Chris Simms' Week 6 NFL Picks
For the first time in the 2017 season, we're getting teams coming off true bye weeks. The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week 1 byes were major anomalies. Now, we often look at the teams coming off a bye as having a big advantage, but I'm here to tell you that we need to be careful with that line of thinking.
During my playing days, I hated when we got too much time off during the bye week. If we still had a couple of practices during the off week, fine. When we were away for the entire week, though, it felt like we would lose some of our focus and some of our technique. There's a massive difference between not putting on pads for eight days and not putting them on for three or four.
This is why I always worry about teams coming off the bye sleepwalking through the early portions of their games.
There's a lot at stake for the four teams coming off the bye in Week 6, too, because all of them—the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons—have realistic playoff hopes. In fact, there are multiple games this week with potentially powerful playoff implications.
Here are my predictions for all 14 contests of Week 6.
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon), Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Listen, this is definitely a clash of two of the legit Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers are as hot as can be heading into the matchup.
These teams are actually very similar. Both defenses rely on big, physical guys up front. Both Carson Wentz and Cam Newton are quarterbacks who can be mobile and who can make throws that a lot of other quarterbacks cannot make.
The health of both offensive lines—specifically Ryan Kalil for the Panthers and Lane Johnson for the Eagles—will be a factor in the game because of the talent on the two defensive lines.
Ultimately, I have to go with the Panthers in a close one at home. As alike as these two teams are, the Panthers have the edge in experience and have just a hair more talent on defense. The fact Carolina's big pass-catchers match up well with Philly's average cornerbacks is also important.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Eagles 20
Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
How lucky is Mitchell Trubisky? He gets to start his Chicago Bears career off against the defenses of the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. Sheesh.
The Ravens did some good things offensively last week against the Oakland Raiders. Not only did they run the ball well, but they also took some aggressive shots downfield that paid off.
The Bears are good up front on both sides of the ball, and Trubisky is an upgrade over Mike Glennon. However, Trubisky is still an inexperienced rookie, and Chicago doesn't have a single receiver on the outside who will scare a defense. That's going to hurt Trubisky, and it's going to hurt Chicago's run game.
Both defenses are solid, but the Ravens have the weapons to see more offensive success.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Bears 16
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Wow. This is Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense against one of the best defenses in football. This Minnesota Vikings defense matches up really well with Green Bay and what the team tries to do on offense.
One thing I'll have my eye on heading into the game is the health of offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. If he cannot go, the Packers could be forced to play Justin McCray—and he's a liability. That would be big trouble for Rodgers and Co.
Minnesota will be able to move the ball on Green Bay a little, but this is a Packers defense that is better than a lot of people realize. The health of wideout Stefon Diggs will play a part on that side of things.
As a whole, I have to go with the hot team, and that's the Packers. The biggest reason is that they should be able to threaten with Aaron Jones and the run game. That will allow them to have more freedom on offense.
This one will be close, but a Packers offense playing loose and with flexibility is scary.
Prediction: Packers 20, Vikings 17
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
The San Francisco 49ers are getting to that point of the season when desperation starts to set in. They're 0-5, they're beginning to wonder when a win will ever come, and the coaching staff is starting to stress out. They're also making their second cross-country trip in a week.
The Redskins, on the other hand, are at home and coming off a bye week. They should be prepared to play a 49ers team that has been effective on offense—though certainly not great—and disappointing on defense.
The 49ers have given up way too many easy yards and big plays. That's a problem against a Washington offense that has looked special in recent weeks.
Prediction: Redskins 28, 49ers 20
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
The Saints are another team that has had extra time to prepare. New Orleans was headed in the right direction before the bye week too. The Saints ripped off two wins in a row, seem to have fixed some of the issues on defense and found a legitimate playmaker in Alvin Kamara.
For the Detroit Lions, the health of wideout Kenny Golladay will be big. The Lions have missed him the last two weeks, and they need that third weapon in the passing game. It's also concerning that Detroit lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for the year. That's going to hurt against Kamara and the revamped Saints run game.
With the Saints being at home and having Drew Brees against a Lions pass defense that is below average, New Orleans has the advantage.
Prediction: Saints 31, Lions 24
Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
The Miami Dolphins have been playing like crap the last few weeks. There's no other way to put it. Now, they're dealing with the loss of their offensive line coach and traveling to play the fastest defense in the NFL.
How can anyone be confident about where the Dolphins are as a team right now? Jay Cutler hasn't been good. The offensive line hasn't been good. The defense has been solid up front, but the back end is questionable at best.
The Falcons are another team at home and coming off a bye week. Julio Jones also should be healthy and ready to go. The Falcons are too much for the Dolphins, so they should win this one comfortably.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Dolphins 17
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), NRG Stadium, Houston
Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns should be able to hang in there physically with the Houston Texans. The Browns are good up front on both sides of the ball, and they made the right call in moving to Kevin Hogan at quarterback.
This is also going to be Houston's first game without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
The problem is that the Browns just don't have enough weapons in their pass game to challenge the Texans defense. The Texans offense, on the other hand, has its mojo going. It isn't perfect, but Deshaun Watson has been impressive. With him at quarterback, the running game has gotten going again, and the passing game has been dangerous.
