Many times, unfavorable weather can be an influential factor in player performance. Some players, such as New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, perform well in poor conditions, where as others, like New York Jets WR Laveranues Coles, find their numbers dipping in the latter months of the season.
At this time of the year, it is important to stay on top of game-time weather conditions, especially for those games played in places like Green Bay or Buffalo. Keep track of temperatures, snow and wind, as these should all factor in when setting your fantasy starting lineup. Now, what do you do if one of your starting players is expected to see some bad weather this week? Well, and it should go without saying, you keep your studs in the lineup. Guys like RB LaDainian Tomlinson or QB Peyton Manning should never see the bench on your team. However, look closely at the No. 2 guys in your lineup (running backs and receivers) if you have a comparable player on the bench, you may want to check the weather forecasts prior to game-time.
For example, let's say you're riding with two quarterbacks on your fantasy squad: Jake Plummer (DEN) and David Carr (HOU). In most standard scoring fantasy leagues, these two are pretty similar in total fantasy points scored thru Week 10. Regardless of how the opposition's defense will stack-up, let's look at where these two will be playing in Week 15. Plummer and the Broncos roll into Tempe, AZ to face the Cardinals, while Carr & Co. head north to take on the Patriots in Foxborough, MA. It is quite clear that the elements favor Plummer and the Denver/Arizona match-up in this instance. When dealing with two comparable players fighting for a starting spot in your lineup, this should be your mindset as we get deeper into the season. Remember, most NFL offenses will look to slow the pace of the game down by sticking to the run when the temperature drops. So, it's hard to rely on your fantasy quarterbacks and wide receivers in the cold weather. That's why you need to take notice of the sites and weather conditions in which your players will be confined to that week.
Nevertheless, it's not good enough to base your decision on the elements alone. You also must take into account how well your players perform when faced with poor conditions. Some guys actually play better when battling inclement weather. These types of rare players are the kinds of guys that you should be targeting in the closing weeks of the fantasy season. As previously stated, your studs should always remain in your starting lineup regardless of any outside factors. However, listed below are some "second and third tier" players that you may need to look to as the thermometer drops:
Jon Kitna (DET)
Although he has averaged just over one touchdown per game in both warm and cold weather throughout his career, Kitna passes for 50+ more yards per game when temperatures dip below 40 degrees (190.8 yds/game vs. 243.5 yds/game).
Steve McNair (BAL)
Over his career, McNair has posted an 83.7 passer rating in cold weather games and averages 214.0 passing yards. In 13 career games when the temperature was 40 degrees or lower, McNair has a total of 18 touchdowns. And now that he's been heating up, looking for McNair to keep the ball rolling as the weather gets colder.
Fred Taylor (JAX)
Over his career, Taylor has excelled in cold weather conditions averaging 125.7 rushing yards per game when the temperature is 40 degrees or colder, as opposed to only 79.8 rushing yards per game when playing in the warm weather. Couple that with just over a touchdown per game, and you're looking at 18 possible fantasy points in most standard scoring leagues from this solid running back.
Ahman Green (GB)
This veteran thrives when playing on the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field. Throughout his career, Green has averaged 102.9 rushing yards in cold weather games, and has even seen a slight increase in receiving yards. In addition, he has seen the endzone 15 times in 17 career starts when playing in games below 40 degrees.
As has been the case many times before in this column, this is not an exhausted list of players. Instead, it's a guideline for things to look at when weather conditions will play a role in setting your fantasy starting lineup. Other players that put together good performances in unfavorable climates include: Brett Favre (GB), Warrick Dunn (ATL), Corey Dillon (NE), Kevin Jones (DET), Isaac Bruce (STL) and Darrell Jackson (SEA).
Obviously, your objective should be to play the best players possible in the most favorable situations. Let their effort and skill alone be the determining factor to whether they excel or not. Try to steer clear of wind and frigid temperatures when deciding on whom to start in your lineup in the coming week. When contemplating between two similar players, turn on the Weather Channel and see what the conditions will be come game-time it may help you gain those few extra fantasy points that, in turn, get you a crucial win.
PATRIOTS FANTASY REPORT
Coming off of back-to-back losses, the New England Patriots head up to Lambeau Field this Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers. Now it's pretty obvious that in any game against QB Brett Favre and the Pack, the opposition is almost always involved in a shoot-out. Six times this season, Green Bay has posted 20+ points, with 30+ in three of those games. Once Favre gets rolling, it's tough to argue against the fact that he is one of the best gunslingers in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, the Green Bay defense, with its solid core of linebackers anchored by MLB Nick Barnett, has been one of the best against the run in 2006 (currently allowing 97.1 yards rushing per game and ranking 7th in the NFL). Nevertheless, Green Bay is at the bottom of the barrel in stopping the pass (allowing 242.0 yards passing per game and ranking deal last thru Week 10).
The problem in Green Bay is that their pass coverage breaks down far too often. They have strong cornerbacks (Al Harris and Charles Woodson) who play well in man-to-man coverage. However, the opposition can break free when the Packers secondary drops back into zone coverage. Patriots QB Tom Brady is savvy enough to take advantage of this flaw, but will have to get rid of the ball early and often, as the Packers have a very good pass rush (ranking 3rd in the NFL with 31.0 sacks this year). So, look for a lot of dump passes thrown to TE Ben Watson and running backs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney this week.
Yet, if the Patriots offensive line can come together and hold off Green Bay's incessant pass rush, look for WR Reche Caldwell to be the Patriots fantasy players to keep an eye on in Week 11. It is imperative that Brady get the pass protection needed to get the ball in his hands, since Caldwell has averaged 87 receiving yards and a touchdown in 2006 when he has tallied more than five receptions. Since New England's bye in Week 6, Caldwell has become one of Brady's favorite receivers, averaging over four receptions per game in the last four weeks. Thru Week 10, Caldwell has hauled in 32 passes that's second on the list behind TE Ben Watson, who has 34 total grabs.
As previously mentioned, Favre and the Packers are always looking for a shoot-out. This season, they've put up some pretty impressive numbers against some of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL (such as Miami, Minnesota and New Orleans). And coming off of two frustrating losses, Brady should look to rebound and reinstate himself as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. This Sunday has all the makings of a high-scoring affair
and if so, Caldwell should be right in the thick of things.
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