NFL: Extra Rest Doesn't Always Pay Off
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 09/10/2008
After traditionally playing Thursday games only on Thanksgiving, the NFL began to expand its Thursday night schedule to include opening season games on Thursday night. From there they added a third game on Thanksgiving night to make it a tripleheader after the Lions and Cowboys play their annual games. Now the NFL has more of a presence on a night that once was solely set aside for college football. In college football a team would generally get the previous week off when playing a Thursday game. That is not possible in the NFL where teams only get one bye week per season.
This brings up the question of how teams will perform by playing on Thursday when they are coming off only a few days rest - but this isn't a huge factor since both squads are playing on the same rest. However, when they take the field the next week, they have had three more days off than their opponents in most cases. Instead of watching film of the team, they could simply tune in on Sunday afternoon and watch their future opponents.
However the extra days of rest and preparation have failed to produce results for the NFL teams playing on Thursday night. Playing in the Thursday season opening game, like the Giants and Redskins did this past week, has proven to hurt the teams in Week 2. Since 2005, no team playing in the NFL opener on Thursday night has covered the spread the following week and only one team has won the game straight up. In 2005 New England and Oakland opened the season and both lost ATS and SU the next week. In 2006 the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers hosted the Miami Dolphins. In Week 2, once again, both teams lost ATS and SU. Last year the Saints and Colts both failed to cover in Week 2 after playing the previous Thursday.
Once the NFL rolled out its Thursday night primetime games late in the season, things got slightly better for the teams playing on Thursday. In 2006 they went 6-6-2 ATS the following week and 5-9 SU. In 2007 the teams playing on Thursday, went 4-8 ATS the following week and 5-7 SU.
Bookmakers are placing a lot of emphasis on the extra rest benefiting the teams playing on Thursday and the public is buying into it, but teams playing on Thursday night fail to deliver on the field against the number the following week. Rest and preparation are often overrated in the NFL where routines have been established throughout a week that the players become accustomed to between Sunday and Sunday.
This is also a league where two of the last three Super Bowl champions have come from the first round of the playoffs, defeating teams the next week that had a bye week. The Giants came out of the first round defeating the Cowboys in the second round last year and the Steelers did the same against the Colts three years ago.
Based on these trends the Giants visiting the Rams as 8 ½-point favorites and the Redskins hosting the Saints with the line set at a 'pick' are the two most vulnerable teams this coming Sunday. Later in the season when the Thursday night games begin after Thanksgiving, bettors would be smart to keep an eye on the teams playing with nine days rest and side with the teams playing on regular rest.