Fantasy Football Weather Report: Week 17

Dec 31, 2021
Fantasy Football Weather Report: Week 17

Week 17 is finally here. And, of course, it had to go out with a bang. The fantasy championship features one of the worst forecasts I've seen in my time covering the weather. It looks as if all of the bad weather games were saved just in time for the most important games of the season. Regardless, let me recap one of the games from last week, and then dig into the ridiculous number of games to monitor ahead of Sunday.

Week 16 Recap

I was traveling for the holiday, so I had to jostle my usual routine, but I still had an eye on the radar. Seattle was expecting snow, and I got my regular Sunday-morning ping from John Paulsen about the incoming flurries and a screenshot of the forecast.

You see the word “showers” and also see 0.20 inches and think calamity will ensue. I know I’m the biggest skeptic regarding weather, but I still wasn’t worried.

I wrote about this last year, but snow and rainfall rates aren’t the same. As they should be, right? They’re two different forms of the same element. So, if it takes ten times the amount of snow for even a minor impact, Seattle would be fine. The media wasn’t so kind to my analysis.

These photos are of the same field from the same day, but it was a wrap after the video with the first shot came out. Folks were thinking about LeSean McCoy’s snow game just seeing the snow-covered field. Not to say Rashaad Penny or David Montgomery were terrible plays, but both passing games would still be viable. And I want to re-emphasize the word “viable” as it was still a low-total game even before the weather news. But let’s look at the game from a “team intent” standpoint.

CHI/SEA Team Intent, Week 16
Before Week 16* Week 16 Before Week 16* Week 16
Plays Run 54.1 53 61.5 69
Neutral Pass Rate 50.3% 33.3% 46.0% 42.4%
PROE 0% -7% -3% -5%
Yards per Attempt 7.6 6.7 7.2 7.1
Red-Zone Pass Rate 59.3% 57.1% 54.6% 41.2%
Deep-Ball Rate 17.9% 14.8% 12.3% 8.6%

*- Games Wilson started and completed healthy (Weeks 1-4, 10-16).

I’m getting mixed signals here and less inclined to cite the weather as a significant factor. Seattle was down in every category, but Chicago’s were essentially the same. The Bears were on their third-string quarterback and still passed at rates similar to their seasonal averages. Their dips in intent are where I’d expect to see them (red-zone and deep-ball rate).

By the numbers, Seattle had a “let’s take the lead and try to sit on it” gameplan, and it failed. It aligns with the growing disconnect between Wilson and Pete Carroll and the misfires in their aerial attack after Wilson’s return. Regardless, by watching the game replay, there weren’t any plays showing the weather as a factor in its outcome outside of a bad punt from Seattle in the second quarter. Now, let’s take a look at Week 17.

Games to Monitor

Games to Monitor, Week 17
Game Temperature (Feels Like) Precipitation Chance Max Precip Rate (in/hr) Wind
Vikings at Packers -10 5% 0 6 mph WSW
Lions at Seahawks 34 83% 0.08 16 mph SSW
Falcons at Bills 14 43% 0.01 16 mph NW
Giants at Bears 7 8% 0 19 mph NW
Dolphins at Titans 28 43% 0.02 18 mph NW
Chiefs at Bengals 24 14% 0 18 mph NNW
Buccaneers at Jets 53 26% 0.01 17 mph W
Rams at Ravens 54 23% 0 15 mph NW
Browns at Steelers 20 2% 0 7 mph SW

BLUF: Lawd, have mercy. Of course, we get the apocalypse in Week 17. We’ve got a bit of everything this week. I’m only worried about three games: NYG/CHI, DET/SEA, and MIN/GB. Each will feature extreme conditions or a mix of two. I’d restrict exposure to just the core plays in each unless the conditions improve.

Also, the ATL/BUF game will look bad, and we’ll probably get the same pre-game video of folks clearing like in Seattle last week. However, Buffalo will have the field covered per league protocol, and in-game conditions will be manageable. Check my notes below, but I’m less concerned about this contest unless things get worse.

Updates - (last updated on 1/2, final updates in bold)

Happy New Year! There are a few changes to Week 17's games.

Vikings at Packers

No update, but wanted to expand on my thoughts for the game. I've talked about "team intent" in the past and wanted to focus on the projected opportunity for Rodgers and the Packers in the extreme conditions. I noted his three games in my sample earlier and looked into how the offense behaved in those conditions.

