Analyzing NFL pre-bye systems

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 — Atlanta, New Orleans, the New York Jets and San Francisco — 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 a bye. 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 this piece as well as the one in two weeks.
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.
Before we go team by team, here are five leaguewide systems you’ll want to take advantage of over the next couple of months. All trends are for the regular season only.
System 1
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, Grade 70)
2021 plays: San Francisco on Oct. 10, Baltimore on Oct. 24, Tampa Bay on Oct. 31, Cincinnati on Nov. 7, the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15, Arizona on Nov. 21, Cleveland on Nov. 28, Indianapolis on Dec. 5 and New England on Dec. 6
System 2
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, Grade 70)
2021 plays: Buffalo on Oct. 18, Chicago on Nov. 8, the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15 and New England on Dec. 6
System 3
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, Grade 70)
2021 play: Washington on Oct. 31
System 4
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, Grade 62)
2021 plays: Buffalo on Oct. 18, Chicago on Nov. 8, the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15 and New England on Dec. 6
System 5
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, Grade 60)
Potential 2021 plays: Baltimore on Oct. 24, Seattle on Oct. 31 and Indianapolis on Dec. 5 
Arizona (pre-bye game Nov. 21 at Seattle)
Arizona is on a 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS skid in pre-bye games away from home.
The Cardinals are on a 10-4-1 Over run in pre-bye games as underdogs.
Atlanta (pre-bye game Oct. 10 vs. New York Jets)
Atlanta has gone just 3-6 SU and 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine pre-bye games.
The Falcons have gone Under the total in six of their last seven pre-bye games.
Baltimore (pre-bye game Oct. 24 vs. Cincinnati)
Baltimore is 3-3 SU but just 1-4-1 ATS in its last six pre-bye games.
The Ravens are 2-4 ATS in their last six pre-bye games as home favorites.
Buffalo (pre-bye game Oct. 18 at Tennessee)
The Bills are 4-4 SU and 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight pre-bye games after losing their previous 14 outright.
Buffalo is on a run of 11-2 Over the total in pre-bye games.
The Bills won 14-7 at Tennessee in their 2019 pre-bye game, snapping an 0-7 SU and 0-6-1 ATS skid in pre-bye games against non-divisional AFC foes. 
Carolina (pre-bye game Nov. 28 at Miami)
The Panthers are on a stretch of 7-1 ATS in pre-bye games.
Carolina has gone Over the total in six straight pre-bye games, scoring 35.8 points per game.
Chicago (pre-bye game Nov. 8 at Pittsburgh)
Chicago is just 4-9 SU and 5-8 ATS in pre-bye road games since 1995.
Versus AFC opponents, the Bears are just 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five pre-bye games.
Cincinnati (pre-bye game Nov. 7 vs. Cleveland)
Cincinnati has been a solid pre-bye team over the last decade-plus, going 9-3-1 SU and 8-5 ATS since ’08.
The Bengals are on an 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS surge in pre-bye home games.
Cleveland (pre-bye game Nov. 28 at Baltimore)
Cleveland is on a 2-8 SU and ATS slide in pre-bye games, including 0-2 SU and ATS away from home.
The Browns are 1-5 Under the total in their last six pre-bye games against divisional rivals.
Dallas (pre-bye game Oct. 17 at New England)
Dallas has gone Under the total in five of its last six pre-bye games.
The Cowboys are just 2-4 ATS in their last six pre-bye road games but are 9-5 ATS in such games since ’93.
Denver (pre-bye game Nov. 14 vs. Philadelphia)
Denver is 10-4 SU and ATS in its last 14 pre-bye home games.
The Broncos are on a 5-2-1 ATS pre-bye run as favorites.
Detroit (pre-bye game Oct. 31 vs. Philadelphia)
Detroit is on a 5-12 ATS skid as a pre-bye underdog.
The Lions are on a 9-2 Over run at home in pre-bye games, with an average combined score of 51.8.
Green Bay (pre-bye game Nov. 28 vs. Los Angeles Rams)
The Packers have played their last six pre-bye games at home and are 5-1 SU and 3-3 ATS, including 2-0 SU and ATS under coach Matt LaFleur.
Green Bay is on a 1-4-1 ATS slide in pre-bye games with lines in the + 4 to -4 range.
Houston (pre-bye game Nov. 7 at Miami)
Houston’s 5-0 SU and ATS winning streak in pre-bye games was snapped last year in a 35-20 loss to Green Bay.
The Texans boast an impressive 8-1 ATS record in pre-bye games away from home since their inception in ’02.
