Chris Simms' Week 2 NFL Picks
For NFL players, the second week of the season can be a lot more comfortable than the first. You have film on your opponent, you know what to expect and you have that first game of the season out of the way.
That first contest of the year is important, especially with the new rules governing the offseason. Teams tend to make more mistakes in the opener than they do after getting into a rhythm. We saw some sloppy football in Week 1 this year. We should see less of it in Week 2.
At the same time, though, the second week of the season can be tense. I know I've talked about this before, but it's worth emphasizing. I've really never felt more pressure in an NFL locker room than when that locker room is sitting with a 0-1 record—even the playoffs don't always carry that much tension.
Coaches get uptight, and players realize that another loss means they're looking at an uphill battle for the postseason. That's just how it is when you're in a 0-2 pressure hole.
This week, we have some very good football teams facing that hole. Which teams will be able to right the proverbial ship? Which are going to continue strong starts? Which teams are in trouble? Here are my thoughts—and my predictions—for the second week of the 2017 NFL season.
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m ET (NFL Network), Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
It's hard to pick the Houston Texans after their performance in Week 1. The Cincinnati Bengals' performance was nothing stellar either, but at the end of the day, there's still Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and a lot of other talented pieces on Cincinnati's offense.
The Texans offense, on the other hand, has some major issues. The offensive line surrendered 10 sacks in Week 1, and Houston appears set to start rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
This should be a defensive battle and a low-scoring game. The Texans defense is still really good, and it should be able to give Cincinnati some problems. At the same time, it's going to be Watson on the road in his first NFL start off a short week.
The Bengals defense played better last week than some might realize, and if Dalton can take care of the football, Cincinnati should be able to win.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Texans 10
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
This is a really interesting matchup. The Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers are somewhat mirror images of each other, and of course, this is Sean McDermott's return to Carolina.
McDermott should have a good feel for what Carolina wants to do on offense. He should also be able to help offensive coordinator Rick Dennison prepare to poke holes in the Panthers defense since he knows the personnel so well.
Having said all that, this is still the Panthers and Cam Newton playing at home. Carolina is the more talented team as a whole. The Carolina defense is strong in the front seven and a little weak in the secondary. However, Buffalo's passing offense might not be good enough to fully take advantage of that.
With weapons like Cam, Kelvin Benjamin and Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers offense should be able to do enough against Buffalo to win.
Prediction: Panthers 20, Bills 17
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
This is an interesting game because we don't have anything to go off from Week 1 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neither do the Chicago Bears. I'm not sure who's at a bigger disadvantage here, the team stepping onto the field for the first time in the regular season or the team with no film to study.
Tampa will have a good idea of what to expect from the Chicago defense after seeing it against the Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers also have extra time to prepare. This gives the Buccaneers an edge.
Still, this should be a very good matchup. One thing to watch for is a shaky Tampa Bay offensive line. The Bears defensive line should be able to overpower it. However, Jameis Winston and the weapons around him should also be a little too much for the Chicago secondary.
Chicago should be able to craft a solid game plan in this one. However, there isn't enough offensive horsepower—aside from running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen—to keep pace with the Winston and Co.
Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Bears 20
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was more impressive than the offense last week against the Cleveland Browns. That could be a problem because this is a Minnesota Vikings defense that matches up pretty well against the Steelers. There is plenty of talent in the secondary to at least limit Ben Roethlisberger and the weapons at his disposal, and I don't think Le'Veon Bell is quite back to full speed.
What we saw Monday night from the Vikings offense was encouraging. This is a unit that should be considerably better than it was last year—and it should be able to challenge the Pittsburgh defense.
Still, this is the Steelers at Heinz Field in their home opener. The Vikings are coming off a win, but they're also coming off a short week. The situation and the setting might just be too much for the Vikings to overcome.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Vikings 23
Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
It's hard to like what we saw from the Arizona Cardinals offense in Week 1. Carson Palmer was inconsistent and jittery in the pocket. The offensive line was underwhelming. On top of everything, the Cardinals lost running back David Johnson for an extended period of time.
How can you honestly sit here and pick the Indianapolis Colts, though? I'm a risk-taker, and I probably pick upsets too much, but there's no way I can here.
