NFL Predictions Week 10: Chris Simms' Weekly Projections
My arm was just as good—if not better—than Brett Favre's.
At least that's what Jon Gruden told reporters before my career screeched to a halt. I lost five pints of blood and about 25 pounds in a procedure to remove my ruptured spleen. Doctors said I was 45 minutes to an hour away from dying.
The throws with Favre-like zip? They became wobbling ducks when I prepared to return to the league. Over that two-year span, I retaught myself the quarterback position. It was a living hell.
Le'Veon Bell must be going through something awfully similar. He’s still an effective runner with god-like patience and above-average vision. But he was placed among the greats before he ripped his MCL and PCL. From what I see on tape, the Barry Sanders-like pop he had on jump cuts is no more.
Watch Sunday’s Cowboys-Steelers game carefully. You’ll see one explosive, dynamic runner—and then you’ll see Bell. The difference is startling and a bit sad.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
The playoff pool is murky for sure. Which team is most likely to increase its postseason hopes this week?
The choice is easy. It's the team that started off 0-3 that everyone wrote off. Now the Saints are winners of four out of five and firmly on the edge of wild-card contention. They happen to field one of the NFL’s best coach-quarterback tandems, too.
New Orleans isn't afraid of a big bad visitor like Denver. Sean Payton's offense has shown it will block up any front seven, including ones with Von Miller screaming off the edge. Write it down: The Saints will be in the playoff picture by Week 11.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Quick! Name a quality win on Carolina’s schedule so far.
You can’t. The reigning NFC champions have gorged on the likes of Los Angeles and San Francisco. They haven't beaten any team that sits in the playoff picture.
Expect that trend to continue. Kansas City is one tough matchup for Cam Newton and Co. Why? Carolina's interior line play is still well below league average. Kansas City’s defensive line can and will clog up the middle. Say goodbye to all those read-options and jet sweeps.
A loss would drop Carolina to 3-6. It still needs to play the Saints, Raiders, Seahawks, Chargers and Falcons. Count the Panthers out of the postseason race with an L.
Next Man Up
Prediction: Ronnie Hillman
He's not going to post Adrian Peterson-like numbers with additional touches.
But Ronnie Hillman is the best thing the Vikings' depleted backfield has going for it. Combine fellow ball-carriers Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata and they still wouldn't possess Hillman's explosiveness. He needs to make the jump up Minnesota's depth chart right now.
Also, McKinnon and Asiata don't add much for Sam Bradford in the air. Hillman does. He'll take screens and swing passes and navigate past bigger, slower linebackers. Minnesota will take mismatches wherever it can find them. Hillman is one waiting to happen.
Prediction: Alex Smith
Alex Smith hasn't been on the average fan's football radar for a few weekends.
That will change in a hurry in Week 10. Smith is back after Andy Reid gave him a week off for entering the NFL's concussion protocol—even though he passed. Now he's ready to resume his role as Kansas City's uber-efficient field general. Up first on his comeback tour? One of the NFL's weakest secondaries in Carolina.
Smith might not have Jeremy Maclin around to exploit it. But he'll have the NFL's fastest man—Tyreek Hill, who ran a 4.24 at his pro day in March—and one of the league's more dominant tight ends (Travis Kelce) at his disposal. More importantly, he'll have a line in front of him that can keep Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei from busting up his comeback mojo.
Defense I'd Least Like to See
Prediction: New England Patriots
I haven't suited up since 2011. Needless to say, I'm not thinking about a return to professional football.
But if I were entertaining a football reincarnation, I wouldn't want to come back as Russell Wilson this week. His road game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, seems like a no-win situation if I've ever seen one.
Consider that Seattle can't run the football. So it's at an inherent disadvantage against Bill Belichick, whose career goal is to make teams one-dimensional. Belichick can focus on stopping Jimmy Graham and the Seahawks' deep passing game. He's had the better part of two weeks to do so.
I wouldn't expect to see much man coverage this week if I'm Wilson. The Bills tried to play man coverage, and it didn't work out for them. And while Wilson's receivers are big play-prone, it's tough to see them breaking free against this Patriots defense.
Hot Seat Extinguisher
Prediction: Marvin Lewis
There's no earthly reason why Marvin Lewis' seat should be any temperature but ice cold.
