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NFL Eliminator Challenge: Week 1

Welcome to week one of season six of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series!  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 well for us in the past.  We are happy to have you join our eliminator community and feel free to comment at the bottom or hit me up on twitter!

 

Step 1 – Avoid Division Matchups

On September 21, 2008, the New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins riding a record-setting 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) because it paints a great picture of how unpredictable division matchups are.

Last season the Patriots only lost three games all season.  One in the season opener against the Chiefs, one early in the season against Carolina, and then only one between weeks 5 and 17.   The one loss?  It came at the hands of Jay Cutler and my lowly Dolphins who finished 6-10 on the year.

Need more proof?  Let’s go to the NFC teams with the best records last season.  The 13-3 Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles lost to only Kansas City, Seattle, and division rival Dallas.  The 13-3 Minnesota Vikings only lost to Pittsburgh, Carolina, and division rival Detroit.

It seems like every one of these top teams gets upset by a division rival, and without knowing when that upset will happen, I recommend avoiding these games every week.  I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, do yourself a favor and avoid the below division games:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
  • Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
  • Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

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 one year ago, the Patriots and Chiefs kicked off the NFL season on prime-time.  While everyone picked the Patriots before the game, Chiefs fans had the last laugh as they demolished the eventual Super Bowl runner-ups by a score of 42-27.  Let’s also not forget the Miami upset over New England mentioned earlier took place on a Monday night this past season 😉.

For whatever reason when primetime hits, some teams rise to the occasion while others shrink in the bright lights (*cough Andy Dalton *cough). Unless you want to take a chance, I would avoid the below marquee games:

  • Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
  • Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
  • New York Jets at Detroit Lions
  • Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders

Step 3 – Avoid Picking Against Home Field Advantage

According to Neil Paine of fivethirtyeight.com, home teams in the NFL have won 57.1% of their games. To put it in perspective, two of the three losses for the Minnesota Vikings last year happened on the road; same story for the Eagles.  To put it another way, the Giants only won three games last year, and two of them came at home, one over the Kansas City Chiefs nonetheless.

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:

  • Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
  • Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants

Step 4 – Make your pick!

My pick of the week is:

  • Baltimore Ravens over Buffalo Bills

Once Nathan Peterman was named the starter, this became an easy decision.  You have one of the best defenses over the past decade going up against a quarterback who became a league-wide joke the last time he played.  Add in the fact that Buffalo may have one of the worst rosters in the league in terms of talent, and I think Baltimore easily wins this one at home.

Other options I like this week:

  • Minnesota Vikings over San Francisco 49ers

While I know lots of people are high on the 49ers, they lost their starting running back and are going up against one of the best teams in the league.  I think Minnesota has a chip on their shoulder after the NFC championship game and I expect them to take out their frustration on an under-matched 49ers team.

  • New England Patriots over Houston Texans

While New England isn’t always their best early in the season, they traditionally do well against young quarterbacks who like to take risks, and let’s not forget how hard it is to beat the Patriots in New England.

 

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

https://twitter.com/DE_aaron

Thanks for reading!

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