December 8, 2016

What’s the Effect of the Bye Week?

By Bill Barnwell, Football Outsiders – special to BSMW Patriots Game Day

Apologize for this being a little late, everyone, but there’ll be – yes – two pieces in Patriots Game Day this week from me, both of which will be covering, shockingly enough, the media and some claims made in recent columns.

I was going through some NFL articles last week when I came across a piece on the Cowboys by Dallas Morning News columnist Matt Mosley. Now, I haven’t read enough of Mosley’s work to have any sort of preconceived notion about whether he’s one of the better sportswriters out there, so I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The article I was reading was entitled “Bye Week an Indicator? Don’t buy it“, and was written on September 21st, during the Cowboys bye week. In it, Mosley quoted Bill Parcells as saying the following:

“It’s a little deceptive, because if it’s a 23-week season (including the preseason), you have to understand that we’re already eight weeks into the season,” Parcells said earlier this week. “So we’re one-third into it from a time standpoint. Probably another month would be about midseason and might be a little bit more beneficial. Somewhere mid-October to November 7th, if you’re asking me what I like. Most coaches would say, ‘Hey, that’s where we’d like it.’ “

Mosley, responding to this, noted that the 1999 and 2003 Cowboys both made the playoffs with their bye week occurring in Week 3, and that other teams also enjoyed success with an early bye. “After an afternoon of exhaustive research and coughing, I’ve come to the conclusion that having an early bye week doesn’t really indicate anything”, Mosley wrote.

Of course, such a comment without any data to back it up can only inspire a bit of peer review, right? Do teams that have early bye weeks suffer a disadvantage?

I threw 1993 out of the data set because it was the lone season that gave teams two bye weeks each; beyond that, I gathered the wins for every team since the inception of the bye week in 1990, compared it to their bye week, and produced the following numbers:

byeweek.jpg

First off, the issue of sample size really rears its head with Weeks 1-2 and 11-17, so those numbers should pretty much be ignored. That being said, the numbers for Weeks 3-10 provide some interesting data:

byeweek2.jpg

There is some slight evidence that having a bye in the earlier part of the season is actually slightly beneficial, as opposed to having a bye in the latter stages. I’d feel more confident about the results if it were over thirty seasons worth of data instead of fifteen (removing the ’96 Jets, who had a bye in Week 10, bumps the average wins up from 7.5 to 7.7, for example), but a difference of three-quarters of a win between Weeks 3-4 and Weeks 9-10 is some food for thought, and would seemingly go against Parcells’ belief that a bye week later in the season would be preferred. His requested bye week timing would have his bye occurring around Weeks 7-9.

Later in the week, I’ll be taking a look at Bill Simmons’ claim that quarterbacks who run frequently age quicker than those who don’t.

Leave a Reply