Chris Simms' Week 1 NFL Picks

Chris SimmsNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 7, 2017

Chris Simms' Week 1 NFL Picks

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    When I played quarterback in the NFL, Week 1 was always exciting. Yet, it was also a little bit scary. You've spent so much time in the offseason planning that you almost feel overprepared. At the same time, though, you know the opposing defense is going to throw out two or three curveballs—things you've never seen on film—that could really mess you up. It can be nerve-wracking.

    This is the most exciting time of year for fans and for players—except, of course, during the playoffs—because there really is a lot at stake in Week 1.

    In my experience, there's nothing more tense than a football building after a 0-1 start. Coaches and players know that another loss and a 0-2 start make it extremely difficult to make the postseason. This is why there is a ton of pressure, more than most realize, to start the season off with a win.

    If there wasn't pressure, there wouldn't be importance. This is the beauty of the NFL. Every game matters, even the first one.

    So which teams are going to come out with a win, and which will face the pressure of a 0-1 start? I'm going to dig through the Week 1 slate and try to determine exactly that.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

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    When: Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

    Let's not dance around on this one. It's the New England Patriots. It's Bill Belichick. It's Tom Brady. It's the season opener, being played under New England's fifth and newest championship banner.

    New England is the cream of the crop in the NFL.

    While the Kansas City Chiefs have a lot of talent on their roster, their defense can be a liability. It is certainly capable of making game-changing plays, but the amount of yards and big plays they've given up in the preseason—and even dating back to last year—is alarming.

    I just don't see any way the Chiefs can win this game, unless there are a couple of Marcus Peters pick-sixes or Tyreek Hill punt-return touchdowns.

    Prediction: Patriots 34, Chiefs 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins

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    The game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins—originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET—has been rescheduled for November 19 due to Hurricane Irma.

    The NFL released a statement Wednesday, part of which read:

    "The NFL announced yesterday that in the interest of public safety in light of the continuing state of emergency, the league, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, would not play an NFL game in South Florida this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the impacted area."

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), New Era Field, Orchard Park, New York

    This is definitely one of those 50-50 games. Both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have pretty good defenses. Both are fairly strapped when it comes to weapons on the offensive side of the ball.

    It does appear that Tyrod Taylor will be able to start at quarterback for the Bills, which is good news for Buffalo fans. However, I'm still going to go with the Jets here. The New York offense has looked good when Josh McCown has been under center. The Jets defense is still pretty special, even after trading away Sheldon Richardson.

    In addition, I believe Todd Bowles is more desperate at this point in his career than Sean McDermott is. It's more important for his job security to win in Week 1. The Jets go into Buffalo and win a close one.

    Prediction: Jets 20, Bills 17

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

    It's been really exciting to watch the new-look Cleveland Browns in the preseason. Hue Jackson and the Cleveland front office deserve a ton of credit for completely transforming this team in a little over a year. The Browns defense, in particular, has a chance to be very good this season.

    Regardless, the reality of the situation is that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a Super Bowl contender, and the Browns were a 1-15 team last year. The Browns are starting a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer. The Steelers are starting a guy named Ben Roethlisberger.

    With Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant back in the lineup, Roethlisberger is going to have too many weapons at his disposal for Cleveland to overcome. It's simply too much to ask of Kizer to keep pace—especially against a defense with a strong front seven and creativity on the back end.

    Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 13

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

    If the Tennessee Titans want to sell to the public that they're a legitimate playoff team, then these are the types of games they have to win.

    Tennessee is going against an Oakland Raiders defense that isn't good. It isn't good against the run. It isn't good against the pass. Now, the passing game isn't the strength of the Tennessee offense. However, Marcus Mariota should be able to produce enough of an aerial assault to scare the Raiders and keep their defense honest against the run.

    Conversely, the Titans have improved their pass defense enough to get some stops on Derek Carr and the explosive Oakland passing attack. Plus, Tennessee should want a measure of revenge for last year's 17-10 loss that could have easily been a win.

