One of the most overrated angles in NFL betting is to bet on a team that is off a bye week. Most people assume that a week of rest and preparation is just what the doctor ordered for pro football players and that they will return extra focused and fresh the next week when they finally get back on the field.
The problem is that betting on NFL teams coming off a bye has been no better than a 50-50 proposition over the years. And outside of a few outlier coaches (Mike Shanahan, John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, and Mike McCarthy come to mind) most NFL teams are sporting a losing record against the spread after enjoying a week off.
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Last week Washington, St. Louis, Cleveland and Miami all failed to cover their respective spreads coming off a week of rest. Baltimore and Dallas did beat their numbers coming off their bye week but only the Ravens actually won their game.
This week the Chargers, Chiefs, Titans, Seahawks, Cardinals and Broncos are off a week of rest. Four of those six teams are catching more than 65 percent of the public action in their respective games and none of these teams is playing in a game with a spread greater than 3.5. I would not be surprised if the public gets beat again by overestimating the impact of a Sunday off.
Don’t buy into the bye week. Unless a team gained an advantage by getting injured players back or unless their coach has a proven track record with an extra week to prep don’t overvalue the fact that a team was idle last week.
Here is my Week 7 version of Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers (6-0) – These next couple weeks are going to be important for backers of this team. I feel like if Green Bay gets to 8-0 or 9-0 then they are really going to start to get that buzz to go for something special, like an unbeaten season. I don’t know that they have the defensive depth to get there, but I know I won’t be betting against them. Green Bay is now 51-25-2 ATS in its last 78 games, which is as good of a run as I have ever seen. They are 21-10 ATS in divisional games and 11-3-1 ATS against sub-.500 teams.
2. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) – With Terrence Cody and Haloti Ngata rocking the middle of opposing offensive lines this defense is the best in football. And if you look at the Baltimore Ravens schedule over the rest of the season there may be only two games – at Pittsburgh and at San Diego – where the Ravens are underdogs. This team is not taking its foot off the neck of opponents and they are 15-6 ATS against teams with a losing record. And if you look back to last year the Ravens have lost only to the Steelers, at New England (in OT), and two odd losses at Cincinnati and at Tennessee. Still, they are 17-6 in their last 23 games and right now they would be my AFC Super Bowl pick.
3. New England Patriots (5-1) – The Patriots have two weeks to prepare for their biggest regular season game of the year. New England is 8-0 straight up after the regular season bye week and 8-4 ATS in those spots under Bill Belichick. Also, their defense looked leaps and bounds better on Sunday. All anyone wanted to talk about was the Dallas defense after that game, but the Pats holding a healthy Cowboys offense to just 16 points was very impressive.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-2) – Really, on Sunday, it was just “one of those days” for the Saints against a highly emotional, highly motivated Bucs team. But the problem with this team is that they aren’t matching intensity. No one on this team is stepping up to take emotional control and I don’t see any passion out of this group. I wonder if that is going to make it tough to cover some of the big numbers they will be shackled with. Case in point, they are 2-10 ATS against team with a losing record. However, they are 15-5 ATS in their last 20 after a loss and we’ll see if losing the division lead jars something loose.
5. Detroit Lions (5-1) – I still contest that this is too high of a ranking for the Lions. But they are a half-yard away from being unbeaten and they have shown that third gear that good teams must have.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) – Despite a lackluster effort last week, the Steelers are a huge public play this weekend in Arizona. And why wouldn’t they be? They have a short line against one of the worst teams in football and are taking 80 percent of the action. The Steelers are 7-3 ATS against teams below .500 and Mike Tomlin will not want to lose to former Pittsburgh OC Ken Whisenhunt. But the Steelers are 0-3 ATS on the road this year and haven’t looked sharp at all away from home.
7. San Diego Chargers (4-1) – Antonio Gates is back at practice this week but I don’t expect to see him on Sunday. What I do expect to see is more creativity and accuracy in the red zone from this team. They are No. 26 in the league in conversions at just 40.91. This week’s trip to New York is a revenge game for the Bolts, who lost at home to the Jets in the 2009-10 Divisional Round of the playoffs. The road team has won six of the last seven meetings in this series dating back to 1994.
8. New York Giants (4-2) – No, there is no possible way that the Giants are the No. 8 team in the league. And they will be exposed later in the season when the New York Giants schedule beefs up. But when they are healthy and motivated they can beat any team in the league. They have two weeks to prep for Miami and to heal up on defense. They need Deon Grant to start to play better. The pass defense has been perfectly average, which I think is better than most expected, but they are giving up way, way too many big plays. Their 23 passes of 20 or more yards allowed is the sixth-highest total in the league.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) – Nice rebound for the Bucs. But they had a massive letdown after they beat division rival Atlanta (which coincided with a long road trip). This week could be setting up as a similar situation against Chicago. Also, the weather is supposed to be cold (highs in the low 50s) this weekend and we’ll see how the Florida boys will fare in that environment. Also, we need to monitor the mini-feud between Kellen Winslow and Josh Freeman. Against Chicago’s Cover-2, Winslow could have the opportunity for a big game. If he doesn’t have one, that could be a red flag.
