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Handicapping 101: Hot Weather

Posted by Humayun A Khan on July 13, 2019
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In the 1995 City to Surf fun run, Australia's premiere foot race, a 14 kilometer trek through Hyde Park in Central Sydney to the Pacific Ocean, a 19-year-old man suffering a cardiac arrest on the finishing line and later died. 600 people were treated for minor problems and 200 were treated by physiotherapists. Medical centers treated 55 participants, of which 38 suffered heat exhaustion.
"The people who get into trouble are the highly motivated amateurs who train in the cool of the day and are not prepared for competition"

Dr. Rowley Richards

– City to Surf Medical Director

It certainly does not take a doctor to point out the pains of physical activity in extreme heat. I am sure, at some point in time each and every one of us has over-exhausted ourselves in the heat, even if that means a frantic sprint to the disappearing ice cream truck. In fact, it is no secret that soccer players are the best conditioned athletes in the world – because they have to be. Try running for 60 minutes in an open air stadium on the equator, or the deserts of northern Africa. Better yet, try it with full pads and helmet in a pre-season NFL encounter in Phoenix, Arizona in August. It is no wonder the Arizona Cardinals get three of their first four games of every season on the road.

Following this simple human truth, it would follow in football, just as in marathons or any other sporting event, that better condition athletes will fare better in extreme heat than less conditioned athletes. While oddsmakers take many factors into account when determining pointspreads, it is fair to say that better teams are better, at least in part, because of superior physical conditioning.

The most successful training camp in the 1998 season, (our test season), in terms of attendance and commitment from the players, was that of the Denver Broncos. Fresh off their 1997 Superbowl win, where physical conditioning was the decay factor in the pit, as Denver's lightweight but well-conditioned O-Line simply dominated Green Bay's large but relatively out-of-shape D-Line, the Broncos went back to the secret well which had given them the extra edge when it mattered most, and it paid off again.

We are not surprised when a stronger and better condition athlete dominates in the ring, or in a foot race, so why should we be surprised when better conditioned football players win on the football field, especially when the elements demand a superior effort. In fact, that is exactly the reality in today's NFL, as league parity reduces the gap in talent, it is intangibles, like physical condition, which give some teams an edge on some days.

In fact, there were 17 regular season games in the NFL in 1998, where the game time temperature was recorded at 86 degrees or higher. The favorite in those 17 games held a 15-2 record straight up, and a 12-4-1 record ATS. In fact, of the two straight up fav losses, one was Carolina losing as a home favorite to Atlanta in week 1, but remember, the Falcons went on to play in the Super Bowl that season. The other occasion, was a 13-7 loss, Tennessee their Nashville debut at Vanderbilt Stadium in week 2 against The Chargers, which looks to be the only true exception to the rule.

Furthermore, the hotter it got, the more prevalent the phenomenon became. There were six games in 1998 where the temperature hit as high as 90 degrees at game time. They were;

WEEK 1 – Arizona @ Dallas – 97 degrees

WEEK 1 – Oakland @ Kansas City – 94 degrees

WEEK 1 – Pittsburgh @ Baltimore – 91 degrees

WEEK 3 – Philadelphia @ Arizona – 99 degrees

WEEK 4 – Denver @ Washington – 90 degrees

WEEK 6 – Chicago @ Arizona – 91 degrees

Now, there are amazing similarities between all six of the above hotties, plus they all hit 90 degrees or higher at game time. Most assuredly, all six games saw the favorite handle the heat much better than the less team of the day and win handily over the underdog. The favorites had a 6-0 ATS mark over the underdogs when the heat was on. In fact, the underdogs in these 6 games had problems catching more than just their breath, as not one of the underdogs in any of these games registered more than 16 points. In fact, combined, the underdogs in these 6 contests scored just 57 points, or 9.5 per game average. The favorites in these 6 games were able to take advantage of protected defenses, as the favorites combined for a whopping 161 points in these 6 games, compared to just 57 allowed.

Another interesting property of heat is its debilitating effects over time. In other words, how would the heat take its toll on a defense as the game wears on? This is a very intriguing question, and one, which could unlock the door to untold opportunities. Consider the results of the following chart, which is a breakdown of scoring by quarter by both the favorite, underdog and cumulative scoring in the six hot games combined.

Quarter. 1st 2nd. 1st Half. 3rd 4th. Total.

Favorite. 30 41. 71. 34 56.

Underdog. 3 7. 10. 21 26. 57.

TOTAL. 33 48. 81. 55 82. 218.

I do not need to tell you the startling implications of the above chart, and what it may mean to half-time lines and totals. The results are astounding. But really, should we be surprised? I guess it really is not rocket science to conclude that a hot game would have a predictable effect on both teams defenses as the game was on, however, sometimes we can not see the forest for the trees. The favorite continues to dominate a hot game from wire to wire, but even the superior defense begins to weaker as the game progresses, and points become more plentiful.

It is also not surprising that points are hard to come by in these games, as teams prefer to pound the line and wear down the defense in favor of sending their receivers on deep jaunts. Under the Total played out in 67% of our 90 degree games or higher, which was consistent with hot games overall, as Under the Total was the result in 67% of games where the game time temperature was 86 degrees or higher.

Source by Brian Gabrielle

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