NFL Picks Week 15: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 15, 2016

NFL Picks Week 15: Chris Simms' Game-by-Game Predictions

0 of 16

    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Josh McDaniels tops every bad team's Christmas list for a reason. 

    That reason? He understands Bill Belichick's overprepared mind. In McDaniels' world, in-game adjustments are already too late.

    I learned that the hard way from my season under Belichick's top disciple in Denver. Quarterbacks like me were expected to know every play from the preceding week of practice. But in pure Belichick fashion, McDaniels would introduce our pregame meeting with 10-15 wrinkles we hadn't run in preparation. Keep in mind that this was less than a day before kickoff.

    Some team is going to pay McDaniels a lot of money for that level of flexibility. As you'll see from my Week 15 picks, only the top teams have the cojones to tear everything down and start fresh on the fly. It’s what separates the playoff teams from the pack and what separates the Super Bowl contenders from the playoff teams.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

1 of 16

    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    When: Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC, NFLN, TWTR)

    I’m no huge proponent of Seattle’s Cover 3-style defense.

    But I will say this: Jeff Fisher would still have a job if his Rams took a page out of the Seahawks’ defensive playbook.

    Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a little too aggressive with the blitzes he dials up. That leaves L.A. exposed on the back end—take a look at how wide open some of Matt Ryan’s throws were Sunday if you need visual proof.

    Simpler is better sometimes. My money is on Russell Wilson to bounce back from a terrible game and find similar gaping holes in Williams’ coverage.

    Prediction: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

2 of 16

    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    When: Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NFLN)

    Matt Moore isn’t some scrub the Dolphins coaxed off a couch.

    He’s one of the better and more battle-tested backup quarterbacks in football. I don’t care that he hasn’t started a game in years; I trust him much more than I trust Bryce Petty on the other sideline—especially when you consider the caliber of pass rushing Petty will face Saturday.

    Without Nick Mangold as traffic director, Gang Green lacks the blocking smarts to keep up with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake’s stunts and twists.

    Prediction: Dolphins 22, Jets 17

Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills

3 of 16

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

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

    Robert Griffin III had plenty of rust to shake off after a long injury hiatus.

    The results last week were predictably bad. But now he’s going against a defense that (A) loves to play one-on-one man coverage and (B) is susceptible to deep throws. Expect plenty of Terrelle Pryor catches deep.

    Expect the Browns to lose, too. Hue Jackson’s defense doesn’t have the athletes required to contain Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy. This game might turn into a track meet for Buffalo’s rushing attack.

    Prediction: Bills 27, Browns 17

Detroit Lions at New York Giants

4 of 16

    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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

    An entire football-watching nation saw what New York’s defense can do to one dink-and-dunk attack.

    In comes another. Matthew Stafford and Co. don’t offer the threat of the run like Dallas does; they’ll just line up and hope to out-execute Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins. Good luck with that.

    On the other end, Detroit’s defense is stacked with troublemakers from up front (Ezekiel Ansah) to out back (Darius Slay). But coach Ben McAdoo’s quick passing game is an advantage here. It’ll negate a good Lions pass rush (or bad Giants line) and get the ball to the one Giant who matters: Odell Beckham Jr.

    Prediction: Giants 16, Lions 13

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens

5 of 16

    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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

    Six weeks ago, this matchup would have been one helluva bareknuckle affair.

    Since then, Philadelphia’s scary defense—with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham—has hit the proverbial wall. Baltimore’s offensive line has gotten healthier and better. So I circle that as a problem area if I’m the Eagles.

    Then I look at the secondary. Joe Flacco and Co. are usually a little too unbalanced; that could work in Baltimore’s favor in Week 15. Philadelphia just doesn’t have the cornerback depth to run with speedsters like Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace. Flacco will have a field day.

    Prediction: Ravens 23, Eagles 14

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

6 of 16

    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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

    Le’Veon Bell missed the first Steelers-Bengals showdown in Week 2.

    No worries. He’ll rack up two games' worth of stats against a run defense that consists of Geno Atkins and not much else. I expect 150 yards from the Steelers’ MVP candidate…at minimum.

    I also expect Ben Roethlisberger to be the most dialed-in quarterback of Week 15. He tossed up some head-shaking interceptions in Buffalo last week; Big Ben won’t let his bad game streak extend to two games. That’s good news if you’re Antonio Brown.

    Prediction: Steelers 30, Bengals 20

Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings

7 of 16

    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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

    It’s deja vu all over again for Andrew Luck.

    One week after falling to Houston’s stacked defense, he’s squaring off against its NFC equivalent. Think about it: Everson Griffen leads a scary pass rotation, Xavier Rhodes is a lockdown cornerback, and a defensive mastermind (Mike Zimmer) is calling one helluva game. Luck’s Week 14 struggles could easily roll over.

    The opposite is true for Sam Bradford. Fresh off his best game in weeks, he’s facing a defense that hasn’t slowed a decent passing attack all season.

    Prediction: Vikings 23, Colts 21

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

8 of 16

    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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

    So long, Leonard Floyd.

    See you later, Akiem Hicks.

    Chicago needs a better-than-average pass rush to top Aaron Rodgers. But No. 12 stands behind the hottest blocking five in football. No one is getting past David Bakhtiari and his merry group of maulers.

