The Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints kickoff at FirstEnergy Stadium early this Christmas Eve in the brisk cold that has blanketed much of the United States in the last 24-36 hours. Severe weather, including cold, wind and snow, has differing levels of impact on a football game and is likely to do so today.
With Cleveland’s playoff hopes down to a 1% chance, the focus at the end of the season has been on QB Deshaun Watson. With many fans focused on how he performs in the cold, I first took a look at just how often it is at freezing or below for the team:
According to StatHead, the Browns have played a grand total of 5 games at home in 32 degree or below weather in the past decade.— Jared Mueller (@JaredKMueller) December 23, 2022
So, quick math, out of 80 games (give or take) 75 home games have been played above freezing.
Use that for whatever narrative you want it to fit
No matter how Watson performs today, odds are that he won’t be playing in these kinds of temperatures very often unless the team is hosting multiple playoff games every year. For now, getting enough wins to make the playoffs has to be the focus more than what happens if/when they get there.
Secondly, using StatHead, I took a look at how many games Watson has played, while in the NFL, at 36 degrees or lower. Surprisingly, it was only once.
In 2020, the Houston Texans traveled to Chicago to take on the Bears with the game-time temperature at 34 degrees. On that day, Watson completed 21 of 30 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked six times, losing 52 yards, and rushed seven times for 38 yards.
For context, Watson’s top running back that day was Buddy Howell with 11 carries for 42 yards and his top receivers were Chad Hansen, Steven Mitchell and Keke Coutee.
The Bears beat the Texans 36-7 as Houston’s defense was one of the worst in the league that year.
While Watson only had one low-temperature game in his career, Browns fans remember the wind game he played in Cleveland as a member of Houston’s organization back in 2020. The game will be remembered for Nick Chubb stepping out of bounds instead of scoring late to seal the Browns 10-7 victory.
On that windy Sunday, Watson completed 20 of 30 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 36 yards on eight carries. Unlike the cold game against Chicago, Watson had some quality support from weapons like David Johnson, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Will Fuller.
For context on that windy day, Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield completed 12 of 20 passes for 132 yards while Chubb and Kareem Hunt carried the day with each rushing for over 100 yards on the ground.
Neither game noted above, or today’s game, will define whether Watson is “good” or “bad” in games impacted by weather. Today’s game will add to the information we have available but it will be just his second cold-weather game and few, if any, quarterbacks can perform when significant wind is a factor.