Handicap 101: Strong Winds
Tulane Stadium set the stage for Superbowl 4 on January 11, 1970, when the 12-2 Minnesota Vikings sought “Kapp” in their season with a loss to the Chiefs. But strong winds and the vigilance of a tornado during the game would play their part in the outcome. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come, a pregame balloon race ended in disaster as high winds forced the Vikings balloon to collide with the stadium. During the game, the Vikings also crashed and burned, with Kansas City’s Jan Stenerud battling against the winds and nailed three FGs, while Len Dawson, the Chiefs QB who was famous for his accurate passing (and play) , domesticated the players. items to complete 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and a TD. Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp wasn’t that used to the winds and couldn’t keep up with the weather, throwing three INTs and never getting his team into the game.
It seems like a simple statement, but in truth, the best weapon a team can have in windy conditions is a quarterback who can throw into the wind. Sometimes the answer is so simple that we tend to overthink. Like playing in cold weather, playing effectively in the wind requires a certain amount of practice. It should come as no surprise to learn that teams that play in high winds more often tend to do better on windy days. That’s such a simple and self-evident truth that I hardly think I’ve included it in this writing, enough to tell you something you didn’t know yet, but in fact, sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees.
The first thing we need to determine is which stadiums, which teams and which quarterbacks are used to playing in the wind and what kind of success they have had. To illustrate this, we have isolated the “windiest” games in the NFL, when the winds were blowing at a minimum of 13 miles per hour, totaling 40 games. (Note that we are using the 1998 season as our guinea pig.)
The windiest stadium in the NFL is Pro Player Stadium where the Miami Dolphins play. In fact, out of just eight regular season games at Pro Player Stadium in 1998, seven of them recorded wind speeds of more than 13 mph during playing time. Of those seven games, Miami was 7-0, with an ATS record of 6-1. In fact, their only ATS loss during a windy game was a six-point win over Buffalo as -7 favorites. In fact, during the season, Dan Marino completed 128 of 221 passes in the wind, for 1,482 yards, 13 TDs and just 7 INTs. To put that in perspective, Dan Marino had a higher completion percentage than Chris Chandler all season, and Chandler played in a dome that year.
In fact, Dan Marino has better numbers in the wind than playing without wind, with a higher percentage of completions with fewer interceptions and more TDs. Despite all the accolades Dan Marino received, perhaps his greatest strength has been overlooked. Dan Marino is the best quarterback in the game throwing to the wind, and nowhere is he a bigger asset than at Pro Player Stadium. The table below shows the windiest stadiums in the NFL, ranked by the number of games played there during the regular season with winds of 13 mph or more, along with home team, home teams won outright, and ATS record in those winds. games. (Research compiled by Brian Gabrielle using the 1998 NFL season)
Local team place NO.
Pro Player Miami Dolphins Stadium 7 7-0 6-1
Soldier Field Chicago Bears 5 2-3 4-1
Arrowhead Kansas City Chiefs 4 3-1 3-1
Ralph Wilson Stadium Buffalo Bills 4 3-1 3-1
Jack Kent Coca Cola Washington Redskins 3 2-1 2-1
Foxborough NE Patriots 3 2-1 2-1
3 Rivers Stadium Pittsburgh Steelers 2 2-0 2-0
3 SF 49ers Communications Park 2 2-0 1-1
Veterans Stadium Philadelphia Eagles 2 1-1 2-0
Giants Stadium NY Giants 2 1-1 1-1
Synergy Field Cincinnati Bengals 2 0-2 0-2
Mile High Stadium Denver Bronco’s 1 1-0 1-0
Texas Stadium Dallas Cowboys 1 1-0 1-0
Sun Devil Stadium Arizona Cardinals 1 1-0 1-0
Alameda Coliseum Oakland Raiders 1 0-1 0-1
Total 40 29-11 28-12
As you can see, there is a fantastic numerical advantage for home teams that have the advantage of playing in windy places. Regardless of the home team’s status as an underdog or a favorite, they just win and cover most of the time. The more a club plays under those conditions, the better that club generally performs under those conditions. However, there are exceptions to all the rules, and perhaps the best wind team in all of football is not on the above list at all, like Vinny Testeverde and the New York Jets, who were a perfect 3-0 SU and 3- 0 ATS in wind games in 1998, and all three games came en route to good wind teams, as the Jets beat Buffalo, New England and Kansas City on the road in the wind. Another notable road is the Buffalo Bills who, in addition to a stellar 3-1 home record in the wind, also made a perfect 2-0 ATS on the road in the wind. Tampa Bay was another team that excelled in windy games, going 2-1 on the road, both SU and ATS in 1998.
In the case of the Jets, it is important to note that they share the same home field as the Giants, which is a place that is on the list above. So while they may not have endured any windy games at home in 1998, it’s reasonable to assume that they encountered a fair amount of wind during year-round practice and the Jets’ training facilities at the Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.
