Staying Alive: Eliminator best bets

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots should have little trouble with the Arizona Cardinals. AP Photo/Joe Howell

Each week, numberFire uses forward-based modeling and Wall Street-style management to help you pick the safest bets in your Eliminator pool. They will tell you who to pick each week and for the rest of the season, as well as who to stay away from using an Eliminator Pool threat matrix. Matrix will be updated weekly.

Sign up for ESPN's Eliminator Challenge here.

We went 8-1 on Sunday picking the early games, unfortunately, our top pick was taken down by the most impressive rookie quarterback performance in history -- and on the road no less. What's the best explanation? Random variation. Even if a team is projected to win 80 percent of the time, that still leaves a significant 20 percent chance for them to lose. We were not the only ones to favor New Orleans so heavily:
The Saints vs. Redskins game opened at minus-11 in Vegas, which was the largest spread of any game, meaning they were the most favored team. As of the writing of our article, that held true. The Saints' money line opened at minus-700, which means Vegas had them as 87.5 percent winners.

The simple explanation: RG3 played out of his mind. There is no way to predict a rookie QB's performance in his first game, so we have to treat him as a league-average QB. Griffin obviously played well above league-average level (see his 92.3 Total QBR).

Luckily, only 3.3 percent of people in ESPN Eliminator pools picked New Orleans, so most of you are still alive. Based on that 3.3 percent, if the Saints estimated win percentage was over 72 percent (Vegas consensus line closed at minus-400, which equates to an 80 percent chance of winning), they were still the equity-maximizing pick.

But that's the past now. On to Week 2 and beyond.

The path to victory

The following chart illustrates the best bets, in terms of win probability, each week for Eliminator pools: