Eliminator Challenge is one of the simplest and fun 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 that 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, five teams closed as at least eight-point favorites, with those teams going 5-0. However, both Ohio teams lost as big favorites as the Cincinnati Bengals (-7) and Cleveland Browns (-6) combined to eliminate 24% of the remaining entries.
Overall, teams favored between 4-7 points are a dismal 5-7-1 outright and 2-11 ATS. No team is bigger than a touchdown favorite this week, meaning this could be another Eliminator Challenge pick full of landmines.
According to FPI, only three teams have at least a 61% chance to win this week, the fewest in any week all season. The biggest favorite has a 78% chance of winning, which is the lowest in any remaining week until Week 17. And both big favorites have heavy question marks, with the Bengals starting 0-2, and Chargers QB Justin Herbert dealing with a rib injury .
Not surprisingly, those are the two chalkiest teams, combining for 50% of Eliminator Challenge entries just far. One of them is my top pick for a brutal Week 3.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Chargers are the biggest betting favorite on the board at Caesars, and given question marks around Justin Herbert’s ribs, this number could get even larger if he gets positive health reports. The Chargers have extra time to prepare after a disappointing loss, while the Jaguars are in a potential letdown spot, flying all the way across the country after an upset win over the Colts. It’s tough to burn the Chargers when they have a number of usable games remaining. But in a difficult week to pick a favorite, fading the team that has lost 18 consecutive road games seems like the safest option. Just keep a close eye on Herbert injury news throughout the week.
Line: Chargers -7
FPI chance to win: 77%
Eliminator Challenge: 27% selected
Kickoff is here! Sign up for ESPN Fantasy Football today. Play for free
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
The Vikings are being slightly discounted among the biggest favorites this week among entrants, probably because they looked terrible on Monday Night Football. But just two weeks ago, this team dominated the Packers in this building, and on the whole, the Vikings are rated higher on both offense and defense than the Lions according to FPI. I am concerned about the Lions offensive line pushing the Vikings around, but they are still playing three backups, even if they looked great last week. Justin Jefferson has over 120 yards in each of the last three meetings, and it doesn’t look like the Lions have an answer for him. This is not a confident selection, but they are one of the least chalky big favorites, and there isn’t much value in saving them.
Line: Vikings -6
FPI chance to win: 67%<.br/>
Eliminator Challenge: 8% selected
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
The Bengals may be 0-2, but don’t be scared by their record. The Bengals are the 17th team 0-2 or worse to be favored by at least 3.5 points since the 1970 merger. The previous 16 went 15-1. Last season, the Bengals lost in a similar spot, falling to the Jets on the road in Week 8, knocking out 39 percent of entries. That was tied for the most popular selection all season. This week, they are still more popular than teams favored by a similar amount, but FPI sees so much value in the Bengals that it is hard to ignore. FPI still rates the Bengals as a top-5 team in the NFL going forward, and thinks this spread is about four points off, making the Bengals its biggest favorite of the week.
Line: Bengals -4.5
FPI chance to win: 78%
Eliminator Challenge: 23% selected
Chicago Bears at Houston Texans
Time to get frisky. After the top few teams, there is a major drop-off in win probability, where no team is a significant favorite. With that being the case, why not take the Bears in the only team they are projected to be favorites all season? The Chargers and Bengals both have several weeks in the future where they are usable. The Bears don’t. For those of you in small groups, going this far off the board might not be worth it. But for massive Eliminator groups, picking a winner in Texans-Bears or Falcons-Seahawks is a nice way to embrace the variance and give yourself more options than your competitors down the road.
Line: Bears -3
Eliminator Challenge: 4% selected