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The bettor’s edge

Advice for NFL bettors: Buy into the bye

Gamblers love to rationalize their wagers. If anyone is willing to listen, we’ll talk relentlessly about why we are taking a game or why we are laying off. Sometimes the reasoning is tired; occasionally, it’s grounded in logic.

When gamblers say they like a team because it is “coming off a bye week,” this always seems to make sense. “Coming off a bye week” makes a team sound rested, prepared, and ready to pounce. But does this theory simply sound good, or do teams with extra preparation cover the spread more often than not?

In a recent blog post, the folks at provided answers. Since 2004, teams coming off bye weeks are 138-113 (55 percent) against the spread. They also discovered a more profitable trend: Favorites coming off a bye since 2004 are 86-48 (64.2 percent) against the spread.


The teams just off a bye this week are Dallas (underdog), Detroit (underdog), Oakland (underdog), and Tampa Bay (favorite).

This week’s picks (home team in caps):

TAMPA BAY (-4) over Kansas City: Why not take the system play? The Chiefs did cover at home against Baltimore, but if you watched, you saw Kansas City doing everything in its power not to cover. The Bucs have already faced three teams from the rugged NFC East, so the floundering Chiefs will be a welcome sight. Risking $110 to win $100.

CLEVELAND (+1) over Cincinnati: I’m taking the points in this divisional battle because Brandon Weeden has shown he’s capable of eventually turning the Browns into a winner. Risking $110 to win $100.

SEATTLE (+3½) over New England: Another home underdog worth taking, and this one has a vicious defense. The Patriots have covered in three straight, and they lead the league in points per game and yards per game, but New England fans who blindly bet on their local heroes should proceed carefully. This has all the makings of a field goal game. Risking $110 to win $100.


MIAMI (-3½) over St. Louis: I saw “Hard Knocks” on HBO, so I’m as surprised as anyone that Miami has been so competitive. Both clubs appear to be successfully rebuilding, but I’ll side with the home team that is used to playing on grass. Risking $110 to win $100.

Last week: 4-1, plus $240. Season: 9-11, minus $313.

Ed Ryan can be reached at