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Super Bowl Will be Far From a Winter Apocalypse

Putting this Sunday's Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in a cold-weather city for the very first time, it seemed the NFL was courting weather chaos. The Super Bowl is a game weaned on the balmy weather of Miami and New Orleans and Los Angeles, and if it heads north, it snuggles under a dome. So, ever since the NFL announced Super Bowl XLVIII would be played in MetLife Stadium, everyone predicted winter doom for the Big Apple's big game: driving snowstorms, hopelessly gridlocked traffic on icy roads, fans frozen into meat popsicles.

But while no one is going to mistake MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, N.J., for the Orange Bowl, it doesn’t even crack the top 5 coldest NFL stadiums. And if the current forecast holds true, the game will be far from a winter apocalypse.

The average high temperature at outdoor stadiums around the league during the first week of February, when the Super Bowl has been played since 2004, is 47.8°F. The average high temperature over that period at MetLife Stadium, the home of the New York Giants and Jets, is below that average, coming in at 39.6°F.

The 10 coldest stadiums in the NFL during the first week of February. While this year's Super Bowl is in a cold-weather locale, it's hardly the coldest place the game could be played.

The home fields of the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, and the New England Patriots are all colder. Perhaps not surprisingly, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., which has been dubbed “The Frozen Tundra” as the home of the fabled Packers, takes the honor of the coldest stadium in the NFL. The average high there during the first week of February is 25.6°F. Of course, the league isn't putting a Super Bowl there either.

As the forecast reads now, this wouldn’t even be the coldest outdoor Super Bowl. After a week of frigid temperatures -- thanks the second coming of the polar vortex this year -- the Northeast will warm substantially. The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in East Rutherford is cloudy skies with a high of 48°F. The temperature is forecast drop to 42°F at 6 p.m., a half hour before kickoff and 36°F at 11 p.m. when the Lombardi Trophy is likely to hoisted.

The current record holder for the coldest outdoor game is Super Bowl VI, which was played in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium in 1972. The high temperature on January 16, the day it was played, was 43°F while the overnight low hit 24°F.

Just one year later the Super Bowl had its hottest game-day high record. Super Bowl VII was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum where the daytime high was 82°F. That record was tied again in 2003 in another Southern California locale, San Diego.

Weather records and climate data is interesting, but can the weather actually affect the outcome of a game? According to an analysis from MIT, yes it can.  When the temperature dips below 50°F, kickers’ accuracy takes a dive, too. Cold weather has more of a chilling effect on kickers than “icing” them by calling a timeout, or the two other weather factors – precipitation and wind.

The only factor that has a greater impact on field goal success rates than temperature? Altitude, which isn't a factor. East Rutherford sits 7 feet above sea level.

That same research suggests Lambeau Field again takes the dubious honor of being the hardest stadium in which to kick a field goal while Denver's Mile High is by far the easiest.

All this is to say if Sunday’s Super Bowl is a 3-point game with a minute left, check your thermometer before reaching for your hygrometer or anemometer.

The Broncos and Seahawks might not even realize there's a chill in the air.

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