Eliminator Challenge is one of the simplest and most entertaining games during the NFL season. Pick one team to win each week. If that team wins, you advance to the next week. Lose once, and you’re out. The only caveat is you cannot pick the same team twice.
While it sounds simple, getting a perfect season is always more difficult than it looks. The key is to find a good balance of picking winners while also keeping quality options open for future weeks.
Last week was an extremely difficult week on paper, and once again, we saw a massive amount of knockouts in Eliminator Challenge. Each of the two most popular picks lost, as the Kansas City Chiefs (25%) fell to the Indianapolis Colts, while the Los Angeles Chargers (22%) fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This week, there is one obvious pick on paper in the Green Bay Packers, who host the New England Patriots. They are the only double-digit favorites this week, and according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, it is the most lopsided matchup on paper all season, given quarterback Mac Jones‘ injury status. However, not only are the Packers the biggest favorites this week, they are also projected to be the biggest favorites in each of the next two weeks.
When it comes to choosing whether to use the Packers, consider how large your group is. Bigger groups incentivize saving teams for later because they are more likely to need all 18 weeks. If you are in a small group with most of the field eliminated, planning ahead is less important, and the Packers would be my top choice. However, in larger fields, I think there is value in picking an undefeated team to suffer its first loss of the season.
Miami is 3-0 and Cincinnati is 1-2, but this is a fantastic spot for the Bengals. The Dolphins were on the field for 90 plays last game in sweltering Miami heat. Now they have to go on the road to face the Bengals after Cincinnati cruised to a win over the Jets last week. The betting line has steamed toward the Bengals since it was posted, and the FPI thinks the line could be even bigger. The Bengals are the second-biggest FPI favorites this week, yet they won’t be a very popular pick in most groups. They have only two more games with at least a 70% chance to win according to the FPI (Weeks 7 and 9), and both of those weeks are shaping up to have several other good options. Throw in questions around Tua Tagovailoa‘s injury status, and the Bengals are a strong pick this week.
Line: Bengals -4
FPI chance to win: 75%
Eliminator Challenge: 6% selected
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Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
If teams were reusable, the Packers would be the top pick pick by far. This game has the largest win probability for any game all season according to the FPI, with Green Bay projected to win 89% of the time. Plus, at 12% selected early in the week, the Packers are not even that chalky. However, there are six more weeks after this one in which the Packers are the biggest FPI favorites, including each of the next two weeks, when they host the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The Packers are the most likely team to win this week, but that will likely be the case a few more times this season, so personally, I would prefer to save Green Bay for another week. Plus, Bill Belichick is 7-5 straight up as a double-digit underdog, including the playoffs.
Line: Packers -10
FPI chance to win: 89%
Eliminator Challenge: 12% selected
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets
This is the only game all season where the Steelers are projected to be favorites according to the FPI, so in large pools, using a team like the Steelers is prudent. The Jets are getting Zach Wilson back, which introduces more variance to the Jets, but with George Fant placed on IR, each of the Jets’ top three offensive tackles are out. The Jets are the only team in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Steelers have struggled, too, but until proved otherwise, they are the better team with a better coaching staff at home.
Line: Steelers -3.5
FPI chance to win: 67%
Eliminator Challenge: 8% selected
The Lions have a very similar case to the Steelers, as they are favored in only one more game all season, according to the FPI. They are even bigger money-line favorites than Pittsburgh at Caesars Sportsbook. But early in the week, the Lions’ injury report could be troubling. D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown have their status in doubt. Detroit could likely deal with one of the two missing this game, but if both are out, Jared Goff and the passing game could struggle. Assuming at least one plays, the Lions’ offense could have a field day. Detroit is eighth in offensive efficiency, while the Seahawks are 26th on defense. If the Lions’ injury report looks good, they become a top-three play. If not, they could quickly become a team to avoid.
Line: Lions -4.5
FPI chance to win: 64%
Eliminator Challenge: 5% selected
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Eagles are the second-most-popular pick this week and are probably the second-safest pick on the board behind Green Bay. They are the only team in the NFL to rank in the top three in both offensive and defensive efficiency. But like the Packers, the Eagles have a number of other weeks in which they are usable. Philadelphia has six more weeks after this one in which they are bigger FPI favorites. Some of those are late in the season, but in general, the Eagles are a team with a lot of future value. Jacksonville has looked great the past two weeks, but both of its opponents were dealing with a plethora of injuries, and the Eagles are healthier and better.
Line: Eagles -6.5
FPI chance to win: 67%
Eliminator Challenge: 18% selected