NFL Week 12 Picks: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Picks

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystNovember 24, 2016

NFL Week 12 Picks: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Picks

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    Josh McDaniels was worried the Broncos would show up in a turkey-fueled food coma.

    So before our Thanksgiving night back in 2009, my head coach held a team meeting and asked (well, pleaded) for his offensive and defensive lines to avoid feasting until after the game. I laughed so hard that night with my teammates I cried.

    Want another Thanksgiving story? In 2009, I backed Kerry Collins up on a Titans team that could run the ball on anyone. So I’m only about 75 percent sure Jeff Fisher installed a Chris Johnson-heavy game plan so our team could be back in Nashville for the holiday sooner. And it worked! I was on my couch gnawing on drumsticks by 6:30 local time.

    This year, head coaches will be noticeably absent from my holiday plans. And you know what? I’ll miss them. By and large, players secretly loved Thanksgiving games—it gave us all a chance to play, eat and bond with our locker-room family.

    I’m thankful I’ve found another one at Bleacher Report to take its place, and I’m thankful for all my readers who take the time to check out my weekly picks. But if I could strap on my helmet and play Thanksgiving football again, you better believe I would.

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

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    When: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 12:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

    When two Thanksgiving teams are neck-and-neck close, favor the one playing at home.

    Why? Two reasons. First off, teams such as Detroit take their league-bestowed honor seriously on Thanksgiving. They’ll want to defend their turf and go home to their families.

    It works the other way too. A fatigue factor almost always sets in for the visitors, who know their Thanksgiving celebrations are two bus rides and a flight away. Minnesota isn’t too far from Detroit, but believe me: It’s an issue.

    I’m going with the home team in a tight NFC North fight. In doing so, I’m also going with Matthew Stafford, a creative passing game that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot and an offensive line capable of handling Minnesota’s big front four.

    Prediction: Lions 17, Vikings 13

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

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    When: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 4:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Time up your tryptophan doses right and you’ll be able to catch the best game of Week 12.

    Redskins-Cowboys isn’t only a historical rivalry set in Jerry’s World. It’s an honest-to-goodness NFC Championship Game preview with huge postseason implications.

    It should start out in predictable fashion. Dallas’ offensive line should be able to open holes up for Ezekiel Elliott at will. And I can’t imagine Washington’s receivers being restrained by Dallas’ secondary.

    The key matchup? Dez Bryant vs. Josh Norman. Norman has restrained Bryant in previous showdowns, but No. 88 is playing on a different level right now. I expect the "X" to be thrown up at least once on Thanksgiving.

    Prediction: Cowboys 31, Redskins 30

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

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    When: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

    Scott Tolzien is the chocolate creme pie at your Thanksgiving table.

    He’s good. He’s serviceable. He’ll score some points with the roster you’ve assembled. But he’s not pumpkin pie—the quintessential desert for this time of year.

    Andrew Luck’s loss will be felt throughout the Thanksgiving Day finale. He’s been Indianapolis' equalizer—the one player capable of hiding every other roster weakness around him. Tolzien won’t be able to do that.

    It might not have mattered, anyhow. Only two teams have surrendered more passing yards than Indianapolis this season, and the winless Browns are one of them. Big Ben Roethlisberger should be able to place his throws across the yard with ease, especially when they’re heading Le’Veon Bell’s way. Pittsburgh’s running back is hitting pre-injury levels as a pass-catching threat.

    Prediction: Steelers 30, Colts 20

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    I know last week was tough, Jared Goff.

    Just shake it off. Then go to one of the more hostile stadiums in professional sports. And outduel an all-time great quarterback in your first road start.

    I’m taking the Saints, and not just for the obvious Goff-Drew Brees showdown. L.A. plays its best football when Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers can come crashing through an offensive line. New Orleans’ strong interior line won’t allow that, either in the run or pass game.

    L.A. doesn’t have a lineman who can handle Cameron Jordan, either. This one could get ugly late.

    Prediction: Saints 28, Rams 17

Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    I have a lot of respect for Vic Fangio and his ability to scheme a winning defense.

    He’s not a miracle worker, though. Chicago is fresh off a manhandling at the hands of the vaunted New York Giants rushing attack. Imagine what this Titans offense can do.

