Rest has a varying impact upon people, and that's no less true in fantasy football.
The bye weeks are upon us, and with them, the age-old question of whether a bye week's rest rejuvenates a football player. At casual glance, NFL teams benefit from a week off: In the past five seasons combined (2008-12), teams are 85-72-3 (.541 winning percentage) in their first games following their bye week, the group never posting a losing record in any of those individual years.
Digging deeper, individual players also benefited from the week's rest during those past five seasons: Fantasy production -- by measure of average points per game -- was 4.3 percent greater among all players in the week following the bye compared to the other 15 weeks of the season. Or, for another perspective, players averaged 0.5 more points in the game following the bye compared to in the other 15 weeks.
But there's an odd twist to this analysis: It's actually not NFL players as a whole who benefit from a week's rest. It's specific positions that gain the advantage, and where they play in that first week back matters.
Quarterbacks experienced the largest increase in production in games following the bye, particularly in home games. From 2008 to 2012, the position as a whole enjoyed an 8.0 percent boost in the week following the bye, and 17.9 percent in home games (that percentage comparing home games to other home games). And if those numbers don't strike you, this might: That's a 1.09 fantasy points per game increase for quarterbacks overall, and a whopping 2.51 per game boost in home games.
Suddenly, Drew Brees' Week 8 game against the Buffalo Bills looks all the more attractive. It should've anyway; Brees has experienced arguably the greatest benefit from a bye week's rest of anyone in the league, historically speaking.
Brees has managed his best single-game fantasy point total of the year in the first week coming off the bye in each of the past three seasons, and has scored no fewer than 27 fantasy points the week after the bye in any of the past four years. In his career, he has averaged 20.3 fantasy points in the week after the bye; he has averaged 16.3 points per game the remainder of the year.
Running backs and wide receivers, meanwhile, also enjoy a boost, though not to the extent that quarterbacks do. Running backs enjoyed a 3.2 percent increase and wide receivers 6.2 percent, and it was the wide receivers who saw that boost occur regardless of whether the game was at home or on the road.
When looking to running backs, consider age and workload in players fresh off the bye. Steven Jackson was an excellent example of a player helped by the bye week; in three of the past four seasons he tallied his highest fantasy point total of the year in the week following the bye. That might not be a valuable lesson for Jackson himself, considering he's no guarantee to be ready for the Atlanta Falcons' Week 6 game, their first after the bye, but it could be supporting evidence for older players such as Frank Gore (Week 8 bye) or Darren Sproles (Week 7 bye), or for players likely to rank among the leaders in rushing attempts at the time of their bye weeks, like Marshawn Lynch or LeSean McCoy (both have Week 12 byes).
Finally, defense/special teams have an unexpected advantage: They enjoyed no boost in their first weeks following the bye when playing at home, but in their road games, they were far more competent fantasy scorers. Strangely, defense/special teams units scored 14.6 percent more fantasy points when playing a road game following the bye week than they did in any other road game all season.
That's a substantial advantage, and a strategic nugget to stash away, being that fantasy defense/special teams overall averaged more than a point per game (1.07, to be exact) at home compared to on the road from 2008-12. Road games are generally bad news for defenses; but they are not nearly as scary coming off a week's rest.
Listed below are the 32 NFL teams' bye weeks, as well as their first matchups following the bye. Keep that defense/special teams note in mind if you're the owner of the Chicago Bears (@GB, following Week 8 bye), Denver Broncos (@SD, following Week 9 bye), Cleveland Browns (@Cin, following Week 10 bye), New England Patriots (@Car, following Week 10 bye) or Cincinnati Bengals (@SD, following Week 12 bye) squads. These matchups -- that Bears at Green Bay Packers one, especially -- should scare you a little bit less with this knowledge.
The full analysis of each position, and the league as a whole, can be seen in the chart below. Keep in mind that, just like fantasy scoring in general, these numbers vary by year. There's no guarantee that every quarterback, for instance, will enjoy a 17.8 percent boost to his fantasy points per game average in a home game following the bye; this is merely the league average and a player might have been as apt to score fewer points in that game than in the rest of the year as to score twice his average.
Consider these numbers as you evaluate matchups and formulate weekly odds of success, but the upshot is that there is something to fresh-off-the-bye strategy … if you target players from the correct positions.