NFL Eliminator Challenge: Week 1

Welcome to the first week of season three of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series. Last season we had a streak of nine straight in the first ten weeks of the season, unfortunately missing week one. This season we are going to try to beat that streak and start the season off on a strong point. Week one is always the toughest since there are so many unknowns, but hopefully by following our below strategy of eliminating games we will get to a double digit streak and maybe even a perfect season! Read on and feel free to comment at the bottom.

Step 1 – Avoid Division Matchups

On September 21, 2008, the New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins riding a record-breaking 21 game regular season winning streak.  The Dolphins on the other hand were 0-2 to start the season coming off a 1-15 record the year prior.  The result?  Miami 38, New England 13. If any of you have followed this series before you know that I love this example (being a Dolphins fan and all) but it paints a great picture of how unpredictable division matchups are. Last season the Patriots only lost four games, two of them were to division foes Miami and Buffalo. The Packers lost to Detroit, The Steelers lost to Cleveland and Baltimore, and even the Seahawks lost to St. Louis. These games can go either way and I highly recommend you avoid them unless you want an early exist from your eliminator league. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, do yourself a favor and avoid the below division games:

  • Green Bay at Chicago
  • Seattle at St. Louis

Step 2 – Avoid Marquee Matchups

One area where some teams rise and others hide is when the sun goes down and the bright lights of primetime start shining. For example, let us look at one very unpredictable team from last season in the Cincinnati Bengals. Last season the Bengals had two primetime showdowns, one in November on Thursday night against the lowly Cleveland Browns and another late in the season on Monday night against the reigning Super Bowl runner ups, the Denver Broncos. The results? Cleveland 24 Cincinnati 3 and Cincinnati 37 Denver 28. Somehow, the same team in a two-month span was blown out (at home) by the Cleveland Browns and won a shootout against one of the top teams in the league. For whatever reason when primetime hits some teams rise to the occasion while others shrink in the bright lights (or in the Bengal’s case, they do both). Unless you want to take a chance I would avoid the below marquee games:

  • Pittsburgh at New England *this one may be an exception to the rule
  • New York Giants at Dallas *also a division matchup
  • Philadelphia at Atlanta
  • Minnesota at San Francisco

Step 3 – Avoid Picking Against Home Field Advantage

According to Stephen Dubner of football freakonomics, since 1966, home teams in the NFL have won 57.3% of their games. Think about all the stadiums (Seattle and Kansas City most recently) who keep upping the world record for loudest stadium. To put it in perspective, the Broncos, Patriots and Seahawks lost a combined 12 games last season, 10 of which came on the road. Some of the biggest upsets of the year have happened when the favorite team is the one traveling, so before making your pick, take note of who’s at home and who’s still jet lagged. Be aware and avoid the below games where the favorite is the away team:

  • Kansas City at Houston
  • Indianapolis at Buffalo
  • Miami at Washington
  • Carolina at Jacksonville
  • Detroit at San Diego
  • Cincinnati at Oakland
  • New Orleans at Arizona

Step 4 – Make your pick!

My pick of the week is:

  • New York Jets over Cleveland

As a Dolphins fan it hurts to pick a team like the Jets, but one of the few NFL teams with a worse quarterback situation than new York is their opponent, the Cleveland Browns. I just think the Jet’s defense is going to completely shut down the Brown’s offense and with this game taking place in New York I expect a low scoring game with the Jets coming out victorious.
Other options I like this week:

  • Denver over Baltimore

This may be the final season for Payton Manning and this Broncos team knows it. Expect them to try to start the season fast and with this game taking place in Denver I think they are going to be too much offense for Baltimore to keep up.

  • Arizona over New Orleans

This is a tough one for me because I really like New Orleans and Drew Brees, but with Jimmy Graham gone I think this Saints offense is going to struggle more than people think. Combine that with the Cardinals could be a sleeper team this season with a healthy Carson Palmer back under center and at the end of the day I expect the Cardinal defense to defend their home field against a star quarterback realizing how much he misses his favorite target in game one.

Thanks for reading!

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