NFL Eliminator Challenge: Week 1

Welcome to week one of season five of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series! Last season we had another tough year, only getting six strong before somehow the now Los Angeles Chargers upset the Super Bowl runner ups while playing in Atlanta.  That being said, we have reached double digits in this series in the past and our goal is to go seventeen strong in 2017 (only seems appropriate, right?).  For those of you who are new to our series, we follow four simple steps to make our picks.  While these are not hard rules (more like guidelines and suggestions), they have historically worked out very well for us in the past.  We are happy to have you join our eliminator community 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 two games all season. One of them was against the Seahawks (not a huge surprise), but the other loss?  The division rival Buffalo Bills.  The same 7-9 Buffalo Bills team who got swept by both the Dolphins and the Jets last year.  However, that didn’t stop them from beating the Patriots, in New England nonetheless.

Need more proof? Let’s go to the NFC team with the best record last season, the Dallas Cowboys, who went 13-3 throughout the season.  Guess who their 3 losses were to?  The NY Giants in week 1, the Giants again in week 14, and the Eagles in week 17.  That’s right, all three of their losses came from division foes.

These games can go either way and I highly recommend you avoid them unless you want an early exit 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:

  • New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
  • Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
  • Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
  • Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
  • New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

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. Just like last year, this opening weekend comes with extra Monday night games as we get a double-header to close out the week.  Just one year ago, the 49ers opened on Monday night hosting the LA Rams, a team with high expectations due to their ferocious defense.  However, when the fat lady was signing, the score spelled a 28-0 defeat for the Rams.  Yes, even the lowly 49ers can show up in primetime, it was the rest of the season where they struggled.

For whatever reason when primetime hits, some teams rise to the occasion while others shrink in the bright lights (like the Bengals who lost their only Monday night and Saturday night games, but did win a Thursday night matchup). Unless you want to take a chance I would avoid the below marquee games:

  • Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
  • New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
  • New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

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, two of the three losses for the Dallas Cowboys last season came on the road.  The Green Bay Packers lost six games last season, four of which came on the road.  To put it another way, the Cleveland Browns won only one single game last year, and they won it in front of their home crowd, against a Chargers team traveling a long way from home.

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:

  • Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
  • Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

Step 4 – Make your pick!

On espn, the #1 picked team is the Pittsburgh Steelers, with 32% of the votes going their way as of Tuesday. They are playing against a rookie QB leading a team that won only one game the year before.  They are also the biggest Vegas spread of any other game being played this week.  Odds are they are probably going to win, but is it a certainty?  Keep in mind it is a division matchup, and the Steelers are the away team.  Is LeVeon in game shape?  Is Martavis ready for his first game in forever?  Is Ben healthy?  There are a lot of questions around this game, which is why, contrary to popular opinion, it will not be my pick this week.

My pick of the week is:

  • Los Angeles Rams over Indianapolis Colts

Yes, I am picking Goff as my first pick of the season, risky eh? Look at it this way.  I am not picking Goff to win this game, I am picking the Rams to beat a Colts team without Andrew Luck along with a very suspect supporting cast.  I do not expect this to be a high scoring game, but I think Gurley will get back on track with a big first game of the season, and give the people of LA something to cheer about.

Other options I like this week:

  • Houston Texans over Jacksonville Jaguars

Yes it is a division game, but it is also a game with a Houston team that has rallied around their city and are opening up at home. I don’t think it matters who plays QB for the Jaguars in this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if JJ Watt ended up with more touchdowns at the end of the day.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers over Cleveland Browns

Let’s be honest, most of you are going to pick them anyways. I mean, it’s the Browns, right?


Follow me on twitter and let me know what you think of this week’s picks @DE_aaron!

Thanks for reading!


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