The NFL's Worst Weather Cities

Jonathan Erdman
Published: October 5, 2019
The Buffalo Bills run to the field before a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York.
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Some of the most legendary games in NFL history were played in terrible weather.

The "Ice Bowl," "Freezer Bowl," "Fog Bowl" and "Tuck Rule" games are burned into the memory of many NFL fans.

Even if your favorite team or anyone on your fantasy roster isn't playing, you'll watch a game in a snowstorm, won't you?

Since we're meteorologists, and a number of us are also NFL fans, we wondered which NFL city has the worst weather.

To figure this out, we examined average weather data from September through December, encompassing the NFL's regular season.

From that data, we calculated a "football weather misery index" (FWMI) combining the number of days with 90-degree-plus heat; at least 0.1 inches of rain; measurable snow; high temperatures at or below 32 degrees; and the monthly average wind speed for each NFL city.

We then ranked the 10 worst weather NFL cities – those with the highest FWMI – of those teams that play home games outdoors. We also calculated FWMI values for those cities with retractable roof or domed stadiums to get a feel for whether a climate-controlled stadium is really needed, if weather was the only consideration.

10. Cincinnati (FWMI: 48)

-Weather factors: September heat, rain, December cold and snow

The most famous bad-weather NFL game in Cincinnati was the January 1982 AFC Championship Game between the host Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, with a kickoff temperature of minus 9 degrees and winds of 20 to 30 mph producing wind chills in the minus 30s (using the current, modern wind chill formula).

Cincinnati averages seven to eight days during which highs don't rise above freezing in late November and December. The city also averages about six days with measurable snow, primarily in December.

But it's not just the cold. As any fan of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team will confirm, late summer heat can lag into September, sometimes affecting a football Sunday in Cincinnati. The Queen City averages about two September days with highs of at least 90 degrees.

The Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers are lined up for a snap during the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(AP Photo)

9. Seattle (FWMI: 49.1)

-Weather factors: Frequent rain, occasional December snow and cold

Seattle's rainy reputation pops to mind first, right?

The city averages 36 days from September through December with at least 0.1 inches of rain, so there's a good chance at least one home game will be wet. It's usually light rain or drizzle, but it can feel quite raw on a November or December day in the 40s, especially if there is also wind involved.

Accumulating snow does fall in Seattle on one to two November or December days, on average. On Nov. 27, 2006, the Seahawks hosted their first outdoor game with falling snow, beating the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

A general view of the field as heavy rain comes down before the Seattle Seahawks take on the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.
(Harry How/Getty Images)

8. Kansas City (FWMI: 50.2)

-Weather factors: Wind, cold late, hot early, rain, cold and snow

The word "Kansas" comes from the Native American word meaning "south wind." Kansas City is tied for the second-windiest NFL outdoor city. They can have strong cold northerly winds or warm southerly winds at any time during the NFL season.

December home games are typically cold. Daytime high temperatures fail to rise above freezing seven to eight December days each year. Snow typically accumulates five days each year from November through December. Such was the case in January 2019 when snow blanketed the field at Arrowhead Stadium before the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC playoff game.

Rain isn't much of a concern in the fall, but when it happens, it can be a soaker. On Oct. 4, 1998, water was cascading out of the stands as 3 to 6 inches of rain soaked a game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Snow covers the field before an AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 12, 2019 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
(Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

7. New England (FWMI: 51.6)

-Weather factors: Windy, wet, snow and cold

Admit it, you probably thought this would be higher in the list.

Bad weather games such as the Tuck Rule game, played in the snow in January 2002, and the December 1982 Snowplow game are burned in the minds of most Patriots fans.

Foxborough, Massachusetts, is the fourth-windiest NFL city. It also has the fifth-highest number of days with at least 0.1 inches of precipitation of any outdoor NFL city.

But given its location relatively close to the ocean, it ranks outside the top five coldest NFL cities and, thus, outside the top five cities with the most days of measurable snow.

You'd still be hard-pressed to find any NFL team that relishes a trip to Foxborough in December, regardless of how well the Patriots are playing.

BenJarvis Green-Ellis of the New England Patriots carries the ball as Chris Hope of the Tennessee Titans defends on Oct. 18, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Titans 59-0.
(Elsa/Getty Images)

6. Miami (FWMI: 56)

-Weather factors: Heat, heavy rain and thunderstorms

Our football weather misery index doesn't only use statistics on cold and snow; It also includes heat and rain.

