The Third Team: How Weather Impacts Sports Betting
Jim N. R. Dale is one of the world's leading weather experts. He is the founder of British Weather Services, a leading meteorological consultancy firm which advises betting companies, from sportsbooks to syndicates, on how to account for the elements. In this piece Jim shares his advice on how weather impacts sports betting, in particular the NFL.
The weather is arguably the greatest influence on our day-to-day lives. It tends to govern what we eat, what we wear, what we might do or not do, how we might feel and most things in-between. It can be in your face or it can sneak up on you completely unawares. The weather can foster life and death in equal measures; it really is the all-consuming governor.
Given all that, why should any outdoor sport pretend to be immune from the weather’s impact? In truth, none of them are and on many occasions the weather will be “the third team in the game”. This can be a significant edge in any sports betting language, if you are prepared. The three key steps to weather based betting strategy are:
- Understand the impact and nuances of weather on a particular sport,
- Obtain credible weather information
- Execute your bet in a timely and proportional manner.
Step 1 – Understanding The Impact Of Weather On The NFL
The weather impacts all sports but American Football is one of the top five sports most susceptible to meteorological conditions. So let’s look at some ways the weather might play ball (or not) in the NFL or College Football. Before we dive in, note that my company, British Weather Services provides daily weather outlooks to a couple of top bookmakers, so whilst there are still many useful ‘angles’ to take advantage of, do not assume bookies are blind to the impact.
The Points Total
The most obvious aspect of an American Football game that is impacted by the weather is the points total. Simply put, bad weather makes it harder to score. The conditions that impact the game can come in many forms but high wind speed is the number one factor. Try throwing or even kicking an egg shaped ball accurately into gale force winds. It affects accuracy and makes it harder to get points on the board.
Some stadiums in the NFL are particularly prone to high winds. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the home of the New England Patriots, has the highest average wind factor through each NFL season. Soldier Field in Chicago and the Municipal Stadium in Cleveland are two more that are often exposed to windy conditions.
The next most impactful conditions (in order) are heavy falling snow, heavy rain, extreme temperatures and high humidity. Under any of these circumstances, especially if there is a combination of these conditions, the teams will find it harder to get points on the board. Trust me – we’ve done the stats! If you are looking for an edge make sure to consider all of these factors. Remember, the worse the weather is the harder it becomes to score.
The Dolphins and Steelers played out a 0-3 game in 2007 due to some awful conditions.
The Great Leveler
Another angle to consider is upsets. There is a rule of thumb for American Football and other sports alike; the more severe the weather the more likely it is to be an overall leveler. The weather introduces mistakes and randomness and suddenly the rank outsider is no longer betting fodder you thought they were. When the weather gets bad, look at some of the underdogs.
The rate of turnovers goes up considerably when the thermometer drops. The ball is harder to grip and players are more likely to fumble or drop it. In fact, a study in 2016 found that when the temperature dips below 20 degrees there is a 42% increase in turnovers. Considering turnovers are one of the key factors that impact NFL betting this is a valuable piece of information to remember.
On a related point, don’t forget to consider the origin of the teams themselves. It is more likely than not that a team from the deep tropical south could well struggle to maintain their true form during bitterly cold weather (particularly with a significant wind chill). This is especially true when up against a rough and rugged team from northern states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota or Massachusetts. The same could be said in reverse. A boiling hot or humid day in Florida, Texas or Louisiana, for example, will favour the nimble much more acclimatized Southerners.
You will have to do your player homework here though – do not assume that because a franchise is from the north or south that it’s key players are too. Tom Brady might be a hero in Tampa Bay but he is well used to New England winters. Note, physical and mental strength are factors during weather extremes, just as lengthy travel distances and hostile crowds figure in different ways.
Player-prop markets are relatively new to NFL sports betting but are growing at a rapid rate. Many bookmakers now offer odds on individual players scoring a touchdown or rushing for a set number of yards etc. Do not forget to take the weather into account when looking at these markets.
Will a team favor the rush during high winds? Catching the ball is considerably more difficult when conditions are wet making receiving yards harder to come by. There are many angles to consider when making weather influenced bets and it is well worth checking the forecast before making a play.
The last weather consideration to make is for in-play or in-game betting. Has the weather changed significantly during the game or is the wind blowing predominantly in one direction? A team might look dead and buried but if they have the wind at their backs going into the last quarter do not write them off (or at least consider they are more likely to score!).
Step 2 – Obtain Credible Weather Information.
This one is easily overlooked but it is crucial nonetheless. A cursory glance at the weather on Google might not yield accurate information, for two reasons. Firstly, the weather forecast itself must be reliable. Of course we recommend British Weather Services (who even offer a useful Live Line telephone weather service) for you to get up to date and accurate information. Free weather sources online might have unreliable models or slightly out-of-date data. Some well-known weather apps only update their output every 6-12 hours and you could make an expensive mistake by betting on old or inaccurate information.
The second factor is the geographical accuracy of the forecast. If you just check the weather in New York you might very well see the expected conditions for Time Square or Central Park, or even worse an average for the city. The Giants, however, play over ten miles away, across the river in New Jersey. The San Francisco 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium, a whopping 43 miles away from downtown San Fran! Make sure you get the weather for the stadium itself, or as close to it as possible.
And then of course there is the stadium itself. The weather might be inclement in Dallas, but the Cowboys will not mind much inside the climate controlled AT&T Stadium.
Step 3 – Timely And Proportional Execution
Buy The Rumour, Sell The News.
Often the best weather betting strategy is to get your action on early in the week. Most markets for NFL & College are up well before the kick off day. If you wait until game day you might already be too late.
Total points (TP) should be your first port of call. If a match looks as if it will be badly affected by adverse weather (the more adverse the better) then the obvious trick is to sell the TP early. Check the weather forecast as the kick-off nears and hopefully, happily, watch as the weight of money and/or the realisation of the forecast forces the TP number down.
Double Check The Value
If you are thinking of backing an upset, make sure to check if the likelihood of the underdog winning has been accounted for in the odds already. Two useful resources for this are the opening lines, for example at Circa, and the preseason lines. If a team opened the week as 10 point favourites and are now 6 point favourites then the betting value is probably gone.
If you believe you have found an angle, a game where the odds do not have the weather baked in, and are confident the weather looks good (or bad!) then make your play. A last minute gamble on the underdog or laying the points at kick-off is unlikely to generate much return in the long term.
I’d rank the game in the top five of sports that can be materially affected by weather and thereby the betting markets therein. If you are planning on making a bet based on the weather, remember to ensure your information is accurate. Once you are happy you have an angle place your wager early and wait. You may have to be patient and timing can be everything!
Until the next time, may the weather gods be with you!
We always advocate responsible gambling here at SportsRunDown and that of course applies to any weather based betting strategies too. Having an edge does not guarantee a win and there have been plenty of teams that have won despite the weather not being on their side.
All of this is just the tip of an iceberg of course, and much more can be found in Jim’s book ‘Weather or Not? The Personal & Commercial Impacts of Weather & Climate” – which is widely available online. I’ve read it myself and would highly recommend it.
Jim has kindly shared his experience with us here to help us all on this betting journey. If you enjoyed his insights here make sure to check out British Weather Services’ options for bookmakers, syndicates & individuals bettors.