Rodgers' historical "intent" during cold weather.
Baseline Cold Weather Baseline Cold Weather
2008 W1-13 2008 W14 vs HOU 2008 W16 at CHI 2013 W1-8 2013 WC - SFO
Plays Run 58.2 52 67 66.1 61
Neutral Pass Rate 48.10% 47.4% 51.2% 52.60% 38.6%
aDOT 8.8 11.3 10.3 8.1 10.8
Red-Zone Pass Rate - 60.0% 46.2% - 44.4%
Deep-Ball Rate 11.40% 20.0% 12.8% 12.90% 15.4%

I might be too much of an optimist, but the situation doesn't look as dire. By the numbers, he's still taking shots downfield, his aDOT actually increases, and he's still making attempts in the red zone. Green Bay's neutral passing rate does fluctuate, but overall, I still see "normal" Aaron Rodgers here. Again, the game environment already took a hit with Cousins testing positive. However, I wouldn't completely count out Rodgers as a viable starter. I also looked into his receivers.

Packers' target distribution in cold weather.
Season Fantasy Label Target Share Red-Zone Targets
Ryan Grant 2008 RB1 5.8% 1
Brandon Jackson 2008 RB2 2.9%
DeShawn Wynn 2008 RB3 1.4% 1
John Kuhn 2008/2013 RB3 1.6%
Donald Lee 2008 TE1 10.0% 1
Tory Humphrey 2008 TE2 4.3% 2
Jermichael Finley 2008 TE3 2.9%
Greg Jennings 2008 WR1 23.2% 2
Donald Driver 2008 WR2 26.1% 1
Ruvell Martin 2008 WR3 7.2%
Jordy Nelson 2008/2013 WR3/WR1 14.3% 1
James Jones 2008/2013 WR3/WR2 5.4%

Looking into these games was a trip down memory lane. Or a history lesson in some cases. I have no idea who some of these players are outside of the big names like Jordy Nelson. Regardless, the key players were still involved in the overall passing game and in the red zone. Players like Davante Adams are safe from losing opportunities, but the game environment caps their ceiling.

Note on Jordy Nelson: The 2008 game was his rookie season and he was the team's WR1 in 2013, so his target share across both games looks lower. In actuality, it was 10.3% in the 2008 game and 33.3% in 2013, which makes more sense given his workload at either time.

Lions at Seahawks

Precip rate will be down to 0.02-0.04 inches per hour, which is much better than yesterday's outlook. Rain will come in just a few hours beforehand, so field conditions won't be significantly degraded. There's still a chance for a chaotic event (e.g. fumble, tipped pass due to slippery ball, etc.), but team intent shouldn't be affected.

Rain will be at 0.09 inches per hour through most of the game. Conditions will be like the IND/SF game from Week 7. I recapped the game in my next report and highlighted the penalties and one-off plays that swung the game. However, overall team intent (plays run, neutral passing rate, etc.) was down. Guys like Rashaad Penny and, possibly, D'Andre Swift may be fine on volume but ancillary plays like Gerald Everett may have lower output.

Falcons at Bills

Called it. We've already got a shot of the nasty conditions to start the day. Temps will remain the same (mid to high teens), but the forecast shows snow only through the first half of the game. Expect a dusting on the field to start the game with improvements as the game is played out.

Wind speed down slightly to 14-15 mph and the precip will stop by 4 PM EST. No change to my thoughts on the game, but it might improve the outlook for kickers.

Dolphins at Titans

Precip rate will increase to 0.04 inches per hour towards the end of the game with a wintry mix to close it out. The deteriorating conditions are a concern, but the game flow will dictate offensive playcalling at the stage of the match. Not the elements.

Wind speeds are down from 17-18 mph to 15-16 mph warranting less concern for the entire game environment. Rain at 0.02 in/hr isn't normally an issue, but college players were having issues with footing just a couple of days ago. The core plays are still fine, but issues with the playing surface may come up during the match.

Chiefs at Bengals

Wind speeds are down to 15-16 mph. Go Bengals.

Buccaneers at Jets

Wind speeds are down to 10-11 mph and the rain is completely off the radar. All good here.

Browns at Steelers

Temps are up to the low 20s, so there's no concern about the weather here.

Games Impacted by Cold

Minnesota Vikings (19.75-point implied total) at Green Bay Packers (26.75)

New York Giants (15.5) at Chicago Bears (21.5)

Cleveland Browns (22.25) at Pittsburgh Steelers (18.75)

I got a question about the MIN/GB game almost two days ago, so I’ll start here. I posted this chart a few weeks ago about cold weather and its limitations on the passing game. Generally, the temperature just caps an aerial attack. I’m applying this logic to the CLE/PIT game, but the others are worse.

The forecast for Sunday night shows negative temperatures throughout with the windchill. So, this isn’t a general case. I dug into my database to find games of 10-degrees or less and found these games as a reference.

My big takeaways from these games:

  • The under hit in 9 of 13 contests.
    • All Packers’ games hit the under, and Green Bay was under their projected team total in each.
  • Just 7 of the 26 quarterbacks cracked 250 passing yards.
  • Teams averaged 56.7 plays per game.
    • Green Bay was below average in two of their three games with Rodgers.
  • The average number of pass attempts was 31.1.
    • Rodgers was below average in all but one game.
  • Only 9 of the 26 teams had a less than 50% passing rate on all offensive plays.
    • Rodgers’ passing rates were 48.1%, 59.1%, and 61.2%.

