The NFL season may be the best time of the year for sports bettors, but it’s a grind for the players. The regular season lasts 17 weeks, and players are tasked with playing 16 games in a taxing sport week after week.
Why not 17 games in 17 weeks? That’s thanks to NFL bye weeks, which have been a staple in the league since 1990. All teams get a week off during the season and they certainly try to use it to their advantage.
Injured players get extra time to heal up and the team as a whole gets a chance to regroup. The break can make a big difference as some squads get fully recharged and go on impressive runs the rest of the way.
Not every team is that fortunate. Teams playing well heading into the bye can stub their toes afterward while those struggling all along may not benefit all that much from a week off.
What do you need to watch out for with NFL betting before and after bye weeks? Here’s what you need to know.
Why are there NFL bye weeks?
Back in 1978, the NFL expanded the regular season schedule from 14 to 16 games. It remained that way until 2019 (more on this below), but a big change was introduced in 1990. The NFL schedule was tweaked to run over 17 weeks, but the 16-game-per-team schedule remained in place.
Each team was given what’s known as a bye week. The NFL had actually used the concept once before in 1966 when teams played 14 games over 15 weeks, but that would turn out to be a one-shot deal.
The reintroduction of the bye week in 1990 has withstood the test of time as it remains a staple of the NFL regular season schedule. For every season since then, each of the league’s teams has had at least one week off during the regular season.
The 16-games-over-17-weeks format is about to enter its fourth decade of use, but there have been two seasons in which an extra bye week was used.
- 1993: Teams played 16 games over 18 weeks in what was essentially an experiment on how things would work with each squad having two weeks off.
- 2001: The NFL postponed Week 2 due to the 9/11 attacks, so teams wound up playing out the 16-game schedule over 18 weeks.
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players, the schedule is slated to expand to 17 games per team. The mechanics of how that will work are still being sorted out, and the new format is not expected to be introduced before the 2021 or 2022 season.
The NFL, its teams and all of the individual players benefit from bye weeks. Here are the biggest factors for each:
- NFL: The league benefits from additional exposure. Bye weeks spread out the regular season a bit more. That leads to more broadcast windows, which in turn lead to additional revenue.
- Teams: Bye weeks afford teams a chance to reassess and regroup as needed. They gain extra time to tweak strategy, conduct advanced scouting and implement an overall game plan for the remainder of the season.
- Players: It’s a rest opportunity for players in the midst of a grueling season, as well as some extra time for those dealing with injuries to heal up. When you add in offseason activities, training camp and preseason games, it’s a welcome break in a long year.
Which teams to bet on after bye weeks
The performance of teams varies coming off a bye week, but several teams seem to be using the time wisely. Over the past three seasons, these four teams are undefeated after a week off:
- Buffalo Bills
- New England Patriots
- Seattle Seahawks
- Tennessee Titans
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are four teams that are winless after the bye week over the exact same time frame:
- Chicago Bears
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Las Vegas Raiders
- New York Jets
Since 2002, and not including games when two teams playing one another both come off a bye, teams playing at home after taking a week off have won just 52.7% of games ATS. Visiting teams, meanwhile, have fared only slightly better: winning 58.3% ATS.
As it pertains to favored and underdog teams:
- Home favorites after bye: 78-66-2
- Home underdogs after bye: 28-27-2
- Away favorites after bye: 51-26
- Away underdogs after bye: 62-58-3
NFL teams before a bye week: Which way is the arrow pointing?
For some NFL teams, a single season can be a tale of two seasons. Teams that start off well may not live up to the hype later on in the season; those that get off to slow starts can turn things around as the year progresses.
Bye weeks are a big factor to consider in that regard. In general, there are three situations at hand for teams as they approach their bye:
- Team starts season strong: Clubs that are excelling early on enter the week on a high note. A welcome break in the action affords the opportunity for the team to get even stronger as players rest up and coaches get extra time to fine tune things even further.
- Team struggling to begin season: A squad that gets out of the gates in sluggish fashion can use the bye week as a chance to hit the reset button. Teams that have been plagued by injury have an extra chance to heal up, while coaches can do a further deep dive to improve what hasn’t been working.
- Team in middle of road: It’s the proverbial fork in the road for teams that fall into this category. Clubs that have fallen victim to bad luck or close losses can refocus and hit the second half with even more motivation. Teams that are over- or under-performing versus expectations get time to examine strengths and weaknesses.
As teams approach their bye weeks, it’s also an opportunity for bettors to gauge where things stand. At all points of the NFL regular season, you should begin your approach to each matchup by assessing the overall strength of the teams involved.