Indianapolis (pre-bye game Dec. 5 at Houston)
Indianapolis is on a 7-1 SU and ATS run in pre-bye games, though it did fail to cover the spread last year.
The Colts’ one weak area in pre-bye performance has been against divisional foes, going 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS in the last five.
Jacksonville (pre-bye game Oct. 17 vs. Miami)
The Jaguars have lost their last three pre-bye games SU and ATS.
Jacksonville lost pre-bye games in London in ’18 and ’19.
Kansas City (pre-bye game Nov. 21 vs. Dallas)
Kansas City is on a 4-0-1 Over surge in its last five pre-bye games at home.
The Chiefs are 3-7 SU and 3-6-1 ATS in their last 10 pre-bye games against NFC foes.
Los Angeles Chargers (pre-bye game Oct. 17 at Baltimore)
The Chargers are just 1-6 SU and ATS in their last seven pre-bye games.
The Chargers are on a six-game SU (1-5 ATS) losing streak as pre-bye underdogs.
Los Angeles Rams (pre-bye game Nov. 15 at San Francisco)
The Rams have gone Under the total in five of their last six pre-bye games.
The Rams are just 3-9 SU and 3-8-1 ATS in their last 12 pre-bye road games.
Las Vegas (pre-bye game Oct. 24 vs. Philadelphia)
Coach Jon Gruden is 12-3 SU and 10-4-1 ATS in pre-bye games.
The Raiders are on a 4-1 Over run in pre-bye games.
Miami (pre-bye game Dec. 5 vs. the New York Giants)
Miami is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 pre-bye games.
The Dolphins are 2-6 ATS in eight pre-bye games against NFC foes since ’97.
Minnesota (pre-bye game Oct. 17 at Carolina)
Minnesota has lost back-to-back pre-bye games ATS after winning 10 straight ATS.
The Vikings are on a 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS run in pre-bye road games, scoring 28.8 ppg.
New England (pre-bye game Dec. 6 at Buffalo)
New England has lost three straight pre-bye games SU and ATS after winning nine straight outright.
The Patriots have played six pre-bye divisional games under Bill Belichick, going 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS.
New Orleans (pre-bye game Oct. 10 at Washington)
The Saints have gone 12-3 SU and 10-5 ATS in pre-bye games since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006.
New Orleans has gone 7-2 ATS since ’99 in pre-bye road games.
New York Giants (pre-bye game Nov. 7 vs. Las Vegas)
The Giants are just 4-6 SU and 3-6-1 ATS in pre-bye home games since ’01.
The Giants are 4-6 SU but 1-8-1 ATS in their last 10 pre-bye games against AFC foes.
New York Jets (pre-bye game Oct. 10 vs. Atlanta)
The Jets have lost their last five pre-bye games while averaging just 13.4 points, but they are 2-0 ATS in their last two.
The Jets are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 pre-bye games away from home.
Philadelphia (pre-bye game Dec. 5 at New York Jets)
The Eagles were 5-0 SU and ATS in pre-bye games under former coach Doug Pederson.
Philadelphia is on a 9-1 SU and ATS surge in pre-bye games as a favorite, allowing 15.9 ppg.
Pittsburgh (pre-bye game Oct. 17 vs. Seattle)
Pittsburgh is 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS in its last eight pre-bye games against NFC foes.
The Steelers have won their last four pre-bye games both SU and ATS.
San Francisco (pre-bye game Oct. 10 at Arizona)
San Francisco has lost its last three pre-bye games against the spread.
The 49ers are on a 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS surge in pre-bye divisional contests.
Seattle (pre-bye game Oct. 31 vs. Jacksonville)
Seattle is on a 10-game SU pre-bye winning streak while going 8-2 ATS.
The Seahawks have won four of those 10 straight games against AFC foes, outscoring them 27.0-11.8 on average.
Tampa Bay (pre-bye game Oct. 31 at New Orleans)
Tampa Bay is just 3-9 SU and 2-9-1 ATS in its last 12 pre-bye games.
Dating back to ’92, the Buccaneers are on a 4-9 ATS slide in pre-bye games away from home.
Tennessee (pre-bye game Nov. 28 at New England)
The Titans have been a big Over team in pre-bye games, going 9-3 on totals in their last 12 and allowing 28.4 ppg.
Tennessee has gone 4-1 SU in its last five pre-bye games away from home but is 2-6 ATS in its last eight such contests. 
Washington (pre-bye game Oct. 31 at Denver)
Washington is on an 0-3-1 SU and 1-3 ATS skid in away pre-bye games.
Washington is 1-5-1 SU and 2-5 ATS in its last seven pre-bye games against AFC foes.
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