How the NFL Adapts to the Weather
This past Sunday, the New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens during an absolute downpour.
The wet weather clearly affected the play on the field, as former coach Rex Ryan explained on ESPN.
“Belichick had his team prepared,” he said. “You think they were surprised by the weather? Right when the week started, that’s when the preparation for this occurred. You know they were using wet footballs. Look at the game plan.”
It’s obvious that the weather has a huge impact on not just this week’s game, but any game played on an outdoor field. From snow to rain to high winds, the teams that adapt well to the weather have a significant advantage.
So how are NFL teams thinking about the weather today? Here’s how the top teams in the league incorporate weather into their gameplan.
How Weather Impacts Football
While it’s clear that heavy rain or snow will impact play on the field, the best NFL teams understand not just the likely forecast, but think about the weather on a deeper, optimization level. This includes answering questions like:
- What is the soil saturation during a rainy game?
- How does the temperature affect the ability to grip/catch the ball?
- Does the air quality impact the player’s ability to run/recover quickly?
These are just a few examples of how weather can impact play on the field. The coaching staff needs to not only understand the forecast, but immediately adjust their strategy according to the weather.
Teams can swap out equipment like cleats for wet weather, gloves for cold weather, or even change the game plan to minimize the risk of fumbles or drops during a game. And the sooner coaches have this data, the more thoroughly they can adapt to the weather.
West Coast Teams Adapt to Poor Air Quality
Air quality is an often overlooked aspect of weather that has recently had a big impact on NFL teams. Teams on the West Coast have been incredibly careful about outdoor practices in the past few months because of the smoke from the wildfires. A number of teams have actually changed their practice plans because of the air quality alone, ensuring their players stay healthy for upcoming games.
Air quality data combined with the weather forecast can help the coaching staff better understand the risks to their players from heavy smoke combined with humidity and temperature. This type of data can improve player performance and improve the overall team results both in the short and long term.