NFL Predictions Week 1: Chris Simms' Weekly Predictions

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 8, 2016

NFL Predictions Week 1: Chris Simms' Weekly Predictions

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    This preseason, I've seen a team run the same offensive play three times in a quarter.

    I've seen another roll out the same, vanilla defense throughout an opening drive with no substitutions just to see if their players knew how to run it.

    Keep both observations in mind as you roll through my projections for Week 1. It's difficult to predict how teams will fare once they stop evaluating and start competing. But I'm going ahead and doing it anyway.

    I've watched hours of exhibition film for any meaningful hints about a team's Week 1 plans. The trends I've found—combined with what I know about roster composition, player development, scheme fit, team chemistry, coaching style and matchup advantages—all help to make these predictions as solid as you can get.

    I know which teams are on track to shock and which will disappoint. Now, thanks to these predictions, you'll know what you should've seen coming.

Upset Alert!

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    Simms' Prediction: Patriots over Cardinals

    Two Super Bowl-caliber teams will take the field Sunday night.

    One has the most talented roster, from top to bottom, in the NFL. The other team is the Arizona Cardinals. But for some reason, people think I'm crazy for picking the Pats.

    I've seen a preview of what the next-era Patriots look like this summer. It isn't the wasteland you'd think. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo isn't elite, but he does everything well and knows where to go with the football. That's all the Pats wanted when some guy named Tom Brady suited up for an emergency start some years back.

    Go ahead and discredit the New England machine. Say it doesn't have a chance without Brady behind center. I'll take Bill Belichick with months of preparation and a team that's as battle-tested as any in sports.

Biggest Cakewalk

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    Simms' Prediction: Texans over Bears

    Look at the Texans pass rush.

    It has J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus and…a whole bunch of guys who put passing games on pause.

    Who can do that for the Bears? Who can make Brock Osweiler uncomfortable in his first real start for Houston? I'm not seeing it up front, and I'm definitely not seeing it in their secondary. So yes—this game has blowout potential.

    Think about what happens if the Texans grab a lead. That defense can pin its ears back. Jay Cutler will be forced to throw (and we know what happens when he's forced to throw). He'll be doing so into a mix of three or four talented cornerbacks. Not pretty.

    I get why the Bears brought in an offensive lineman like Josh Sitton. He'll help, but not in time for what could be an easy Texans victory.

More Receiving Yards: Packers or Jaguars?

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    Simms' Prediction: Jaguars

    Due to system or circumstance, Blake Bortles fills the stat sheet up.

    He has some growing to do as a quarterback. But his receivers, such as jump-ball expert Allen Robinson, are full-grown downfield threats and must be treated as such. Bortles is not afraid to chuck it deep on any given play.

    That deep-ball attack isn't exactly the Packers' style. Aaron Rodgers just carves a defense with short to mid-range passes within a West Coast system. Jordy Nelson, his primary deep threat, still needs time to get his legs underneath him after missing last season. I doubt he has a sixth gear just yet.

    I like Green Bay to win and Jacksonville to air it out all over the place while playing catch-up.

Biggest Matchup Nightmare

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    Simms' Prediction: Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Cowboys cornerbacks

    Dallas defenders have seen "The Catch" replayed a thousand times by now.

    They know what Odell Beckham Jr. is capable of. But they're in a no-win situation thanks to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's coverage scheme.

    Dallas rolls out a single-high safety look all too often. Marinelli might need to use it even more, given his defense's issues up front. In short: music to Beckham's ears.

    Eli Manning will have plenty of time (no Randy Gregory, no Demarcus Lawrence) to let Beckham work downfield. With only one safety back in help, it could be a long day over the top for Dallas defensive backs.

Sleeper QB of the Week

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    Simms' Prediction: Joe Flacco

    The Ravens get Joe Flacco back with a healthier left knee and a strong-as-ever right arm.

    He'll put both to good use against the opposition in Week 1. By Monday, you’ll forget all about No. 5's up-and-down 2015 season.

    Up first on the schedule? The Buffalo Bills, who play Rex Ryan's aggressive brand of man-to-man defense. It works when he has the pass-rushers to hit home before the ball is thrown. This year, he doesn't, so Flacco figures to have a clean pocket for most of Sunday afternoon.

    From there, it will be deep ball after deep ball. Kamar Aiken can fly. Breshad Perriman is a threat to go deep. We'll even see more of the Pittsburgh-era Mike Wallace who got behind defenses and caused trouble. Flacco has the arm to get him the ball anywhere on the field.

