For Frequency Sake Fantasy Football,Gambling NFL Eliminator Challenge – WEEK 1

NFL Eliminator Challenge – WEEK 1

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Welcome to the eleventh season of our NFL Eliminator Challenge series. For those of you who are new to our little group, 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 to give me your thoughts!

Step 1 – Avoid Division Matchups

On September 21, 2008, the New England Patriots, riding a record-setting 21-game regular season winning streak, hosted their rivals, the Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins, on the other hand, started the 2008 season at 0-2 after completing a 1-15 season the year prior.  The result?  Miami 38, New England 13. For my loyal followers, you know I love this example, being a Dolphins fan and all.  It paints a great picture of how unpredictable division matchups can be, which brings us to the first step of my eliminator series: avoid division matchups whenever you can!

Despite using an example from back in 2008, this happens every single year.  Last year the Houston Texans had the worst record in the AFC, finishing their season with only three wins and one tie.  The fantastic part is, despite only winning three games all season, they beat every single one of their division foes, beating Jacksonville in week five, Tennessee in week 16, and Indy in week 18.  Funny enough, their one tie was against Indy as well in the first week of the season.

Looking at the other conference, the Philadelphia Eagles finished the year with the top record in the NFC, losing only three times all season.  Taking a closer look at those three losses, two of them came against division opponents, and one was against Washington, the team that finished last in their division.  In fact, at the time the Eagles were undefeated before hosting the 4-5 Washington team in Philadelphia, a game that ended many eliminator seasons last year.

Every year one of the top teams gets upset by a division rival.  The problem is you never know when it’s going to happen.  Unless you can predict the future, I recommend avoiding these division matchups:

  • Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
  • Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
  • Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
  • Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos
  • Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
  • Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
  • Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Step 2 – Avoid Marquee Matchups

Moving on to step number two, get rid of all primetime games.  These games are scheduled in front of the bright lights of national television for a reason: they are the games of the week and therefore should be exciting, back-and-forth nailbiters that you don’t want to risk your season on.

Take a look at last Thanksgiving, a week where we are blessed with three games on Thursday plus a Sunday and Monday night matchup.  This past year, all five games that week were decided by eight points or less, one of which took a field goal by Buffalo with 21 seconds remaining to avoid a possible upset in Detroit.  For more proof, let’s go back to the Eagles.  Remember that upset against Washington to ruin their bid at a perfect season?  That happened on a Monday night, surrounded by the bright lights of primetime.  

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

  • Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
  • Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Step 3 – Avoid Picking Against Home Field Advantage

Step three used to be a huge staple of our algorithm here, however, home-field advantage is not what it used to be.  A couple of seasons ago we discussed an article posted by the NY Times, stating that in the 1990s, home teams won almost 60% of all games, but in 2019, that rate dropped to just under 52%, the lowest mark since 1972.  According to a newer article by the Ringer back in January of 2021, 2020 was the first season in NFL history where home teams finished below .500.  Believe it or not, home teams finished with a record of 127-128-1.

The theory was COVID played a significant role in the disappearance of home-field advantage. With no crowds, came no advantage.  However, the assumed return of home-field advantage post-COVID for some reason never came. 

While home-field advantage may not be what it used to be, the stress behind travel and being out of your comfort zone is still a real thing and something you should be careful with.  While this is one of our softer rules, I’m not ready to give up on it yet.  Be aware and avoid the below games where the favorite is the away team:

  •  Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
  • San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots
  • Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
  • Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Step 4 – Make your pick!

The final step is to see what you have left and pick the best option on the board.  Eliminating all the games we crossed out above leaves us with five remaining games to pick from and here are my three favorites:

My pick of the week is:

  • Baltimore Ravens over the Houston Texans

The first week of the season is always hard to predict as there are a ton of uncertainties around the league.  However, one thing we know for certain is that rookie quarterbacks don’t have the best track record and in Week 1, one of those rookies will be traveling to Baltimore to face one of the best defenses in the league. The Ravens also have a top quarterback ready to prove that he deserved his new contract and I expect this to be a statement game for Baltimore to start their season.

Other options I like this week:

  • Washington Commanders over the Arizona Cardinals

This pick is less about the faith I have in Washington and more about the situations surrounding the game. The Cardinals seem to be angling for the first 0-17 season and will either be starting a quarterback they just traded for, or a late-round rookie pick.  This Cardinals team is devoid of talent on both sides of the ball, while the Washington Commanders are going to be better than a lot of people are giving them credit for.  Keep in mind Arizona also has to travel across the country for this game which is in the morning slate on the west coast. While this is more a pick against Arizona than a pick for Washington, I do expect the Commanders to handle their business in this one.

  • Minnesota Vikings over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There is one wild card in this matchup, and that man is Baker Mayfield. Could he show up, ball out, and prove all his haters wrong? Sure.  Could he also throw 3 interceptions and lose 40-3? Also possible. The reality is we don’t really know what to think of the Buccaneers’ offense except for the fact that their offensive line is spotty, their running back is unproven, and their quarterback is a wild card.  On the other side of the field is an offense that has the potential to be the best in the league.  With this game in the 1 p.m. slate, I think we will see the version of Cousins that can handle this game quite easily.

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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