The bye-week apocalypse has come and gone. Over the last two weeks, 12 teams have had their annual week off. Ten more (including eight from the AFC) still have their bye to look forward to, and four will get a rest in Week 10: Detroit, Oakland, Indianapolis, and Buffalo.
What should we expect from them when they get back in action?
(Don’t forget to check out last week’s article before Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, and Washington get back on the field this weekend.)
The Lions were supposed to be also-rans in the NFC North, but, if Minnesota drops a fourth straight game on Sunday, they’ll be tied for the division lead when they return to the field.
After beating the Colts, 39-35, to open the year, Detroit lost one-score games to Tennessee, Green Bay, and Chicago. They rebounded with victories at home over Philly, LA, and Washington, then split their last two on the road, losing at Houston, 20-13, and winning in Minneapolis, 22-16. They’ve played tight games all year, and have a number of fourth-quarter comebacks on their resume already; their point differential (-1) reflects that.
Tight games are nothing new for the Lions under Jim Caldwell; they won tight games following a week off in both of his seasons with the team. The franchise, as a whole, has won four in a row after a regular season bye.
Detroit has three winnable home games in the first four weeks after the bye (Jags, Vikings, and Bears, in that order). Their lone road trip in the next month is at New Orleans.
There’s still a perception that Detroit is overachieving in its first season without Calvin Johnson. While they’re not the most talented team in the league, the Lions compete every week and Matthew Stafford is having his best season to date, arguably. If you can get them laying less than a field goal at home, there may be some value there.
The Raiders haven’t had a winning record since 2002, when a Rich Gannon/Jerry Rice-led team lost in the Super Bowl. After Sunday night’s 30-20 win over Denver, the Raiders are now 7-2 and alone atop the hyper-competitive AFC West. They are undefeated on the road (with victories at New Orleans, Tennessee, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay) but just 1-2 at home (with a win over the Chargers and setbacks to Atlanta and KC).
Second-year head coach Jack Del Rio led the Raiders to a 37-29 win over San Diego following last year’s bye. The previous three seasons, he was an assistant with the Broncos, who won their post-bye game each year.
The schedule says the Raiders have three straight home games when they return to action, but the first of that trio is actually in Mexico against Houston. Carolina and Buffalo follow in real home games. While the Raiders’ record is impressive, they’ve won a lot of tight games, much like Detroit. (Their point differential is only +22, which equates to +2.44 points per game). But, unlike Detroit, the public perception is that Oakland is one of the best teams in the league, especially after they stomped the defending Super Bowl champs in Week 9.
This team is good, but it’s also lucky to be 7-2. They aren’t winning in sustainable ways and I can’t advise laying many points, despite their outstanding start.
After starting the year 0-2, the Colts have alternated wins and losses. Their best win of the year came last Sunday when they won at Green Bay, 31-26. Their other wins came at Tennessee and at home against San Diego and Chicago. Their losses are to Detroit and Kansas City (home), Denver and Houston (road), and Jacksonville (London).
As has seemingly been the case for more than a decade, the Colts are good on offense and pretty terrible on D.
Since Chuck Pagano took over as coach in Indianapolis, the Colts are 3-1 after a bye week. They beat Atlanta, 24-21, last year. In Week 11, they’ll host divisional foe Tennessee, then the Steelers come to town.
Besides two-touchdown setbacks against the Broncos and Chiefs this year, the team’s other seven games have been decided by one score or less. (And the Denver game was only a two-score contest because of a late defensive touchdown.) If Indy is less than a field goal favorite against the Titans, I’d go with the Colts, but if they are giving 3.5 or more, I’d take Tennessee. Pittsburgh very well could be in a desperate situation when they come to town. I wouldn’t bet against Ben Roethlisberger in that scenario.
The Bills enter their bye with a sour taste in their mouth. In their Monday nighter in Seattle, they were robbed of points before halftime and then failed on the potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. While 4-5 is still firmly in contention in the AFC Wild Card race, this team had the chance to separate from the pack. After a horrendous 0-2 start to the year, which included a 13-7 loss at Baltimore and a 37-31 loss at home to the Jets, they put together a four-game winning streak, dominating the Cardinals and 49ers at home, and winning rather easily at New England (without Tom Brady) and in Los Angeles.
However, the winning ways would not continue, and they’ve now dropped three straight: at Miami (28-25), vs. New England (41-25), and at Seattle (31-25).
Though coach Rex Ryan’s signature is defense, Buffalo is actually pretty average on D, in terms of scoring. On the flip side, they rank in the top quarter of the league in points despite having the worst passing offense in the league.
Ryan won his first post0-bye game with the Bills last year, but was just 1-5 with the Jets. First up after the bye is a road game at Cincinnati; then they host Jacksonville.
Based on Ryan’s record following a week off, I’ll be looking very seriously at the Bengals, particularly since Buffalo center Eric Wood broke his leg in the loss to the Seahawks. Because the Bills’ wins have tended to be by large margins, and since they may be riding a five-game losing streak into the Jags game, if I can lay five points or fewer, I’ll be on the Bills in that one.
Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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