The Packers are 30th in neutral pace, and Sean Mannion will be under center for Minnesota. The Vikings were in the middle of the pack in pass rate over expectation, but I don’t expect the same volume for a guy just coming off the COVID list. The cold combined with the weakened game environment will make it tough to find fantasy value outside of median outcomes for the players like Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson based on targets.

Games Impacted by Wind

Miami Dolphins (18.25-point implied total) at Tennessee Titans (21.75)

Kansas City Chiefs (28) at Cincinnati Bengals (23)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29.25) at New York Jets (16.25)

Los Angeles Rams (25.5) at Baltimore Ravens (21)

Like I said in my “Bottom Line Up Front” statement, I’m not overly worried about any of these games. But, I’ll caution fantasy managers with a couple of detailed points from each contest. Let’s start in Nashville with some wind and rain.

The rain will peak at 0.03 inches per hour, a minor concern. Unpredictable events like a fumble or passes going a receiver’s hands for an interception may happen, but it won’t change passing rates. The stadium is nearly in line with the airflow reducing chances of a crosswind, so both passing games are safe. However, both ends of the stadium are open. I’m not worried about deep passes since Tannehill and Tua are 26th and 29th in deep-ball rate since Week 10. But kicking may be affected, so check pre-game warmups. The Bengals’ game sets up similarly.

Paul Brown Stadium has a similar design with seating along the sides rising to 157 feet, and both end zones open. Again, my only worry is with the kickers, as both offenses are top-12 in neutral passing rate over the last month. I would worry about Joe Burrow’s arm strength on deep passes in the wind, but game conditions aren’t that precarious. We’re safe unless the windspeed moves into the low 20s. These next two games are just to be thorough.

Games Impacted by Rain

Detroit Lions (17.75-point implied total) at Seattle Seahawks (24.75)

The DET/SEA game is the ugliest on the slate. It’ll be cold (34 degrees), raining (0.08 inches per hour), and windy (16 mph). Both teams are slow-paced and bottom-12 in neutral pass rate on early downs, so fantasy points will be hard to find. Surprisingly, the cold and wind are the least of our worries.

Despite Lumen Field not being a dome, it’s remarkably tall at 260 feet. The north end is open, but the winds are coming from the south. Since we’re getting rain and not snow, the temperature isn’t a factor for the plays. So, all that remains is the rain to consider.

The playing surface uses FieldTurf Revolution 360, which can wick away water during a match. However, that’s for light rainfall and not 0.08 inches per hour. I’ve got one game from 2020 with a similar precip rate, and it was Week 10 BAL at NE. It didn’t come until the second half, and both teams were already bottom-4 in neutral passing. A cursory look back at intent from both passing attacks gives us some sense of the rain’s effect.

Early-down Pass Rate During 2020 W10 BAL at NE.
Early-Down Pass Rate Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Baltimore 50% 85.70% 54.50% 66.70%
New England 25% 30.80% 20% 16.70%
Air Yards Per Pass During 2020 W10 BAL at NE.
Air Yards per Pass Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Baltimore 8.7 6.3 8.7 8.4
New England 1.3 5.5 6.7 2.6

New England gained the lead in the second quarter and held it throughout the rest of the game. You can see their early-down passing rate dropoff as a result. However, Baltimore’s picked up, and Lamar Jackson’s intended air yards per pass didn’t shift even in the rain. Also, both teams were near their average pace in plays per game (BAL 61.5 avg vs. 64, NE 64 avg vs. 56).

My takeaway is that we knew who to start in that game last year, even with the rain. The same is the case now. The data, albeit a one-game sample, indicates the rain doesn’t significantly alter team intent, so each fantasy option should still be viable.

Games Impacted by Snow

Atlanta Falcons (14.75-point implied total) at Buffalo Bills (29.25)

The forecast in Orchard Park is calling for rain all day Saturday, which will turn into snow that evening. So, field conditions will be a concern even before the game starts. However, the team should cover the field up until two hours before kickoff per league protocol. It will snow during the game, but the snowfall rate will be 0.10 inches per hour, equivalent to 0.01 inches per hour of rain. The field may look similar to Seattle’s, but there weren’t any mishaps there. The wind may also be a factor.

The max wind speed will be 16 mph as of my last data pull, so it barely crossed my threshold for concern. But New Era Field is one of the shortest fields in the league at 110 feet tall. The wind was much worse against New England when Josh Allen posted his lowest CPOE of the season at -8.7%. If the wind holds, I’m not concerned. If it gets worse, I’ll focus on the core plays (Allen, Diggs, etc.).

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