This weekend marks the first weekend of the NFL playoffs, commonly known as “wildcard weekend.” There are four games being played, two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday. The #3 seed hosts the #6 and the #5 seed visits the #4 seed in each conference. For the 2017 NFL playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans will see the Oakland Raiders visit, the Detroit Lions go to the Seattle Seahawks and the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field will see the Green Bay Packers play the New York Giants.
The general weather pattern for the Lower 48 this weekend will feature storms on both coasts. A winter storm will take an unusually far southern track near the Gulf of Mexico before it tries to turn up the East coast. Recent model trends suggest that this storm will likely head out to sea far south of Pennsylvania. No snow should fall in areas north of the Mason-Dixon line, including the city of Pittsburgh. However, this situation bears careful observation as we get closer to Sunday as a northward jog in the track of the storm could change the forecast and bring snow into western Pennsylvania. At the very least, it will be cold and breezy, with temperatures in the 20s, wind speeds near 10 mph and wind chills in the single digits making for challenging weather conditions when the game is played Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of cold, Green Bay is typically cold this time of year and the game Sunday evening will not be an exception. Temperatures will only be in the teens and will fall to near 10 by the end of the game. A few flurries are possible but an accumulating snow does not look to be in the cards. Luckily, wind should not be a factor and temperatures could be far colder. The Giants and Packers should almost consider themselves lucky to be playing in Green Bay in early January and not experience more extreme weather.
The game in Seattle could also see some less than ideal weather conditions. This game will be held Saturday night and will likely see rain fall at times as a low pressure system comes onshore north of them over British Columbia in Canada. Century Link Field in Seattle is designed so that the north end is completely open and the south end is partially enclosed. Thus, any rain that falls will slicken the FieldTurf that covers the field and could impact the game. With this storm to their north, winds could be gusty at times as well. With the design of the field, swirling winds could play a role in both the kicking and passing games, making the running game more important than usual.
The first game of the weekend will be played in Houston late Saturday afternoon. Relatively chilly conditions with the slight chance of rain will likely cause the retractable roof to be closed meaning that weather will not play a role in this game.
Historically, some of the worst weather encountered by NFL players has occurred on wildcard weekend. We do not have to go too far back for a great example. On January 10, 2016, the Minnesota Vikings hosted the Seattle Seahawks in a game which saw the temperature to begin the game at -6 Fahrenheit, which made it one of the 5 coldest NFL games ever. Windchills hovered near 25 below zero.
Another wildcard weekend game that featured terrible weather was January 5, 2014 as the Green Bay Packers played host to the San Francisco 49’ers. This game is also on the list of of the 5 coldest NFL games ever. Temperatures hovered between -5 and -10 Fahrenheit during the game with wind chills averaging near -30 Fahrenheit. The record low temperature for the date was set at -18 Fahrenheit.