When you win your division, you’re awarded a home game. Some argue about possible re-seeding, but the NFL has held firm in their stance that divisional winners should be rewarded with a home game, despite their overall records.
It wouldn’t have mattered in the AFC Wild Card game between the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and the Miami Dolphins (10-6) but, with the Dolphins coming to Heinz Field, there will be more than just the home crowd influencing the game.
Mother Nature is taking care of that herself.
According to NFLWeather.com, the kickoff temperature at Heinz Field will be a balmy 17 degrees Fahrenheit. But don’t worry, after the 1 p.m. ET kickoff, it’s supposed to warm up all the way to 22 degrees by the fourth quarter. All the while, with 10-20 mph winds swirling along the three rivers.
Yeah, it’s going to be cold, but will that have an impact on the game? Depends on who you ask. Several members of the Steelers said the cold matters, while other members of the team, and the Dolphins, shook off any notion whatsoever of the game-time temperatures mattering.
But there’s one tidbit of information worth noting which caught my eye on Twitter the other day. The Dolphins have yet to play a game this season in sub-freezing temperatures.
Sure, there are some colder games on that schedule, such as the games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Week 15 and 16. But those will pale in comparison to the weather expected in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Although Mike Tomlin shunned the idea of weather being a factor, he’s going to great lengths to get his players acclimated. This week the Steelers have practiced primarily indoors, with the doors open and fans blowing the cold air into the practice facility. So much for not paying attention to the weather forecast.
Still, many debate whether this will actually influence the game in any way. I’m a believer that it might in several areas.
A player not used to carrying the football in this type of weather could easily cough up a fumble. Catching the football with extremely cold hands isn’t something teams from Miami experience very often, and kicking the ball, whether placekicking or punting, becomes a unique challenge when the ball hardens in the cold.
Whichever side of the aisle you occupy in this debate, there’s no debating that it’s going to be cold and windy on Sunday — and may the best team win.