As the NFL season hits Week 8, it’s a good time to take a look at the impact of bye weeks. Twelve teams have competed following a week off, and the rest has benefited the teams and the bettors who have supported them.
After a bye, the rejuvenated teams have gone 8-4 straight up and 7-4-1 against the spread. Of the teams that lost, San Diego had a special teams meltdown against Denver, Miami blew a 21-point lead against New Orleans, Chicago lost a hard-fought game at Atlanta, and San Francisco’s second-half rally at Houston came up just short.
Six teams come off the bye today. In one of the most appealing games on the schedule, the unbeaten Broncos visit the Baltimore Ravens (3-3), who have dropped three straight.
The Ravens are 31/2-point favorites, and on paper this looks like a horrible spot for Denver. But those who have tried to buck the Broncos this season have paid dearly. Denver has been the underdog in four of its six games.
“Denver has been one of the few friends the sports books have had this season,” Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “The Broncos overcame the horrible spot on a Monday night in San Diego, and they face a similar situation against a team I still consider to be one of the best in the league.”
The other four teams off byes — Detroit, Jacksonville, Seattle and Tennessee — should have been granted two weeks off.
The Lions, Jaguars, Seahawks and Titans are a combined 6-18, and they all desperately needed a break.
Tennessee’s fall from grace has been the season’s most confounding disappointment. The Titans, 3-point home favorites over the Jaguars, will start Vince Young at quarterback at the insistence of owner Bud Adams.
Detroit, a 4-point home favorite over the hapless Rams, has shown signs of life. St. Louis might play this game like the Super Bowl out of fear alone. The Rams, at 0-7, are giving last year’s winless Lions a run for their money.
Seattle is a 91/2-point underdog at Dallas, and money has poured in on the Cowboys throughout the week. Dallas is a very public team, and everyone saw it deliver a sharp performance off a bye against Atlanta.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmaker Mike Seba said his approach to setting the lines for teams coming off the shelf takes myriad factors into account.
“The healing process for banged-up teams is a valuable asset,” Seba said, “but just as important for the first game back from a break is the extra preparation time they get for a specific opponent, especially when better coaching staffs are involved.”
And we can’t ignore Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau Field, where the revenge-minded Green Bay Packers await.
The Minnesota Vikings are coming off their first loss of the season, after throwing a fourth-quarter turnover party in Pittsburgh. In the heralded Monday game on Oct. 5, Favre passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions as the Vikings beat the Packers, 30-23.
LVSC oddsmaker Sean Van Patten said to forget the hype and look at the big picture.
“The opening line for the first meeting between these teams told you they are relatively even, before factoring the home-field edge,” Van Patten said. “The situation is critical for the Packers. With a win, they’re right back in the picture to win the NFC North. If not, they’re likely a wild-card team at best.”
Another consideration is the Packers are coming off a cupcake win over Cleveland, while the Vikings in succession have faced Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two teams that can exact a physical toll.
Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at email@example.com. Hear the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 3 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM) and Sirius 98.