Why Is There a Bye Week Ahead of the Super Bowl?


The cliche says that the brightest stars burn the fastest, and that’s certainly true of the NFL season. While other leagues stretch on for 82 (or even 162) games, pro football’s regular season comes and goes within 18 weeks. Even if you include preseason games and the playoffs, the playing year starts in August and ends in February with the grand finale that is the Super Bowl.

But there’s one final pause before we reach the finish line. As football fans know all too well, there’s a bye week baked into the schedule between the conference championship games and the final showdown.

Have you ever wondered why that week off exists?

Well, let’s crack open the history books and check it out.

The Super Bowl Bye Was For Promotional Purposes

These days, it’s easy to feel like pro sports have become a big business. Players ink multimillion-dollar contracts, and there are ads in previously sacred spots, like on helmets and jerseys. The Super Bowl, however, takes commercialism to an entirely new level. Between the big-time commercials, the halftime show and the game itself, you’re strapping in to watch an all-out spectacle of consumerism.

And while things have changed over the years—early Super Bowl halftime shows consisted of college marching bands—promoting the NFL’s marquee event isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s the reason why the Big Game traditionally comes after an extra bye week.

“The two-week break before the Super Bowl started with Super Bowl I,” Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, told The Guardian in 2016. “The concept was to give the promotion of the game time to build. The two-week break has been standard procedure since the first Super Bowl. There have been one-week breaks a handful of times when circumstances dictated it. Another benefit is that it gives the two teams more rest and recovery from injury.”

And when you think about it, that makes sense. While the Super Bowl is a fixture on the calendar today, the early editions of the game were a more novel affair. The AFL-NFL Championship Game, as the contest was initially known, didn’t exist until the former league entered the picture. Any extra opportunity to drum up attention for a brand-new event, after all, probably isn’t a bad idea.

These days, the promotion is a bit less necessary—we use the term “Super Bowl” to refer to any major event, which shows how firmly the game is ingrained in popular culture—but there are still some logistical upsides. Beyond letting fans make travel arrangements after knowing if their team will make it to the big game and giving the players involved a bit more time in the spotlight, the calm before the storm does allow some extra time for game-planning. Similarly to Aiello’s point about injury-recovery time, one wants the league’s biggest game to be marred by poor performances, after all.

And when push comes to shove, the NFL is the big man on the metaphorical pro sports campus. They’ll put the Super Bowl where they want, and we’ll all watch it.

Elevated view of the NFL Shield logo painted on the field prior to Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023, in Glendale,…

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