How Weather Actually Impacts NFL Betting

Wind, rain, snow, and temperature have varying degrees of impact on the outcomes of football games, notably scoring totals.

Jan 15, 2024 • 07:56 ET • 6 min read
Snowy Day at Old Orchard Park Buffalo Bills NFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Isolating what the forecast has in store for NFL games can help you make smarter football bets.

NFL weather effects at a glance:

• Most weather only has light to moderate effects on NFL outcomes. 

Wind is the most reliable weather condition to account for due to the sample size

• Wind's effect may seem underwhelming at first, but contextualizing performance can show its significant impact

Precipitation is nuanced in its effect depending on the type (rain or snow) and severity.

• Accounting for extreme temperatures is easy.

Of the four major American sports, the NFL has always been unique in its lone willingness to brave the weather for all of its games. That was especially evident on Saturday, January 13, 2024 when the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs played in the fourth coldest game in NFL history. Fierce winds contributed to -27 degree weather that had teams and coaches alike huddling for warmth on the sidelines.

The NBA and NHL exclusively play indoors, and MLB will call games or use retractable roofs when the conditions become too harsh. Sure, football has its fair share of domes, but the large majority of NFL venues are entirely open to the will of Mother Nature.

That's not to knock games played in domes. Having perfectly controlled conditions to play in lends its hands to more high-scoring affairs: games in domes average almost four more points than games played outdoors. And although we know scoring has been outpacing Vegas totals for some time now, the effect is even more observable in domes. Games in domes outpace overs by more than twice as much (1.6 points on average) as outdoor games do (0.7 points).

With that in mind, it's essential to know what to look for when handicapping outdoor elements. Missing even one key weather factor can tip an edge from existing to disappearing, leading to unrealized profits or misled losses. Whether it's wind, precipitation, or temperature, it's crucial to account for everything.


The wind is the most reliable and predictive weather factor as it has the largest sample size. The average wind speed for an NFL game is around seven miles per hour, so use that as your baseline when looking at a slate’s weather conditions.

From that mark, every passing metric decreases as wind speed increases whether it’s raw production (passing yards, passing touchdowns, etc.) or efficiency (completion percentage, yards per attempt, QB rating, adjusted net yards per attempt, etc.).

The wind hits passing production more significantly than passing efficiency, but we should expect scoring as a whole to decrease as wind speeds increase.

One caveat is the wind's effect on passing is much more drastic once it hits 20+ mph. The decrease going from 0-10 mph to 10-15 mph is about the same as going from 10-15 mph to 15-20 mph, but the decrease is about 1.5-2.0x as large when going from 15-20 mph to 20+ mph. That’s not to undermine wind speeds from 10-20 mph but to emphasize the importance of a game hitting 20+ mph.

Another thing to consider with wind is the field goal. Bettors make common mistakes when analyzing kicking data in windy conditions, and the most significant error comes when looking at “mild” wind (10-15 mph).

The difference is almost negligible when looking at field-goal percentage in 0-15 mph winds (~83%) vs. 15-20 mph (~80%). As a result, the common conclusion is wind doesn’t affect field-goal kicking until it reaches 20 mph, but that is a bit misleading.

The first thing to establish is obvious: field goal percentage is a product of field goal distance (the shorter the field goal distance, the more likely it will convert).

The thing to note is the average distance of field goals attempted in windier conditions (15-20 mph wind) is shorter than in favorable conditions (0-15 mph). This makes sense. The windier it is, the less likely a coach is willing to go for a long field goal.

So, if field goals are made at similar rates in more windy conditions than in favorable conditions despite the field goals being of shorter distance, then the wind is a factor.

This effect, much like passing, is much worse when we reach 20+ mph winds. At 20+ mph winds, the average field goal distance drops around seven yards, and the conversion rate drops around 6%. But again, we have to consider the expected rate given the lower distance.

In 20+ mph winds, the much shorter average distance should yield an expected make rate of nearly 89%, yet only 77% of kicks are made. To put it quite simply, that is a massive discrepancy.


Precipitation is a trickier weather condition to handicap. The sample sizes are a bit hard to reliably work with because it can be challenging to isolate precipitation’s actual effect on play versus the compounding results coming from other weather effects commonly present during rain (wind) and snow (wind and temperature). 

Generally speaking, there is no difference between light rain, moderate rain, or heavy rain. 

This probably seems intuitively strange as it is easy to imagine players slipping around everywhere in a torrential downpour. However, it is important to remember that we are trying to isolate precipitation from other conditions. 

Nevertheless, the presence of (any kind of) rain decreases passing production by around 12%.

However, there is a difference between lighter and heavier snow.

Despite what you might think, light snow (in isolation) has a very negligible effect on passing production. When compared to games played in ideal conditions, passing production only decreases by 2% in light snow.

This is a massive contrast to heavier forms of snow, in which passing production drops by 25% on average.

Rain and snow certainly have an effect when it comes to field goals. In the presence of no precipitation, the actual FG% is about equal to the expected conversion rate of the average field goal distance in those conditions (~83%).

In the presence of rain, FG% actually jumps to around 85%, but this is because (like with wind) the average distance is noticeably lower. Despite the shorter attempts in the rain, the field goal percentage is around 2% lower than expected given historical make rates of those distances

Snow, on the other hand, has a much more significant effect on kicking. Field goals in snowy conditions convert at just a 76% rate, a 7% drop from the norm. When adding the context of the much shorter attempts in snow, the 76% make rate is nearly 12% lower than the expectation of those shorter field goal attempts (88%).


Temperature is relatively straightforward. There are typically no significant deviations in performance when looking at the temperature range of 55-85 degrees, which is generally considered "ideal" for this weather condition.

From 25-55 degrees, passing production dips by 5%. When going below 25 degrees AND when going above 85 degrees, there is about an 8% decrease.

Temperature is relatively straightforward. There are typically no significant deviations in performance when looking at the temperature range of 55-85 degrees, which is generally considered "ideal" for this weather condition. Passing production dips 5% when going below the 25-55 degree range.

And yes, that's it — pretty straightforward. 


So here is what we should be looking for when looking at weather conditions:

Condition Effect
Wind (10-15 mph) Light
Gust (20+ mph) Moderate
Rain (any) Moderate
Light snow None
Heavier snow Heavy
Cold (22-55 degrees) Light
Extreme cold (<25 degrees) Moderate
Extreme heat (>85 degrees) Moderate

It is crucial to keep in mind that although we spent this exercise isolating weather effects, you should be mindful of compounding effects (for example, rain with gusts) when looking at a slate's weather. All in all, this comprehensive look at the weather's impact on NFL games should be a great tool in your arsenal moving forward.

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