One of the overlooked aspects of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement was the restrictions placed on coaches during bye weeks.
For years, a tried-and-true handicapping theory went like so: “It’s a good idea to bet on teams coming off a bye week. They have a full extra week to prepare!”
And, for years, that was at least partly true. NFL coaches did have a full extra week to prepare.
But the new CBA changed that.
In the past, coaches could opt to use the bye week to work out kinks on offense or defense, undergo advanced preparation for the next opponent and, of course, allow their players to heal from injuries. It was at least 13 days of prep, a seven-day edge over the opponent, which in most cases wasn’t also coming off a bye.
Now, with the new CBA, coaches are forced to give players at least four days off from football activities, trimming that 13 days down to nine and subsequently narrowing the edge over opponents.
Here’s a look at how NFL teams have fared—both straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS)—over the past six seasons.
2006: 19-13 SU, 19-13 ATS
2007: 20-12 SU, 19-12-1 ATS
2008: 18-13-1 SU, 20-12 ATS
2009: 16-16 SU, 14-16-2 ATS
2010: 20-12 SU, 17-13-2 ATS
2011: 16-16 SU, 15-16-1 ATS
Total: 109-82-1 SU (.570), 104-82-6 ATS (.559)
Over a nearly 200-game sample, a 56 percent mark against the spread is notable, but almost all of the damage was done in the first three years. Plus, look at 2011, the first year of the new CBA. Almost exactly .500 marks in both categories.
The three-year stretch from 2009 to 2011 can possibly be explained by the market correcting itself, but going forward, the CBA is unlikely to help. Then again, it’s still hard to tell.
There was one interesting trend to note from the data, though.
Home Favorites: 39-26-2, .600, 16 outright losses
Home Underdogs: 14-13-1, .519, 12 outright wins
Away Favorites: 26-8-1, .764, 6 outright losses
Away Underdogs: 25-35-2, .417, 17 outright wins
So, favorites have posted a combined 65-34-3 (.657) ATS mark, while underdogs are only 39-48-3 (.448). Road favorites, typically a no-no among sharp NFL bettors, are covering at an insane 76-percent mark, albeit over a small sample. (Road favorites went 6-3 ATS last season.)
Can this possibly be explainable?
In general, road favorites are among the league’s elite teams. The league’s elite usually have some of the best coaches. The best coaches, we can assume, are able to most effectively use their time to prepare. Give them extra time, and they give their teams more of an edge.
Here’s a list of every NFL team’s bye week in 2012.
Week 4 | Colts, Steelers
Week 5 | Buccaneers, Cowboys, Lions, Raiders
Week 6 | Bears, Jaguars, Panthers, Saints
Week 7 | Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons
Week 8 | Bengals, Bills, Ravens, Texans
Week 9 | 49ers, Jets, Patriots, Rams
Week 10 | Browns, Cardinals, Packers, Redskins
Week 11 | Giants, Seahawks, Titans, Vikings