So if it is logical to assume that teams used to playing in the wind perform better in the wind, then it must also be true that teams that are not used to playing in the wind, struggle poorly in that environment. Our research suggests that this is exactly correct. You see, teams that make their home in a domed stadium were just 1-8 when they played in a wind of 13 mph or higher. In fact, in those nine games, the dome teams heading to an outdoor stadium and playing in winds of 13 mph or higher had an ATS record of 0-8-1. Those games were;
Week 4 – Minnesota 31 @ Chicago 28 – Wind 14 mph
Week 10 – Indianapolis 14 @ Miami 27 – Wind 14 mph
Week 12 – Indianapolis 11 @ Buffalo 34 – Wind 17 mph
Week 5 – Detroit 27 @ Chicago 30 – Wind 17 mph
Week 13 – New Orleans 10 @ Miami 30 – Wind 13 mph
Week 4 – Seattle 10 @ Pittsburgh 13 – Wind 14 mph
Week 5 – Seattle 6 @ Kansas City 17 – Wind 14 mph
Week 12 – Seattle 22 @ Dallas 30 – Wind 15 mph
Week 7 – St. Louis 0 @ Miami 14 – Wind 15 mph
So, you see, not having the luxury of the experience of playing in a windy venue really puts a team at a disadvantage, just as much as it gives teams that are used to playing in a windy stadium an advantage.
Just as important, or probably even more important than location, is the quarterback in command of each wind-blessed team, and a quick tour of the best wind teams and the men who led them can give us a greater understanding of this. Len Dawson. Point precision that is needed to be a successful QB in a windy environment. Below is a table of the 10 quarterbacks who took the most snapshots in the wind in 1998, and how they fared;
Team QB GP SU ATS att comp yds TD’S INT%
Miami Marino 8 7-1 6-1 221 128 1482 13 7 58%
NY Jets Testeverde 3 3-0 3-0 89 56 738 6 1 63%
Chicago Kramer 3 2-1 3-0 106 69 880 4 3 65%
Buffalo flutie 5 4 – 1 4 – 1,161 84 1,175 8 7 52%
KC Gannon 4 4-0 3-1 84 54 674 4 1 64%
G. Bay Farvre 2 2-0 1-1 55 37 420 3 2 67%
Phil Peete 2 1-1 2-0 64 36 381 2 2 56%
T. Bay Dilfer 3 2-1 2-1 72 37 364 6 4 51%
N.Eng Bledsoe 5 2-3 1-3 174 88 1275 7 4 51%
To wash. Green 5 3-2 3-2 147 71 792 6 3 49%
Now, there are more quarterbacks not listed above than listed above. Guys like Steve Young, who on November 30, 1998, on Monday Night Football, led his team to a 31-7 total demolition of the New York Giants in 55 degree heat, downpour and winds of up to 20 mph. Therefore, do not take the absence or presence of a quarterback as a kind of conclusion about the abilities or disabilities of a particular quarterback. The table above lists the quarterbacks who had the most experience playing in the wind simply for the purpose of comparison. Some things that come to mind when I examine the wind list above are:
Erik Kramer is an excellent quarterback who really suited the Chicago Bears. As bad as the Bears were, Kramer was 3-0 ATS and 2-1 SU, completing 65% of his passes when the wind blew, as is often the case at Soldier Field. When Kramer was out, the Bears quarterback tandem of Stenstrom and Moreno was 0-2 in the same situation.
Vinne Testeverde is the best after Superman in the wind. He was always an underdog, but he led the Jets to a 3-0 mark in the wind, en route to tough competition with wins over Buffalo, New England @ Kansas City. The Jets outscored their opponents 61-41 in those three games and Testeverde was near perfect, shooting for six TDs with just one INT and a 63% completion rate.
Rich Gannon led the Chiefs to a 4-0 mark with the howling wind, 3-1 ATS, completed 64% of his passes, threw four TDs and just one INT. Gannon’s tandem partner that year, Elvis Grbac is supposed to have the passing game between the two, but Grbac was 0-2 in the wind, completing less than 48% of his passes and threw four INT’S. In Grbac’s 2 wind outs, the Chiefs were annihilated 60-27.
Brett Farvre was the most proficient passer in the wind, completing 67% of his passes and posting a 2-0 record. Is there anything you are not the best at?
Rodney Peete showed some mastery of the elements, guiding Philadelphia to a respectable 1-1 record in the wind, 2-0 ATS.
Trent Green was replaced by the Redskins, but he handled himself quite well. In five starts with the wind bothering him as well, Green posted a 3-2 record in both SU and ATS. That’s a talent that may have been buried under the Dome in St. Louis, where the wind is not a factor.
So our wind research probably raises as many questions as it answers. One of the questions, of course, is: if the wind generally favors home teams, does that hold up in high winds of 20 mph or higher? Well, our research would indicate that it does. There were seven games that were played in winds of 20 mph or more. The home teams did dominate, winning and covering five of those seven games, but for those who have read this far, it should come as no surprise that on the two occasions the away team won in the wind, it was the New York Jets doing. damage both times. The Jets beat Buffalo 17-10 in a highly controversial game in which the Bills were marching down the field for the tying TD with minutes left in the game when the Jets received a gift call as replays show a The Jets’ INT clearly went off the grass. but the Jets were given football and the game was practically over.
Now, there’s nothing to suggest that Buffalo actually tied it, or won the game, but the Jets were 3-point losers in any event, so take nothing away from New York. In addition to the Jets’ two wins, the other five games combined saw the visiting teams struggle terribly, scoring no more than 16 points. In fact, in the five games combined, the visiting teams scored a total of 52 points, an average of 10.5 points per game. Not surprisingly, LOW TOTAL prevailed again in these extreme cases from Mother Nature, since five of the seven games were played Under Total.