NFL Picks Week 14: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 8, 2016

NFL Picks Week 14: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

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    One of the biggest points in the NFL's tug of war with marijuana has yet to be made. 

    So I'll make it: Be it recreationally or medically, the league's drug laws aren’t just wrong in a moral sense. They’re wrong in a competitive sense.

    Consider the list of players who served bans, per the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Think the Redskins would’ve liked Trent Williams during their latest two-game slide? How dangerous would the Steelers be with Martavis Bryant? Buffalo might’ve lost its playoff chances without Marcell Dareus and Seantrel Henderson available, too.

    That's a lot of impactful names lost. The league is swapping the semblance of anti-drug mortality (smoking weed has proved helpful, not hurtful, regarding brain injuries) for a league with only so much star power.

    It's bad for marketing. It's bad for parity; I subconsciously have to consider who got caught for smoking and who didn't when I make these weekly picks. And it's unnecessary. I've been getting a lot of attention for my views on weed and pro football. It's high time the NFL listens up.

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

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

    The Raiders should expand their lead in the AFC West for five reasons: left tackle, left guard, right guard, right tackle and center.

    Those five blockers are tough to top when you look across the league. They’ll make life tough on a Kansas City front seven that’s predicated on getting to the passer.

    It’ll be smooth sailing for Derek Carr when his protection holds up. Sure, the Chiefs defense is amazing at getting its hands on the football. Just keep in mind the Falcons were shredding it apart last week before Eric Berry became the man.

    Speaking of Berry, Kansas City needs to manufacture non-offensive scores like that. Good luck against a Raiders offense that takes care of the football.

    Prediction: Raiders 30, Chiefs 27

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

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

    Remember: Washington is posting impressive offensive stats, even without the services of its star blindside blocker.

    Now Trent Williams—my pick for the best left tackle in football—is back. His return immediately cancels out Philadelphia’s greatest weapon: its pass rush.

    Kirk Cousins should be free to pick and choose from a host of wide-open targets. Philadelphia doesn’t have the horses to compete with Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson and so on. Expect a "You like that?" kind of game from No. 8.

    Prediction: Redskins 31, Eagles 23

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

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

    The defense? Phenomenal.

    The running game? One of the best.

    But I’ve learned my lesson about picking the Texans in recent weeks. Houston is good enough to hang tough with any team but bad enough to lose because of quarterback play. I’m tired of attaching my name and reputation to Brock Osweiler.

    You know who I can get behind? Andrew Luck in December. His most recent outing was an absolute evisceration of the Jets last Monday night. Those kinds of games can jump-start an offense.

    Prediction: Colts 24, Texans 20

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

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

    If Cleveland is going to finally win a game, this is it.

    It’s a divisional opponent. The Bengals are probably riding a little too high after smoking the Eagles. Hue Jackson has insider knowledge of where to attack his old employer, too.

    Yet they’re the Browns. I’m not sure who’s playing quarterback again—that feeling is all too familiar. Robert Griffin III won’t have enough time to appropriately readjust if he’s tapped as QB1. And we know where Josh McCown and Cody Kessler have led this team.

    Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 13

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans

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

    Tennessee had an extra week to drill in all the tenants of Mike Mularkey’s ball-control offense.

    Marcus Mariota will know he needs to take care of the football. DeMarco Murray will know he needs to run north-south against this Broncos front. Taylor Lewan and Co. will know they can’t get beat when Mariota inevitably needs to throw on a 3rd-and-8.

    Can they execute to perfection? That’s what it takes for a mid-level team like the Titans to scare a Super Bowl contender. As impressive as Mariota has been, I don’t think he’s capable of outdueling coordinator Wade Phillips.

    Prediction: Broncos 20, Titans 16

Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins

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

    On safeties?

    On linebackers?

    On cornerbacks?

    It doesn't matter where Arizona uses David Johnson. He has an advantage wherever he lines up. He's the best running back in football and perhaps the sport's most complete player.

    Miami has plenty of options to try to counter Johnson. If he plays, Kiko Alonso (thumb surgery) has the coverage ability to run with No. 31 on screens and routes out of the backfield. I'm just not sold on anyone sticking with Johnson for 60 minutes, though. Miami's bad defense (see: last week versus Baltimore) will play catch-up all game long.

    Prediction: Cardinals 29, Dolphins 22

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

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

    Chicago puts two safeties back and forces opposing offenses to play patient.

    Matthew Stafford will happily play that game. Forget last weekend's big downfield throws to Golden Tate; Detroit runs a dink-and-dunk offense at its core that compensates for a lack of a running game. Stafford is operating it at an expert level.

    Flip the field, and you'll find a run game is Chicago's only hope. That hope will get dimmer when Jordan Howard tries to pick holes occupied by Haloti Ngata and A'Shawn Robinson. Those two are quickly becoming a top-three run-stopping duo.

    Prediction: Lions 28, Bears 16

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

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

    Ben Roethlisberger and Co. will see Buffalo's ball-control offense—and raise it.

    Few teams are playing better keep-away football than Pittsburgh right now. Coordinator Todd Haley's offense centers around Le'Veon Bell dominating time of possession with a few deep shots sprinkled throughout. In essence, it's a better version of Buffalo's offense.