    So Rodgers should have time to scan a bad Bears secondary. And he should find Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson, who are both hitting their stride as go-to guys in Mike McCarthy’s offense. The end result won't be good if you root for the Bears.

    Prediction: Packers 27, Bears 19

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

9 of 16

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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

    I want to pick the Tennessee Titans.

    DeMarco Murray should have running lanes galore against the Chiefs—especially with Derrick Johnson out for the year. Fellow Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston is about to run into a brick wall named Taylor Lewan.

    But I can’t ignore what Alex Smith is doing to defenses right now. Andy Reid’s playbook is wide open; Smith is taking deep shots, and Tyreek Hill/Travis Kelce/Chris Conley/Albert Wilson/etc. are turning them into points. Jeremy Maclin should look better in his second week back, too.

    It will be a close call. I’m just more confident in Kansas City at the moment.

    Prediction: Chiefs 21, Titans 20

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

10 of 16

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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

    Did someone say trap game?

    I will. Brock Osweiler won’t magically correct his own passing flaws in time for the playoffs. Jalen Ramsey and a damn good Jaguars secondary will make sure of that.

    Here’s the kicker, though: Jacksonville is a 4-3 team that’s built on team speed, like the Seahawks. Houston has a front five built for power like the Patriots. In football’s rock-paper-scissors, I’ll take the stronger guys, especially when Lamar Miller is behind them and ready to break off big runs again.

    Prediction: Texans 23, Jaguars 16

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals

11 of 16

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

    Carson Palmer might be counting the days to retirement by now.

    His Cardinals are not going anywhere—except into a matchup against a defensive line that outclasses his sorry group of blockers.

    Cameron Jordan will look like Reggie White against Arizona’s offensive line. And he’ll be accompanied by Sheldon Rankins, Nick Fairley and Paul Kruger—all assignment nightmares for Bruce Arians.

    We saw Arizona’s blocking break down just last week against the Dolphins. We’ll see it disintegrate when Drew Brees puts up a few quick scores and Palmer is forced to throw all game.

    Prediction: Saints 28, Cardinals 20

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

12 of 16

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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

    This is what I like to call a “seat cushion game.”

    Why? Because after a while, you’ll be forced to dig through your couch for the channel changer. Anything beats watching this one get out of hand.

    Atlanta could put up 50 points on San Francisco without thinking twice. Its offense is perfectly designed to exploit a weak secondary and spring big plays. Should Chip Kelly and his staff somehow find a way to slow down Matt Ryan (they won’t), Devonta Freeman can still run wild.

    San Francisco’s only saving grace is Carlos Hyde. If he can move the chains with some consistency, this game might not be over at halftime.

    Prediction: Falcons 38, 49ers 13

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

13 of 16

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

    Bill Belichick realizes that Denver is one of the few AFC teams that can knock his out in January.

    So he’ll relish the chance to deliver a knockout blow to the Broncos—before the postseason even begins.

    So will his Patriots players, who had an AFC Championship Game meltdown in their last visit to Denver. This game figures to be much different; Tom Brady won’t need to throw it 50-plus times. LeGarrette Blount can lead the way against a poor rushing defense.

    This is a bad matchup for the Broncos. And it could be the game that ultimately prevents their title defense.

    Prediction: Patriots 26, Broncos 17

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

14 of 16

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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

    Derek Carr’s nicked-up thumb was a problem in the freezing confines of Arrowhead Stadium last Thursday.

    That won’t be a problem in sunny San Diego. Carr should be in his element in Week 15, which means bounce-back weeks for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

    He figures to have a lot more time to operate. Not only should the Raiders return All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele, but San Diego’s defense might be without a fully-functional Joey Bosa (shoulder). Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano might need to blitz to have a shot.

    Meanwhile, the Raiders’ star pass-rusher is perfectly healthy. His name is Khalil Mack, and he’s coming right for the mistake-prone Philip Rivers. Watch out.

    Prediction: Raiders 31, Chargers 27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys

15 of 16

    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

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

    Ezekiel Elliott’s big-play drought continues. 

    If the future Rookie of the Year gets by the likes of Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers—and that’s a big if—he’ll be greeted by the linebacking tandem of Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Both guys have the quickness to turn Zeke’s usual 20-yarders into four-yard pickups.

    Dak Prescott had to live in a 3rd-and-long world last week, and it wasn’t fun for him. He’ll do so again versus a secondary that’s three deep at cornerback and much improved at safety. Mistakes will be made.

    Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 21

Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins

16 of 16

    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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

    Super Bowl hangover or Josh Norman hangover?

    The answer might be a little of both. But something has plagued Carolina’s once-proud defense for weeks on end. It’s just finally waking up from a season-long funk.

    Even then, it might not matter. Norman’s new team has passing options galore and an offensive line built to help Kirk Cousins find them. The players left in the Panthers secondary—Daryl Worley, James Bradberry, Kurt Coleman—can’t run step for step with DeSean Jackson or change directions with Jamison Crowder. That’s a problem.

    Norman might not make a play against ex-teammates like Kelvin Benjamin. But he might not need to with Washington’s offense.

    Prediction: Redskins 36, Panthers 30