Prediction: Texans 23, Browns 20
New England Patriots at New York Jets
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
This isn't a good matchup for the New York Jets. They have won three in a row, but they didn't play good ball last week in Cleveland. The New England Patriots have found their formula in the secondary with simple coverages, and they're big enough up front to not let the Jets running game get off.
As good as the Jets defense can be at times, the Patriots have too many weapons—especially if Rob Gronkowski is back to 100 percent. New York will struggle to cover everyone, and the Jets defense isn't great (25th in the NFL).
Coming off a Thursday night win and with extra time to prepare, the Patriots should be ready to take advantage of New York's weaknesses on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
This should be a revenge game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were embarrassed by the Arizona Cardinals 40-7 last season, and they've had extra time to put together a game plan.
This is a team in Arizona that is reeling. I know that the Cardinals just added Adrian Peterson, but they could have brought in Superman and it wouldn't help the run game. The offensive line is that bad. Now, the Buccaneers don't have the greatest defensive line, so they might not expose the Cardinals line the way other teams can.
The Cardinals defense is still good too. It's been put in some tough spots by the offense in recent weeks, but we cannot just expect Tampa to move the ball at will. Regardless, the Buccaneers have enough weapons to get the job done and enough defensive talent to make Carson Palmer look average.
Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Cardinals 20
Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
This is one of the toughest picks of the week for sure.
The Los Angeles Rams lost a game last week they had no business losing. They dominated the Seattle Seahawks, which is evident by the fact they had a chance to win in the end despite having five turnovers. They had to be sick when watching the game film.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have to be flying high after their road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The interesting thing is that the Rams are playing against the same defensive scheme for the second week in a row. The difference is that—and I may perk up some ears here—the Jaguars defense is just a notch above the Seahawks defense.
What is worrisome about the Rams is Jared Goff's tendency to make avoidable turnovers. Against the Jaguars defense, that's a problem. L.A.'s 27th-ranked run defense is also going to be a problem against Leonard Fournette. This is a good matchup, but it's one that favors Jacksonville.
Prediction: Jaguars 19, Rams 16
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California
This is an interesting matchup, even though I expect Derek Carr to play. The Los Angeles Chargers can threaten the Oakland Raiders' pass defense. Philip Rivers and the Chargers can throw the ball around a lot, so let's not get that mixed up.
The Chargers should be able to move the ball on the ground too. Oakland has just been poor in both areas defensively. However, it's not like the Chargers have a shutdown defense themselves. The Raiders should be able to move the ball regardless of who is at quarterback. L.A. has the league's worst run defense, so Oakland can lean on the run if it has to.
This sets things up for a potential shootout. It should be entertaining and full of big plays. What's going to make the difference is the fact the Raiders are at home and are the ones who still believe they can be contenders this season.
Prediction: Raiders 24, Chargers 21
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
This is another potential revenge game. You can bet the Kansas City Chiefs haven't forgotten that they lost at home to the Steelers in the playoffs last year. This is the type of game that can wipe that memory clean.
It's going to be a lot of fun watching this Pittsburgh defense against the Chiefs offense. The Steelers have the type of front seven that can defend the speed sweeps, zone run, shovel pass-type of offense.
On the other side of the ball, though, the Steelers are a team that doesn't have it going on offense. I don't know where the problem is, but Pittsburgh isn't the team we're used to seeing. Kansas City might allow some big plays, but it has a solid defense. The big difference between this year and last is that the Chiefs are better against the run.
If the Steelers want to lean on their ground game, it's going to be difficult.
Both teams should be able to move the ball a bit here, but the Chiefs have better playmakers on both sides of the ball. We've also seen the Steelers give up big runs in both of their losses. Gap integrity can be an issue, and Kansas City is equipped to expose that.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Steelers 20
New York Giants at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Sports Authority Field, Denver
Jeez. The New York Giants offense isn't good to begin with. Now it has to face the Denver Broncos defense with a week of rest. Oh, and it has to do so without Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
The Giants will play with some pride, certainly. They might even hang around for a little bit. Ultimately, though, they're completely outmatched. The Broncos will wear them down eventually.
The only way this game is close is if Trevor Siemian gets cocky and careless with the football. I'm pretty sure the Denver staff will drill it into his head that he can be as conservative as possible and still win.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Giants 10
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
This could be a fun matchup. It's looking like Marcus Mariota will play for the Tennessee Titans. The Indianapolis Colts certainly have something to play for. The AFC South is very much up for grabs this year, and the Colts have to believe they can hang around and make a run once Andrew Luck returns.
Tennessee's offense isn't great, even with Mariota. The Titans defense isn't great either. However, the Titans are just a little bit better on each side of the ball than the Colts are. More importantly, Tennessee has the superior run game.
Both teams will be able to move the ball offensively. Tennessee, though, has the type of run game that can control the tempo and the clock when it counts.
Being on Monday Night Football will give Mariota an extra day to recover, the Titans will be at home, and I'll take Tennessee in a close one.
Prediction: Titans 30, Colts 27