The Cardinals played well against the Detroit Lions last week. It took some greatness from Matthew Stafford for Arizona to lose that game. We're not likely to see the same thing from Scott Tolzien. With him under center, it's an unproven offense in Indianapolis.
Again, the Cardinals offense is worrisome. However, this isn't a Colts defense that is primed to take advantage of Arizona's flaws.
Prediction: Cardinals 28, Colts 17
New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
With both teams sitting at 0-1, this is an extremely important game for the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. There's no doubt about that. The Patriots have to be pissed off about their outing against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Saints have to be miffed about the way they were physically dominated by the Vikings.
I raved about the talent and the potential of the New Orleans defense all preseason, but the lack of experience showed up Monday night. If those young guys thought the Minnesota offense was tough to defend, wait till they get a load of the plays and formations New England is going to throw at them.
Brees and the Saints offense should be able to move the ball on the Patriots. However, we can't minimize the absence of Willie Snead. After the trade of Brandin Cooks, he became the team's best downfield receiver. Sean Payton's decision to use a committee approach at running back also hurts the offense's rhythm.
This could be a close game, but the Patriots have had extra time to prepare, while the Saints are coming off a short week. This gives a big advantage to Bill Belichick and his staff.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Saints 24
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
The Cleveland Browns defense was encouraging in Week 1. It did a great job of containing the Steelers offense, with the exception of Antonio Brown. However, when I went back and really dug through the game film, I think DeShone Kizer's performance at quarterback was a little less impressive than I originally thought.
Kizer now gets to go up against a tremendous Baltimore Ravens defense. This is his first road start in the NFL, against that defense in one of the loudest stadiums in the entire league.
With the talent the Ravens have on defense and the creativity they have behind coordinator Dean Pees, Kizer could be in for a very long afternoon. Conversely, Joe Flacco finally has a game under his belt and should be poised to perform even better than he did against the Bengals in Week 1.
Cleveland will be forced to settle for field goals. The Ravens will not.
Prediction: Ravens 23, Browns 9
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
This is the Andy Reid bowl. He and the Chiefs will host former protege Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles.
A lot in this game could hinge on the health of Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters. Pederson has said he believes Peters will play. If he isn't healthy and the Eagle have to rely on Halapoulivaati Vaitai, however, the Chiefs defensive front could feast. Even if Peters is 100 percent, this is a stiff challenge for the Eagles. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the tougher environments in football for visiting teams.
Plain and simple, though, the Chiefs have more talent than the Eagles. While Philadelphia has one of the league's best offensive lines and one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, the Chiefs are right there on both sides of the ball. This means the game comes down to individual playmakers.
The Chiefs have guys like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, Marcus Peters and Ron Parker. Philadelphia doesn't have much outside of Carson Wentz and a few guys in the defensive front seven. With extra time to prepare and a stronger roster, the teacher should beat the student.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Eagles 17
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
One thing I've noticed while watching film is that when Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is making drops from under center, he's a way better thrower than when he's a statue in shotgun. He threw the ball better last week than maybe I've ever seen him throw.
I also came to the realization while watching film that the Tennessee Titans offensive line is a hair overrated. There are two good tackles and a solid center, but the guards are suspect. This is an issue because the Jaguars field a very impressive defensive front.
Still, the Titans can pound the football when they get things rolling, and Marcus Mariota is a far better quarterback than Bortles. While Leonard Fournette is already one of the best backs in football, the Jaguars could be in real trouble if they cannot lean on the running game.
We can't overlook the fact Jalen Ramsey is dealing with an ankle injury either. While the Titans don't have a ton of scary pass-catchers on their offense, they don't quite lack a passing game the way the Texans did last week.
Prediction: Titans 16, Jaguars 14
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California
The New York Jets have to go across the country, and they don't have the weapons to take advantage of the one weakness of the Oakland Raiders. That weakness is the pass defense, and while the Jets have a serviceable quarterback in Josh McCown, they don't have any real downfield threats.
The Jets' greatest strength is the defensive line. However, there isn't a defensive line in the NFL that is going to dominate Oakland's offensive line.
