Good Bye? - Effects of the Off Week on Falcons Opponents

This might be a good time to look at the effects of the bye week, given that we’re about to face the Raiders coming off their bye. After Oakland, we have our bye week and then face Philadelphia, who will also be coming off their bye. In week eleven, we play Arizona coming off their bye week. Generally, the expectation is that the team coming off a bye has an advantage, for a couple reasons:

  • The bye team has had two weeks, in most cases, to heal from the minor aches and pains and get their legs back.
  • They have extra practice and preparation time, time that can be used to scout the next opponent, perfect the game plan and put in new plays.
  • They have extra time to relax a bit from the NFL season pressure-cooker, get perspective on the season, and get their head right to be fully motivated for the next game.
  • Evidence suggests that the success (or failure) of teams after the bye week seems to rest more on the quality of the team, whether the game is home or away, and its coaching. In general (and this should be no surprise), good teams tend to fare better after the bye than their lesser peers. Teams may also benefit from home field advantage. In many cases, the post-bye record measures up pretty reasonably with the team’s average win/loss record over the same period. But there are aberrations. So how have teams, especially those the Falcons will face after their bye, fared historically? Read on to see the breakdown and my perspective on the coach records.

    From the NFL statistics, these are the team records after bye weeks from 1990 to 2011:

    Baltimore 11-5 Arizona 10-13
    Buffalo 15-8 Atlanta 13-10
    Cincinnati 6-16-1 Carolina 8-9
    Cleveland 7-11 Chicago 15-8
    Denver 17-6 Dallas 16-7
    Houston 3-7 Detroit 10-13
    Indianapolis 13-10 Green Bay 14- 9
    Jacksonville 9-8 Minnesota 17-6
    Kansas City 13-10 New Orleans 11-12
    Miami 13-10 New York Giants 8-15
    New England 13-10 Philadelphia 19-4
    New York 12-11 San Francisco 10-13
    Oakland 9-14 Seattle 6-17
    Pittsburgh 14- 9 St. Louis 11-12
    San Diego 11-11 Tampa Bay 10-13
    Tennessee 13-10 Washington 11-12

    Team records don’t tell the whole story. You expect the head coach and his staff to be responsible for scheduling, training and motivating the team. I think that coaching has a big impact, based on specific coach’s records after the bye. Every coach has a different way of handling the bye. Mike Smith let the whole team take the week off last year. They responded by winning 31-7 at Indianapolis. Considering how bad the Colts were last year, perhaps he knew he could afford to grant the break. But lets move on to this year’s opponents coming off their bye, and look at their head coach’s post-bye records.

    Our next game is at home against the Raiders. They have a new head coach this year (go figure!) in Dennis Allen. Previously the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, he has no head coaching bye history to look at. We could look at Hue Jackson, the head coach last year who lost to Denver 24-38 at home. For the two years before Jackson, Tom Cable was head coach; in 2010 he lost off the bye 3-35 at Pittsburgh. In 2009 he lost off the bye 10-16 versus Kansas City. We could pursue this through Lane Kiffin, Art Shell and Norv Turner, but what’s the point? Allen’s the coach now and he’s unknown. I just don’t see any evidence to suggest that Oakland will be any more dangerous on our home turf as a result of their bye.

    Arizona has better consistency with their head coach, as Ken Whisenhunt has been there since the 2007 season. However, his five year record off the bye isn’t that good, losing 10-17 at Tampa Bay in 2007, and 23-27 at Carolina in 2008. He won off the bye at home in 2009, defeating Houston 28-21. But then he returned to his losing ways in 2010 and 2011, losing 10-22 at Seattle, and then 20-32 against Pittsburgh at home. Perhaps Arizona will be a better team this year than the 2008 team that beat Atlanta enroute to a Superbowl loss to the Steelers; however, they don’t have a bye record under Whisenhunt that should strike fear into our collective hearts.

    Philadelphia might be a different matter. Andy Reid has been the Eagles head coach since 1999. In his thirteen seasons of games coming off a bye week, he’s never lost one. None. 13-0. Some of those wins were squeakers (like the 10-9 win at the New York Giants in 2001), some were thumpings (like last year’s 34-7 drubbing of Dallas at home), but every one of those games was a win. All but three were home games, but that’s still an amazing stat. I don’t know what Reid’s bye week routine is, but it seems to work.

    How has Mike Smith fared? In addition to last year’s aforementioned beatdown of Indy, he won 27-21 at home against Tampa Bay in 2010, and 45-10 at San Francisco in 2009. His only loss after the bye week came in 2008, a 14-27 beating in…you guessed it. Philadelphia.

    So there’s a little reassurance for those of you that were looking at the schedule and worrying about the Raiders or Cardinals coming off their bye. It’s also another subplot for the Falcons/Eagles game in week eight as it adds a bit of additional intrigue to a game that already has a story. If we can beat Philadelphia off their (and our) bye week, on their field, it will put an end to a fairly unique streak, and help to cement the Falcons reputation as true road warriors. It should be interesting. Your thoughts?

    <em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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