NFL Week 13 Picks: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 1, 2016

NFL Week 13 Picks: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

0 of 15

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Jon Gruden didn't have a Plan B.

    He could only watch from the Georgia Dome sidelines as the Cadillac Williams-heavy game plan—the one that worked so well against the Falcons just 12 months earlier—was obliterated. And the man who had more swagger and confidence than any of my previous coaches started to panic. 

    That's when I learned a valuable lesson: In the NFL, the enemy of success is complacency. Gruden's 2006 roster was nearly identical to the one he fielded the previous year. His playbook was untouched in the offseason. Michael Vick and Co. didn't go on vacation when we made the playoffs the year before; Atlanta studied and made adjustments. We didn't.

    That same panic Gruden felt is setting in with Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera. Their respective teams made the NFC Championship Game 10 months ago. And there was a sense that both teams could make minimal roster moves and meet each other in the playoffs this year.

    What changed? Not enough. I'm picking against both the Panthers and Cardinals this week, and if I'm right, their seasons will be over. Maybe then they'll realize success isn't a given in this league. Fresh players and fresh ideas always catch up.

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

1 of 15

    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NBC, NFLN, TWTR)

    It took me 12 weeks to correctly pick the outcome of a Vikings game.

    That confidence is going straight to my head. I like them to square up against Dak Prescott and the best team in football and pull off the upset.

    Xavier Rhodes is a huge reason why. Minnesota’s cornerback has erased the NFL’s top receivers one by one this season. I see no reason why that level of play would drop off against Dez Bryant.

    With No. 88 out of the picture, coach Mike Zimmer can open up his defensive playbook. Prescott hasn’t faced a heavy pressure package yet; that will change this week. And Zimmer’s D-line has the big bodies to limit Ezekiel Elliott’s damage.

    Prediction: Vikings 19, Cowboys 17

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints

2 of 15

    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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

    New Orleans could be a Super Bowl contestant if it could just make the playoff field.

    Its big run began last weekend. It will continue in Week 13 against a Lions secondary that could use about three more Darius Slays against Drew Brees.

    Brees will have a sweet time picking apart Detroit’s defense. I can’t say the same for his counterpart, though. Matthew Stafford is catching the Saints at the same time their pass rush is catching fire. Guys such as Dannell Ellerbe, Sheldon Rankins and Cameron Jordan have rebuilt this group into a strong one in the second half of the season.

    Put all those guys out there and then throw in the added benefit of the Superdome crowd noise. Stafford won’t like the end result.

    Prediction: Saints 31, Lions 28

Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots

3 of 15

    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

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

    It’s safe to say a cross-country flight to Foxborough won’t end well for Los Angeles. So instead, I’ll highlight the things the Rams should be able to do against a team that outclasses them at nearly every position.

    For starters, Jared Goff should have time to throw. L.A.’s line is no one’s idea of a world-beater, but Bill Belichick’s pass defense hasn’t sparkled in recent weeks, either. Speaking of that pass defense, Goff should find a few plays downfield—perhaps to Tavon Austin, who has the speed to separate.

    Aaron Donald will make a few plays. Because, well he’s Aaron Donald.

    That’s about it. The Rams don’t have enough defensive firepower outside of Donald to slow Tom Brady down. When Brady finds the end zone, he will make life tougher on Goff to go score for score.

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Rams 16

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars

4 of 15

    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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

    This matchup is a little scary for Denver’s offense, but it’s downright horrifying for Jacksonville’s.

    This Broncos secondary is too talented to allow Blake Bortles to lob throws to Allen Robinson. Denver's front seven is way too proud to let Bortles escape contain. On the rare instances he does, he’ll pay for it.

    It won’t be much easier for Trevor Siemian. Jacksonville plays a brand of zone that will inhibit Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Malik Jackson has a little motivation to not let his old team run the ball as well. In a game of short throws and field goals, give me Siemian over Bortles.

    Prediction: Broncos 19, Jaguars 12

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

5 of 15

    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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

    This game boils down to one man in the coach’s booth.

    His name is Vic Fangio. He coordinates Chicago’s defense, but in a past life, he was instrumental in building the 49ers into an NFC force. And he knows all about what Colin Kaepernick can do.

    Fangio’s input will give the Bears an insurmountable edge. He’ll put his big defenders (looking at you, nose tackle Eddie Goldman) in a position to lock down any ball-carrier, be it Kaepernick or Carlos Hyde. He’ll dare Kaepernick to throw intermediate routes with consistency by placing Chicago’s two safeties in their usual deep spots.

    Can Matt Barkley fare any better? I think so. He showed me he can manage an offense in Week 12, particularly one that runs through Jordan Howard.

    Prediction: Bears 27, 49ers 22

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers

6 of 15

    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

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

    Am I really taking Brock Osweiler over Aaron Rodgers?

    I am. This meeting between quarterbacks puts Houston at a disadvantage, but every other matchup in this game is telling me an upset is brewing.

    Take Green Bay’s banged-up offensive line. It held up well against a fading Eagles team; Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Co. will not be so kind. That’s doubly true if Rodgers’ injured hamstring restricts his out-of-pocket mobility.

    Rodgers has a quick enough release to get off throws. His receivers are another story, though. The A.J. Bouye-Kareem Jackson-Johnathan Joseph cornerback triad will challenge Green Bay’s receivers all day.

    Now let’s address ol’ Brocky. Bill O’Brien has probably had it up to here with his stumbling quarterback. He’ll run the offense through Lamar Miller instead and make a depleted Packers defense play tough. I’m not sure it can.

    Prediction: Texans 24, Packers 23

Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons

7 of 15

    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

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

    Marcus Peters is locking everyone down at cornerback. Justin Houston is making up for lost sacks this season.

