FANTASY FOCUS: Can you use the weather forecast to predict Josh Allen’s performance?

Weather Blog

Last week, I posted a graphic to Twitter that showed how much better Josh Allen has been this season when playing in warm weather.

The data behind the idea was relatively simple: Take the game time temperature and compare it to how many passing yards Josh Allen would go on to have. As one might expect, Allen’s average yardage was highest during warm weather games and lowest during cold weather games.

There are a litany of reasons why this isn’t surprising, nor unique to Josh Allen. But it did plant the seed for more of a deep dive to see just how much Mother Nature has influenced Josh Allen through his career.

The question is this: Outside of the countless variables that factor into a single game performance, is there any element of predictability to the kind of game Josh Allen might have based strictly on the weather?

THE NUMBERS: Using average yardage isn’t a reliable enough metric to define a single game’s “success”. For this analysis, I went back through Josh Allen’s entire career from 2018-2020. That’s 41 games, including both regular season and playoffs. Alongside average yards, we tracked three additional metrics to attempt to add some texture and context to the “success” of each game. Included are completion percentage (how often Allen successfully completed a pass to a receiver regardless of total yardage), QBR (a metric by ESPN that measures a QB’s contribution to winning) and whether the Bills won or lost the game.

These metrics were then filtered into three categories of games: Warm (60+ degrees), Intermediate (40-59 degrees) and Cold (less than 40 degrees). This first sample does not take conditions into account. Essentially, it made no difference whether it was sunny, raining or snowing. Strictly temperature and nothing else. Each category included a minimum of 10 games as a representative sample. Here are the results:

Both Allen’s average yardage and completion percentage decline as the temperature decreases. This makes some sense as cold weather games tend to have a greater likelihood of relying more on the running game than passing game, so lower yardage is logical. Less passing plays means less total yards. But the passing plays that do occur are not being completed as efficiently in cold vs. warm weather. Keep in mind too, just because rain/snow/sunshine isn’t included here, there’s a meteorological elephant in the room. Cold weather games have a greater likelihood to be associated with “negative” conditions such as rain, snow or wind. You don’t see a whole lot of lousy 75 degree days in Buffalo. Wet conditions will further reinforce the concept of relying less on Allen’s arm and affect a receivers likelihood of catching a football.

What strikes me as interesting are the QBR and Win-Loss statistics. There’s certainly some difference, but relatively speaking, it’s not as significant as the difference in yards and completion percentage. What does that mean? Great question. I’d be inclined to suggest that while Allen’s peripheral numbers degrade in cold, he (or the team as a whole) has found a way to remain effective despite the environment. The Bills are 13-7 in games where the temperature is at least 60 degrees, but still 7-4 when less than 40 degrees. Despite poor stats in cold weather, Allen is still winning games. Remember, the QB’s on both teams are dealing with the conditions. Allen might do worse in cold weather, but ALL QB’s might do worse in cold weather. Josh’s worse might be better than everyone else’s worse, if that makes sense.

Factoring in field conditions yields a similar result. Allen’s numbers during games that feature some form of precipitation come in well below the averaged metrics from games segmented by temperature above. While the sample size is smaller, the difference is significant. Wet games affect the play calling, the ability to grip a football, the ability to catch a football, etc. Conversely, games that are climate controlled in domes feature a dramatic jump in Allen’s statistical numbers.

BOTTOM LINE: Fantasy owners have a reasonable chance to use the weather as a reliable indicator of a QB’s statistical performance. Allen appears to fall into this category, and I’d go so far as to suggest his growth as a QB this year has made this notion even more apparent. Allen has passed for 400+ yards twice this season. Both under warm and dry conditions. Josh has passed for under 200 yards three times this season. All three featured some combination of cooler/wetter weather.

But while individual metrics might decline with the temperatures/conditions, the Bills’ ability to win games has not. The Bills appear just as likely to win a game in lousy, cold weather as warm sunshine. So if you’re going to be placing bets on future Bills games, give the forecast a hard look when trying to predict Allen-specific metrics. Just don’t question his ability to win the game based on the weather.

Chief Meteorologist Eric Snitil

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