With Thanksgiving coming up and the NFL playing Thursday games weekly now it is a very good time to be thinking about short weeks and the impact for football handicappers. A lot is made about the challenges teams face when getting ready for games with less preparation time than normal. Here’s a look at seven factors sports bettors need to consider when they are thinking about the impact and how to deal with it:
Health – When a football team plays on Sunday and doesn’t play again until the next Sunday then players have a couple of days to heal, rest, get treated, and get put back together before they start the intense process of preparing for and playing the next game. In a short week that time has to be sacrificed, or at the very least cut short. If a NFL team is full of walking wounded then the lack of time is going to have a significant impact on their ability to perform to their potential. The challenge here, though, is that injury reports are notoriously untrustworthy, so you need to rely on first hand observation or the reports of impartial observers to really get to know how healthy the team is.
Experience – The first time a football player goes through the trials of a short week it can be very difficult for them to deal with. The more they do it, though, the less significant it seems, and the better they can deal with it. The older and more experienced a team is when facing this situation, the better. In particular you need to take a close look at the key positions on a team, and in positions which the other team can easily exploit.
Travel – Travel has more of an impact on NFL teams that you would expect it to – despite the fact that they travel in the best planes and stay in the nicest hotels teams that travel are at a disadvantage, and the further the trip is, the worse the impact. If a football team has to play a short week game on the road just after playing another road game then the issues could really compound for them.
Opposition – This one should go without saying, but the biggest single factor in deducing the impact of a short week is the opponents that a team plays right before and right after the short break. The easier a game is before the short rest, the more rested the team will be for the game. The easier the opponent a football team faces after short rest, the less of a factor the lack of rest will be because a team can afford to be at less than their best and still win.
Coaches’ history – Coaches are very dependent on routines. A short week shatters those routines. They are left with less time to study film, less time to game plan, and less practice time to streamline performance and solve problems. Some coaches can adapt relatively easily to the challenges of the situation, while others don’t handle it well. Looking back at what has happened when coaches have faced these situations in the past can offer insight. In making your NFL picks remember that if a coach has failed to cover the spread by a wide margin after short rest in the past then it could happen again.
Does one team have an advantage? – The important thing to remember about most short rest games is that both teams come into them in the same position. If that’s the case then the big question has to be become which team is going to be more impacted than the other by the situation. Both football teams are going to be impacted, and those impacts will be negative. Some people make the mistake of stopping their exploration into these situations when they are confident one team will be affected. Instead, you need to look at how both teams will be affected, and which team will be affected more. If neither NFL team has a particular advantage – a fairly common circumstance – then it just comes down to good, old fashioned sports handicapping.
Public tendency – The sports betting public is predictable in their wagering tendencies. You can be reasonably sure of several things in the large majority of circumstances – they will like the favorite, they’ll like the over, and they will over-react to most situations. When there is a seemingly obvious advantage created by a short rest week then the public will jump all over it. The sportsbooks clearly know this, and the oddsmakers will be set the lines accordingly. The more obvious an advantage is, then, the more cautious you need to be about acting on it – you don’t want to fall into a valueless trap. That would simply be bad sports betting.