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How bye weeks break down in NFL's 17-game 2021 season

With the expansion of the NFL season to 17 games, speculation grew about how the league would handle the bye-week calendar with the addition of an extra game.

With the 2021 NFL schedule release, we have our answer.

The league ostensibly pushed the open dates on a club's calendar by a week. This year all byes currently fall from Week 6 to Week 14:

  • Week 6: Atlanta Falcons_,_ New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers
  • Week 7: Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars*, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Week 8: Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders
  • Week 9: Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Football Team
  • Week 10: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New York Giants
  • Week 11: Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos
  • Week 12: Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Week 13: Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans
  • Week 14: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles

*Bye follows game in London

The Week 6 start for byes is later than a one-game slide. Previous seasons each saw several teams with byes weeks starting in Week 4.

No clubs were scheduled to be off in Week 4 in 2020 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the rash of positives in Tennessee last year, the schedule was adjusted, which put the Steelers and Titans each to a Week 4 bye. But previous seasons saw teams with weeks off that early in the season.

In 2018 and 2019, byes stretched from Weeks 4-12. In 2017, bye weeks were scheduled to run Weeks 5-11 (a hurricane in Florida caused the Bucs and Dolphins to take their byes in Week 1). In 2016, they ran Weeks 4-13 (skipping Week 12). And in 2015, spanned Weeks 4-11.

Instead of simply starting byes in Week 5, the league instead began the 2021 breaks slightly later. We'll see in 2022 if that's a trend or a one-off.

The most bye-heavy week this season is Week 7, which sees six teams off. Each other week has between two to four teams given a break.

The Colts, Dolphins, Patriots and Eagles own the most grueling stretches with a break, playing 13 straight games, into December, before their bye.

Miami's stretch is particularly brutal due to a Week 6 game in London. The Dolphins are the only club of the four -- which includes the Falcons, Jaguars and Jets -- heading to England this year not to have their week off come after the overseas trip (Miami hosts the Falcons in Week 7). On the plus side, the Dolphins only travel west of the Central Time Zone once (Las Vegas, Week 3), with 13 games in Eastern Time.

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