10. San Francisco 49ers (5-1) – I have to say, I am begrudgingly putting this Niners team in the Top 10. I still think that they are a fraud, as their defensive yards per point (20.7) and their offensive yards per point (10.9) are both at unsustainable levels. The talent is there; there is a reason they were the consensus West favorite heading into last season. But statistically this team is overachieving and I am interested to see how they respond to the shift in role to favorite.
11. Tennessee Titans (3-2) – This is one of the biggest games of the season for the Titans and they have had two weeks to prepare for it. Last year Tennessee was 5-3 and in the playoff mix before their bye. But they laid an egg, losing 29-17 at Miami, following it and stumbled to a 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS finish. The Titans have gone 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against Houston and the home team is 5-2 SU and ATS in the last seven meetings.
12. Chicago Bears (3-2) – What a gutsy effort out of Julius Peppers last Sunday. I didn’t think there was any way that he would play and I actually think the Bears would be better off resting him this week and through their bye week. Mike Martz is apparently acquiescing to Jay Cutler’s pleas. The Bears kept in six or seven pass protectors on 23 of their 31 pass attempts last week and they used play action passing nearly twice as much (nine attempts Sunday vs. a 5.8 season average) in their game plan against the Vikings. The results – 39 total points – were obvious.
13. Oakland Raiders (4-2) – The Carson Palmer deal is a terrible one for the Raiders. He has been garbage over the last two seasons and doesn’t have the arm strength down the field that he once did. He doesn’t know the system and who knows what type of shape he is in. They are giving up way, way too much for a guy whose glory years are way behind him. And why was Kyle Boller even on the roster to begin with if Oakland knew it couldn’t win with him?
14. Houston Texans (3-3) – Two of Houston’s three wins this year have come against Indianapolis (0-6) and Miami (0-5). So once again, I was one of the few people in the country screaming about how overrated this team was this year and it looks like the Texans bandwagon is flipped over and on fire. Houston has gained just 160 yards on 50 carries in its last two games; good for just a 3.2 yard per carry average. They are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games.
15. New York Jets (3-3) – The opening line on this week’s game was at -1.5 before the Jets beat Miami on Monday night. Apparently the sharps weren’t impressed, because New York is now a small dog. The ‘over’ is 15-5-1 when the Jets are an underdog and this weekend’s game could definitely become a shootout. The Jets are an outstanding 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 games on Sunday following a “Monday Night Football” game. They are one of the few teams in the league with a winning ATS mark in that role.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) – Rex Grossman may have saved Philadelphia’s season. But I’m still not buying this team. The Eagles did absolutely everything they could to give that game right back to the Redskins and they are still very suspect. But they have two weeks to prepare for the Cowboys and Andy Reid is always exceptional with an extra week of prep.
17. Atlanta Falcons (3-3) – This secondary has completely unraveled and that is a big reason why the Falcons are having such problems this year. They are allowing teams to convert nearly 50 percent of their third downs and opposing quarterbacks are completing 67 percent of their passes. This weekend’s game in Detroit is a critical one for this team, and I wonder if they will play with more purpose against the still-smarting Lions.
18. Washington Redskins (3-2) – Anyone but Rex. That is what I have been saying for weeks. If this team had anyone but Rex Grossman under center I think it has the potential to be the best in the NFC East. We will see if John Beck can give them a bit of a spark, but this team has the defense and the running game to stay competitive in the race into December. The underdog is 9-0 ATS in the last nine meetings with Carolina and the road team is 7-2 ATS in those contests.
19. Buffalo Bills (4-2) – Let the heartbreak begin for the Bills and their fans. Last week’s game was probably one that they should not have won. But they had a chance late and to lose the way that they did – and now with two weeks to think about it – could have a lingering effect. Also, they are No. 31 in yards allowed and they are dead last in sacks. Their weakness at the point of attack will be exposed more as the season wears on.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) – OK, I will admit that this team’s defense is better than it has been in a couple years and that they are top quality. But until they find ways to win games instead of ways to lose them they will be a tough bet. The Cowboys have now played in an NFL-record 12 straight games that have been decided by four points or less. This week they are in a prototype Letdown/Look Ahead spot. They have to get over that gut-wrenching loss in New England without looking ahead too much to a crucial game with Philadelphia on the horizon. We will know in the first eight minutes whether Dallas is going to lay the wood to St. Louis or if they are going to let the Rams hang around.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) – No, I am still not buying into this team. I’m sorry, but barely beating the Colts in the fashion that the Bengals did doesn’t really impress me. Yes, the defense continues to play at a high level. But they have faced Alex Smith, Trent Edwards, Blaine Gabbert and Curtis Painter in the last four weeks.
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-5) – They have to go to Christian Ponder. But I don’t think that he will be a drain on the offense, which is AP-centric to begin with. This defense has a ton of pride and they still have four divisional games on the schedule so I don’t see the Vikings mailing anything in. This week’s game is their Super Bowl, though, but they are a pathetic 2-10-1 ATS as an underdog and 1-6 ATS in their last seven divisional games. Ponder may give them a spark in the second half of the year, but this is a Worst Case Scenario spot for him this week.
