The Assignment of Bye Weeks in the NFL

There are 10 NFL Teams that had a bye week, or week off, in the first six weeks of the NFL season.  If bye weeks were allocated at random by the NFL one would expect one-half of the teams to have a winning record in their first five games and one-half to have a losing record.  The Chicago Bears are the only team, however, that has a winning record through five games among these teams to receive an early bye week.  The odds of this occurring at random is about one in one hundred.

Another manifestation of this odd outcome is the excessive parity among the 22 teams that did not have a bye week before this weekend.  Eleven of these teams have three wins and three losses.  Again if bye weeks were allocated at random, only about seven of the teams would be expected to have a .500 record.

The pattern observed this year is not apparent in other NFL seasons and is most likely due to the “luck of the draw” or sampling variation.  It does not seem that the NFL deliberately allocates bye weeks early in the season to weaker teams.  If anything, interest in the NFL is likely to grow during the season so it might make more sense to have the weaker teams take their bye weeks later in the season.



  1. Maybe you can tell me how the Atlanta Falcons have had 3 home games- 2 of which were against teams coming off of a bye. If you know anything about football, its a big advantage to have 2 weeks to prepare for a team. The Falcons have a bye week 7 but their opponent, Philadelphia, also has a bye so no advantage to either team. How is this fair?

    • It shouldn’t be difficult for the NFL to make sure that teams don’t have a disproportionate number of opponents who have come off a bye the previous week. I am not sure whether there have been studies of the benefit of a bye week, but it seems like a straight-forward empirical exercise.

  2. NoibiAkinwalew says:


    I think it will be best and fear across the board, if the bye week is common to all, after game #8, as the SEASON INTERMMISSION. .

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