The Bye Week in the NFL was created in 1990 and has since been used as a way to extend the regular NFL season by 1 week and create additional TV and advertising revenue for the league by doing so. There was even 1 year (1993) when the NFL had 2 bye weeks per team - which cut the usual 2 week break from the AFC / NFC Championships to the Superbowl down to 1. This, obviously, did not last and has since been reduced back to 1 week per team.
Many people have complained about the Patriots getting the very early bye week this year. This is the one that nobody wants, after all. Along with that are many debates as to which week is the most beneficial. Is it better to have an early bye or a late bye? Why does my team seem to get shafted with the bye week year to year? Does the Bye week help a team that is on a hot streak or hurt it?
This is a great article that goes into more depth on this issue. There is a great quote by the author, David Steele, in which he says "All told, bye weeks take on meaning largely from how coaches and players handle them."
Aside from all of the factual information the article provides, this is the one piece of insight that resonates with me as a Patriots fan, and I couldn't agree more with it. The Bye Week in and of itself, is not meant in any way to provide a competitive advantage for anyone. Sure, it gives a team more time to prepare than another 1 week, but then that same team gets it's own bye week later in the year to make up for it. How a team handles the bye week and whether or not they are able to utilize the time off effectively is entirely up to that team and it's coaches and players.
Under Bill Belichick - the New England Patriots are 11-4 after the bye. That is a pretty solid record, and a reflection of how well prepared the Patriots are, especially after a bye week. To my original question I would say, no, the Patriots did not get shafted with the early bye week. In fact, I would argue that it is to the Patriots' benefit. It is a well-known fact that the Patriots, like a fine wine, get better with age - and as the season goes on - the New England Patriots grow stronger. That being said, it stands to reason that the time when the Pats are the most vulnerable is at the start of the season - so why would we not relish the opportunity to put one of those "weaker" weeks behind us early with the bye? And if the start that the Pats have had is them at their weakest - I'd tremble to think what they could become...
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