    Prediction: Titans 31, Raiders 27

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), FedExField, Landover, Maryland

    The Philadelphia Eagles should have the overall advantage in this matchup. The one concern would be a questionable Philadelphia secondary against the weapons of the Washington Redskins passing offense.

    However, it's hard to really like what we've seen from the Washington offense in the preseason. It feels like quarterback Kirk Cousins and head coach Jay Gruden—who is now responsible for play-calling—are still trying to get on the same page.

    Plus, the Redskins were too often pushed around in the preseason. The Eagles, on the other hand, have been a team that has pushed everyone around. The Eagles offensive and defensive lines are both impressive and should be able to control Washington on both sides of the ball. With new weapons around Carson Wentz, the Eagles should have the firepower to outlast the Redskins.

    Prediction: Eagles 24, Redskins 20

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

    The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are two teams with pretty good defenses. The Texans defense was the best in football last year, by a pretty wide margin. Yes, Houston lost A.J. Bouye to the Jags in the offseason, but they're getting J.J. Watt back as well.

    This Texans defense will be playing at home in Houston. With Hurricane Harvey on everyone's mind, there's going to be a lot of emotion on the field, and the stadium is going to be rocking. Oh yeah, and it's Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense on the other side of the field.

    This should be a low-scoring game because of the defenses involved. Yet even a relatively inexperienced Tom Savage seems more capable of moving the ball consistently than Bortles. Expect Houston to do just enough to come out on top.

    Prediction: Texans 13, Jaguars 10

Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

    Here's the big issue with the Detroit Lions. Is there anything elite about the team other than Matthew Stafford? The Lions have made improvements to their offensive line and should have an improved run game, but the Arizona Cardinals just have more playmakers all over the field.

    Whether it's David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald on offense or Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu on defense, the Cardinals have elite players all across the roster.

    This should be a close football game. At the end of the day, however, I have to side with the mind of Bruce Arians and the fact he has more game-changers on his team. If he's at the top of his game, Carson Palmer is certainly capable of matching Stafford. Arians and his playmakers will make the difference.

    Prediction: Cardinals 27, Lions 21

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

    Go ahead and be shocked if you want, but this is my upset of the week. This is a trap game for the Atlanta Falcons, who weren't overly impressive in the preseason. The Falcons will be playing the Chicago Bears on the road, in a loud stadium, on the slow grass of Soldier Field.

    The Bears are the bigger team, and they've had the entire offseason to game-plan for an Atlanta defense that is pretty basic. More importantly, this is the first NFL game for Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. This isn't Vic Fangio's first rodeo.

    The Bears are very talented up front defensively. That's scary for the Falcons because their line hasn't looked good. If Atlanta cannot find a way to run on the Bears, Chicago is going to be able to utilize safer coverages against the pass. I think the Bears do just enough on both sides of the ball to pull off a shocker.

    Prediction: Bears 20, Falcons 17

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

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    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

    If you've followed me at all during the offseason, you know I really love this Baltimore Ravens team. Yet this is a Cincinnati Bengals team that has won five of the last six and six of the last eight against it. Cincinnati is simply one of the few teams in football who won't be intimidated by the Ravens.

    Cincinnati also has some sneaky talent on it. The Bengals could be headed back to the postseason if they can get off to a fast start to the season. They'll be looking to do so against their division rival.

    The biggest reason to like Cincinnati in this game, though, is the fact Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco only recently returned to practice. It's difficult to believe he'll be hitting on all cylinders after getting virtually no offseason work and coming off one week of practice.

    As long as the revamped Cincinnati offensive line can hold its own and stop the Ravens defense from ruining the game, the Bengals should win.

    Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 16

Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams

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    When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

    This game is in L.A. It's the home opener for new Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. This creates a very tough environment for the Indianapolis Colts.

    While I like a lot of things the Colts have done to their roster over the past year, it's just too hard to put any real faith in Scott Tolzien—even in a duel with Jared Goff.

