Handicapping NFL Bye Weeks

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The NFL introduced the bye week to the schedule back in 1990. Each team plays 16 regular season games over 17 weeks. Teams have rotated their bye weeks each season. Opening weekend was moved up to Labor Day weekend when the bye weeks took effect. The idea was installed to give players a much-needed week of rest during a long, brutal season.

Handicapping NFL bye weeks is huge if you are a serious sports bettor. The goal is to predict how a team will use their bye week in anticipation for their next game. It’s important to study the numbers to see where there can be advantages in wagering on or against teams off a bye week. That’s why I have put together bye week data that stems back to 1990. Let’s see what I have found.

NFL Teams Off of a Bye Week Against the Spread

All-Time (1990-2012*)
Situation
Wins
Losses
Pushes
Win %
Overall
334
316
14
52.1%
Home
177
176
7
50.1%
Road
167
140
7
54.4%
Favorites
186
160
7
53.8%
Underdogs
152
146
7
51.0%
Home Favorites
117
120
5
49.4%
Home Underdogs
57
51
2
52.8%
Road Favorites
69
40
2
63.3%
Road Underdogs
95
95
5
50.0%

*Excludes data from the 2001 NFL season because the 9/11 Attacks gave teams an additional week off.

While it does not appear there has been much of an advantage overall since 1990 with a 334-316-14 (52.1%) record against the spread, there are certain situations that have been very profitable.  Road teams have hit at a 167-140-7 (54.4%) ATS clip.  A big reason for this could be that oddsmakers over-adjust for home-field advantage, and under-adjust for those road teams coming off a bye.

More specifically, road favorites off a bye have gone an amazing 69-40-2 (63.3% ATS).  Home underdogs have also showed a small profit at 57-51-2 (52.8%) ATS.  It looks like you want to avoid home favorites, which have gone 117-120-5 (49.4%) ATS.  Once again, oddsmakers are likely over-adjusting both for home-field advantage and the fact that the team is coming off a bye.

Comparing Two Eras

Following a Bye Against the Spread 2003-2012
Following a Bye Against the Spread 1990-2002*
Situation
Wins
Losses
Pushes
Win %
Situation
Wins
Losses
Pushes
Win %
Overall
176
138
6
56.1%
Overall
168
178
8
48.6%
Home
91
72
2
55.8%
Home
86
104
5
45.3%
Road
85
66
4
56.0%
Road
82
74
3
52.6%
Favorites
106
60
2
69.3%
Favorites
80
100
5
44.4%
Underdogs
69
76
4
47.6%
Underdogs
83
70
3
54.2%
Home Favorites
67
46
1
59.3%
Home Favorites
50
74
4
40.3%
Home Underdogs
23
25
1
47.9%
Home Underdogs
34
26
1
56.7%
Road Favorites
39
14
1
73.6%
Road Favorites
30
26
1
53.6%
Road Underdogs
46
51
3
47.4%
Road Underdogs
49
44
2
52.7%

*Excludes data from the 2001 NFL season because the 9/11 Attacks gave teams an additional week off.

I have also gone through the data and broken down teams off a bye from two different eras. Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that backing teams off a bye has been very profitable since 2003, but it wasn’t a winning move at all from 1990-2002. It’s hard telling exactly what the reason may be, but the fact of the matter is that the past 10 years have been amazing for bettors backing teams off a bye.

Teams off a bye went a combined 168-178-8 (48.6%) ATS from 1990-2002. Conversely, teams off a bye from 2003-2012 went a stellar 176-138-6 (56.1%) ATS off a bye. While I’m not certain of the exact reason, I believe that players these days get a lot more rest than they did say in the early 1990’s. Coaches were more demanding of beating each other up on a bye week before, whereas coaches now just want their players to get healthy and will take every precaution to make sure that happens.

Favorites off a bye since 2003 have gone a ridiculous 106-60-2 (69.3%) ATS. The best favorites to back have been road favorites, which have hit at a 39-14-1 (73.6%) ATS clip over the past 10 seasons. Underdogs are just 69-76-4 (47.6%) since 2003, but they were much better before, going 83-70-3 (54.2%) ATS from 1990-2002. The only teams that I would feel confident betting blindly are road favorites.

While there are some trends that you can bet blindly and come out ahead in the long run, it’s necessary to also put in the research to make sure that backing a team with your hard-earned money makes sense. I like looking for situations like motivational factors for teams off a bye and their opponents. If a team is coming off a bad loss prior to its bye, it is likely to come back even more motivated for a win than it would be on a normal week.

If a team is coming off a bye and its opponent is coming off a tough game against a division opponent, I believe this is an excellent time to back the team off a bye week. That’s because its opponent is likely to have a letdown off a big win or a physical game against a division foe. Also, check to see if the bye team’s opponent has a big game on deck, which is what I like to call a look-ahead spot. These are just a couple of different situations to look for when handicapping bye weeks.

2013 Road Favorites Off a Bye (Projected)

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