While it might seem that the NFL season has just started, we are already talking about teams taking their bye weeks. In fact, four teams — the Jets, Falcons, Saints and 49ers — already will be taking their byes in Week 6, meaning they are playing their pre-bye games this weekend. The Falcons and Jets will square off Sunday in London, while the Saints are at Washington and the 49ers are at Arizona. Thus, those teams’ pre-bye trends will be applicable this weekend.
In the years I’ve studied NFL data, I’ve found that one of the most important scheduling situations involves the weeks before and after teams’ bye weeks. They are important because they affect routines, momentum and players’ injury availability. Historically, some franchises and coaches have been very good in dealing with byes, others not. Furthermore, some teams’ performance levels have varied greatly when going into the bye week as opposed to coming out. That means bye-week scenarios can make for golden wagering opportunities.
With a 17th game on the schedule, the byes have been pushed back later than usual. This should enhance the benefit of the bye even more than usual since the further it is into the season, the more coaches and players typically appreciate it. In fact, several bye weeks fall in December this season. Keep all of this mind as you analyze each team’s situation.
In two weeks I will follow up with a report on post-bye-week trends and systems. Since byes span the next two months and the trends will apply at the various times throughout that period, I recommend saving or printing these pieces.
Why do byes have such an impact? Every April brings excitement when the schedule is announced. Analysts break down all the big matchups, the quirks for each team and seemingly every little intricacy on the slate. The NFL is a routine-based league, and anything that can break that routine can offer bettors opportunities. Whether it’s long stretches of road or home games, contests scheduled on days other than Sunday, night games or something else, these scheduling land mines can be used to find betting value if you understand the consequences of such events.
However, if one scheduling situation is most influential, it is the bye week. Each team gets one in the 18-week schedule, and where it is placed and how the teams react in and out of that week can often make a difference of one or two wins. That of course can affect whether a team makes the playoffs. Clearly, the three-week period involving a team’s bye — heading in, the bye itself and coming out — is highly impactful.
Here are five league-wide systems you’ll want to take advantage of over the next couple of months. All trends are for the regular season only.
Play on any team heading into its bye week when facing a divisional opponent. (Record: 38-11 ATS since ’13, 77.6 percent, +25.9 units, 52.8 percent ROI).
2021 plays: San Francisco on Oct. 10, Baltimore on Oct. 24, Tampa Bay on Oct. 31, Cincinnati on Nov. 7, the Rams on Nov. 15, Arizona on Nov. 21, Cleveland on Nov. 28, Indianapolis on Dec. 5 and New England on Dec. 6.
Play Over the total in Monday night games featuring teams heading into their bye weeks. (Record: 27-9 since ’09, 75 percent, +17.1 units, 47.5 percent ROI).
2021 plays: Buffalo on Oct. 18, Chicago on Nov. 8, the Rams on Nov. 15 and New England on Dec. 6.
Play on any team heading into its bye week and facing Denver. (Record: 18-7 SU and 20-5 ATS since ’01, 80 percent, +14.5 units, 58 percent ROI).
2021 play: Washington on Oct. 31.
Play on any road team heading into its bye week on Monday night. (Record: 20-12 SU and 21-10 ATS since ’96, 67.7 percent, +9.9 units, 30.9 percent ROI).
2021 plays: Buffalo on Oct. 18, Chicago on Nov. 8, the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15 and New England on Dec. 6
Play on double-digit favorites heading into their bye weeks. (Record: 20-0 SU and 13-7 ATS since ’09, 65 percent, +5.3 units, 26.5 percent ROI).
Potential 2021 plays: Baltimore on Oct. 24, Seattle on Oct. 31 and Indianapolis on Dec. 5.
And here are some trends for the teams playing their pre-bye game this week.
Jets: Have lost their last five pre-bye games while averaging just 13.4 points, but are 2-0 ATS in their last two. … are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 pre-bye games away from home.
Falcons: Are 3-6 SU and 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine pre-bye games. … have gone Under the total in six of their last seven pre-bye games.
Saints: Are 12-3 SU and 10-5 ATS in pre-bye games since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006 … are 7-2 ATS since ’99 in pre-bye road games.
49ers: Have lost their last three pre-bye games ATS … are on a 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS surge in pre-bye divisional contests.