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Knowledge before byes helps

Oct 5, 2004 1:09 PM

There are two sides to every "bye" story. Last week we looked at how teams have historically performed the week after a bye. This go-round we’ll update our article from a few years back that looked at how they perform the week before.

While teams off a bye are the subject of a lot of handicapping theories, having a bye week coming up is often overlooked as a potential factor in this week’s matchup.

The thinking goes that teams coming off a bye are well rested, healed from injuries, well prepared for the next opponent, and perhaps armed with some new twists in the basic game plan. Here are an assortment of factors for a squad with a week off around the corner.

”¡ Play through pain: Knowing there is a break ahead might lead players to "grin and bear it" for more than the typical NFL body blows, understanding there is extra recovery time afterwards.

”¡ Extra pressure to win: A successful midseason coaching change is easier to pull off when the new coach comes in with two weeks rather than one to get the new system installed.

”¡ More pressure on struggling starters: Just as coaches are more easily replaced during a bye span, it makes sense to make a shift in player roles. Players looking over their shoulder will want to show up big.

”¡ Go into "vacation" on upbeat note: Even teams without unusual pressure to win a game will most likely feel a lot better if they can notch the W the week before the bye. Coaches may back off a little if things went well in the last game.

The contrary view might be that teams will be looking ahead to the break. Bad ones view it as a chance to regroup. Good ones see the bye as a well deserved easing up on the hardship of life in the NFL.

In our first pass at analyzing the "pre-bye" situation, we postulated four possible scenarios of note from a spread standpoint:

”¡ Play against away favorites prior to a bye.

”¡ Play against home favorites off a loss prior to a bye

”¡ Play against home underdogs off a loss prior to a bye

”¡ Consider home favorites off a win prior to a bye

These theories were based on testing from 1991 to 2000. With three new seasons in the books, a first step is to see how blindly playing these angles would have fared.

You would have been 7-5 playing against all pre-bye away favorites, 7-4 playing against home favorites off a loss with a bye, 12-11 playing against home underdogs off a pre-bye loss, and 6-8 playing home favorites off a pre-bye win.

All told, the angles combined to go 32-28 (53.3 percent). Slightly profitable with zero actual handicapping beyond spotting the situation. If you disregarded the "consider" angle, (labeled after testing as the weakest situation) the figure improves to 26-20 (56.5 percent).

For advancing this research further we will want to examine not just the pre-bye team’s last result, but also the previous outcome for their opponent.

There’s any number of additional queries we could run against the database, looking at the outcomes of the last two games. With each extra slice, you reduce the sample size to the point where reliability of any findings will be low.

In summary, the pre-bye state does not display extremely exaggerated results. And, the three key angles showed a profit in the recent three years and may well do so over the next three.

This should not be a primary reason to walk up to the counter and place a wager. But, if you are leaning to a team anyway, it can be a nice extra assurance that you are backing the right side.