23. Carolina Panthers (1-5) – Carolina is 4-2 against the total this year, and I think that they will continue to be a solid ‘over’ play for the rest of the season. But that has less to do with Cam Newton and more to do with the fact that the Panthers defense can’t stop anyone. They are starting to mess around with alternating the 4-3 and 3-4, when I don’t know that they have the personnel to play either right now. They are thin at linebacker and they definitely miss Chris Harris at the back of their secondary. This team is an unwitting favorite this week, but the Panthers are actually 7-2 ATS laying a field goal or less.
24. Cleveland Browns (2-3) – Colt McCoy is regressing in his second season. Granted, for the second year in the row the Browns have the worst skill position people in the NFL (and one of the worst groups in the last decade). But his accuracy just isn’t there this year like it was last year. Peyton Hillis has a sore hamstring and his nightmare season (Madden curse, anyone?) continues. Going back to the preseason, Cleveland is just 2-7 ATS this year as they adjust to rookie coach Pat Shurmur’s systems. I don’t know how this team is favored this week.
25. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – This team was on the ropes before its bye week and they may have benefitted the most from having a week off. Besides having a chance to regroup and get healthy, they are now catching the Raiders with Kyle Boller under center. The Chiefs are a sparkling 7-1 ATS in their last eight meetings in Oakland and the underdog is a perfect 8-0 ATS the last eight times these two rivals have played. These are two of the best rushing teams in the league, but I am looking hard at the ‘over’ in this game because I don’t trust either of these defenses.
26. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) – The Seahawks are off a bye week and have covered three straight games. If anyone is going to challenge San Francisco it looks like it would have to be Seattle, but I’m not holding my breath. They have been outgained in four straight games and they are still a pathetic 15-35-1 ATS in their last 51 road games (6-20 ATS as a road dog). It is next to impossible to bet on this team when they play outside the Pacific Northwest. Pete Carroll still hasn’t tipped his hand on who will start at QB this week. But I would absolutely go with Charlie Whitehurst. Let’s give this guy some burn and see what he’s got. Seattle also gets back Zach Miller, Robert Gallery and Max Unger this week.
27. Miami Dolphins (0-5) – I had been giving this team the benefit of the doubt because of their brutal Miami Dolphins schedule. But wow. I mean, WOW. That Monday performance was pathetic. Not only Brandon Marshall, but can any Miami wideouts catch the ball? Can Daniel Thomas not do idiotic things? And if you weren’t sure if Tony Sparano was an NFL-level coach or not just look at how he mismanaged the last minute of the first half. I don’t even know what to say about this group.
28. Denver Broncos (1-4) – The Brandon Lloyd trade clearly signifies that this team is going to be rolling with Tim Tebow until he either A) pans out, B) gets hurt, or C) humiliates himself. Don’t underestimate the emotion he will have returning to Florida this week. The biggest issue with this team isn’t quarterback, it is defense. Denver’s defense is the fifth-worst on third down and third-worst in the league in time of possession. They are terrible and they can’t get off the field. That is the biggest reason that they are 4-1 against the total and 1-4 ATS.
29. Arizona Cardinals (1-4) – This team is about eight yards away from being 0-5 and right now I don’t see anything to really like about this club. Also, their main weakness – their lack of depth – is starting to crop up. Kerry Rhodes broke his foot and will miss at least six weeks. Adrian Wilson is playing with a torn bicep. The levy – and that already awful secondary – is about to burst.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) – As bad as this team is – and make no mistake, they are undermanned and overmatched – I do think that they will continue to be a live dog for the next two months. They play a physical style of football and those teams can always be tough to put away. This team knows that they aren’t going anywhere and that will probably make this week’s game against the Ravens on MNF their “Super Bowl”. It will be interesting to see how much emotion they come out with this week for a rare primetime event for this franchise.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-5) – Ouch. Can’t help but think that this team’s season is reminding me a lot of last year’s 49ers season – preseason expectations going up in flames thanks to a brutal schedule and underperformance. Maybe that sets them up for a bounce back next year. In the meantime, Sam Bradford has a high ankle sprain and has to be considered questionable for this week. They have other key offensive injuries (Roger Saffold, Cadillac Williams) and an 0-7 start is pretty much a given for this team.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-6) – Indy just keeps inventing ways to not cover spreads. They had last week’s cash in hand before that garbage fumble late, and they are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight overall. I have no idea why this team is sticking with Delone Carter as the feature back. He does not look as fast or as explosive as Donald Brown on film and his 3.1 yards per carry average is terrible. Also, I’m not sure if I have pointed him out just yet, but linebacker Pat Angerer is quickly becoming one of my favorite young players in the NFL. That dude is all over the field.
Robert Ferringo is a professional NFL handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football season (college and pro). He banged home back-to-back winning football weeks and has banked $3,000 in profit over the last week-and-a-half. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.