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We Could All Use a Bye Week

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For twenty years now, the National Football League, in an ever-vigilant effort to find more ways to sell its product to the television networks, has featured 16 games in 17 weeks. From the fourth to the tenth week, each of the 32 teams has one week off. The bye-week system extends the regular season providing for even more programming. The bye week is the time for devoted fans to take a rest from the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example. The fans of the 0-7 St. Louis Rams could use a bye week, but they don't get one for another week. Just sit back and enjoy the game as played by teams that win.

I was musing about how nice it would be to have a bye week as a regular part of our work activities, assuming, of course, that we still have a job in this economy. We could spend a few days in light practice, and then fly off to be with friends and family while every else continues to work. We could even watch them work on Sunday!

Bye weeks definitely are not good for fantasy football players. If you paid through the nose to get Tom Brady as your QB and Brady has the week off to be with Giselle, then what is a fantasy "owner" to do? I guess, in retrospect, the same thing happened to Brady-ites last year when Tom fell injured in Game One. This year, however, you should have planned your squad knowing when the bye week would hit. Back-up quarterbacks are a valuable commodity.
People are known to place bets on football games, and gambling websites report that awful clubs coming off a bye week do remarkably well against the spread. There are plenty of awful clubs in the NFL this year, so there are many opportunities to test the betting scheme. Actually, over the past three seasons, clubs coming off their bye weeks went 58-36-2 against the spread, not bad odds.

This has been a troubling season for the NFL. The remarkably successful effort at obtaining parity among the 32 teams seems to have fallen apart, at least at this stage of the season. Three teams remain undefeated -- the Colts, the Broncos and the Saints -- and three teams are seeking their first victory -- the Titans, the Buccaneers and the Rams. The last three are, of course, playing for the first pick in the draft. The extremes do not tell the full story, however. The Browns, Chiefs and Lions have only one win, and the Seahawks, Panthers, Redskins and Dolphins only two. They are not mathematically eliminated, but they should not pack their bags for Miami on February 7 unless they want to go to Florida for early spring training. Ten out of the 32 teams are hopeless or on their way there. For many with body clocks set to professional football telecasts, it may be a long fall and winter.

What then might amuse those football fans whose team has already fallen into the dumper? You can adopt another club just for the 2009 season. There are some great stories to follow: Drew Brees and the Saints are a lock for the playoffs, which they have made only six times since 1967. No city needs a winner more than New Orleans, which is still suffering from the Bush presidency. Or try the Vikings with their inspirational rent-a-quarterback, the aged Brett Favre. You either love him or you hate him. Either way, he could make the weeks pass. If you don't mind the pitchman-quarterback, root for Indianapolis. Hearing the greatest QB in the galaxy bark out his signals will set your heart spinning.

There are some interesting division contests. The Bengals have finally learned how to play football and are tied with the 2009 Superbowl Champion Steelers at 5-2. (That is one more win than the Bengals had all of last year.) The Patriots are only a game in front of the Jets with more than half a season to go, although if you read the New York newspapers, it appears that the Jets are in the lead. If these races do not inspire you, I propose a one-on-one staring contest between Coach Bill Belichick and Coach Rex Ryan.

So if your club has been dreadful, do the right thing. Toss them overboard, and pick a winner.