When the bye week is coming, it’s a great time to go even further and take a more detailed look at how the team has performed to date. Here are a few of the big things to consider:
- Team record straight-up, against the spread and on totals
- Home and road splits
- Opponents faced to date and what’s to come
- Bottom-line stats such as points for and against, and yards per play for and against
- Injury concerns and overall player performance
- Strengths and weaknesses of each unit
- Coaching staff status — any hot seat situations or no?
Examining each of these factors will give you a good sense of the actual state of the union for each club. As the teams head into the bye week, those that have a good deal of momentum can enter the game before a bye week on a mission.
By contrast, those that are struggling may already be looking ahead to some much-needed rest. A very flat performance could be in the offing for the team’s last game before a break.
From a betting perspective, here’s how you can take all of that information and use it to your advantage.
- On the weekly schedule, look closely at the games involving teams that have a bye the following week.
- Determine which direction the arrow is pointing for the team.
- Those that are pointing up could be solid bets, especially if they’re facing struggling teams or lesser competition.
- You may want to go in the opposite direction for those that have been flat, particularly if they’re facing a club that’s playing well.
- Give priority to strong teams at home as they prepare for a bye.
- Struggling teams that are on the road in advance of a week off could be good targets to go against.
It can be tough to consistently beat the point spread in NFL betting, but little factors such as these can make a difference on winning and losing tickets for teams heading into a bye.
NFL teams after a bye week: Coaching is everything
While it’s impossible to take a deep dive into the mindset of each and every player in the league, we can look toward a common denominator on how teams perform out of a bye: coaching.
Each NFL season is different from the ones before and those to come, but there are trends we can watch in this regard. Quite simply, there are some coaches who have historically nailed it after a break. Others? Not so much.
Over the past three seasons, there are nine NFL teams that have won 75 percent or more of their games after a week off (including the playoffs): Here they are along with their straight-up record after the bye and current head coaches.
- New England Patriots, 5-0, Bill Belichick
- Kansas City Chiefs, 4-1, Andy Reid
- Seattle Seahawks, 3-0, Pete Carroll
- Buffalo Bills, 3-0, Sean McDermott
- Tennessee Titans, 3-0, Mike Vrabel
- Baltimore Ravens, 3-1, John Harbaugh
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 3-1, Mike Tomlin
- New Orleans Saints, 3-1, Sean Payton
- Los Angeles Rams, 3-1, Sean McVay
Notice a pattern here? These are some of the top head coaches in the NFL. Each of these teams was at least in playoff contention in 2019. For a differing perspective, let’s consider the teams that are winless after a bye over the last three seasons.
- Chicago Bears, 0-3, Matt Nagy
- Cincinnati Bengals, 0-3, Zac Taylor
- Las Vegas Raiders, 0-3, Jon Gruden
- New York Jets, 0-3, Adam Gase
Two points to keep in mind:
- This is not an indictment of any of these four coaches, and all of these teams have been at different stages in their process over the time frame.
- That said, it’s certainly food for thought to consider as these teams approach their 2020 bye weeks.
The remainder of the teams in the league are in the middle after bye weeks, with winning percentages ranging from a low of 25% to a high of 66.7%. For a general rule, focusing on the two extremes — high and poor performance — can be a good indicator of how teams may perform after the week off.
Additionally, remember to go back to the same principles you considered for teams approaching bye weeks. The overall trajectory of the team in question should be one of the top factors you consider. As for specific situations to watch out for, here’s a shortlist to keep in mind.
- Consider the overall direction of teams coming off byes in comparison to their first opponents after a break.
- Look for situations in which a strong team coming off a week off will be facing a team that’s struggling.
- Teams that were flat heading into the bye and getting back into action versus strong squads could be teams to go against.
- When in doubt on how a team will perform after the bye, consider the performance of the team/head coach on a historical basis.
- Give priority to strong teams at home after a bye and use caution for those on the road that have been struggling as they get set for the first game back.
It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees when it comes to following NFL betting systems and tips. However, adhering to tried and true principles can lead you toward more wins than losses, which is what it’s ultimately all about with NFL betting.
NFL bye week betting trends
As mentioned, there are certain coaches who excel after a week off. Don’t worry — if a game like that is approaching, you’ll hear plenty about it in the run-up to the game.
For example, after a bye week for the New England Patriots or Kansas City Chiefs, you’ll hear tons of chatter about how strong Bill Belichick and Andy Reid have historically been after the bye.
Those can definitely be useful trends to consider, but going even deeper can uncover a lot more that aren’t as widely well-known.
Sticking with a three-year timeframe, let’s consider how each of the league’s teams has performed on a straight-up and ATS basis in certain key situations. Here’s the legend for the below table, which covers the 2017-19 seasons and includes postseason records for teams that qualified.
