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Running the Numbers: How Much Does 10 Days of Rest Help?

Posted Sep 12, 2012

Riding the high of a monumental win over the defending Super Bowl champs in their own home, the Dallas Cowboys must now prepare for a road tilt with the Seattle Seahawks. By all accounts, this is a “trap” game for Dallas. The ’Boys will be on the road for the second straight week, visiting a Seahawks team that went down against a lackluster Arizona Cardinals squad.

On paper, the Cowboys will be the favorites. In reality, they’re entering a hostile environment – CenturyLink Field is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL – to face a motivated ball club. The game won’t be a piece of cake for Dallas, and Jason Garrett will make sure his players understand that.

One of the things the Cowboys have on their side is time. After playing in a rare Wednesday night contest, Dallas will have 10 days off to prepare for the Seahawks. In addition to allowing some bodies to heal, the extra rest provides the coaches with a whole lot of time to break down Seattle – their offensive tendencies, their blitzes, and their young, mobile rookie quarterback. 96 extra hours, to be exact.

I’m a big believer in the value of game preparation. Ever watch a college bowl game and notice how prepared the teams look to face one another? Gadget plays, exotic blitzes, perfectly-timed calls. Some of these teams have a month to get themselves ready for their bowl game – a month in which they can uncover just about every possible opponent weakness – and it shows.

And the stats prove that extra time off is of great value in the NFL, too. Although teams were only 16-16 coming out of their bye weeks last year, 2011 was really just an aberration. Since 1990, teams coming off of their bye have compiled a .542 winning percentage. Since the overall winning percentage is obviously an even .500, that’s a pretty substantial jump in 704 total games.

And the Cowboys have been one of the league’s most successful teams following a bye. While the ’Boys have won 55.8 percent of their regular season games since 1990, they’ve notched a victory 69.6 percent of the time following their bye.

Of course, the Cowboys don’t have a full two-week hiatus this time around, but it probably won’t matter. See, Dallas is also quite successful after Thanksgiving Day games, a period when they generally have nine days of rest prior to their next outing.

In the entire history of the organization, the Cowboys have posted a .574 winning percentage. In the week following Thanksgiving, however, they’ve managed a .628 winning percentage, suggesting they’ve benefited from the added rest.

In his short career as the Cowboys’ head coach, Garrett is just 1-2 when given nine or more days off between contests. Three games is hardly a substantial sample size, though, and the Cowboys actually played extremely well in their post-bye 20-16 loss to the New England Patriots last year.

Stats aside, the Cowboys know what’s on the line against the Seahawks: A chance to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008. With that as their focus, you know the ’Boys will be prepared to play this Sunday in Seattle.

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