The Bye Week: Does it Play a Role in Wagering?

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Jack Clayton - 10/22/2011 11:56 AM
by Jack Clayton

The NFL is kind enough to give teams a bye week at some point during the season. This was done in the past because of the unbalanced schedule, but with the addition of the Houston Texans in 2002, this is no longer the case. But there still will be bye weeks and they’ll occur this season between weeks two and ten. So, each week, some players are forced to sit and watch football on Sunday, rather than play.

Ideally, a team would like to have that bye week right in the middle of the season, or for those teams postseason bound, near the end of the year. A few years ago in the first week of the NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals had their bye the first week, after which they played for 16 straight weeks! Not exactly the ideal schedule.

With respects to wagering, the bye week is worth examining closely. The bye week allows teams to rest players and the coaches have two weeks to prepare for a game, while their opponent has only one week to prepare. This is why it’s important to play close attention to home dogs following a bye week.

Since the 1998 season, home dogs in that situation are 24-16-1 ATS. Just as important, the home dogs seem to get very mad, as they have won many of those games outright (some as a +6, +8 and a +10 dogs). If you’re a money-line player, this is a great spot to jump on the home dog that has two weeks to prepare (and rest). A +6 money-line home dog might be +220 on the money-line, while a +8 to +10 could be in the +300-400 range. This is terrific for bettors, as it’s a small investment with a realistic potential for a large return.

There are several reasons for this. I already mentioned the fact that the coaches have two weeks to prepare. This is significant, as coaches dissect many hours of game film each week trying to find weaknesses of upcoming opponents. With two weeks to prepare, a team is doubling the possibilities of finding edges.

Another factor is that the team is a home dog. As they take the field, 50,000 fans are cheering for the home club to pull off the upset, and nothing can make a season sweeter for a .500 club, for example, than to knock off a playoff team. Combine the home field edge with the fact that the players have two weeks to rest their bodies from all the bumps and bruises they normally suffer during the season, and you have a team that is in prime physical and mental shape to pull off an upset.

It’s hard to believe the Arizona Cardinals were a road favorite at Dallas, but that’s what happened one season on October 28. Dallas had two weeks to prepare and as a home dog the Cowboys beat Arizona easily, 17-3. In 2000, the Chargers suffered through an unlucky 1-15 season, but as a 7-point home dog following their bye week, they covered easily and nearly won outright against the Raiders, losing 15-13. And the Chicago Bears were a 7-point home dog in the same situation to Peyton Manning and the mighty Colts, but the Bears scored a 27-24 upset to the delight of the hometown fans.

The 1999 champion Rams lost three games that season on the way to winning the Super Bowl. Two of those three losses were against home dogs coming off their bye week that had two weeks to prepare. The Titans scored a 24-21 upset (as a +3 dog) while the 5-11 Eagles upset the Rams 38-31 as a +7 home dog.

Those games can go over the total a lot, as well. This is a direct result of the coaches having two weeks to prepare, which favors the offense more than the defense. The offensive coaches have the opportunity to find weaknesses in the defense via game films and come up with trick plays, for example, to attack the opponent.

So pay close attention to bye weeks and put a circle around teams that have two weeks to prepare for a game. And don’t be afraid to jump on those home dogs, because the bye week can make a dog’s bite more powerful.

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