With Derek Carr at quarterback and the weapons Oakland has around him, the Raiders are eventually going to overwhelm the visiting Jets. New York may be able to keep things close for a while, but it should only be a matter of time before Oakland pulls away.
Prediction: Raiders 34, Jets 17
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), StubHub Center, Carson, California
As is the case with Tampa Bay, this game is interesting because there's no film to go off of with the Miami Dolphins. That's a disadvantage for the Los Angeles Chargers. On the other hand, the Chargers have those first-game jitters out of the way. The Dolphins don't.
Ultimately, though, a lot could come down to the fact the Chargers are coming off a very late Monday night game, while the Dolphins have had extra time to prepare. This is a big advantage for Jay Cutler and Adam Gase, who have had an extra week to add some wrinkles to their offense.
This is a Dolphins defense that is going to be much-improved this year. The Chargers defense appears to be in the same boat. However, this is the type of game in which both offenses can still have some success. That extra prep time will allow Miami to have a bit more.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Chargers 24
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
If the Denver Broncos really want to test their run defense out—and it did look better in Week 1—the Dallas Cowboys will provide the ultimate test.
Denver is the type of team that can trust its corners to match up one-on-one so it can load the box against the run. This could give Dallas some trouble. Conversely, the Broncos offensive line has improved enough that Denver should be able to find some running room against Dallas. The status of guard Ronald Leary will be something to watch.
While the Dallas defense was impressive in Week 1, coordinator Mike McCoy is going to field a more creative offense than the one the Cowboys saw from the New York Giants. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian is a lot more talented than people realize too.
Denver's defense is on par with that of the New York Giants, but the offense will be better. Look for Dallas to struggle a bit on the road.
Prediction: Broncos 23, Cowboys 17
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), CenturyLink Field, Seattle
The San Francisco 49ers offense and quarterback Brian Hoyer were certainly nothing to brag about last week. You have to think Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are going to be a motivated bunch after getting their butts whipped in Green Bay.
Seattle is the more talented team, and the 49ers are missing their best defensive player in Reuben Foster. The Seahawks should be able to find more points than they did a week ago. The 49ers will likely have to keep searching.
A floundering 49ers offense against a pissed-off Seahawks team in Seattle? Yeah, I'm going to take the Seahawks.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, 49ers 13
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
Sean McVay and his Los Angeles Rams host McVay's former team, the Washington Redskins. This presents a challenge for Washington. The Redskins are traveling across the country, Kirk Cousins doesn't quite seem to be in sync with his offense yet, and McVay is going to know his tendencies.
Also, Washington's secondary is a bit worrisome against McVay's offensive creativity and the weapons that now reside on L.A.'s roster.
Still, I have to see it to believe it with the Rams. Cousins and the Redskins are going to present a much tougher challenge than Tolzien and the Colts did in the opener. Can Jared Goff really outduel Kirk Cousins? I'm not convinced.
Prediction: Redskins 24, Rams 23
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Atlanta's defense is really good, and the Falcons are at home for their first regular-season game in the new stadium. On that surface with Atlanta's speed, it's going to be a tough task for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
With that said, Green Bay's defense is much-improved from last year too. Plus, the Packers should be pretty close to full strength, which wasn't the case when these two teams met in the playoffs last year.
The big concern with Atlanta is that we've yet to see some semblance of a running game. It wasn't there in the preseason, and there weren't many holes opened up in Week 1. This means we're looking more at a Matt Ryan and Rodgers shootout.
Prediction: Packers 24, Falcons 20
Detroit Lions at New York Giants
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
The New York Giants were shockingly unimpressive in Week 1, and we still don't know the status of Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham shouldn't play unless he's 100 percent anyway. He's not getting paid like he should—he's the best offensive player in all of football, except for some quarterbacks—and he is the New York offense. That should have become obvious watching the Giants without him last week.
The Lions, on the other hand, have offensive weapons. Their defensive line is sneaky good, and the Giants could struggle to run against it. On the flip side, the Lions offensive line is pretty solid, and I don't think it'll be overpowered by New York's defensive front.
Unless Beckham is back on the field and truly 100 percent, Stafford should be able to win another close one.
Prediction: Lions 20, Giants 16