The national sports media is buzzing about sub-zero temperatures across the country wreaking havoc with this weekend’s NFL playoff games. The Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night at 8:10 P.M. EST, and temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20s with a windchill pushing it into the teens. That is what you call bone-chillingly cold.
While on-field performances in the distant past did suffer when temperatures dipped below freezing, today’s NFL teams have a number of luxuries that Ice Bowl-era franchises lacked. The sidelines now feature heated benches, goose down parkas and high-voltage space heaters. Players now wear thermal uniform liners, air-activated hand warmers, and breathable wicking-based socks and gloves.
The human body also naturally warms as exercise increases and more calories are burned. A fully warmed-up professional athlete regularly running at full speed will soon become unaffected by cold air, with the exception of exposed extremities such as fingers.
Fortunately for fans of high-scoring games, the Eagles and Saints’ respective offensives schemes are even more innovative than the warming equipment on the sideline. With regard to personnel, Drew Brees played many cold weather games at Purdue University and has a 65.1 completion percentage in 11 games played in sub-40 degree temperatures.
He is also the most accurate NFL passer on throws over 20 yards, so he can complete passes even in windy conditions. Though Eagles quarterback Nick Foles played college football at the balmy University of Arizona, he proved himself adept at throwing in wintry conditions by navigating the Eagles to 34 second-half points in blizzard conditions against the Detroit Lions in Week 14.
A one-game sample size is far from meaningful, but Foles’ limited experience with cold weather is offset by LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ league-leading rushing attack, which can be leaned on when field conditions deteriorate.
Cold air by itself does not significantly hinder NFL offenses, but winds over 20 mph can negatively impact the passing game, particularly on deeper throws. But between modern equipment, two prolific quarterbacks and at least one bulldozing ground game, Saturday’s “arctic air attack” will surely be defeated.