Heading into the playoffs, there’s no question warm weather teams can benefit greatly from home field advantage. Usually, such an advantage allows teams to avoid cold climates throughout the playoffs, including the Super Bowl, but the 2014 Super Bowl will be a bit different.
New York City is about to host the much awaited cold weather Super Bowl, meaning teams like the Saints, Seahawks and 49ers won’t have the ability to avoid the cold altogether. Other teams such as the Broncos, Patriots, Bears or Ravens may actually welcome such a change in venue for the big game. Assuming everyone in the playoffs is in fact a contender, which teams are being set up nicely by the prospect of a cold weather Super Bowl, and who’s out of luck?
In the AFC, only one team, the Indianapolis Colts, appear to be ill-positioned to play for a Super Bowl in the cold. The Colts predicate their offense around Andrew Luck’s ability to throw the ball, as do the Broncos, Patriots and Bengals.
The difference between the Colts and the latter teams I mentioned is the Colts play indoors. While Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Andy Dalton are playing in the elements perfecting their offenses in harsh conditions, Andrew Luck and the Colts are playing in ideal conditions. Sure, the Colts will get one home game, but should they make it out of the wildcard round of the playoffs, they’ll be heading to Denver or New England.
On the NFC side of the bracket, there’s no denying the impact cold weather games will have on the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints, currently the NFC’s top seeded teams. The Seahawks are built to withstand that type of weather with a strong defense and solid rushing attack, but for whatever reason, the Seahawks don’t play all that well on the road.
The Saints, much like the Indianapolis Colts, rely far too much on the passing game to withstand an ill-timed snow storm in New York, providing of course they actually make it to the Super Bowl. New Orleans fields a suspect defense and an offense that is one-dimensional. While the Saints rank second in the NFL in passing yards, they come in at just 26th in rushing, meaning if the pass isn’t there, they’re sunk.
On the other side of the coin, wintry weather could greatly benefit the Ravens, Chiefs and Bears, all three of which run more traditional styled teams. Those squads keep games close and win it at the end. The problem they face is the inability to keep up with high-octane offensive attacks. If they can catch a break against such an opponent, they may have a chance to pin down the passing attacks of teams like the Broncos, Patriots or Saints.
The prospect of a snowstorm Super Bowl has some fans giddy with excitement while others are groaning at the thought of the big game ending with a score of three to seven. Regardless of personal feelings on the subject, there’s no denying the impact that detrimental weather could have on the final outcome of the big game. Who would you pick if the Patriots were playing the Bears in the Super Bowl? Does that outcome change if I say they’re playing in eight inches of snow with gale force winds? The Saints may have a competitive edge over the Chiefs, but what if it becomes a weather-induced field position game? These are all relevant questions to ask as the Super Bowl draws ever nearer.
In the end, the prospect of poor conditions doesn’t change the nature of the playoffs. Some of the most memorable games in the NFL’s history have come in subfreezing temperatures. It’s just another obstacle that teams must fight through. Teams featuring a strong running game will, obviously, benefit from poor weather, while teams featuring potent aerial attacks will suffer. That’s just the nature of the playoffs.