NFL Bye Week Handicapping
Handicapping bye weeks in the NFL is a real challenge for a lot of bettors. Ever since the NFL instituted the bye to wring an extra week of rights fees from the TV networks bettors have had to figure out what impact a week of rest is going to have on a team. The problem is that the bye can affect each team differently depending on their circumstances, so it can be dangerous making general assumptions about bye weeks when betting. Instead, you need to look for different situations that could provide opportunities for value. Here are seven types of situations that can provide good betting opportunities:
Teams that are winless heading into their bye – It's reasonably rare to see a team that has failed to win before they get a week off, but when you see one you will want to pay attention. When a team loses a lot of games in a row it can start to really get them down. They can become frustrated, and it can feel like they are never going to win again. That frustration can weigh on them in many different ways. The break can be wildly valuable for these teams. They can get a couple of days to step away from practice and gain some perspective on what is happening and what they need to do to turn things around. They also get extra time to prepare for the games, practice the things they need to practice, and generally become more prepared. Better preparation plus better attitude turns into wins – or at least covered spreads as underdogs – with pleasing consistency.
Teams that need moderate adjustments – There are some teams that are struggling because they are just not very good – they have deep flaws that will be very hard to overcome. Those teams may not be particularly aided by a bye week. Sometimes, though, a team is fundamentally solid but they just have some small problems that need to be adjusted and corrected. Perhaps they are creating gaps that opposing running backs are able to hit. Or maybe their defensive backfield is caught out of position too often. Maybe the route running by the wide receivers isn't in sync with the quarterbacks. There are lots of possibilities, so if you notice that a problem a team is having could be overcome with some extra work then it could be a whole new team after their break.
Teams with moderate attitude issues – If you watch a lot of football then you can spot teams that are having problems with their attitude. The body language isn't quite right, players aren't communicating on the sidelines like they should, and they aren't celebrating together when they make a good play. Players may also be speaking out in the press or causing other small problems. Any of these situations can make it tough for a team to win. Sometimes, though, all these teams need is a bit of a break. They get to step away from practice for a couple of days on a bye, and when they come back practices are often lighter and more relaxed for the first day or two. That can help guys feel recharged, and can make whatever problems existed between players seem inconsequential. Major attitude problems are a different issue, but when the problems are reasonably minor a bye week can be like a reset button.
Teams that are banged up – We won't spend much time here because it should be obvious. A team with major injury issues might not be helped out by the bye week, but one that is banged up and hurting will be able to rest, heal, and get the therapy they need to be effective again. A short break can make a big difference.
Road favorites after the bye – In order for a team to be a road favorite they either have to be very good or they have to play against a lousy team – or both. When you have a strong team and you give them an extra week to get healthy and get prepared they are going to be dangerous. That is shown time and again in these situations – road favorites coming off a bye are consistently more successful against the spread than average teams are, and are regularly very profitable.
Home underdogs after the bye – A team that is a home underdog has some problems that means that the oddsmakers and the betting public aren't respecting them. In many cases, though, an extra week of practice and rest can help overcome some of the reasons why they are disrespected. Teams in these situations have regularly shown themselves to be more profitable than average teams, so a home underdog off the bye could be an attractive bet if they otherwise make sense. Of course, you need to be careful that a home underdog coming off a bye isn't playing against a road favorite coming off a bye, or these two situations cancel each other out and things just get confused.
Favorites in game before the bye – This isn't following the bye like the other situations, but it is still important. A good team – one favored by a touchdown or more – will often be more motivated than normal to perform well heading into a bye. They know that if they don't make a lot of mistakes and if their intensity is high then they will get the job done and they will get lots of time off during the bye week as a result. If they limp into the break, though, then the coaching staff won't be so generous and the break won't be nearly as satisfying. Players love their rest, and they will do what it takes to get as much as they can.
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