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Monday Night Hangover

   by Bryan Leonard - 12/07/2006

Everybody loves Monday Night football. Oddsmakers, fans, sports books and restaurants all expect an extra boost in business on Monday evenings during the football season as there's only one game to watch. Everyone likes Monday Night Football, that is, except the players.

The travel and preparation time is a detriment with respects to the next game. Coaches and players have one less day to break down game film of the next opponent, to put in new plays, or for athletes to rest nagging injuries. The extra day of preparation can be the difference between winning and losing, both straight up and against the number.

It can be a good spot to look to go against a team coming off of a Monday night game. Since 1994, teams coming off a Monday night victory that are a road favorite in the next game are a poor 16-25 against the spread. It just happened a few weeks ago. The Jaguars had a big Monday night home win over the NY Giants, 26-10. It was a dominating performance on national TV, allowing just 25 rushing yards, 1.8 yards per carry. The next game, Jacksonville traveled to Buffalo, and as a road favorite, stubbed their toe in a 27-24 defeat.

This is a classic case of teams with too little time to prepare, combined with coming off of a big win on national TV, and all the normal difficulties sports teams have to put up with going on the road. Road travel is tough. Players have to sleep and practice in unfamiliar locations, and sometimes even change time zones. This can affect an athlete's sleeping, eating and practice habits, and since athletes make their living by having their bodies in tip-top shape, any change like this can affect an athlete's and a team's performance.

On top of that, the team is coming off of a Monday night win, where there is so much more exposure. There are extra pre-game interviews, the game is broadcast on national TV and most football fans are watching, as it's the only game that day. Many Monday night games have a playoff-atmosphere to it.

So the likelihood of a team having a let-down on the road the next week is greater. It doesn't have to include a road favorite the next week, either. The Seahawks had a strong 16-0 Monday night win over the Raiders the first week of November. They failed to cover the rest of the month, going 0-3 ATS.

A let-down is even more likely if there is extra emotion on Monday night, such as a rivalry game. A few years ago the Raiders had an emotional Monday night upset over division rival Denver, beating the Broncos 38-28. The next week, Oakland traveled to Seattle and as a 6-point favorite, the Raiders trailed 13-10 at the half on the way to a 34-27 upset loss. Oakland had had no trouble with Seattle earlier in the season, winning 38-14 at home, but the travel after the big Monday night win seemed to take a bite out of their focus. Monday night can be tough on players and coaches, but a boon to astute handicappers the next week!

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