Under/Over Sacks in Panthers vs. Broncos

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    Line: 9

    Simms' Prediction: Over

    Neither quarterback was safe the last time these two got together.

    The Panthers and Broncos combined for 12 sacks in Super Bowl 50. They could hit double digits again seven months later.

    Carolina lost a few coverage sacks when Josh Norman left this offseason. Nevertheless, the Panthers are still as deep as ever up front and an absolute terror for the most veteran quarterbacks to deal with.

    Trevor Siemian is not a veteran quarterback.

    Offensive tackle Mike Remmers might still have nightmares about Von Miller. No. 58 was great in Super Bowl 50, but that Broncos defense is still stacked. DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett—the list goes on. We’re in for a sackfest on both sides.

    Bonus prediction: If Carolina surrenders three or fewer sacks, it will win.

Sleeper WR of the Week

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    Simms' Prediction: Amari Cooper

    He's beaten every type of coverage. He's run every kind of route.

    You'll see a more polished Amari Cooper in his sophomore season. That doesn't bode well for a New Orleans Saints secondary that, despite some young talent, has been terrible in coverage for some time now.

    Here's something else to keep in mind: Cooper was dealing with a foot injury for the last six weeks of 2015. That's long gone now. The Oakland Raiders make it their mission to target No. 89, and he goes for 150-plus yards.

More INTs: Robert Griffin III or Carson Wentz?

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    Simms' Prediction: Carson Wentz

    I've heard all the superlatives swirling around this Wentz kid.

    They go in one ear and out the other for me. He was starting games in Fargo, North Dakota, last year. Now, after one preseason appearance, you expect him to start and light up the NFL?

    Use your brain. Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton will throw 700 kinds of looks at Wentz. Horton is famous for confusing quarterbacks, let alone rookies who haven't played.

    Robert Griffin III might look a little rusty after spending so long on the sidelines. But at least he has a rapport with his wideouts, a favorable matchup, a few seasons under his belt and healthy ribs.

Sleeper RB of the Week

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    Simms' Prediction: DeAngelo Williams

    People still aren't talking enough about DeAngelo Williams.

    Sure, Le'Veon Bell is one of the best backs in the game. Have we forgotten what Williams did the last time Bell sat out, though? The guy was leading the NFL in rushing and carrying that offense.

    With Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert, his offensive line is built to run-block—the exact weakness of Williams' Week 1 opponent. Washington ranked 26th in run defense last year. Who did it import to improve that stat? I'll wait.

    Give me Williams to start the season again, please.

More Rushing Yards: Adrian Peterson or Murray, Henry and Mariota Combined?

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    Simms' Prediction: DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota

    This is tough. Like, really tough.

    It speaks to the greatness of Adrian Peterson that he could outduel a former rushing champ and a Heisman winner. He's going to get his 25-plus carries as usual. You already know what he can do with them.

    Murray and Henry are in line for just as many carries, though. The goal of Mike Mularkey's offense is straight power, and the Titans are committed. I bet they'll split carries all season—both should be fresh for the fourth quarter.

    The wild card? Mariota. We don't know what the "exotic" is in Tennessee's "exotic smashmouth" attack. I'm willing to bet Mularkey throws in a few designed runs for Mariota, and that's what puts Tennessee over the top.

Immediate Impact Rookie

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    Simms' PredictionCorey Coleman

    He's Percy Harvin but with better get-up-and-catch-it skills.

    Let that sink in for a second. Corey Coleman is freaky fast and elusive and jumps higher than one of the more explosive athletes to suit up this decade.

    Factor in the quarterback he'll have and the defense he'll face too. Robert Griffin III isn't a perfect quarterback, but his ability to throw deep balls is so damn impressive.

    He'll tell No. 19 to go track a few of them down. Can anyone in the Eagles secondary stop them?

Best Game No One's Talking About

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    Simms' Prediction: Raiders vs. Saints

    Two quarterbacks. Almost 9,000 combined passing yards and 64 combined touchdowns last year.

    It's simple math. This Raiders-Saints game is going to be a fireworks show, and we're all invited.

    Creative mastermind Sean Payton is figuring out how to navigate the Raiders defense as we speak. He'll draw up a pass-heavy game plan to test all those new secondary pieces (like Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson) who are wearing silver and black. We'll see how fast they can play as a group.

    An older, wiser Derek Carr will take snaps against a Saints defense that…well, it's not so talented. You know what I think Amari Cooper will do. But Michael Crabtree? Tight end Clive Walford? They're in for big outings. So is rookie secret weapon DeAndre Washington.

    The Superdome hosted one epic shooting match last year. It might host another one early on.

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