Miami averages 17 to 18 days each September and October when daytime highs soar into the 90s, second only to Tampa among NFL cities without climate-controlled stadiums.

Early-season games played in this heat and humidity can be a slog, particularly if it's the first week of the season and a team's starters have only played parts of preseason games.

Then there's Florida's liquid sunshine. Miami has the fourth-most days – 29 to 30 days, on average – with precipitation during the NFL regular season of all outdoor stadium cities.

A brief shower or thunderstorm can interrupt a game, or heavier rain can turn the game into a quagmire, such as the 1982 AFC Championship game.

There's also the unsettling wild card of the hurricane season's peak months landing in the first two months of the NFL season.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto cause a lightning storm during the game as the Miami Dolphins take on the St. Louis Rams at Dolphin Stadium during their preseason game on Aug. 31, 2006 in Miami, Florida.
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)

5. Chicago (FWMI: 57)

-Weather factors: Cold, snow and wind

As Chicago Tribune writer Kori Rumore wrote, perhaps the fight song played after every Bears score at Soldier Field, "Bear Down, Chicago Bears," should instead be called "Brrrrr Down."

Chicago is the second-coldest NFL city with an outdoor stadium. On average, daytime temperatures don't rise above freezing in 14 late November and December days. Rumore listed four Bears games with kickoff temperatures in the single digits.

Chicago averages only nine days with measurable snow from November through December, not among the top five cities in that metric. It's the fifth-windiest NFL city with an outdoor stadium.

But it's not just about the snow and cold.

A New Year's Eve playoff game in 1988 was played in dense fog which moved quickly over Soldier Field by the second quarter. Severe thunderstorms prompted officials to clear the stands and playing field on Nov. 17, 2013, a day in which a tornado outbreak occurred in Illinois and surrounding states.

A fan is bundled up during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on Dec. 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 30-27.
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

4. Pittsburgh (FWMI: 57.3)

-Weather factors: Cold, snow and rain

Pittsburgh ranks in the top five NFL outdoor stadium cities for days with snow – 11 to 12 – and days with highs of 32 degrees or colder – 10 – during the regular season, primarily from November into December.

The Steel City also ranks just outside the top five for days with at least 0.1 inches of precipitation – 26 – from September through December.

All that rain or snow can do a number on the Heinz Field grass.

Perhaps the signature recent bad weather game in Pittsburgh was a 3-0 Steelers win against the Miami Dolphins in November 2007 known as "Monday Night Mud."

One to two inches of rain turned the field into a muddy mess just after the state high school championship games tore up the field. Players got stuck in muck up to their ankles at times. One punt buried into the turf, rather than bouncing normally.

A member of the Heinz Field grounds crew blows snow off the hash marks during the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 8, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

3. Cleveland (FWMI: 65.2)

-Weather factors: Snow, wind, rain and cold

Regardless of whether the hometown Browns are struggling, the weather in Cleveland is often compelling, especially late in the season.

With a stadium located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, there's little to stop a howling west, northwest or north wind coming off the lake. Cleveland is tied with Kansas City as the second-windiest NFL city with an outdoor stadium.

Late in the NFL season, that wind off the lake can generate lake-effect snow. Usually that's heaviest in the lake-effect snowbelts northeast of Cleveland, but occasionally, those snowbands blanket downtown. Cleveland has the second-most days with measurable snow – 13 to 14 – of any NFL city with an outdoor stadium.

While Cleveland's proximity to Lake Erie can slightly moderate its cold compared to other NFL cities on our list, that isn't always the case.

The temperature at kickoff of a 1981 AFC playoff game between the Browns and Oakland Raiders was 4 degrees, the coldest game at the time since the 1967 Ice Bowl in Green Bay. Due to the brutal cold and windy conditions, the Browns decided against trying a game-winning field goal in the final minute and instead ran the infamous "Red Right 88" play, which resulted in a game-clinching interception by the Raiders in the end zone.

Fans brave the weather to watch the Buffalo Bills play the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on Dec. 17, 2007.
(Albert Dickson/Sporting News via Getty Images)

2. Green Bay (FWMI: 65.6)

-Weather factors: Cold, snow and wind

Green Bay is easily the coldest NFL city with an outdoor stadium that's the stuff of legend.

