NFL Picks Week 9: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystNovember 3, 2016

NFL Picks Week 9: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

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    A generation of football fans will grow up to know Jon Gruden as just some wacky Monday Night Football announcer. They need to know the truth. 

    This is the same guy who had to draw perfect X’s and O’s before he could move on to installing a play. Gruden’s average weekly playbook? Somewhere between 200-300 plays. So you can imagine how long any given meeting would run.

    Then there were the quizzes my first two or three seasons. He’d bring me up to the chalkboard the meeting before every game just to make sure his backup quarterback knew the 250-plus plays he installed.

    You can take a guy like that away from the sideline. You can put him in a booth with a headset on. But he’ll always be a coaching maniac—and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Gruden would do anything to give his team an edge. I want that guy on my sideline when I pick games for Week 9.

Falcons at Buccaneers

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    When: Thursday, Nov. 3, at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFLN)

    Running backs can stay home Thursday night.

    Both the Falcons and Buccaneers don’t need ‘em to move the ball. They’re both perfectly fine with trying 40-50 throws in two dangerous downfield attacks.

    I’m going with the team best equipped to slow (not stop) an aerial assault. Atlanta’s secondary is far from a complete unit, but it has pieces like Keanu Neal whom Jameis Winston has to account for. Plus, athletic linebackers give this team pass-protecting fits; Deion Jones and Vic Beasley can both play the role Khalil Mack did on the edge last week.

    Speaking of last week…Tampa Bay’s secondary is not good. Amari Cooper exposed it, and now the Bucs get to play another former Alabama star in Julio Jones.

    Prediction: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 23

Lions at Vikings

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    I know Minnesota’s reeling right now.

    I know Norv Turner just resigned.

    I still have a tough time believing this team—with all that talent—will drop three games in a row, especially against an average to below-average Lions defense that struggles against the pass. Sam Bradford won’t need to read the rush as much, either.

    This Lions game might play out a little like the last six or seven. Matthew Stafford is asked to do too much to keep his one-dimensional offense afloat. Can he play hero ball again against a proud Vikings defense that was just embarrassed on national television? I don’t see it.

    Prediction: Vikings 20, Lions 17

Steelers at Ravens

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    This Ravens team wins with size and strength. It basically bets it can bully an opponent into submission after four quarters.

    Don’t make that bet this week, though. Pittsburgh is just as fast and, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger’s comeback attempt, every bit as tough. It’s also fast—the last trait I’d use to describe Baltimore’s roster.

    That’s where the Steelers should pull away. If Roethlisberger is a go, he’ll exploit the slowest secondary in football. We’ll see players like Antonio Brown and Sammie Coates downfield a lot. Le’Veon Bell will make his fair share of plays too.

    Baltimore’s offense doesn’t scare me like that. It has average wide receivers, an average line and below-average running backs. The Steelers can easily corral them.

    Prediction: Steelers 24, Ravens 20

Jets at Dolphins

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Put on your big-boy pads for this South Beach slugfest.

    On one end, you have a Jets defensive line that’s still talented. Inside or outside, Muhammad Wilkerson can devastate a blocking scheme. And something tells me we’ll see a motivated Sheldon Richardson after trade rumors swirled this past week, according to ESPN's Todd Archer.

    On the other end is the most complete offensive line in football. The last two Dolphins games were an indication of what Laremy Tunsil, Branden Albert and Co. can do as a unified and healthy group—particularly in blocking for Jay Ajayi.

    Ajayi is the key here. Can he make it three straight games with a breakout performance? After watching his film, I have no reason to doubt his skills.

    Prediction: Dolphins 28, Jets 24

Cowboys at Browns

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Let’s not get too in-the-weeds with this pick.

    It’s the "Great Wall of Dallas," for crying out loud. It should be able to handle the 31st-ranked rushing defense with ease. If Cleveland sells out to stop the run, it’s not like Tyron Smith and Zack Martin can’t handle pass protection. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason.

    Run-blitz Ezekiel Elliott and it’s Dez Bryant over the top. Sit back in zone and it’s Ezekiel Elliott moving the chains. This Browns team will wear down like everyone else. It’s not a fair fight.

    Prediction: Cowboys 28, Browns 17

Jaguars at Chiefs

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    I’m not so sure Kansas City’s quarterback switch is a good thing for the Jaguars.

    Nick Foles is the better pure passer from what I saw on tape. He comes with previous knowledge of an Andy Reid offense and a better feel for the downfield passing game. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce should love to line up for him.

    They’ll also love to line up against an uber-aggressive Jacksonville defense. Reid’s offense thrives on misdirection, speed sweeps and screens. He’ll get the Jags going one way and attack in the opposite direction.

    I don’t see how Blake Bortles can keep up. He’s lost both an offensive coordinator and any confidence in his throwing motion. Now, he’ll have to work through both while sidestepping Dee Ford and the Chiefs’ awesome pass rush. Good luck, Blake.

