Run game helps in cold weather? Maybe not

Robert Zizzo
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At the midway point of any NFL season, you hear a lot of bluster about how teams that don't have a strong running offense won't be successful when the temperature drops.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) tries to elude Carolina Panthers defenders while making a run in the second quarter during Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

The thinking is that cold weather complicates the passing game: the ball is harder, the wind picks up, players' hands are colder and more slippery.

But some number-crunching pokes holes in that theory, at least when it comes to the Green Bay Packers.

Since the 2008 season, the Packers have played 22 games in which the temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees or colder. They are 14-7-1 in those games.

But the results don't bear out the claim that more rushing yards equals a greater chance at winning.

In the 14 games the Packers won, they averaged 119.14 rushing yards. In the eight games they either lost or tied, they averaged 124.25 rushing yards.

A closer look at the total rushing yards in such games since 2012 shows that the results skew even further against the conventional wisdom. In Green Bay's two losses and one tie in those games, it ran for 124, 151 and 196 yards. In Green Bay's four wins, it ran for 76, 112, 117 and 160.

There are no doubt dozens of other factors that account for winning or losing in cold weather. But for the Packers at least, the ability to run the ball effectively hasn't been a strong determining factor.

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