It will be frigid in Orchard Park tomorrow. Single digits. The expected day-time high is 10 degrees, and this is an evening kickoff. What kind of effect (if any) will this have on the offenses of the Bills and Patriots?

I would think that for both teams, the conditions will translate into more running and less passing. That’s the way it tends to play out when the temperature drops. Neither Dan Fouts nor Ken Anderson, going way back, put up good passing numbers in the Freezer Bowl in 1982. And neither Bart Starr nor Don Meredith (going even further back) was passing much in the Ice Bowl.

In the last cold-weather playoff game, the Seahawks beat Minnesota 10-9, with both Russell Wilson and Teddy Bridgewater passing for fewer than 130 yards. Both of those teams, of course, also had great defenses, but the weather likely played a role.

Since 2000, there have been 13 games played in single-digit temperatures. We can look at the team totals for these games and see that passing production tended to be down. Not every time. Josh McCown somehow passes for 341 yards and 4 TDs in a game against Dallas in 2013. And Matt Schaub pulled off a 414-yard game at Lambeau in 2008. But far more often, quarterbacks tend to finish with fewer yards and touchdowns when we get down into single digit games.

The stats for these 26 teams appear below, and they show those offenses averaging 207 passing yards, with 31 touchdowns and 21 interceptions (on 59 percent passing). Of those 26 teams, only 9 finished with multiple touchdown passes. All but 5 finished with fewer than 245 passing yards.

The teams as a whole averaged 17.9 points in those games – scoring was down.

Sack numbers, by the way, not as high as you might expect – 48, or about 1.8 per game. That’s below-average.

For tomorrow’s game, unlikely, I think, that either Josh Allen or (especially) Mac Jones puts up monster numbers. They’re fighting the conditions, and they’re also going up against the two defenses that ranked 1st and 2nd against the pass. Allen, of course, is a little different in that he’s both a runner and a passer; he also has considerable experience playing in adverse weather – both in Buffalo and at Wyoming.

2021New Englandat BUF?????
2017Green BayMINL 0-161260210
2017Minnesotaat GBW 16-01241010
2016Tennesseeat KCW 19-17241011
2016Kansas CityTENL 17-19159011
2015Seattleat MINW 10-912911-6
2015MinnesotaSEAL 9-1012500-6
2013ChicagoDALW 45-28341408
2013Atlantaat GBL 21-22202219
2013Green BayATLW 22-21222119
2013San Franciscoat GBW 23-20214115
2013Green BaySFL 20-23157105
2013Dallasat CHIL 28-45130308
2008Houstonat GBW 24-21408213
2008Kansas CityMIAL 31-383122310
2008Green Bayat CHIL 17-20260212
2008Miamiat KCW 38-312353110
2008Green BayHOUL 21-24279213
2008ChicagoGBW 20-17136122
2007NY Giantsat GBW 23-2024300-1
2007Green BayNYGL 20-2323622-1
2003New EnglandTENW 17-14201104
2003Tennesseeat NEL 14-17200114
2000Denverat KCL 7-20225009
2000Jacksonvilleat CINL 14-17162109
2000Kansas CityDENW 20-7160009
2000CincinnatiJAXW 17-14157019

I think it’s the running games that get more interesting tomorrow, particularly with both New England and Buffalo having problems against the run at times. With the Patriots, three times late in the year running backs who weren’t even on rosters in the first half of the season went over 100 yards against them – D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard and Duke Johnson. Devin Singletary has been coming on anyway. I like the look of him for this game.

And the Patriots have had success slamming away with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. If they’re able to pull off an upset in this one, it will be with the running game playing a big role. New England ran the ball well in its earlier game at Buffalo (which was also affected by weather).

Looking at the previous cold-weather games of the last 20 years, I see teams averaging 28 carries for 121 yards, with 23 TDs (in 26 games). That’s more in line with what you would expect in regular weather (if not maybe even a little higher).

2021New Englandat BUF??????
2017Green BayMINL 0-16241134.7010
2017Minnesotaat GBW 16-0331123.4010
2016Kansas CityTENL 17-19281575.621
2016Tennesseeat KCW 19-17291485.121
2015Seattleat MINW 10-928973.50-6
2015MinnesotaSEAL 9-1029582.00-6
2013Dallasat CHIL 28-45281987.118
2013ChicagoDALW 45-28321494.718
2013San Franciscoat GBW 23-20301675.615
2013Green BaySFL 20-23311244.015
2013Green BayATLW 22-21331123.419
2013Atlantaat GBL 21-2223833.609
2008Kansas CityMIAL 31-38211808.6210
2008Miamiat KCW 38-31301685.6210
2008Houstonat GBW 24-21311414.603
2008Green BayHOUL 21-24201085.413
2008ChicagoGBW 20-1726742.912
2008Green Bayat CHIL 17-2029652.202
2007NY Giantsat GBW 23-20391343.42-1
2007Green BayNYGL 20-2314282.00-1
2003New EnglandTENW 17-1427963.614
2003Tennesseeat NEL 14-1726843.214
2000Kansas CityDENW 20-7412646.429
2000Denverat KCL 7-2014533.809
2000Jacksonvilleat CINL 14-17341143.419
2000CincinnatiJAXW 17-14271063.919

Statistics compiled using search tools at

—Ian Allan