Winds of change

Week 5 NFL weather report

Week 5 NFL weather report
Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs may be dealing with rain. Andrew Mather, Chiefs team website

This weekend the country will be split between red and blue, but not only because of the Supreme Court confirmation vote. What I really mean though is that an area of high pressure will be causing very warm temperatures in the eastern half of the country, and a dip in the jet stream will allow colder air from Canada to drop in over the western part of the nation (except California, because usual weather rules never seem to apply to California). In between these contrasting airmasses… WAR. Well not really, but there will be a good deal of rain. And wouldn’t you know it, this week’s game of the week is sitting smack in the middle of that rainy sweet spot.

Jaguars @ Chiefs (12:00 PM Sunday) This is easily the game of the week. You have the unstoppable force that is the Chiefs offense versus the immovable object of the Jags defense. Unfortunately though Kansas City is sitting right in the conflict zone between the warm air to the east and cold air to the west.  On Saturday a cold front looks to push through Kansas City only to stall just to the south and waffle back north as a warm front on Sunday bringing some solid rainfall. At the moment rain looks like a possibility for the entire game but is definitely more likely during the early portions.  How quickly the warm front moves back through the KC area will determine timing though. So, while you should set your lineups or wagers planning on rain, check back before game time for some more refined details. The wet conditions would obviously seem to play to the Jaguars as a defensive and run-first minded team.  Kansas City on the other hand may be held back on offense a little more than they would be otherwise as airing it out will be a riskier proposition. Here are my thoughts on position group impacts (3 arrows possible)

QB: ↓↓

RB: ↑↑

WR: ↓↓

TE: ↓

K: ↓

DEF: ↑↑

Raiders at LA Chargers (3:05 PM Sunday) California is making a rare appearance in the weather report this week thanks to strong winds.  October is usually a month that sees an increase in windy spells in the state in part thanks to the Santa Ana Winds.  This game will see southwest winds around 15 MPH gusting up to 20 or 25 MPH. The stadium’s orientation will have winds blowing diagonally across the field and the relatively small and short-topped stadium the Charges play in will provide less of a wind break than other stadiums might.  In these conditions look for negative impacts on the deep passing game and for kickers, but a slight positive bump for tight-ends in the short game and running backs. Position impacts as follows:

QB: ↓

RB: ↑

WR: ↓

TE: ↑

K: ↓↓

DEF: ↑

Cardinals @ 49ers (3:25 PM Sunday) This game will also have a wind issue, with winds in this part of northern California being even stronger than in LA.  The wind should be blowing out of the northwest at 20 MPH with gusts of 25 to 30 MPH, which with the stadium’s orientation will cause the wind to blow diagonally across the field.  Impacts here will be like the game above but slightly more pronounced (especially considering the caliber of quarterbacks in this matchup):

QB: ↓↓

RB: ↑

WR: ↓

TE: ↑

K: ↓↓↓

DEF: ↑

For more information on any other games, to check in on conditions before kickoff, or if you have any other questions you can find me on Twitter @stephenuzick.


 

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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