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Handicapping Playing Conditions

Handicapping Playing Conditions

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

A little bit of probing is necessary to gain a pure understanding of the playing conditions in a given game. This is especially true for visiting teams. Not all road games are of the same ilk. A team might seamlessly transfer their excellence at home to the road, but sometimes conditions will arise that make it a daunting task.

Some teams are able to play anywhere. Their style of play is conducive to succeeding on all surfaces, all stadiums, and in any kind of weather. But there are some teams that really need certain conditions in order to thrive. One of the more common elements of this variation are highly-offensive teams that play on turf. When at home or on the road in another dome, their offense is flying and their defense is fast and dug-in. But when playing on grass or any kind of sloshy surface, they appear stagnant--more stuck in the mud.

The same applies to teams that succeed on grass. There are reasons they do well on that surface. The game is a bit slower. On turf, the match-up might not be as much in their favor. Playing in a dome is a different look that could affect a team’s performance. A good grass team might be able to cope with a road game in Minnesota or St. Louis, but unable to cope against New Orleans and Atlanta.

Weather is another major consideration. In dome games, it doesn’t make any difference, but in cities with open-air stadiums--you need to stay abreast of the forecast. It’s pretty easy to get weather updates from all NFL cities. Weathermen are notoriously inaccurate, but there are definite pitfalls you want to avoid.

We’ve all been there. You take the “over” in a game then turn on the TV and it looks like a documentary on Siberia. Weather can be weird. Unseasonal weather can strike at any time. And bad weather just simply is not conducive to scoring. And weather can severely affect play. If the team you picked is a high-flying squad heavily-reliant on the pass, bad weather is more of a concern than a team the runs the ball a lot. You would probably trust the 49ers to play well in bad weather than the Saints, for example.

Hometown crowds can play a big role. Sure, the point-spread already tries to account for the home-field advantage, but some teams are more prone to being thrown off by vociferous hometown fans. If a team relies on a lot of audibles, the crowd noise could really throw off their timing and lead to some costly false starts and delay penalties. We’ve all seen previously soaring offenses come down to earth in the face of these conditions.

Pay some attention to the extenuating circumstances as it pertains to the location of a game. Are visiting players tempted by a tantalizing nightlife? Are some key members of the team known to have a good time on the town? It can be difficult to know for sure, but you can bet a lot of games have been affected by players taking advantage of what some cities have to offer. Is a key player returning to his hometown area? That could be a distraction, as the player is perhaps distracted with all the social demands that come with returning to your old stomping grounds.

Look for special occasions during games. A home-team can be extra pumped-up because of some ceremonial occasions that occur in a football game. A little extra caution is sometimes required when a home team is opening up a new stadium. Another aspect could be a halftime retirement of a beloved player’s number. I remember many years ago betting on the Minnesota Vikings in a game at the New York Giants. As the game began, it was announced there would be a special ceremony (the retiring of a number, I believe) for Lawrence Taylor. It was obvious that the Giants were a pumped-up team. And they went on to win the game. That knowledge would have been helpful. Not to say you should bet on a home team every time a player is being recognized at halftime or whenever a new stadium opens, but at least think twice about betting on their opponents.

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