Yes, NFL teams who are coming off a bye week do tend to beat the football odds. Or at least they used to. What, if anything, should we read into last year's results?
I remember it as if it were last October: We were talking about the bye week, and how much people love to bet on teams who have gotten in that extra week of rest. How did those teams we mentioned do in Week 5 of the 2014 season? Not too well: 2-3-1 ATS, which reduces to 1-2-1 ATS after we throw out the game between the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos – they were both coming off the bye week.
Okay, we happened to have the St. Louis Rams at +7 against the Philadelphia Eagles, and not at the closing line of +3.5, so our NFL picks did just fine when Philly won 34-28. That's not the point. This is: The bye week is a lot more valuable to teams when it comes late in the season, when the players need that time off the most. So teams coming off a Week 12 bye should do better against the NFL odds than they would after Week 4. Let's investigate, shall we?
Dude, Where's My Data?
All right, time for some brute force research here at the not-database-having ranch. One season is a small sample size, but here's how our bye-week heroes did against the closing line last year, not including those games where they faced one another.
Week 5: 1-2-1 ATS
Week 6: 1-1 ATS
Week 7: 2-0 ATS
Week 8: 0-2 ATS
Week 9: 0-2 ATS
Week 10: 2-2 ATS
Week 11: 1-3 ATS
Week 12: 1-3 ATS
Week 13: 0-2 ATS
Well, that didn't work out particularly well, did it? We're only talking about a small handful of games here, so we don't want to throw the bye-week trend in the garbage just yet. But we're still willing to speculate a bit about some non-luck reasons why the teams in question didn't outperform the market late in the 2014 campaign. Warning: Speculation Ahead.
We'll throw two possible reasons out on the table. One has to do with the betting market, and one has to do with the teams themselves. First, we point our fickle finger at the general sharpening of the marketplace. Thanks to the Interwebs, those of us who care to learn about these things are well aware of the bye-week trend, and how the rigors of a long season get worse and worse as time passes. Betting lines are getting tighter year after year as a result. It is what it is.
Second, teams are getting better too, including at things like rest and recovery. Advantages are getting slimmer overall in the NFL, just as they are with our NFL picks. The fact that the league squashes everyone toward 8-8 with its salary cap doesn't help. Having said all that, let's remind ourselves again not too read too much into last year's results. The long term is where the gold is at; just be prepared to give other handicapping angles some more weight.