After the Patriots miracle victory over the Denver Broncos, a few things jump out at me. First, Tom Brady's perfect spiral may be not so important in a domed stadium, but when the weather is cold and the wind is gusting, it really makes a difference if the quarterback can throw a really tight spiral. Peyton Manning, not so much. He is one of the greatest of all time, but it's hard to throw the ball into the teeth of a cold Massachusetts wind if it wobbles. Kudos for the great discussion of this effect by Mike Greenberg et al of ESPN, and especially the analysis provided by Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
Leave it to ESPN to also provide some great stats, which you can find here: ESPN: tom-brady-thrives-in-new-england-weather . To cut to the chase, Brady (qb rating 91.4), Aaron Rodgers (102.6) and Ben Roethlisberger (95.6)---all qbs from cold weather cities--have outstanding records when the weather is below freezing, whereas Manning is 2-6 with a very pedestrian 68.8 quarterback rating.
Peyton Manning's throws may be harder to catch on a cold and windy field.
That point was underscored by Coach Belichick's decision to have the wind at their back, rather than receiving the kickoff in overtime. It did make a critical difference.
Still, it drives me nuts that teams are so afraid of Peyton Manning's deep ball. They continually play the defensive backs a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, fearing that they may get torched by the Broncos' wide receivers. Then they try to catch Peyton with zone blitzes and the like. I think this is backwards. Nowadays, Peyton is making his living by making short passes, not the bomb. I don't think he has such a great arm anymore. And nobody tricks Manning with a zone blitz. You might catch a rookie unawares, but Manning is one of the best in the world at coping with the blitz. I think you cover his receivers with tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. Instead of trying to fool him with a blitz, teams should use an extra defensive back and challenge his receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Which brings me to another point. What is the Super Bowl going to be like in New York in February? Players were dropping the football all over the field in the New England vs Denver game, and so the Super Bowl may be error prone as well if the weather is cold in February in New York. But terrible weather would favor a team like the Patriots and Tom Brady if they get that far.