Yet here we are. Cincinnati fans haven't been thrilled with the league's second-longest-tenured coach. Have they forgotten what the Bengals were like before Lewis arrived in Cincinnati way back in 2003? It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.
In that case, expect Lewis to erase all job-security doubts in Week 10. His Bengals match up well with the New York Giants; there's speed to contend with Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside, and Cincinnati has Geno Atkins on the inside. The latter is important because Atkins won't contend with Justin Pugh (knee).
All you haters can pipe down. Lewis won't appear on anyone's hot seat after a giant win.
Best Game No One's Talking About
Prediction: Green Bay Packers at Tennessee Titans
Tennessee runs the ball effectively. Green Bay doesn't.
Aaron Rodgers keeps turnovers to a minimum. Marcus Mariota doesn't.
But these two teams have more in common than the average fan would expect. Both are a shade conservative in their offensive approach. Both boast talent along the offensive and defensive lines. And both coaching staffs feature wily defensive coordinators who throw 80 different looks at opposing quarterbacks.
I can't wait to watch Rodgers play football chess with Titans legendary coordinator Dick LeBeau. It will also be interesting to see Green Bay's run defense try to slow DeMarco Murray. Sign me up for this yin-yang showdown.
More Rushing Yards: Melvin Gordon or Jay Ajayi?
Prediction: Melvin Gordon
Take nothing away from Jay Ajayi. He's on a historic tear the likes of which we haven't seen in Miami since Ricky Williams first arrived.
Melvin Gordon is going to outrush him Sunday, though. He'll bust through Miami's talented defensive line on a handful of carries. After that, it's nothing but green turf and undisciplined Dolphins linebackers.
Gordon will be tough to slow down within the confines of San Diego's multipurpose offense. Defenses have to prepare to stop Philip Rivers first, and that will lead to some of those aforementioned run-fit issues.
More Passing Yards: Matt Ryan or Carson Wentz?
Prediction: Matt Ryan
The Eagles took the training wheels off their franchise quarterback to amazing results last week.
Carson Wentz threw intermediate routes. He threw deep balls. He got both tight ends—Zach Ertz and Trey Burton—involved in over-the-middle work. It wasn't just about bubble screens and quick crossers, and Philadelphia only stands to benefit offensively from that approach.
I'm encouraged by what I saw on tape. There will come a day when Wentz regularly out-throws passers like Ryan. But that day won't come in Week 10—especially with the Falcons facing an Eagles unit that can't execute man defense right now. Julio Jones could be in for a big afternoon.
More Total Yards: Ezekiel Elliott or Le'Veon Bell?
Prediction: Ezekiel Elliott
Add Le'Veon Bell's receiving totals to his rushing stats in Week 11.
You'll see an impressive line. Just not as impressive as the stats Ezekiel Elliott is about to post. And that underscores Bell's status: He isn't the caliber of game-changer his Cowboys counterpart is.
Plus, Elliott should have much more room to operate. Dallas' offensive line is the league's most unstoppable force. We saw what happened the last time Pittsburgh's defense faced one of those in Miami a few weeks back. A 200-plus-yard outing isn't out of the question for No. 21.
Under/Over David Johnson Rushing Yards
I had to ponder the answer to this question. Isn't that hilarious?
Maybe—unless you root for the 49ers. Then Chip Kelly's defense is something worth crying over. Opponents average (average!) 193 ground yards per game against it, and David Johnson is a rare breed of ball-carrier.
San Francisco could hold its own for a half. It could hold its own for three quarters. But at any given moment, Johnson's speed and savvy could spring him for 75 yards. That's what Mark Ingram did last week.
Still, I have to take the under. The ineptitude of this Niners defense still doesn't register. Maybe I should accept it for the sieve it is.
Under/Over Drew Brees Passing Yards
I feel strange picking against the NFL's third-most-prolific yardage passer...ever.
Here's my thought process, though: With New Orleans' run game humming, Brees won't attempt or complete as many throws. Coach Sean Payton will instead feature a balanced attack with Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. Denver's secondary is still talented; it just won't be able to key on run or pass.
That will leave the Broncos wide-open for play-action throws. You'll see Brees connect on throws of 15-20 yards, but he'll throw fewer of them. It's simple math, and I'm taking the under.