NFL Betting Trends: Playoff Teams off Bye Week
We have a unique experience coming up in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Each year we see four teams that have played for their playoff lives and won in the opening week. And their reward is to play against a well-rested team, typically with a better record, on the road. The playoffs are set up to give a distinct advantage to teams that finish in the top two spots in their conference. As bettors, our jobs are to figure out what that home-field advantage and the extra rest translates to in terms of a betting advantage. And to help you out with that here is a look back at how bye teams have performed in the last five years.
If you were betting bye teams last year, then you were so happy after Saturday's action. And then Sunday happened. Philadelphia started things off as 2.5-point underdogs at home against Atlanta - which feels impossible to believe now - and they won by five to cover comfortably. Then New England was favored by a massive 13.5 points, but that wasn't nearly enough - they beat Tennessee by three touchdowns in a game that was over by halftime. Great start for bye teams. Sunday started with Pittsburgh, favored by a touchdown against Jacksonville, losing a shootout by a field goal. Then Minnesota pulled off the last-second miracle to beat New Orleans by five in impossible fashion, but they were favored by 5.5 and didn't convert the extra point. So, what could have been a great weekend wound up 3-1 straight up, but just 2-2 ATS. Sigh.
Bye teams only treaded water in January of 2017. They didn't make money, but they didn't lose too much of it, either. The winners were Atlanta - beating Seattle by 16 while favored by 16.5 - and New England, who only barely covered despite winning over Houston by 18 as they were remarkable 16.5-point favorites. The other two teams let us down, though. Dallas was favored by five points against Green Bay but lost by a field goal is a flat performance. And Kansas City was narrowly favored by just 2.5 over Pittsburgh but lost by two. So, 2-2 was the record for by teams both straight up and ATS.
If you were only a fan of bye teams, then things went really well for you this year - all four bye teams won their games. But if you aren't happy just cheering for bye teams and like to bet on them as well, then you were less thrilled. Arizona beat Green Bay by six, but they were favored by seven, so they fell frustratingly short. Denver did a little better, winning by touchdown against Pittsburgh, but that was the spread, so they only pushed. Continuing the trend of accurate spreads, New England won by a touchdown when favored by six to get the cover. And Carolina took care of business best for bettors, winning by a touchdown when only favored by 2.5. So, the 4-0 straight up bye teams wound up at 2-1-1 ATS. Still profitable, but far from what could have been.
This was just a frustrating year for bye team bettors. The teams did fine on the field, with Denver being the only higher seed to fall on the weekend. But it was a bit of a betting disaster. The Broncos obviously didn't cover the spread - they were favored by 9.5 against Indy, so it was a painful loss. New England beat Baltimore by four but was favored by a touchdown. Green Bay won by five but was giving up 5.5, so they fell short, too. Only Seattle took care of business for bettors, and they didn't make it easy - they won by two touchdowns but were favored by a massive 13.5 points. So, 3-1 straight up led to 1-3 ATS. Yuck.
If you didn't like the 2015 playoffs, then you wouldn't have liked these ones, either. Carolina was the lone higher seed to win, but they only lost to San Francisco as a pick 'em, so that wasn't a shock. Seattle won fairly comfortably by eight against New Orleans, but they were favored by 10, so that wasn't good enough. Denver beat San Diego by a touchdown, but they were giving up eight. Only New England saved the weekend from being a total disaster. They were favored by 7.5 against Indy, and had things wrapped up early. They wound up winning by 21 to lift the bye teams to 3-1 straight up, but just 1-3 ATS.
The Bottom Line
Over the last five years, cheering for teams coming off the bye has mostly worked out, but the small profit has actually come from betting against them - they are just 8-11-1 ATS off the bye week. The hero continues to be New England. The Patriots are about to play their eighth consecutive home game in the second week of the playoffs - just think about what it takes to do that for a second. They have now gone 5-2 ATS in the previous seven games. In the last five years they are 4-1 ATS, so if you take their performances out the other bye teams - the ones with less experience dealing with the bye - are 4-10-1 ATS over the last five years. That means that betting against bye teams that don't have Tom Brady under center has been wildly profitable.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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