Since 1990, the NFL has used a bye week as a way to give teams a week without a football game. It is an opportunity for players to practice, rest and get a break from the physical demands of games all at once.
The NHL adopted its own bye weeks this season with a similar thought process in mind. Teams first started getting their week off on the first week of 2017. Though it is called a bye “week,” the NHL can give a team as few as five days off, but some have gotten more than that. So far, it is hard to say if the bye week is good or bad for teams.
Let’s look at the teams that have already gotten a week off of hockey. The defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, had their siesta week from Jan. 1-7. Pittsburgh won its first game back on Jan. 8 but has lost each of its three games since to be 1-3 since their mid-season vacation.
Prior to their break, the Penguins had won five of their last six in a 12-1-2 December. All three of the games that Pittsburgh’s current three-game losing streak have all come in regulation, something that the Penguins had not done since losing four consecutive regulation games from Dec. 14-19, 2015. Those four games were the first four of head coach Mike Sullivan’s career. Between Dec. 19, 2015, and Jan. 12, 2017, Pittsburgh went 75-26-13 (including the postseason), but never lost consecutive regulation games.
When the Penguins began the bye week break on Jan. 1, they were second in the tight Metropolitan Division with a 25-8-5 record. The Washington Capitals have since passed the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets for first place by winning nine straight games since Dec. 31.
To make things worse for the Penguins, their captain, Sidney Crosby, has not scored a goal in any of the four post-bye week games after lighting the lamp in all but one of the six games prior to the break. By no means is this a knock on Crosby, but it shows that the bye week cooled him off slightly.
Including the Penguins, six other teams have completed their bye weeks. Here’s a graphical look at when each team had its break, its record in its five games before the bye week and how it has done since then (as of Jan. 15):
Too much rest?
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Early evidence suggests that teams have come off their bye weeks with a little rest. Of the seven teams to have taken a bye week thus far, four of the seven teams lost their first game back from vacation.
The NHL’s bye week may seem awful for most so far, but consider the case of the Philadelphia Flyers. After winning nine consecutive games, the Flyers have gone 3-8-3, including a shell-shocking 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday in which the Flyers gave up four third period goals.
Perhaps the bye week could not come at a better time for Philadelphia. After such a hot stretch, the Flyers have lost their way. With a week off, they have the opportunity to get away from the game and chance to reset.
23 teams have yet to take a bye week, so the early trends may not hold true. However, if they do, look for the NHL to cut down its bye week. The best idea seems to be to mandate at least three days off. Five can be too many. It is important for players to get rest, but so far, all the bye week has done is slow down the majority of the teams.
Can the Seahawks continue their strong play away from the comforts of CenturyLink Field? Seattle had one of the largest home and away splits this season with an away record of 3-4-1, while boasting a record of 7-1 at home
The matchup to watch will be Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing game against the elite Seattle secondary. Ryan should win the NFL MVP this season and will need another MVP performance for the Falcons to advance. These two teams faced off against each other in Week 6 with the Seahawks prevailing, 26-24. However, that game was in Seattle.
Atlanta’s secondary was poor this season, ranking 28th in passing yards by allowing 266.7 yards per game. The Falcons will need to neutralize Seattle running back Thomas Rawls, who had 161 yards last week, to give Atlanta’s secondary a chance. If the the Seahawks can run the ball and open up play action plays, that is bad news for Atlanta. The Falcons were average at stopping the run, ranking 17th and allowing 104.5 rushing yards per game.
Atlanta’s defense isn’t great, but should be good enough to hold Seattle to a respectable score. If the Falcons’ defense can’t, they have the offense to win a shootout as well.
Prediction: Falcons, 31-28
Houston Texans vs New England Patriots
This should be the least competitive game of the Divisional Round. The Texans won their Wild Card game, 27-14, however, it was against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were forced to play their third string quarterback, Connor Cook. Given Cook’s inexperience and lower skill level than starter Derek Carr or even Matt McGloin, it’s not surprising that the Raiders’ offense struggled against a good Texans’ defense.
This time around the Texans have to face future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady instead. Houston will be starting either Brock Osweiler, who the Texans benched earlier in the year, or Tom Savage who is recovering from a concussion. Neither is a very good option to go against the Patriots elite defense. New England led the NFL in points allowed by only allowing 15.6 points per game. The Patriots running defense is very good, ranking third and only allowing 88.6 points per game.
Texans’ running back Lamar Miller only had 73 rushing yards on 31 carries against Oakland and won’t be very successful playing against the Patriots’ defense. If the Texans have to rely on the arm of Osweiler or Savage, the game could get ugly quick. There’s a reason the Patriots are a 15-point favorite.
