When you think about NFL playoff football you usually associate cold weather being part of it. In the upcoming Divisional Round playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs, not only will it be played in the cold, but potentially freezing rain as well.
According to the latest forecast on weather.com, icy conditions with periods of freezing rain are expected Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. A high 34F is expected with winds out of the ENE at 5 to 10 mph. The chain of rain Sunday is currently 90%.
Based on that current forecast, we can probably expect to see both teams lean heavily on the run during Sundays contest in addition to a short passing game and that certainly fits the style of play of both teams.
So, based on the assumption that Sunday’s kickoff temperature in Kansas City will ultimately be 35F of less, it’s time to look at how both quarterbacks that will play in the game have fared so far during their careers in those kinds of temperatures.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who has played in five playoff games so far during his career, has never played in one where the kickoff temperature was reportedly less than 38F. He has, however, played in a total of 11 regular season games in which the kickoff temperature was reportedly 35F or below and his teams were 5-6 in those games. In those 11 games, Smith completed 61% of his pass attempts for 2,208 yards and threw 14 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. Those numbers equate to an 84.2 quarterback rating, if you give any weight to that stat whatsoever.
It’s probably worth noting that Smith went 3-1 in four of those aforementioned games when he didn’t throw an interception. Smith is also 3-6 in those games where he threw more than 20 passes.
When it comes to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, my research concludes that he’s played in a total of 38 games in which the kickoff temperature was reportedly 35F or lower and it looks like 7 of those games came in the playoffs and went 6-1. In all 38 games, Roethlisberger is 28-10 but 14-2 in his last 16.
In those 38 games that Roethlisberger has played in where the kickoff temperature was reportedly 35F or below, he completed 61.5% of his passes and threw 56 touchdown passes and 32 interceptions. If you’re scoring at home, that work out to a 91.3 quarterback rating.
Roethlisberger is 5-0 in the aforementioned games in which he attempted 20 or less passes and 14-5 in the 19 games that he didn’t throw an interception.
For most of his career there’s been a narrative about Smith as it relates to him having small hands. With freezing rain expected Sunday in Kansas City, it will be interesting to see how that affects his ability to throw the football.
The Steelers not only have a better running game than the Chiefs do entering Sundays game, it’s also worth pointing out that the Kansas City defense struggled at times during the regular season when it came to stopping the run just as Pittsburgh did.
The Chiefs will obviously have a big home field advantage over the Steelers on Sunday and it will be interesting to see how that and the weather ultimately plays a role in the game.
Can't stress this enough, widespread freezing rain expected this weekend. Please prepare, as hazardous travel and power outages possible pic.twitter.com/D7u7GtcYlt
— NWS Kansas City (@NWSKansasCity) January 11, 2017