    Those Bills have rattled off five consecutive 150-plus-yard rushing games. But they haven't faced a defense packed with so many athletes—Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons and Bud Dupree, to name a few. Tyrod Taylor will need to throw quickly and accurately to keep Buffalo in it.

    Prediction: Steelers 23, Bills 21

San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers

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

    After last Sunday night's blowout loss, I've seen enough.

    These Panthers have mentally checked out of the 2016 season. They finally realized they won't be repeating as NFC champs, and their effort—blocking, tackling, playing smart assignment football—has slipped.

    Philip Rivers is just the Grim Reaper sent to finish the job. Put his late-game interceptions aside, and you'll see a quarterback who always takes what a defense gives him. In Carolina's case, it'll be a whole lot.

    Prediction: Chargers 35, Panthers 31

Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars

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

    How long will Minnesota’s hangover last?

    That’s the question at the heart of Vikings-Jaguars. Mike Zimmer will return to coach the unquestionably better team, but that was the case 10 days earlier against Dallas. Minnesota still lost.

    Up next: the even more disappointing Jaguars, who limp into Week 14 with little to no offense to speak of. That bodes well for Zimmer, who can dial up all his exotic pressures and coverages to fool Blake Bortles. That’s not exactly an impossible task.

    Sam Bradford won’t dice up Jacksonville’s defense by any stretch. His saving grace? The Jaguars don’t have an elite pass-rusher who can expose Minnesota’s tackle situation. Checkdowns and field goals should win it.

    Prediction: Vikings 12, Jaguars 9

New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers

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

    Stack these two rosters side-by-side, and the Jets look better by a mile.

    I just can’t pick them, though. Not after watching Todd Bowles’ talented defense fold like a paper bag to end Week 13. And not after watching Bryce Petty attempt to play a passable quarterback and fail.

    Following that blowout loss with a cross-country trip won’t be easy. Effort is still a concern; San Francisco still plays tough and runs the ball better behind Colin Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde. It won’t be afraid to test its better-than-advertised line against Gang Green.

    Give me the bad home team over the more talented team that could care less.

    Prediction: 49ers 17, Jets 15

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams

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

    It feels like a must-win week for Dan Quinn and his staff.

    Win, and the ghosts of last weekend’s crushing home loss are (somewhat) exorcised. Lose, and he’ll hear recycled storylines from last year about how his Falcons cannot finish. It’s that simple.

    Atlanta’s the better team. But the areas the Falcons need help in happen to be Los Angeles' strong spots. For instance, Robert Quinn can expose a banged-up Jake Matthews. Todd Gurley should find room against a simple run defense. And that secondary was just torn apart by Alex Smith. Jared Goff can do that.

    Still, Matt Ryan should prove too explosive for L.A. to handle. I’ll take his team in a close call.

    Prediction: Falcons 24, Rams 20

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

    Jameis Winston is in unknown territory.

    His team just won three games it wasn’t supposed to. His defense is playing the kind of defense that can earn a wild-card spot—or better. But young teams like Tampa Bay struggle sometimes to keep the good times rolling.

    Especially when Drew Brees is on the other sideline. I know about his interception issues, but so does Sean Payton. We’ll see some safer throws and play-action passes against the Buccaneers. More importantly, we’ll see pass protection hold up. New Orleans won’t succumb to Gerald McCoy and friends the way other teams have.

    Prediction: Saints 27, Buccaneers 26

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

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

    Three-step-and-throw quarterbacks usually spell trouble for Seattle’s secondary.

    Now, it’ll go up against the quickest release in the league. And it won’t have Earl Thomas to clean up the mess of all Aaron Rodgers’ slants and crossing routes. That’s double trouble.

    Also: Thomas Rawls will find far fewer running lanes this week than he did against Carolina. Why? Coordinator Dom Capers shows way more looks and fronts than the Panthers. It won’t be so straightforward for a Seahawks line that often looks confused to find run fits.

    Prediction: Packers 21, Seahawks 17

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

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

    I tip my cap to Giants general manager Jerry Reese, man.

    He caught a lot of flak for going on his offseason shopping spree. Now we know the point; Big Blue’s front (Damon Harrison, Johnathan Hankins, etc.) is built to take on Dallas’ big, scary front five. Unlike other physical teams, it’s built to win.

    Or at least it was. Jason Pierre-Paul’s surgery knocks a little wind out of New York’s upset sails. It’ll now rely on guys such as Kerry Wynn and Owa Odighizuwa to slow Ezekiel Elliott down. With 10 days to prepare between games, Dallas will come with a few wrinkles to spring its running game—and win the division.

    Prediction: Cowboys 21, Giants 20

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

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

    Snitches get stitches, John Harbaugh.

    This Ravens-Patriots showdown is the first one since Deflategate, a controversy sparked when Baltimore warned the Colts about Tom Brady’s alleged wrongdoing. Harbaugh denied this accusation, but if I know Brady—and I do—he’ll be out for blood.

    This game has Tom Terrific written all over it. He’ll be super-motivated to rip Harbaugh’s team a new one given his four-game ban earlier this year. And he’ll need to carry the team; LeGarrette Blount won’t find much running room against Baltimore, but the Ravens secondary isn’t scaring anyone.

    Expect lots of Malcolm Mitchell and Dion Lewis. The former is emerging as a trusted Brady target. The latter has come back in force to recuperate some of Rob Gronkowski’s quick pattern work.

    Prediction: Patriots 28, Ravens 24