    That’s doubly true after Tennessee’s latest dud. Coach Mike Mularkey isn’t the type to let his offense post back-to-back stinkers on the ground. I expect tons of DeMarco Murray (and maybe some Derrick Henry, finally), especially to Leonard Floyd’s old side. The rookie Bears linebacker might miss Week 12 with a concussion, and his potential replacement must be tested.

    Oh, and did I mention Matt Barkley is in line for the start this weekend?

    Prediction: Titans 24, Bears 13

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    You smell that?

    It’s not the leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a big fat upset brewing in Atlanta that could shake up the NFC playoff picture.

    Arizona is the perfect team to pull it off. Its offensive line is banged up, but it isn’t facing the Steel Curtain this week. Atlanta’s front can be held at bay all afternoon; I like David Johnson’s odds at a 125-plus-yard afternoon in Week 12.

    Flip the field and you’ll notice more Falcons weaknesses ripe for the Cards to exploit. For instance, Atlanta’s below-average interior line play. Calais Campbell and Co. can push blockers aside and freeze Devonta Freeman. That’s the most important step to halting a play action-heavy Matt Ryan attack. Step No. 2 involves a lot of Chandler Jones and Markus Golden in the backfield wreaking havoc.

    Prediction: Cardinals 31, Falcons 27

New York Giants at Cleveland Browns

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Odell Beckham Jr. better prepare plenty of dance moves this week.

    Cleveland doesn’t have the defensive speed or coverage ability to contain him. Coach Ben McAdoo will make a concerted effort to get his top receiver the football after a down statistical week. I’m seeing multiple touchdowns in OBJ’s future.

    I’m also seeing another stout defensive performance. Cleveland can play quarterback roulette all it wants; Landon Collins will pick Josh McCown off all the same. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon should continue their late-season tear too.

    Prediction: Giants 29, Browns 17

San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    I’m a little more comfortable with Brock Osweiler than I was at this time last week.

    But that’s not nearly enough to compensate for this week’s discrepancy in quarterback talent. Philip Rivers is head and shoulders above ole Osweiler in nearly every category I look for: throwing motion, accuracy, arm strength, intelligence and so on.

    Rivers will need to put all those traits to work against Houston’s defense, though. We saw the lockdown ability of Jonathan Joseph and Co. on full display on Monday Night Football. Rivers’ receivers don’t stack up well, so he’ll lean heavily on Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry over the middle of the field.

    Can Osweiler match that? His over-the-field throws are the only way the Texans prevent a two-game losing streak. I think coordinator John Pagano adjusts his defense and gets to a few Osweiler passes, though.

    Prediction: Chargers 24, Texans 20

Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Rex Ryan was 100 percent correct in his assessment of this week’s opponent.

    The Jaguars are the best 2-8 team he’s ever seen. They might be the most talented 2-8 team in NFL history. However, they happen to possess a 2-8 quarterback.

    I worry Blake Bortles will throw his 11th career pick-six, especially into the wind in Buffalo. We’ve already seen two of his mistakes undo dominant Jacksonville performances in recent weeks. Errors compound when the Jags need to work back from a deficit.

    Buffalo is just the team to make Bortles pay for his sloppy play. It’ll open up a lead and then run Jacksonville’s 23rd-ranked rush defense ragged with LeSean McCoy and/or Mike Gillislee.

    Prediction: Bills 28, Jaguars 20

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Where are big plays coming from in this depleted Bengals offense?

    There’s no A.J. Green. There’s not even a Giovani Bernard. Baltimore’s defense can handle whatever pieces—Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill and so on—remain. Especially considering Cincinnati’s offensive line isn’t the monster it has been in seasons past. Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams can make Andy Dalton throw by plugging every available running lane.

    Same goes for the Bengals defense. Joe Flacco should enjoy a clean pocket with an underperforming line in town. Remember: Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and crew are just four sacks away from being the worst quarterback-hunting defense in football. It’s a crying shame given all that trench talent.

    Prediction: Ravens 24, Bengals 19

San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

    Don’t look now, but San Francisco’s defense is no longer a laughingstock.

    It made life uncomfortable for Tom Brady last week. The Patriots legend had to rely on some brilliant pocket awareness to dodge oncoming 49ers; an average quarterback would’ve succumbed to the intensifying pressure in Week 11. Ryan Tannehill might be in for a shock, especially behind an injury-ravaged offensive line.

