Welcome to Week One of season seven, of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series! For those of you who are new to our series, we follow four simple rules 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), and it paints a great picture of how unpredictable division matchups are.
Last season, division rivals the, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers, shared the best record in the AFC at 12-4. For the Chiefs, one of those four loses came at the hands of, guess who, the LA Chargers. On the other hand, two of the Chargers loses came at the hands of their division rivals, the Chiefs being one, and the 6-10 division rival, Denver Broncos, being the other. Let’s also not forget, the New England Patriots lost to the division rival, Miami Dolphins, last year in a game being commonly referred to as the Miami Miracle.
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Need more proof? Let’s take a look at the New Orleans Saints, a team with one of the best records in the NFC last season with only three loses on the year. Of those three loses, one was to their division rival, the 7-9 Carolina Panthers, and another loss was at the hands of division rival, Tampa Bay, who finished with a 5-11 record. Even the best teams in the league can be upset by division rivals who can’t get to .500 on the season.
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:
- Buffalo Bills at the New York Jets
- Washington Redskins at the Philadelphia Eagles
- New York Giant at Dallas Cowboys
- Denver Broncos at the Oakland Raiders
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. While there weren’t a ton of upsets last year outside of Week 9, where the Tennessee Titans beat the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas on Monday night, we did see many of these games come down to only a couple points. The NFL has also stepped up their game when it came to scheduling, putting better matchups in primetime (let us all not forget the Rams-Chiefs Monday night game in Week 11 where the two teams accounted for more than 100 points).
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:
- Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears
- Pittsburgh Steelers at the New England Patriots
- Houston Texans at the New Orleans Saints
- Denver Broncos at the Oakland Raiders
Step 3 – Avoid Picking Against Home Field Advantage
According to Ben Owen, of lineups.com, “Over a large sample size, it is documented that the average NFL game is won by the home team by a score just below three points. What is even more telling is that, in the NFL, home teams usually win in between 55 and 60 percent of the time. So, speaking incredibly generally, if you want a winner, the home team isn’t a bad bet.”
Look at the LA Rams, who only lost three games last season. Two of the three came on the road. The 12-4 Chiefs had three of their four loses happen on the road, but the best example is the New England Patriots. The Patriots lost five games last season, to the Jaguars, Lions, Titans, Dolphins and Steelers. All five of those loses were on the road while they were a perfect 8-0 at 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:
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- Baltimore Ravens at the Miami Dolphins
- Los Angeles Rams at the Carolina Panthers
- Kansas City Chiefs at the Jacksonville Jaguars
- Detroit Lions at the Arizona Cardinals
Step 4 – Make your pick!
My pick of the week is:
- Seattle Seahawks over the Cincinnati Bengals
Seattle has traditionally been one of the hardest places to play in the NFL. Visiting Seattle this week are the Cincinnati Bengals, with a first-year head coach, and missing their star WR in AJ Green. With so much uncertainty around the Bengals offensive line and the arrival of Clowney in Seattle, I think Andy Dalton has a very rough day ahead of him.
Other options I like this week:
- Los Angeles Chargers over the Indianapolis Colts
Many are picking the Chargers to be a Super Bowl contender this year. Their team is stacked with talent, even if their star running back sits for the beginning of the season. On the other side of the field is a Colts team who just lost their franchise quarterback to an early retirement. My money is on Rivers over Brissett.
- Cleveland Browns over the Tennessee Titans
It seems like only yesterday, that we would just find whoever was playing the Browns and pick them for our Eliminator series. That being said, it is a new day and age, and I think the Browns are too talented for a team like the Titans where Mariota seems to be struggling with Ryan Tannehill, right on his heels. While I expect this game to be closer than the previous two, Cleveland should be able to take this game in their home stadium.
Follow me on twitter and let me know what you think of this week’s picks @DE_aaron!
Thanks for reading!