(*and what they should worry about instead.)
So, it’s the Broncos and the Seahawks. For only the second time in the past 20 years, both of the top-seeded teams have made it to the Big Game. Huzzah.
Broncos fans (myself included) are quietly bemoaning the fact that in this, of all years, the NFL has decided to experiment with a cold-weather venue for the Super Bowl. In light of Peyton Manning’s documented struggles in below-freezing temperatures, we ask, wouldn’t it have been nice to wait until a round number (maybe Super Bowl L?) before messing with a good thing?
Regardless, a shot at a Lombardi Trophy is something to celebrate — it’d be nice not to obsess over East Rutherford weather forecasts along the way.
On the other hand, perhaps Peyton Manning’s struggles in the cold have been somewhat overblown… Below, I present the case for ignoring the weather (and instead putting the worry where it belongs).
First of all, it’s a small sample size. Manning has played 23 games in which the temperature at kickoff was below 40°. That’s only 9% of his games played. Of those, one can be tossed out (in Week 17 of 2004) because he made a total of two pass attempts before sitting down (playoff seeding had already been decided). In the remaining 22 games, Manning’s teams have a record of 9-13. Not very good, huh?
However, as I argued in my last column, Manning shouldn’t be judged solely on his teams’ results — he is only one out of 22 players on the field, after all. No, we should instead focus on his individual performances. Here, there is still room for concern, although not as much as the conventional wisdom might tell you:
|40° or above||239||5555||8470||65,586||492||212||97.9|
|19° or below||3||81||120||782||7||3||102.8|
Clearly, Manning’s numbers have suffered as the temperature drops through the 30s and the 20s. On the other hand, once you get to 19° or below, the stats pick up again. The main reason for this is because two of Manning’s three games in such cold temperatures have been during his stint with the Broncos — and if you limit the sample to 2012-2013, the chart looks like this:
|40° or above||30||799||1156||9.626||85||20||111.7|
|19° or below||2||67||102||687||7||2||109.4|
The sample size here is admittedly even smaller, but it seems Manning’s weather-related struggles have somewhat abated in Denver. There is one glaring exception — that game played in 20-29° temperatures, when Manning only got a 70.4 rating.
That was back in November, in New England.
It’s possible that was due to the gameplan, which clearly emphasized the run (32 runs versus 15 passes while Denver had the lead). It’s possible the Patriots simply have Manning’s number. Or — and this is where we get to the crux of the problem — perhaps Manning just hates the Northeast.
Consider this: in his career, Manning’s rating in above-40° weather is 97.9; below 40°, it’s 82.6. Outside of New York and Boston, his rating is 98.5; on the road against the Giants, Jets, and Patriots, it is 76.2. That’s a drop of 16% in cold weather, but a drop of 23% in the Northeast. Still not convinced? Remove the games at New York and New England, and Manning’s cold-weather rating is 91.0.
Manning doesn’t have a problem with the cold. He has a problem with New York.
Curse you, Roger Goodell!