Twenty-one days with high temperatures failing to rise above freezing is considered an average November through December in the NFL's smallest city. This is seven more such days than the next coldest city, Chicago.

Green Bay isn't one of the five windiest NFL outdoor cities, but when wind combines with Arctic cold in December or January, it can be a brutal experience.

The 1967 Ice Bowl between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys is arguably the most iconic bad-weather game in NFL history. The kickoff temperature was minus 13 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 36. Players were treated for frostbite. Referees had to shout signals instead of using metal whistles that could stick to their lips. Over 50,000 fans braved the frigid conditions. One fan died from exposure to the cold.

More recently, the 2008 NFC Championship game kicked off with a temperature of minus 1, a game the visiting New York Giants won to reach the Super Bowl.

Prior to reaching that NFC Championship game, the Packers hosted the Seattle Seahawks as snow accumulated on the Lambeau Field turf. Green Bay ranks third among NFL cities in days with measurable snow during the season – 13 to 14.

The Green Bay Packers huddle in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks with a 42-20 lead during the NFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 12, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

1. Buffalo (FWMI: 77.4)

-Weather factors: Snow, windand cold

This was a runaway. No NFL city puts its players and fans in more challenging weather than Buffalo.

Buffalo is, by far, the snowiest city in the NFL. The city averages 19 to 20 days with measurable snow each NFL season, primarily in late November and December. This is roughly six more such days than Cleveland or Green Bay.

Cold winds blowing off Lake Erie manufacture heavy bands of lake-effect snow that can park over the Buffalo metro area for hours, dumping feet of snow. The Bills' stadium is located in Orchard Park, one of the Southtowns frequently pummeled by lake-effect snow.

The week before Thanksgiving 2014, up to 88 inches of lake-effect snow buried the Buffalo metro area, paralyzing travel and prompting the NFL to move a Sunday scheduled game between the host Bills and New York Jets to Detroit on Monday night.

More recently in December 2017, a lake snowband parked itself over Orchard Park, dumping an estimated 8 to 9 inches of snow in what may have been the most memorable weather game in Bills history.

"Walking toward the stadium from the parking lots, you had no idea a stadium was even there," Patrick Hammer, chief meteorologist at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, told weather.com via Twitter. "Entering the stands through the tunnel, you could barely make out the bright red jerseys of Bills players."

Steve Tasker, a former Buffalo Bills special teams player, CBS analyst and resident of the city for over 30 years, told SI.com he had "never seen the franchise play a game in these conditions."

For Bills' fans, a touchdown pass, the game-winning overtime touchdown run and a snowball-fight celebration after a quarterback sack were unforgettable.

Local TV ratings were the second-highest for any Bills game since 2000, second only to another snowy game between the Bills and Browns in Cleveland in 2007.

Buffalo is also by far the windiest NFL city. Buffalo's gales either associated with a November Great Lakes storm, a December/early January nor'easter or a cold front can be disruptive.

In December 2008, the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills played through a game in which the winds were so strong the goalposts had to be straightened four times. Gusts to 75 mph damaged the Bills' practice fieldhouse prior to kickoff.

The goalpost tips after being blown by high winds during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Dec. 28, 2008 in Orchard Park, New York.
(Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

So, our worst weather Super Bowl matchup would be the Green Bay Packers against the Buffalo Bills, and the Bills would finally win that Super Bowl.

Football Weather Misery Index List

If you didn't see your team in the top 10, here is a full list of the football weather misery indices we calculated for all NFL cities with teams that do not play their home games in climate-controlled stadiums. Remember, a higher FWMI means worse weather.

1. Buffalo (77.4)

2. Green Bay (65.6)

3. Cleveland (65.2)

4. Pittsburgh (57.3)

5. Chicago (57.0)

6. Miami (56.0)

7. New England (51.6)

8. Kansas City (50.2)

9. Seattle (49.1)

10. Cincinnati (48)

11. Tampa Bay (46.4)

12. Denver (43.2)

13. New York/New Jersey (41.8)

14. Jacksonville (39.8)

15. Tennessee (39.7)

16. Philadelphia (39.2)

17. Washington (38.6)

18. Baltimore (37.9)

19. Carolina (31.9)

20. Oakland (24.5)

21. San Francisco (22.4)

22. Los Angeles (17)

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.