This season, the weather at National Football League games was mostly mild. We had only a few occasions where wind, rain or snow could be considered to affect the play on the field.
This weekend, that streak of mild weather has been broken. Two of the four outdoor games in the Wild Card Weekend will definitely have weather conditions that could greatly affect the play on the field. Tonight, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins in conditions that are driving down ticket prices. Temperatures will be zero or below and the wind chill factor will make for a very frigid night.
Conditions for the Pittsburgh Steelers visit to the Buffalo Bills were slated to be so severe tomorrow, the game has been rescheduled to be played on Monday afternoon.
It is considered that bad weather conditions most often lead to lower scoring games which can also be interpreted to add value to points on the spread. The Chiefs are not as good as they have been in past seasons, and tonight they are going to have to lay as many as five points in a game that, before the weather was known to be a factor, had them favored by 1½ points on the opening line.
The reason for this rise in the number of points the Chiefs have to give is not only because bad weather makes points on the spread more valuable, but because of the Dolphins dismal record in cold conditions. With temperatures simply below 40 degrees, the Dolphins have a lifetime record of 25-46-1 straight-up. As the weather turns colder, the Dolphins record drops to even worse.
These conditions and the Dolphins problems in cold conditions could compensate for a Chiefs team that is a step or more off recent editions presented by Andy Reid. Still, laying extra points in the cold conditions with a Chiefs team not as good as the one that finished last season hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, seems less than wise. But, taking the Dolphins in these conditions is absolutely inadvisable.
While we can’t recommend a play on tonight’s game in Kansas City, the earlier game from Houston offers an edge to the home team.
Last week, the Texans clinched a playoff berth with a road win against an Indianapolis Colts squad that was also looking for a postseason date with a victory. This was a huge challenge for DeMeco Ryans team. In his first year as head coach, Ryans has combined with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud to lead the Texans from obscurity to the playoffs. Is that all we can expect from this spirited group or is a playoff win also in their 2023 season resume?
Their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, have overcome more obstacles this year than most teams could have endured and landed in the playoff field. Their projected star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, has missed most the season with injuries and Cleveland has opened more cans of quarterbacks this season than any team in the league. They went through four in search of one that could lead them to consistent wins, then put him on the bench last week and signed Jeff Driskel to start their meaningless last game of the season.
After Watson was out with injuries, the Browns turned to P.J. Walker with little success. Next they tried rookie signal caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and he also was sidelined with nagging injuries. They then turned to veteran Joe Flacco, who they first signed to the practice squad and then gave a contract to in December.
Flacco, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens to complete the 2012 season, had slumped in years since that season high and failed not only in his remaining years with the Ravens but in subsequent stops with the Denver Broncos, twice with the New York Jets and for a brief period on the Philadelphia Eagles roster.
Then, he found a rhythm with the Browns offense and led them to four straight wins after a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in his first start with Cleveland. His wins have come against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and the team he faces today, the Houston Texans.
That win over Houston was one in which the Texans were missing their prize rookie quarterback, and the Browns took advantage to score a lopsided victory at the same site these two teams square off tonight … NRG Stadium in Houston.
The betting world has taken the veteran Flacco over the rookie Stroud in this contest. The line opened with the Texans 1½ point home underdogs, a number that has risen a point to where now the Browns are a 2½ point road favorite.
Historically, rookie quarterbacks have trouble in the playoffs. None have led their team to a Super Bowl and most have lost their first effort in the postseason. But, in recent years three quarterbacks have won a playoff game in their first year, that group includes Russell Wilson in 2012, Dak Prescott in 2016 and Brock Purdy last season.
There has been much talk this year that Stroud has had the best rookie season for an NFL quarterback in history. Can he and his first-year head coach parlay that into a postseason win over a more experienced quarterback and veteran Cleveland team?
I think they can.
Qoxhi Picks: Houston Texans (+2½) over Cleveland Browns