    This is a terrific Rams defense with Wade Phillips at the helm. He's going to be able to figure out plenty of ways to confuse and rattle Tolzien. McVay has had plenty of time to put together a game plan for this one, so he should be able to come up with some creative ways to get Goff and the pass offense rolling. It won't help that the Colts are without star cornerback Vontae Davis.

    Prediction: Rams 24, Colts 16

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

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    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

    This is easily one of the best matchups of Week 1.

    It's never easy to go to Lambeau Field and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Seattle Seahawks learned that last year. However, Seattle is the type of team that's going to remember losing, and it's a far better team than it was a year ago.

    The Seahawks look the best they have in years. They haven't fixed every problem along the offensive line, but the unit is better. There are more weapons around Russell Wilson than he's possibly ever had, and Wilson is playing the best ball of his career.

    Of course, we know about the Seattle defense, which recently added Sheldon Richardson. The secondary should be looking to bounce back from last year's performance at Lambeau. The Seattle defense was embarrassed in that 38-10 loss. It won't happen again.

    Prediction: Seahawks 28, Packers 24

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

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    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

    There are two things that play into my evaluation here. The first is that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw just two passes in the preseason. Coming off a shoulder surgery, that's a scary proposition—I don't care if your nickname is Superman. It's hard to envision him having a special day on Sunday with that much rust.

    The second thing is that there is more talent and there are more weapons on this San Francisco 49ers team than people realize. The 49ers also have a play-caller in Kyle Shanahan who is the best play-designer in the NFL.

    This being a home game to kick off the Shanahan regime plays into the game for San Francisco as well. So does the Panthers having to travel across the country. I'm calling for an upset.

    Prediction: 49ers 23, Panthers 21

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

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    When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    It looks like Ezekiel Elliott will get to play for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Even with Elliott on the field, though, the New York Giants match up extremely well with the Cowboys. That's why the Giants handed Dallas two of its three losses last season.

    The Giants have a defensive line that is capable of playing the vaunted Cowboys line to a stalemate. Just consider the fact Elliott only had 158 yards on 44 carries in two games against New York last year. The Giants also have one of the best secondaries in football. They'll be able to match cornerbacks one-on-one on an island.

    The other thing I don't like about this matchup for the Cowboys is the questionable Dallas secondary. Even if Odell Beckham Jr. can't go, the Giants have enough weapons—like Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram—to test it. In addition, the Cowboys don't have quite enough talent up front to take full advantage of New York's poor offensive line.

    Prediction: Giants 27, Cowboys 24

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

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    When: Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET (ESPN), U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    The New Orleans Saints are going to face a tough environment in Minnesota against the Vikings. However, Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Co. aren't likely to be fazed by the challenge.

    If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I'm high on New Orleans. With Payton having an entire offseason to game-plan for Minnesota, the Saints should have the advantage here. The Vikings defense can be special, but it surrendered an alarming number of big plays in the preseason. With the Saints coming to town, that's a huge concern.

    On the flip side, the Saints have really improved on the defensive side of the ball. While the Minnesota offense should be better than it was in 2016, the New Orleans defense is going to be better too. Since Brees has more weapons at his disposal, I like the Saints on the road.

    Prediction: Saints 31, Vikings 21

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

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    When: Monday at 10:20 p.m. ET (ESPN), Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado

    This is really a pretty evenly matched football game. While the Denver Broncos do have a dominant defense, we know Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have what it takes to overcome it. The Chargers won 21-13 at home last season.

    The Broncos have a slight edge here, though, because they're playing at home. The Denver defense plays better at home and should be able to control the game better than it did in San Diego last year.

    Another factor in this game is Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. He was fired by the Chargers after the 2016 season and should be looking to stick it to his former team. These things play into games a lot more than people realize. He should be able to get enough out of his offense to come out on top.

    Prediction: Broncos 23, Chargers 20