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Betting NFL Teams off Bye Weeks

Football Betting Strategy: Betting Teams Coming Off Bye-Weeks

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Beginning in 1990, the NFL instituted bye-weeks, meaning every team in the NFL would get one week off during the regular season. The result is that it takes 17 weeks to complete a 16-game schedule. When it comes to betting on the NFL, a team coming off a bye-week gives that game an extra wrinkle to consider.

The facts speak for themselves. Since 1990, NFL teams coming off the bye are 349-321-13 against the spread. That’s a 52% winning percentage--not enough to even cover the vig. If you have been betting on every team coming off a bye-week since it was incepted, you would be losing. You’d be close to even with this type of play--not bad, but hardly what you would call an “angle.”

In 2012, NFL teams were 18-14 coming off a bye-week for a 56% clip. You would have seen a small profit betting teams coming off a bye, but overall, it is questionable whether this qualifies as a successful move. If you can isolate some cases where the bye will especially help a team--that’s the way to go. Blindly betting on bye-teams isn’t really going to get you anywhere.

In short, teams coming off a bye-week tend to get a little extra credit from bettors. It makes sense on paper. With a long training camp and preseason, a bye-week means players will be getting some of their first substantial rest in months. A bye-week means a team will have two weeks in between games--one of them being off-time. Theoretically, a rested team should be better than a team without rest.


Players have time to nurse nagging injuries. They are afforded the opportunity of recharging their mental batteries. Struggling players have a moment to reflect and get back on the right track. Coaches have extra time to game-plan for the upcoming game and to dig into their bag of motivational tricks to get players to circle the wagon. So perhaps one would think betting on teams coming off a bye-week is a good move. Maybe.

Keep in mind that whether a team is coming off a bye-week or not is pretty non-exclusive information. The NFL betting public surely knows about it. So, the value gets sucked out of it a little bit, especially if a lot of bettors are wagering on a team because they are supposedly well-rested coming off the bye. Another consideration is that if betting on NFL teams coming off a bye became a bet that covered a disproportionate percentage of wagers, the bookies would correct it. So even if in the past several years, teams coming off a bye have been covering at about 60%, that could flip on its head without warning. By the time something becomes a pattern to the point where you notice it, it’s that much closer to drying up.

It’s also important to consider the specific team’s condition going into the bye. It can be difficult to get a good read on it. There are a ton of different considerations. What if a team that was supposed to be good is 3-6 with 3 straight losses coming into the bye-week? Will some time off help? Or will they just have more time to stew in the disappointment? Or what if a hot team is 7-1 coming into the bye-week? Maybe the last thing they wanted was to cool off their jets. Again, there are many different situations. It’s crucial to know where a team stands psychologically.

We need to remember we’re not generally trying to pick straight-up winners, but rather trying to beat the spread. So while there are undeniable benefits in having a bye-week, that’s more in the sense of the bottom line result on the field. Bettors are obviously governed by other factors. A well-rested team coming off their bye-week posting a 3-point victory might be a satisfactory result for the team. But if we needed that team to win by 6, it doesn’t do us any good. We need to be careful to not confuse things that while helping a team, don’t get us any closer to covering spreads. Sure, teams coming off a bye may offer us a tiny overall edge, but it’s not a consideration that is really going to make that big of a difference.

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