The theory is usually in full bloom when it comes to the topic of first-round byes. The question becomes is it "rest or rust?"
In the Oakland Raiders case, the choice here is that it is rest. The Raiders will learn of their AFC Divisional playoff opponent by Sunday. It will be either Saturday's Indianapolis-New York Jets winner or if Cleveland upsets Pittsburgh Sunday.
One argument is that Oakland finished the season winning seven of its last eight games and a bye week would be detrimental to its late season momentum. Possibly but not probably.
The Raiders have several ailing players who could use the time to heal, most notably at cornerback where they are without their top three players. Tory James, however, returned in the regular season finale when Oakland blanked Kansas City 24-0. Fellow starter Charles Woodson is expected to return to practice early next week. Oakland also finished the regular season with a handful of other players nursing various nicks.
There are a couple of more significant reasons a week off will not hurt Oakland. First off, head coach Bill Callahan knows the importance of not overworking a veteran team near the end of the season even though the Raiders do not know who their first round opponent will be.
"You are going to have a team coming in from the East coast," Callahan said. "We're using the bye week to the advantage of both our players and coaches. We're using the general synopsis as an overview. We're getting a preliminary game plan together."
In addition, the Raiders are preparing for these teams in specified situations such as third down, red zone, et cetera. Oakland has only played the Jets this season, a 26-20 win on Monday night. The Raiders last played Indianapolis in 2001, a 23-18 win and Cleveland in 2000, a 36-10 route.
"We're breaking those teams down based on the last six games," Callahan said. "We haven't seen Cleveland in a couple of years. Indianapolis and Cleveland are the ones we are taking a hard look at because we have the least familiarity with them."
Besides Callahan's preparation, there is other reason why Oakland is not likely to suffer the pratfall of having a first round bye. Despite the "rest vs. rust" argument, recent history says it is rest.
Since the NFL added an extra wild card team in 1990, a total of 48 teams have achieved a first-round bye and only nine times has that team lost in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, ten of those teams have won the Super Bowl, 11 have reached the Super Bowl before losing while 18 reached the conference title game before losing.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com