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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 2:00 PM

For years and years, the bye week enjoyed by the top two seeds in the NFL Playoffs was seen as a huge advantage. Oddsmakers often adjusted their lines 3-4 points in favor of the rested hosts. And, that wasn’t enough! Handicappers thinking an overadjustment had been made lost a fortune when superpowers of prior decades posted monster victory margins. A 10-point favorite would be up 21 at halftime, on the way to a victory of five touchdowns or more.

In recent seasons, that hasn’t really been the case. In fact, tendencies have moved enough in the other direction that you hear TV announcers talking about the dangers of getting rusty from the time off. Some former coaches will tell you that the week off actually HURTS a team! This is amazing for anyone who made money on favorites during the years when all the divisional round games seemed to end 45-10.

Let me tell you what’s going on here:

*The bye week can be a big advantage if the road underdog is exhausted and the rested home favorite has a clear advantage in PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS. The tired dog will be chasing ball carriers from behind all game as the scoreboard lights up.

*The bye week doesn’t mean much (if anything) if the road underdog is healthy and wasn’t in a particularly physical battle the prior week…particularly if the rested home favorite is a “defense first” team rather than one that’s loaded with PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS.

In other words…the bye week is either worth 14-21 points, or it’s worth NOTHING, depending on circumstances. I don’t buy what some analysts are selling regarding “rust.” Professionals don’t lose their timing from only one week off. And, after a grueling season, that time off helps injured players get healthy.

What many pundits are attributing to “rust” is something I would consider better explained by THE MOTIVATION FACTOR. Many rested favorites come in extremely overconfident. They assume it’s going to be easy…and are caught a step slow when a fired up underdog with nothing to lose comes at them full blast. Think about it…divisional round dogs are battling for survival, while divisional round favorites are all thinking about the championship and the Super Bowl. To get a bye, you have to be a #1 or #2 seed. If you’re a top seed, then your fans and local media can’t shut up about the Super Bowl during your week off.

And, it has to be said, that we’ve had a lot of truly overrated #1 and #2 seeds since the turn of the new century. Atlanta wasn’t really the best team in the NFC last year, even though they were a #1 seed. Teams are racking up records of 13-3 (often better) against weak schedules, then getting exposed when they run into true quality in the postseason. A bye week will expand the advantage that true quality has over mediocrity…but it won’t help “overrated” beat true quality. That’s a big lesson from recent seasons.

So, where does that leave those of us participating in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping for this weekend’s four games? I won’t talk about specific matchups because I need to protect that information for my clients. I would like students to ponder these questions as they handicap the games themselves:

*Were any road teams physically exhausted by their games from last week?

*Are there any “mismatches” in the area of PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS?

*Are any home teams immune from flat emotional or preparation possibilities?

*Were any #1 or #2 seeds illusions based on weak schedule strength?

*Were any #1 or #2 seeds “defense first” teams who might have trouble scoring?

Remember, the bye week is either worth a lot of points or its worth zero. See if you can spot a game or two that have legitimate blowout potential based on what history has taught us. See if you can find a live dog capable of continuing what had first been thought as an unlikely run to the Super Bowl.

If you need additional assistance, my game day selections can be purchased here at this very website with your major credit card. Take care of business in the hours before first kickoff on both Saturday and Sunday. If you have questions about a football package that gets you all the plays through the Super Bowl, or any combination offers with basketball, talk to one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters home office at 1-888-777-4155.

Your next class time with the Dean of Sports Handicapping will be early next week when we talk more about college basketball. A week from now, we’ll discuss the AFC and NFC Championship games. Thanks again for all of your hard work. I want YOU to be champions in Las Vegas sports betting!

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