- SU AB: Straight-up after bye week.
- SU wRA: Straight-up with rest advantage.
- SU wRD: Straight-up with rest disadvantage.
- ATS AB: Against the spread after bye.
- ATS wRA: Against the spread with rest advantage.
- ATS wRD: Against the spread with rest disadvantage.
|Team||SU AB||SU wRA||SU wRD||ATS AB||ATS wRA||ATS wRD|
As you examine the above table, you’ll notice that there are a number of intriguing trends to consider for teams as they come across the above situations during the course of the season.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that each NFL game is an individual event and should be treated as such. NFL betting trends for bye weeks and with rest advantages or disadvantages shouldn’t be the overriding factor in your decision-making.
2020 NFL bye week schedule
The 2020 NFL regular season schedule is expected to be released any day now. For now, here’s what we know.
- Opening date: Thursday, Sept. 10
- Last day of regular season: Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021
Each of the league’s 32 teams will once again play a 16-game schedule over 17 weeks. Here’s how the 16 games are broken down for each squad.
- Six games versus teams in their division — three home and three away.
- Four games versus another division in their conference (intra-conference games) — two home and two away.
- Four games versus a division from the other conference (inter-conference) — two home and two away.
- Two games versus teams in their conference that finished in the same place in their respective divisions — one home and one away.
Heading into each season, we know for a fact that each squad will have six games versus divisional foes. As part of the NFL scheduling format, we also know in advance of the schedule release what the intra- and inter-conference pairings will be for the coming season. Here’s what they look like for 2020.
Intra-conference pairings 2020
- AFC East vs. AFC West
- AFC North vs. AFC South
- NFC East vs. NFC West
- NFC North vs. NFC South
Inter-conference pairings 2020
- AFC East vs. NFC West
- AFC North vs. NFC East
- AFC South vs. NFC North
- AFC West vs. NFC South
Armed with all of this information, we can easily figure out the opponents for each team in advance of the schedule’s release. For example, here are the teams that the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs play in the coming year.
- Denver Broncos (2x)
- Las Vegas Raiders (2x)
- Los Angeles Chargers (2x)
- Buffalo Bills
- Miami Dolphins
- New England Patriots
- New York Jets
- Baltimore Ravens
- Houston Texans
- Atlanta Falcons
- Carolina Panthers
- New Orleans Saints
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Once the schedule is officially released, we can fill in all of the blanks for dates, times and locations.
As for 2020 NFL bye weeks, there’s a good chance that the league will follow the same format as last season. Here’s how it broke down on a week-by-week basis in 2019 for the number of teams with the week off:
- Week 4 — Two teams
- Week 5 — Two teams
- Week 6 — Four teams
- Week 7 — Four teams
- Week 8 — Two teams
- Week 9 — Four teams
- Week 10 — Six teams
- Week 11 — Four teams
- Week 12 — Four teams
Assuming the structure stays the same, then we will once again have all 32 teams in action for the first three and last five weeks of the 2020 NFL regular season.
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How are NFL bye weeks scheduled?
Putting together the NFL schedule each season is a herculean task. Each of the league’s teams play 16 games over a 17-week schedule, which works out to a grand total of 256 regular season games.
Figuring out who plays whom each season has been broken down into a science. But the logistics of putting it all together fairly is far from a piece of cake. There are myriad factors to consider, including:
- Travel considerations for each team.
- TV partners and the different broadcast windows.
- International games.
- Stadium scheduling.
- Bye weeks.
All of those pieces of the puzzle are factored into the equation, as are many others. There are so many variables to consider that trying to do it all by hand would be a fool’s errand.
To that end, the word is that the NFL uses hundreds of computers to spit out thousands of possible schedules. Once all of the possibilities have been laid out, the task of zeroing in on the best possible schedule begins.
It’s a big job, especially when you consider that each of the main factors has a number of sub-factors to consider. For bye weeks specifically, the schedule makers need to consider things such as:
- Team bye weeks in the previous season.
- Travel schedules and schedule availability for each team.
- Spacing out the byes and subsequent games with an eye toward fairness.
- Bye weeks of opponents.
For the first item on that list, teams that had a bye week earlier in the previous season will receive priority consideration for a later bye the following year.
Travel is always a big sticking point, so the NFL does its best to avoid placing too much of a burden on the individual teams such as consecutive cross country trips or extended periods away from home. Naturally, that doesn’t always go off without a hitch. There are often teams that get the short end of the stick in that regard.
In addition, international games add a whole new wrinkle into the equation. Teams tasked with playing in another country will generally see their bye the week after that game. That said, some of the more prevalent ones are certainly worthy of being included in the weekly research puzzle.