NFL Divisional Round Betting Trends: Bye Teams Last Five Years
Things aren't quite as we are used to following the Wild-Card Weekend in the NFL Playoffs. All four teams coming off a bye are well rested and have had extra time to prepare, but only three of those teams are favored in the Divisional Round. The home team is almost always favored in this round, but understandable skepticism surrounding Nick Foles with the Eagles has given the sixth-seeded Falcons the edge in their impending showdown. It would be hard to argue with anyone who doubts Foles or who would rather trust Matt Ryan, who is less than a year removed from leading his team to the Super Bowl, but that's a debate for another time. What we want to accomplish here is a look at how the home teams have fared off a bye the last five years to see what trends have emerged and what we can learn from that heading into this weekend. In other words, are bye teams generally profit factories or sucker bets? Let's look back at the last five years:
Last year was not a great year for bettors who backed the bye teams, but as you will see it was better than many. Atlanta was favored by 6.5 and beat Seattle by 16. New England was, incredibly, favored by 16.5 against Houston, and they won by 18. Those were the positive stories. One the other side of the ledger, Dallas lost to Green Bay by a field goal as five-point favorites, and Kansas City lost by two to Pittsburgh when favored by 2.5. So, bye teams just 2-2 straight up and had the same record against the spread.
The bye teams all won their games, so they did what their owners and fans wanted them to do But they weren't quite so kind to bettors. It was still a profitable weekend betting on the bye teams, but it was close to being the kind of weekend bettors dream of. Arizona beat Green Bay by six points, but they were favored by seven so they fell frustratingly short of a cover. And Denver's touchdown victory over Pittsburgh was only good enough for a push. The other two bye teams did their jobs, though. New England won by seven when favored by six, and Carolina also won by a touchdown but were only favored by 2.5. So, the bye teams were undefeated but just 2-1-1 ATS. Not great, but better than what we are about to see.
Again, it depends on whether you are betting the bye teams against the spread or just cheering for them to win. Denver was the only team coming off a bye to lose, falling to Indianapolis as 9.5-point favorites. Seattle was the only one of the three winning bye teams that covered the spread - they were favored by a massive 13.5 points and won by a half point more. New England won by four, but that wasn't good enough to cover the seven-point spread against Baltimore. And Green Bay won by five when they were giving up 5.5 points. So, the bye teams went 3-1 this week in the end, but they were a dismal 1-3 ATS.
At the risk of this being a spoiler, the home teams coming off a bye again went a solid 3-1 straight up but an ugly 1-3 ATS. Carolina didn't win against the 49ers, but they were only a "pick'em" at home, so that hardly qualifies as a shocking upset. Seattle won comfortably at home by eight against New Orleans, but when you are favored by 10 that isn't good enough. Denver beat the Chargers by a touchdown as eight-point favorites to fall just short as well. The only happy story for bettors was New England, the seemingly perennial bye team, and there wasn't much drama in their game - they were favored by 7.5 points against Indy and won by three touchdowns.
Home teams again went 3-1 straight up, but were an improved 2-2 ATS. It was Denver that was the biggest disappointment, losing in overtime to Baltimore as 9.5-point favorites, Atlanta won, oddly, by two points over Seattle, but they were favored by 2.5. Only the plus side, getting 9.5 points wasn't enough for Houston as New England beat them by 13, and San Francisco won by two touchdowns while giving up only a field goal.
The Bottom Line
Home teams have not particularly struggled to win games coming off a bye, coming out on top in 15 of the last 20 played on Divisional Round Weekend. It's covering the spread that has been the issue for them. The bye teams have gone a bleak 8-11-1 ATS over the last five years, so there has actually been a decent profit to be made by blindly betting the non-bye teams. The one hero in all this, though, has been New England. They have actually played at home each of the last six years - which is incredible in and of itself. They have won five of those six games and have gone 4-2 ATS in that time and 4-1 ATS in the last five. It's not super tough to imagine that success continuing this year. So, betting against bye teams that don't play in Foxboro has turned out very well for bettors - the non-bye teams are 10-4-1 ATS over that time.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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