Prediction: Patriots, 45-17
Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys
Similar to the Steelers, the Packers are coming into this game hot with a seven-game winning streak. The Cowboys were by far the most impressive team this season, losing only two games. Those two games were both to the hands of the New York Giants who the Packers just defeated in the Wild Card round.
This will be the first NFL postseason experience for both Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. On the other hand, both players have played this season as if both are seasoned veterans. The Cowboys will come into this game the healthiest they have been all season. Every active Cowboy practiced on Wednesday and everyone should be available for Sunday. The Packers will likely be without wide receiver Jordy Nelson, running back James Starks and cornerback Quinten Rollins.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has been on fire the past two months and should put up points. Since Week 7, Rodgers is first in completions (150), passing yards (1591), and touchdowns (15). He also has not thrown an interception since then either. The key for the Cowboys will to win the time of possession game and limit the time Rodgers is on the field. Despite playing better recently, the Packers defense still has major holes. If Elliot has another good game, the Cowboys should win. If this is a shootout, the Packers should win. Elliot will continue his great play he had in the regular season into the playoffs.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-21
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs
This game is one that is hard to gauge who the favorite should be. On one hand, the Steelers are coming into this game with an eight-game winning streak with their offense playing really well. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown too many interceptions recently, six in the past four games, but is playing well overall. Also, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown are playing really good football right now.
Then again, the game is in Kansas City and the Steelers will be playing a very
balanced Chiefs team. These two teams played each other towards the beginning of the season and the Steelers dominated the Chiefs 43-14. That was Week 4, however, and both teams are different than when that game was played. Similar to how the Falcons need to contain Rawls, the Chiefs need to contain Bell. In the previous matchup between these two teams, Bell ran for 144 yards and ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins last week.
The Chiefs’ ability to pressure the quarterback has not been good this season, ranking 28th in sacks this season. Against the Steelers offensive line that likely won’t change so the Chiefs will need to make the Steelers offense one dimensional. Roethlisberger has made mistakes in recent weeks and forcing him to win the game with his arm could lead to turnovers. The Chiefs are a very good team and this should be close, but the Steelers’ offense is too dynamic to lose this game
Yesterday, the San Diego Chargers announced that they intend to move to Los Angeles, California where the Los Angeles Rams moved to one year ago yesterday. In two years Los Angeles. went from not having a NFL franchise to having two in 2017.
This in not the first time there has been two NFL franchises in Los Angeles. From 1982-1995 the Rams and Raiders both called Los Angeles home. However, in 1995 both teams left the city to leave it without an NFL franchise. After spending 20 years without NFL teams in Los Angeles, is it really a good idea to put two teams there now?
In 2016, the Rams played their games at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium, which first hosted games in 1946 and seats 93,607. The Rams had an average attendance of 74,121 (seventh in the NFL), but with 90% of the stadium filled (28th in the NFL). They averaged 16,000 empty seats with a population of 3.4 million. With an NFL team finally returning after 20 years, shouldn't every seat in that stadium be full?
Then the Chargers come to Los Angeles and plan to play at StubHub Stadium, a soccer stadium, which holds 30,000. If that stadium is not filled every game, it would be an embarrassment to the league.
The average NFL attendance is over double 30,000 and would put the Chargers last in attendance by far. Without a large attendance, they could be in financial trouble for the two years in the small stadium. Then since they are only going to be able to play in front of 30,000 fans, most NFL fans will cheer for the Rams since they can get tickets. This will hurt the chargers moving forward by not having a large and strong fan base.
In 2019, both teams will move to the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. This stadium is going to be a state-of-the-art facility that holds 75,000 seats and can be expanded to 100,000 for special events.
The Raiders ultimately left in 1995 because they did not receive funding for a new stadium and the Rams left because they were not selling out the Coliseum. Even back then, there was not enough interest in the NFL to have two franchises so why would there be enough interest now?
New York is the only other city with two NFL franchises, the Jets and Giants (technically the stadium is in New Jersey). They are both in the top five of attendance and just about sell Gillette Stadium out every Sunday. Therefore, it can be done, but New York is a unique circumstance. They have a population of 8.4 million people and some of the most die-hard sports fans.
Los Angeles has never been known for their fans and having 75,000 fans show up every Sunday for football is tough to do. The NFL tried having two teams in Los Angeles once and it failed so why do they think it will work now?
Just because Los Angeles is such a big city, does not mean they will be able to draw fans. The NFL has blossomed into the most popular pro organization in America, but without an NFL team for 20 years Los Angeles has lost a generation of football fans. The Rams were not able to sell out their stadium in their first year back, so it does not bode well for future fan support.
The Chargers might have needed to move to a new city, but Los Angeles is not big enough for two NFL teams. Once the new stadium is built both teams will struggle to fill the seats and one of the teams will move by 2030.