You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a “Norman Einstein,” as Joe Theisman famously said, to understand why NFL betting students might favor a team coming off a week’s rest over one that has far less time to nurse the collective wounds that are part of the struggle that comes with playing professional football. Of course, operators of sportsbooks also know that teams coming off their bye week will have a physical advantage over teams that played the previous weekend, so blindly betting on a team with rest is no sure path to success.
In fact, since 1990, when the schedule began granting each team a single weekend of rest, the margin for NFL betting profit is quite narrow. In more than 700 games played, teams coming off a bye week own just 36 more straight up (SU) wins than those teams that played the previous week. And when wagering numbers are added to the equation, the advantage shrinks in half, to a mere plus 18 covers against the spread (ATS) for the rested team. Unfortunately for bettors, that’s not nearly enough to even beat the vigorish.
So, clearly, with wagering on a team coming off a bye week being anything but a sure thing, savvy NFL betting practitioners have looked to refine the process by concentrating on specific teams that have a proven history of success in these situations. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Denver: Since 1990, the Broncos are 17-6 both SU and ATS following their bye week. Maybe Denver players, because of the thin air in which they play, benefit more from a week’s rest than do players who play in cities at or near sea level. Last year, the Broncos traveled to Miami following their off week, covering their role as a 1-point favorite with an 18-15 victory over the Dolphins. This season, Denver gets a bye after its fifth game on October 15, a Monday night encounter with San Diego. The Broncos then get the Saints in Mile High Stadium, Oct. 28. Denver is 12-3 ATS at home, following a bye week. New Orleans will be coming off a road game at Tampa Bay and will have to fly across the country to Denver. So this could be a good opportunity for bettors.
Dallas: The Cowboys are 16-7 SU and a bankroll-boosting 16-7 ATS since 1990 after a week’s rest. Last year, following its bye week, Dallas traveled to New England as a 6 1/2-point underdog to face the Patriots. New England prevailed, 20-16, but the Cowboys beat the spread. Dallas gets its bye week after its fourth game of the season this year, a Monday Night Football game at home versus Chicago, Oct. 1. Then it’s on to Baltimore for a tough game against the Ravens, Oct. 14. The Cowboys are 10-4 ATS on the road, following their bye week. The Ravens, meanwhile, will be coming off an Oct. 7 game with the Chiefs in Kansas City, never an easy place for visitors to flourish.
Philadelphia: The Eagles are a League-leading best 19-4 SU following a week’s rest and an impressive 16-7 ATS in that situation but are not a wagering play this year. That’s because Philadelphia’s opponent this season, Atlanta, also will be coming off a week of rest at the same time before meeting the Eagles in Philadelphia, Oct. 14. Obviously, it’s important to check the schedule.
Arizona: Even with a loss last year following a bye week, the Cardinals are a profitable 14-8 ATS following their week of rest. Arizona gets it bye week late this year, on Nov. 11, following what looks like a difficult game at Green Bay, Nov. 4. The Cardinals are on the road again, Nov. 18, to face the Falcons in Atlanta. Historically, this has been a good spot for Arizona, which has posted a 5-2 record as a road underdog following its bye week.
Just as there are teams to bet on when coming off a week’s rest, there also are teams that have failed to capitalize on their bye week, presenting the NFL betting fans with “bet-against” opportunities:
Seattle: The Seahawks are an NFL-worst 5-17-1 ATS following their bye week, including a push against the Browns in Cleveland last season. Seattle’s bye comes late this year, after the 10th weekend of the season, when the Seahawks play the Jets at home, Nov. 11. The team then flies across the country to face the Dolphins in Miami, Nov. 25. Going back more than two decades, Seattle is 4-10 ATS on the road following a week of rest.
Oakland: The Raiders are 9-14 ATS following a week of rest, including a 38-24 outright loss to the Broncos in Oakland last year when the Silver and Black were 7-point favorites. Oakland’s bye comes in week 5 this season, after a trip to Denver, Sept. 30. The team then travels to Atlanta, Oct. 14. The Raiders are 4-5 as a road underdog off a week’s rest so it could be worse.
Every team gains a physical benefit from a week’s rest but savvy NFL betting enthusiasts understand that each game and each situation brings its own pointspread challenges and only through careful, in-depth analysis can the chances for success be maximized.