    Miami’s run defense is in trouble too. Carlos Hyde and Colin Kaepernick present unique run-fit problems for any defense. This Dolphins team can play some undisciplined assignment football at times.

    This game’s going down to the wire, folks. Then, just as last week, Tannehill finds the emerging DeVante Parker for the deciding score.

    Prediction: Dolphins 31, 49ers 23

Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

    The running back formally known as "Muscle Hamster" holds all the keys to a Buccaneers' home-upset bid.

    Can Doug Martin get going with Bobby Wagner lurking on the other side of the line? If so, it alleviates tons of pressure off Jameis Winston’s back to pick apart Seattle’s star-studded secondary. If not, Winston will need to consistently test Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom.

    Establishing Martin ticks another must off the Buccaneers’ to-do list. A ball-control offense would keep the NFL’s hottest quarterback sidelined in Week 12. Tampa Bay’s defense can’t contain Russell Wilson by itself at Raymond James Stadium and will need 60 minutes of help. That’s a tough ask.

    Prediction: Seahawks 27, Buccaneers 17

New England Patriots at New York Jets

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Can you believe it’s been four years since the Butt Fumble?

    If not, tune in to this AFC East showdown. You’re certain to see Mark Sanchez’s blooper reel a few thousand times from kickoff to final whistle.

    It’ll mask the fact Gang Green needs a historically laughable turnover to be blown out by New England. The Jets almost always play the Patriots close and into the fourth quarter. It only helps their case that Ryan Fitzpatrick is back at the helm instead of Bryce Petty, who has no familiarity with Bill Belichick’s defense.

    New York’s own defense should be a blessing and a curse. The fearsome threesome of Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams will halt any running-game momentum Josh McDaniels attempts to establish. But the Patriots’ coordinator knows he can attack his rivals with deep throws. Expect another long toss to Malcolm Mitchell against an aging secondary.

    Prediction: Patriots 24, Jets 16

Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

    I’m skipping out on my weekly predictions in favor of some mashed potatoes and stuffing.

    This game would’ve topped my "Best Game No One’s Talking About" category, though. Think about it: Derek Carr vs. Cam Newton, both facing pass defenses that are far below average? Fireworks should fly.

    The 4-6 Panthers should not be underestimated. Newton’s downfield passing will be as tough for Oakland to defend as its punishing run game. Jonathan Stewart has a chance to take over if he gets enough carries.

    I don’t see that happening, though. Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree all figure to get back on track against a bad Panthers secondary. That’ll take the run away from Newton’s attack and allow the Silver and Black to unleash Khalil Mack.

    Prediction: Raiders 35, Panthers 33

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

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    When: Sunday, Nov. 27, at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

    I usually question a team’s focus and execution abilities after a bye week. Denver is different.

    Why? Because if coach Gary Kubiak did a minute of self-scouting on his week off, he’ll have tweaked the Broncos’ offensive philosophy. Kansas City’s defense will need to adjust on the fly.

    I anticipate Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will have much larger roles for the post-bye Broncos. They’re two of the most explosive weapons in football; Kubiak must know it’s time to use them. He’ll discard the usual run-first approach and really let Trevor Siemian chuck it.

    Historically, Kansas City matches Denver’s intensity under Andy Reid. But if Reid marches out a defense like he did last week at Arrowhead, it’ll be a long night.

    Prediction: Broncos 22, Chiefs 17

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles

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    When: Monday, Nov. 28, at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    The Packers are always in it with Aaron Rodgers.

    The Packers are always in it with Aaron Rodgers.

    The Packers are always in it with Aaron Rodgers.

    It starts to feel true if I write it enough times. Fact is, I’m no longer sure Rodgers’ offensive wizardry can level a playing field anymore. The deck is stacked against him.

    Rodgers is an all-timer, but he can’t cover streaking receivers or apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Slowing Carson Wentz is the job of what’s left of his defense.

    Speaking of defense, there’s a knowledgeable coordinator directing one in Philadelphia. When his team plays at Lincoln Financial Field, Jim Schwartz’s group allows 9.5 points per game. Rodgers will need to be perfect to top them.

    Prediction: Eagles 26, Packers 20