    Prediction: Chiefs 27, Jaguars 17

Eagles at Giants

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Let’s talk about Philadelphia’s embarrassing Week 8.

    Carson Wentz is a phenomenal downfield thrower. He throws through windows up to 25 yards downfield with accuracy I only dreamed of during my playing days. So of course, let’s dink and dunk the Dallas Cowboys. It makes no sense.

    New York’s offense is just as predictable, but I’m going with Big Blue for two reasons: 1) Philadelphia doesn’t have the cornerbacks to match up one-on-one with Odell Beckham Jr. and 2) Philadelphia’s defensive line is good but not game-wrecking good in this game.

    The Giants match up well against Wentz and Co. That’s doubly true if Doug Pederson continues to roll out a bland horizontal offense.

    Prediction: Giants 19, Eagles 16

Panthers at Rams

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Something clicked for the Panthers' defensive line in Week 8, and the change might be permanent.

    I expect a disruptive game from Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. As always, that’ll open things up for exotic Panthers blitzes and spectacular linebacking play. That’s bad news for an inconsistent Rams line/quarterback.

    It doesn’t stop there.

    Los Angeles’ linebackers are some of the NFL’s least disciplined on tape. That can work when you play Carson Palmer; Cam Newton is another story. Attack him at a hundred miles per hour and watch him tuck and run for 20 yards.

    Or, watch him fake the handoff to Jonathan Stewart and hit Greg Olsen behind the freelancing ‘backers for even bigger gains. Play action was invented to toy with linebackers like this.

    Prediction: Panthers 34, Rams 30

Saints at 49ers

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

    How will the 49ers manufacture pressure?

    Chip Kelly’s team can’t do it the normal way. It’ll have to get creative with cornerback blitzes and stunts and…

    It won’t matter. Drew Brees has seen it all during his 16 NFL seasons. More importantly, the line in front of him is the best blocking group he’s had since his Super Bowl-winning season.

    That group can keep San Francisco’s no-name, no-pressure defense at bay. It can also open holes for either Mark Ingram (if he's out of the doghouse) or Tim Hightower. San Francisco gives up 185.1 ground yards per game—the most in football by a comfortable margin.

    This Saints defense isn’t the Steel Curtain. It has overachieved the last two or three weeks. But couple that group with a Brees led offense that can score at will, and you have a clear path to victory.

    Prediction: Saints 38, 49ers 23

Titans at Chargers

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

    The "Ken Whisenhunt Bowl" should not disappoint.

    It features two of everything. Two quarterbacks who, in their own ways, are playing excellent football. Two above-average running games. Two defenses that are low-key, lights-out units. I went back and forth on this one.

    Tennessee's secondary tipped the scales. It doesn't have the pure talent to execute a Denver-style man defense. Coordinator Dick LeBeau runs zone, and Philip Rivers can pick it apart.

    Also: San Diego is sneaky-good against the run. It could be without upstart rookie Jatavis Brown, but there are enough big bodies up front to slow DeMarco Murray down.

    Prediction: Chargers 24, Titans 23

Colts at Packers

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Which quarterback can squat more? Because the one that carries his team best will probably win.

    I'm going with Aaron Rodgers by the slimmest of margins. Why? Because he won't contend with any kind of formidable pass rush. If Vontae Davis is forced to sit out with a concussion, he won't deal with a formidable secondary, either.

    Green Bay could roll out its exact defensive game plan as last week and win. It'll keep two safeties deep to bait Andrew Luck to either hand the ball off or hit underneath throws. It'll hope guys like Mike Daniels or Clay Matthews (if healthy) can get around below-average blocking. And that's about it.

    It's a tough call. I'll take the more stable franchise playing at home, though.

    Prediction: Packers 24, Colts 21

Broncos at Raiders

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

    Oakland has looked like a playoff contender through eight weeks.

    The Raiders are scary, but they are slightly less scary than the team they are facing.

    It's not the Raiders' time. They'll pick up yards and first downs with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Can that offense run the ball? Can it score touchdowns instead of Sebastian Janikowski field goals? Usually, yes. Against Von Miller? Probably not.

    Oakland's defense is still a problem group. Trevor Siemian can do just enough against it—hit a few go routes to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders even—to win.

    Prediction: Broncos 27, Raiders 23

Bills at Seahawks

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    When: Monday, Nov. 7, at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    I've been critical of Seattle's style of defense in weeks past.

    It could win the Seahawks a game in Week 9, though. All eyes face the quarterback in a zone defense; Tyrod Taylor won't catch anyone by surprise when he tucks and runs with it.

    There goes Buffalo's entire running attack. LeSean McCoy is still nursing a bum hamstring; he probably won't be available to help shoulder the load against this Seahawks defense. That'd be a huge loss.

    Russell Wilson can hit one or two throws and seal this up. He'll have plenty of tape to go off from last weekend's big-play fest against New England.

    Prediction: Seahawks 16, Bills 13