Since the 2002 expansion and reorganization, the playoffs have consisted of the four division winners and two Wild Card teams from each conference.
In order to make the six-team bracket work, the NFL awarded the top two division winners from each conference a first round bye, leaving the other two division champs to host the two Wild Card teams.
With nearly two decades of data in the books in the current format, I decided to go back over the years and take a look at how teams fared in the Divisional Round coming off a bye.
Most would assume that the extra week of rest and preparation would benefit these teams in their opening playoff game, but there’s also the concern of a team losing their edge.
Overall Record of Teams Off Bye
|47-21 (69.1%)||30-37-1 (44.8%)||37-31 (54.4%)|
While teams coming off a bye have won the game straight up at 69.4% clip, you can see they have had a hard time covering the spread set by oddsmakers.
This makes sense from a betting standpoint. The public loves to back the teams with the best record and even more so when they are playing at home on an extra week of rest.
Teams on Winning Streak off Bye in Postseason
|1||32-14 (69.6%)||21-24-1 (46.7%)||25-21 (54.3%)|
|2||23-9 (71.9%)||14-17-1 (45.2%)||19-13 (59.4%)|
|3||12-6 (66.7%)||7-10-1 (41.2%)||12-6 (66.7%)|
|4||9-5 (64.3%)||5-9 (35.7%)||9-5 (64.3%)|
|5||7-4 (63.6%)||3-8 (27.3%)||8-3 (72.7%)|
I’m not surprised that teams who receive a bye that are riding a winning streak have struggled against the spread, but I didn’t think it was this bad. It appears the longer the winning streak, the more oddsmakers are going to overvalue these teams off a bye.
The thing that really stands out is that not only are teams on a long winning streak not covering, but they also winning the game outright at a lower clip than teams on a shorter win steak.
Interesting to note that three of the four teams (Ravens, Chiefs and Packers) with a bye in 2020 are riding winning streaks of at least five games.
Handicapping Different Playoff Spreads
|Underdog||2-1 (66.7%)||2-1 (66.7%)||1-2 (33.3%)|
|Pick’em to -3||5-4 (55.6%)||4-5 (44.4%)||5-4 (55.6%)|
|-3.5 to -7||21-8 (72.4%)||13-15-1 (46.4%)||16-13 (55.2%)|
|-7.5 or More||19-8 (69.2%)||11-16 (40.7%)||15-12 (55.6%)|
Next thing I wanted to look at was whether or not there was any significant edge based on what the spread was for teams coming off a bye.
Rarely will you see an underdog in this spot. It’s only happened three times since they switched to the format in 2002. The most recent beating the 2017 Eagles, who were a 2.5-point home dog to the Falcons. Philadelphia not only won that game, they went on to win the Super Bowl!
It’s almost just as rare to see a team laying less than a field goal off a bye. It’s only happened 9 times overall and just twice in the last 5 seasons.
Also, the bigger the favorite the more unlikely a cover. Though both have struggled. Teams favored by a touchdown or less are 46.4% (13-15-1) ATS and teams favored by more than touchdown are 40.7% (11-16).
Betting Over/Under With NFL Playoff Teams Off Bye
|TOTAL RANGE||O/U Record||O/U %|
|48 Points or More||16-9||64.0%|
|43 Points or Less||9-13||40.9%|
I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s in your best interest to look to fade teams coming off a bye. However, instead of ending my research there, I decided to dig a little deeper and look to see if there was any value on the total.It turns out that it’s worth paying attention to where oddsmakers set the mark.
Games with a high totals of 48 or more points went over 64% of the time, while games with low totals 43 points or less went under 59.1% of the time. Definitely looks like you should take notice to the number the books put out, as it certainly looks like they are tipping their hand.