Unusual bye format traces to lockout

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Long ago, the NFL decided to expand the 16-week season without truly expanding it.  By adding a bye week, the league squeezed 17 weeks of programming out of a 16-game slate of games.  (In 1993, the league actually used two bye weeks, creating 18 weekends of football.)

This year, the bye format has a few unusual twists.  There has been, for example, a proliferation of weekends with six teams off, when the more traditional approach has been to give only four teams at a time a week off.  Also, the byes usually begin in Week Four.  This year, they started in Week Five.

The strangest aspect of the bye-week scheduling arises in Week 10, when no teams will be off.  In contrast, four teams will have a bye in Week 11.

Typically, when the byes end, they end for everyone.  (Except in 1999 through 2001, when at least one team was off every week, given that the league had only 31 franchises.)

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tells PFT, “It’s mostly random but linked to potential work stoppage planning.”

The 2011 schedule contains multiple hints of work stoppage (i.e., lockout) planning.  The Week Three schedule, for example, consisted exclusively of games between teams whose bye weeks occurred at the same time, allowing those games to be made up during what otherwise would have been a Sunday off.  (Under that scenario, the entire Week One and Week Two schedule could have been shifted to weekends in January 2012.)

Still, the decision to schedule no byes in Week 10, but to have four byes in Week 11, seems odd.  Perhaps it was the only way to match up the many variables to allow the Week Three games to be played later.  Perhaps Week 10 was the drop dead final opportunity to launch a reduced season.

Either way, those of you who play fantasy football won’t have to account for players not playing this weekend, even though folks who have men who play for the Saints, Colts, Texans, and Steeler will need to line up replacements in Week 11.

11 responses to “Unusual bye format traces to lockout

  1. I’d like to see a schedule where the bye teams always play another bye team the next week. It doesn’t seem fair to let a team have a week off before a game. I’d like to see the stats for teams coming off bye weeks. I know this year the Bills crushed the Skins after a week off then got crushed by the jet’s who had a week off.

  2. there should be eight weeks of byes with four teams each week. It should be arranged so that the four teams play each other the next week, so there are no unfair advantages of having one team having two weeks to prepare vs one with only one week. There should NEVER be a divisional game scheduled with such inequity.

  3. Guys, the stats barely back up your claim of “unfairness” to a team when the opponent is coming off a bye.

    Over the last nine seasons, in a game where no team has had a bye in the previous week, teams favored by 9+ have won 83% [318/382], when the home team has had a bye 88% [30/34]. At 7-8.5 favorites its 74% [214/291] to 73% [8/11]. At 5-6.5 its 68% [206/302] to 60% [9/15] …

    Under a 5 point spread teams favored have done better, but its probably due a small sample size (as are most of the bye week numbers).

    As for division games, the percentages are almost identical.

  4. I think that there should only be two weeks that have byes. Make it week 8 and week 9 so that everyone gets a break at the 1/2 point of the season. 16 teams have the week off in week 8. That still leaves 8 games to play during the week and all broadcast partners can still get have games to broadcast. In week 9, all those who were off in week 8 would play.

    No more whining about early byes or late byes, everyone breaks in the middle of the season.

    And, except for those two weeks, all other weeks have a full complement of games

  5. This has been bothering me since the schedule came out. It was extra weird because nobody explained it or even seemed to notice it. I thought I was the only weirdo cared. Thanks for clearing it up.

  6. “…even though folks who have men who play for the Saints, Colts, Texans, and Steeler will need to line up replacements in Week 11.”

    Anybody starting a Colts player in fantasy football deserves to lose anyway.

  7. All the really bad teams from last year should have their bye on the last week of the season so they can start partying early.

  8. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pittsburgh was given a bye week 11. The league is making sure they get some well needed rest before the playoffs. Ridiculous!

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