By the by, it’s time again to talk about the bye.
No, not the Jets’ bye week, which comes the week after Sunday’s game against Miami at MetLife Stadium. Maybe the banged-up Jets could use a vacation, even some good fraction of a week, but as Herm Edwards said back in 2004: “You don’t have to worry the week before about what happens in the bye week. It’s like going to school at the end of the year. School ends Friday, Wednesday you’re worried about what you’re going to do Friday, then you screw the test up Thursday and you gotta go to summer school.”
A potential danger for the Jets, though, is that the Dolphins are coming off their bye. Does that fact in itself suggest that the ‘Fins are more dangerous than usual to the Jets’ psyche and their desire to sweep their friends from the South?
The current data suggests the bye week does help teams, although not a lot. From 2002 through this past week’s games, teams coming off their byes (not counting when two teams coming off byes meet each other) have done fairly well at 162-128, a .559 winning percentage. That’s pretty much what homefield advantage used to be in the NFL.
So for the sake of argument, teams playing the week after their bye, regardless of where they play, see their chances improve to the chances of winning a home game.
That wouldn’t be good for the Jets.
On the other hand, if this year’s new, improved homefield rising tide — home teams are 64-40 this season, a brisk .615 winning clip — lifts all boats, then the Jets could be buoyed by their home crowd and the Dolphins’ bye-week edge could be neutralized.
How about teams playing games before their bye weeks? Does that help any?
Don’t laugh. I asked Edwards about that about a decade ago and he agreed that teams heading into byes — as long as they weren’t worrying about summer vacation — could get a boost. Something about being energized by wanting to go into the bye and come out of it with some momentum for a big second-half push.
Do the numbers support this theory? Yes and no.
If you go by the 2010 and ’11 seasons, games before byes were a good thing. Teams produced a 31-19 record in those games, a .620 winning percentage.
But this advantage seems to come and go every few years (or doesn’t really exist). In 2006, NFL teams in before-bye games were 12-20, in ’09 they were 12-18, and so far this year they’re a paltry 4-12. The bottom line: From 2002 through Week 7, before-bye teams were 148-148. That’s a coin flip.
How about the Jets and Dolphins alone? The Dolphins are 4-6 since ’02 in post-bye games. This includes last year’s 24-6 Monday night loss to the Jets. The Jets are 4-6 in pre-bye games since ’02, but have won three of their last four — thumping Arizona in ’08, squeezing by the then-Tebowing Broncos in Denver in ’10 and rerouting Philip Rivers and San Diego last season.
In fact, the Chargers came to MetLife off their bye last year, which anecdotally suggests that maybe pre-bye teams have an edge over post-bye teams. Eh, not so much. Since ’09, pre-byes and post-byes have met 16 times. The record: 8-8.
I honestly wanted to bring you some telling trend on bye-week team performances in advance of the Jets-Dolphins, but apparently I feel strongly both ways.
But Chad Pennington left no doubt about his feelings when asked before the Jets’ pre-bye game at Cleveland back in ’06.
“We know it’s important to win every game,” Pennington said. “in this league you can’t say, ‘Well, we can drop a game here and we can let off in this area,’ because you never know what game is going to be a deciding factor on whether or not you’re able to make it into the playoffs. So every game is important for us.”
Interestingly, Pennington’s Jets lost that road game at Cleveland, 20-13, to settle at 4-4 at the bye, then won six of their last eight to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs.
Here’s a strange note about Nick Folk. Whenever his NFL team gives up an early kickoff-return touchdown, he kicks a late long-range field goal.
In 2007, Terrence McGee had a kickoff return for Buffalo, but Folk nailed a 53-yard FG with no time on the clock at Ralph Wilson Stadium to complete the Cowboys’ memorable 25-24 Monday night comeback win over the Bills. The next year J.J. Arrington took one to the house for Arizona, but Folk’s 52-yarder, again at 0:00, sent that game to overtime, where the Cardinals won, 30-24.
Then on Sunday, Devin McCourty cut loose for his 104-yard first-quarter return. Folk responded with one of his best games as a Jet, going 4-for-4 with makes from 54, 43 and 43 yards. The final 43 gave the Jets their short-lived 26-23 lead with 1:37 to play.
That may be strange coincidence, but this about Folk is money in the bank: He has moved to second-best among all NFL kickers (since 1991, including playoffs, at least six tries) in fourth-quarter FG percentage. Folk is 41-for-43 (95.3%) in fourth-quarter kicks. First is Denver’s Matt Prater (28-for-29, 96.6%). Third is New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (48-for-51, 94.1%), who kicked the game-tying FG as time ran out in regulation and the gamewinner in OT.
Tags: bye week, Chad Pennington, Herm Edwards, Miami Dolphins, Nick Folk, Stephen Gostkowski
Posted in Randy Lange | 59 Comments »