Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Will Bucs benefit from mini bye after Thursday Night Football?

With 10 days between Buccaneers games, there's plenty of time to spin their 19-14 loss to the Patriots on Thursday Night Football into a positive.

They were a pass away from upsetting the defending Super Bowl champions! They held the New England offense to 19 points! They learned they needed a new kicker! The extra rest will help them bounce back!

About that last one, the so-called mini bye …

"Hard to put a finger on exactly what that helps," coach Dirk Koetter said.

The answer: Nothing, at least in terms of wins and losses.

Sure, it's popular to say that it helps. But, really, what coach or player is going to say that they spent the time flipping through Netflix instead of the playbook?

We only talk about the value of a mini bye after a team wins. When the team wins, it's because of the corrections and adjustments it made during the break. When it loses, it just continued to play bad football.

Take the Bucs. The Falcons skewered them 43-28 in a Thursday night game last season. Ten days later, the Bucs routed the Bears 36-10. What cured the defense? Rest or a timely dose of Jay Cutler? According to Tampa Bay, it was improved communication.

What about the Falcons? How did they benefit from the mini bye?

They didn't. They lost to the Eagles 24-15.

So what happened to them? Were they rusty?

No, that can't be it. After their Week 9 bye, they smoked the Cardinals by three scores. More likely, Atlanta just had an off game in Philadelphia — it converted two of 11 third downs.

You'd think that teams are more likely to win after a few days of extra rest, but when we studied team performances after Thursday games, we found no such advantage.

For example:

In 2016, the Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 on a Thursday. After the mini bye, they lost 16-0.

In 2015, the Bengals beat the Browns 31-10 on a Thursday. After the mini bye, they lost 10-6.

In 2014, the Falcons beat the Bucs 56-14 on a Thursday. After the mini bye, they lost 41-28.

In fact, in our study of hundreds of games since 2006 (the debut season of Thursday Night Football), we found that teams lose after a mini bye as often as they win. They've won 140 games and lost 146. It's virtually a coin toss. (We excluded teams that played back-to-back Thursday games from our sample. The Cowboys, for example, last season played on Thanksgiving and again seven days later.)

In that span, the Bucs are 3-3 after playing a Thursday game.

If they make it 4-3 by beating the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday, the mini bye won't be the reason. Turnovers, explosive plays and perhaps a couple of field goals are more likely to play a part.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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