NFL Eliminator Challenge: Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 of season number four of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series!  Last season was a tough one for eliminator leagues across the fantasy world.  In Week 2 of the NFL season, the four most popular picks were eliminated, ending 75% of all ESPN eliminator entries, only two weeks in the season.  How did our series do that week?  We went 3-0 as recapped in the start of our Week 3 entry.

That being said, we only got to a streak of six last season, a low for our yearly series.  This season six won’t do as we try to go for the whole 17!  Week 1 is always one of the toughest weeks to pick 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.

Chiefs Alex Smith and Chargers Philip Rivers

Associated Press

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, half of them were to division foes the NY Jets and the 6-10 Miami Dolphins, costing the Patriots home field advantage in the playoffs.  The Carolina Panthers started last season 14-0 and finished atop the NFL regular season standings with a 15-1 record.  Their one loss?  Look no further than division foe Atlanta Falcons, who finished the season at a pedestrian 8-8.  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:

  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • Buccaneers at Falcons
  • Giants at Cowboys
  • Rams at 49ers

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.  My favorite example for this topic takes us to the city of Cincinnati.  Last season the Bengals went 12-4, winning the AFC North.  In those 12 wins included victories over teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  However, last season they also played four primetime games (nationally televised games being played after 8PM EST).  The result? A 1-3 record, with the only win coming against the lowly Cleveland Browns.  For whatever reason when primetime hits, some teams rise to the occasion while others shrink in the bright lights (like the Bengals). Unless you want to take a chance I would avoid the below marquee games:

  • Panthers at Broncos
  • Patriots at Cardinals
  • Steelers at Redskins
  • Rams at 49ers (also a division matchup)

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. To put it in perspective, the Broncos, Patriots and Panthers lost a combined nine games last season, six of which came on the road.  Falcons over Panthers, Dolphins over Patriots, and Steelers over Broncos all featured the home team upsetting the top teams in the NFL last season.  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:

  • Packers at Jaguars
  • Bengals at Jets
Eagles Ryan Mathews

Bill Stretcher – USA TODAY Sports

Step 4 – Make your pick!

My pick of the week is:

  • Eagles over Browns

Before you ask me why my pick isn’t Seahawks over Dolphins, drop down to “other options I like”, and you’ll see why.  While the Eagles have not been the most comforting pick over the past couple seasons, this is less about picking the Eagles and more about picking the Browns.  A team surrounded by dysfunction, their best receiver is suspended, and they are playing in one of the hostile environments in the NFL.  This pick is all about picking the city of Philly over the Browns in week 1.

Other options I like this week:

  • Seahawks over Dolphins

Yes, this is the number one choice on espn’s eliminator challenge.  Yes, the Dolphins are traveling across the country for this game, usually a death sentence for most teams.  Yes, the Seahawks have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.  Yes, there is a pretty good chance the Seahawks win this game, but I am a Dolphins fan, and for week one I am going to hold out hope that Adam Gase is the offensive mastermind people think he is, and Miami shocks the world and shows Pete Carroll something he has never seen before.  That being said, if you really don’t trust the Eagles, this is a fairly safe pick.

  • Texans Over Bears

To me, this match features two teams going in opposite directions.  One team continue to build talent off-season after off-season while the other team only seems to watch it leave.  Who would you rather pick J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller or Jay Cutler?  I rest my case.

Thanks for reading!

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