    And yet Kansas City’s defense surrenders way too many big pass plays. That should frighten the pants off the Chiefs heading into a huge road game in Week 13.

    It’s more than just Matt Ryan and Julio Jones this year. It’s Mohamed Sanu, who holds an advantage over whomever the Chiefs use as their No. 2 cover man. It’s Browns castoff Taylor Gabriel on screens and Tevin Coleman out of the backfield.

    It’s also the Falcons' offensive puppet master. Kyle Shanahan is breaking down Chiefs film right now. I’m confident he’ll find the weak spots in a great defense and exploit them.

    Prediction: Falcons 30, Chiefs 24

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens

8 of 15

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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

    Baltimore’s front seven is as big and as strong as they come.

    And it's about to meet its match. Coach Adam Gase is expected to have Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil back—two monstrous pieces who level up his offense to juggernaut status. Look at what the ‘Phins did to Pittsburgh and Buffalo for proof.

    Ryan Tannehill should continue his arrow-up second half behind that line, too. It helps having DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills as targets. Baltimore’s slow secondary can’t compete with any of those three receivers.

    Prediction: Dolphins 20, Ravens 17

Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals

9 of 15

    Al Bello/Getty Images

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

    Philadelphia’s season hinges on the answer to a simple question: Can Carson Wentz throw on Cincinnati’s secondary?

    I don’t expect the Eagles to run the ball with any success. But if the answer to my question is yes—if Dorial Green-Beckham can body out his cover in the red zone, and others play well opposite DGB on the outside—the Wentz wagon should roll back to .500.

    That’s a major ask, though. Wentz’s receivers haven’t consistently separated in months. They’ll have a tough time playing their best against a secondary manned by "surprise of the year" candidate Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones. 

    Prediction: Bengals 22, Eagles 20

Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

10 of 15

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Oakland’s run defense has been a bit better of late.

    Now the ultimate test: LeSean McCoy, fresh off a game in which he broke a 75-yard run. That’s the kind of chunk play that has plagued the Silver and Black since Week 1.

    Coach Jack Del Rio should be game for another challenge. I see him deploying nine defenders to stop McCoy and leaving his two most athletic ones—Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin—as buffers against Tyrod Taylor keepers. It’s wild enough to work.

    Oakland’s passing game should work too. Amari Cooper won’t have back-to-back down weeks against Buffalo’s press-man defense. The same goes for Michael Crabtree and his physical red-zone play. Both guys go off for Derek Carr in Week 13.

    Prediction: Raiders 27, Bills 20

New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers

11 of 15

    Elsa/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

    New York’s defensive front has come alive in recent weeks.

    Or has it? I’d argue Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon have picked on the Bears and Browns in back-to-back weeks. If they think they can bully the Steelers offensive line, they have another thing coming.

    Pittsburgh has shifted its offensive philosophy of late. Ben Roethlisberger once tried to spread a defense out and attack vertically; Le’Veon Bell runs the show now, and downfield shots are more calculated. Landon Collins won’t be able to jump deep throws.

    Without a key turnover or two, I’ll take Bell’s power running over Eli Manning’s conservative offense in a duel.

    Prediction: Steelers 21, Giants 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers

12 of 15

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

    The Buccaneers have a different feel after back-to-back upsets over the Chiefs and Seahawks.

    That’s why I’m picking against them. Jameis Winston and Co. aren’t consistently good yet. They’re young, and good young teams take one step forward and two steps back.

    Especially when those teams have to fly cross-country. Winston put up a stinker in Arizona and started slowly out of the gate in San Francisco. Now? He’s up against Philip Rivers (a more veteran version of himself) and an offense that puts up points, period. I’ll take the seasoned quarterback in a shootout.

    Prediction: Chargers 34, Buccaneers 31

Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals

13 of 15

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

    There’s no cure for the case of badfootballitis contracted by Bruce Arians’ team.

    Arizona can only wait its cursed season out and take its lumps. This week should prove a little lumpier than most.

    When Arians thinks about the offense he wanted this season, it looks a lot like the Redskins'. Kirk Cousins is the deep thrower Carson Palmer never had time to be. The line holds up in pass protection. There are two or three contributors at tight end.

    It wasn’t meant to be. This Cardinals team is David Johnson on offense and Patrick Peterson on defense—that’s it. I trust Washington can navigate around both.

    Prediction: Redskins 23, Cardinals 21

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks

14 of 15

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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

    In an alternate universe where the Panthers don’t exist, we’re talking about a Seahawks dynasty.

    Pete Carroll knows that better than most. You better believe his team wants a few kicks at its postseason nemesis while it's down. Seattle will be motivated to deliver Carolina’s knockout blow.

    The Seahawks should be able to. Michael Bennett’s presumptive return takes Seattle’s front from scary to horrifying. It’s not like Cam Newton is enjoying time in the pocket like he did last year; Bennett and Co. will come right up the middle against Panthers backup linemen and make the MVP’s life a living hell.

    On the other end, Russell Wilson will be motivated to bounce back after one of his worst passing games as a pro. Nothing like playing the Panthers secondary to find your swagger again.

    Prediction: Seahawks 24, Panthers 19

Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets

15 of 15

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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

    We’re in for a real quarterback duel to end Week 13.

    I’m not being sarcastic, either. Andrew Luck should shred whatever remains of Darrelle Revis in his return from a concussion. And Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t find any hurdles to a 300-plus-yard passing day on this Colts defense.

    The difference, as usual, is Luck. He elevates the play of the other 52 guys to a playoff level. Plus, Indianapolis is playing for something. Gang Green waged its Super Bowl last week and lost against the Patriots. A big-game hangover could happen.

    Prediction: Colts 34, Jets 30