Bye Bye Bye
How important is a bye week for an NFL playoff team? Over the last If postseasons, teams that got a week's rest won their first playoff game 82% of the time. Last weekend three of the four teams that had first-round byes won, handily: the Giants, Raiders and Vikings. Since 1990 only one NFC first-round winner has won its next game: the Packers in January 1996. The average margin of victory for the home teams in their 36 divisional-round wins has been 18.0 points, that's blowout territory.
Bye teams are usually a bit better than their opponents, but on top of that they're more rested and don't have to travel. "That's a big key," said Dolphins wideout Oronde Gadsen after Miami was demolished 27-0 in Oakland. "Get home field and get a bye and not have to travel."
Home field should be reward enough for the top regular-season clubs. With expansion and realignment into eight four-team divisions in 2002, the NFL should eliminate the bye week by adding four teams to the postseason. This year that would have meant playoff berths for the 9-7 Jets, Lions, Packers and Steelers—and four more games for fans to bask in over the holidays.
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