predicted the Bengals would fall behind, forced into a position to pass, but this didn’t translate into fantasy points. I can’t help but think had I considered the weather with these other factors, I might have plugged in another receiver, but would this have been the right decision? In this edition of the Stat Lab, we test the impact of the weather on fantasy performance. It turns out my instincts were right — just a week late.

Lab Test: The Weather

To test the effects of weather, I’ve compiled hourly weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dating back to the 2001 season. The comparisons are done against the team’s own season average for each game, and each weather condition test is isolated unless stated otherwise.

Before diving into the numbers, we first need to know where to look, which means it’s time to pull the anatomy textbooks off the shelf, one of the many bonuses of living with a Licensed Massage Therapist. Man, I miss being homework.

The Shrinkage Factor – In case you missed that Seinfeld episode, when you’re cold, your blood vessels narrow and muscles contract to conserve body heat, which means less flexibility and thus less agility. These effects are especially pronounced in the extremities, which means we could find problems relating to the hands in particular.

Rain outside – It’s no secret that rain and snow can make a football hard to hold and see, and dirt difficult to run on.

Rain inside – Up in the sky, when warm air meets cold, we often get rain. When you step outside of your warm home in winter, basically the same thing happens: The cold air you breathe meets the warm air in your body, creating moisture. Great for fish, bad for us. This is worse if you’re breathing fast, because the air has less time to warm as it passes. If the air is humid, there’s also a bit less breathable air. This points to slower play and tests of endurance.

Freezing and Melting Points – We homo sapiens sapiens (yes, we’re twice as wise as those other homo sapiens) are substantially made of water. Any performance drop-off should probably be most pronounced somewhere below freezing point, 32 F, 0 C, or a sizzling 273 Kelvin, as you prefer. Hot or cold, our body tries to maintain a steady temperature of about 98.6 F inside and 91 F on the skin. Add on 10 F for all the running, and even slightly summery weather in the early season could cause problems too.

Advantage: Fat guys – Football is mostly a winter sport, the fat under your skin keeps you warm, and some of these guys are downright twiggy. Lean muscle is also particularly rich in water. Whatever cold downside we find, it could be more pronounced in the guys who are skinny or especially low in body fat.

Diversity, you betcha! – All moose aside, the U.S. hosts a diverse range of climates. Just look at the top universities in NFL alumni, and between Notre Dame in northern Indiana and U.S.C. in Los Angeles alone, you’ve got a temperature difference of up to 55 degrees during football season. With players from all over the country and parts of Europe, there are trends in individual regions, teams, and players. There’s too many to cover them all here, but I strongly suggest you look at performance history for any players headed for fantasy playoff matchups in the North before it’s too late.

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