In the fall of 2017, Florida was hit hard by Hurricane Irma and the NFL was forced to postpone a Week 1 game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins. The league decided the easiest thing to do was reschedule the game for Week 11 – when both Miami and Tampa Bay were originally set to have their bye weeks.
Many national football writers said the change would put the Buccaneers and Dolphins at a disadvantage because of the bye week taking place in Week 1 rather than the middle of the season. Oddsmakers, though, didn’t touch their divisional and Super Bowl odds for either club.
If the sportsbooks don’t see something worth acting on, can it really be described as an added edge to the competition?
“We don’t really adjust for bye weeks,” Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts sportsbooks in Las Vegas.
Many professional bettors don’t think of the bye week as a large factor either.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some situational advantages that can be used for astute gamblers. Here’s a look at a few things to keep in mind when betting teams coming off a bye week.
Bye week bounce back
A week off can be a godsend for downtrodden NFL teams. This is often the time a quarterback, coordinator or even head coaching change happens. Two weeks is often enough time to make a larger-scale change.
Teams that were playing well often come out flat, while teams that were struggling often use the extra week to make adjustments.
The Minnesota Vikings started the 2016 campaign 5-0 straight up and against the spread before they entered their bye in Week 6. They failed to cover in their next four straight games and finished the year with an 8-8 record.
That’s obviously an extreme case but still an example when an inconveniently timed bye week can be the death sentence to a team’s momentum.
Short week > Bye week
Multiple oddsmakers and handicappers told us playing on short rest was a factor baked into a pointspread, whereas teams coming off a bye week were not.
Some bettors pay more attention to pro football teams coming off short weeks than teams fresh off a bye, and with good reason. Teams that played Monday night and then played the following Sunday went 43-50-1 straight up and 41-55 against the spread between 2014 and 2016.
Injured star player returns after extra rest
The headline here explains itself but it’s important not to overlook how much an added week of time off can mean to a club if an elite contributor to the offense or defense is able to come back healthy.
“If there are injuries that heal during the extended rest, the odds are adjusted according to the injured players and not the bye week,” says former Las Vegas odds consultant Pete Korner. “I think bettors, oddsmakers and bookmakers all agree the teams coming off a bye week get a nod their way, but no one is tacking on points because of it on its own.”
Divisional spot bet
Are there any scenarios to the numbers that tell us to back or fade a team coming off a bye week?
The bye week in the NFL works best for struggling teams, especially those with losing records in divisional games. These teams are 40-23-1 ATS since 1980 as home dogs.”
Longtime head coaches know how to handle the bye
Andy Reid earned a reputation during his tenure as head coach in Philadelphia for making great use of the bye week. The Eagles went 13-1 straight up and 10-4 ATS under Reid after their regular season bye weeks and 1-3 ATS in the first four years after he left.
Reid’s post bye-week success has carried over to his new post in Kansas City as well. The Chiefs went 3-1 SU and ATS in Reid’s first four years and brought his career win-loss record to 16-2 SU and 13-5 ATS.
Reid isn’t the only sideline boss who benefits from the additional prep time. We surveyed the longest serving head coaches with the same teams and combined their records against the spread in their team’s first game back after the bye week.
The group consisted of Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Jason Garrett, Marvin Lewis, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Andy Reid. All coaches, with the exception of Lewis, were either .500 or better after the bye week. Their collective record was 51-27-2 ATS – good for a 65.3 win rate.