So it’s the bye week for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s four teams not playing football this week, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Those four teams get to rest and recharge during the seventh week of the season, six games played and 10 more to go. Still too early to determine if any of these teams will qualify for the playoffs yet, but if they do, that is the only possible way they can be eligible for another bye week.
Playoff byes are so important because the top two teams in each conference are given a week off to start the playoffs. Then the top two teams that win each conference get a week off before the Super Bowl. Rest is very important to maximize the chances of star players playing in big games, the NFL knows this, and it’s why byes are built into the playoff format, twice!
Having byes early in the year is not ideal for any NFL team. Injuries are going to happen throughout the season, and it is advantageous to get a week off as late as possible. This maximizes health heading down the stretch to make the playoffs, and hopefully play in them as well. With the playoff format of byes being so well understood, conversely, there is no rhyme or reason as to how bye teams are decided and scheduled. From 2010-2013, the Steelers enjoyed two week 5 byes, a week 4 bye, and a week 11 bye (11 being the last week of byes for all teams that year). Having a bye after three or four games played seems almost useless when factoring in the team has to play another 12-13 games before having a chance to rest again. That’s a tough task for any football team.
After 2013, the trend for byes later in the season began for the Steelers. They had a bye the last bye week of the season in 2014 (Week 12), and 2015 (Week 11). They then were awarded center season byes in 2016 (Week 8), and Week 9 in 2017. Since 2014, the Steelers have had byes that gave them the best chance to be healthy at the end of the year. It doesn’t always work out as season ending injuries can happen any week, but they still had the best chance with the placement of these byes.
It is not set when a team gets a bye and the bye weeks change from year to year. Here are the starting and ending weeks for byes since 2010:
2010: Week 4 – Week 10; 7 bye weeks
2011: Week 5 – Week 11; 7 bye weeks
2012: Week 4 – Week 11; 8 bye weeks
2013: Week 4 – Week 12; 9 bye weeks
2014: Week 4 – Week 12; 9 bye weeks
2015: Week 4 – Week 11; 8 bye weeks
2016: Week 4 – Week 13; 9 bye weeks, no bye week 12
2017: Week 1 – Week 11; 8 bye weeks, no bye weeks 2-4
2018: Week 4 – Week 12; 9 bye weeks
2019: Week 4 – Week 12; 9 bye weeks
2017 was an anomaly since the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t play due to a hurricane and had to take their bye during Week 1. If they didn’t have to take the bye so early, there would have only been seven bye weeks this year, and they would have occurred weeks 5-11. I think the format for 2017 was supposed to be the most fair way to currently handle bye weeks. There is still room for improvement, and I have an idea to make the bye weeks consistent, fair, and still profitable for the NFL.
I would propose a four week period of byes scheduled near the center of the season, and I would target weeks 8-11. This gives teams a rest after 7, 8, 9, or 10 games, leaving 9, 8, 7, and 6 games respectively left to play. To make it consistent, 8 teams have a bye during each one of those weeks. The teams on a bye will be the directional opposite of each conference. This still maximizes regional advertising during bye weeks so the regional television stations can still play the opposite conference games locally if their team’s division has a bye.
Week 7: AFC North, NFC South
Week 8: AFC East, NFC West
Week 9: AFC South, NFC North
Week 10: AFC West, NFC East
Then each following year, the teams move up one week. So if your team had a bye Week 7 in 2019, your team would have a bye in Week 8 of 2020. The team with the Week 10 bye would then have the Week 7 bye the following year. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The only downside to this type of bye system is it would be difficult to schedule active players to play fantasy football, though it may also shake up the fantasy standings to make for more interesting playoff runs. This format may not be ideal for fantasy football, but it would be great for actual football, giving teams an equal and consistent chance to rest and get healthy for the last stretch of the season. Hopefully, one day we can all say bye-bye to the current inconsistent bye week format, and create a better bye for all NFL teams to bye…er…buy into.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!