NFL Predictions Week 15: Chris Simms' Weekly Projections
If I'm an elite NFL player, I'm saying hell no to Orlando.
The Pro Bowl is not in its natural Hawaii home—for the next three years! Dodgeball—seriously, dodgeball—is now one of the featured player events. And if you try too hard or go up for a pass the wrong way, your entire year might be compromised. I'm looking at you, Tyler Eifert.
Then there's the issue of money. My dad could accept his Pro Bowl invite and earn a paycheck four times the size of his weekly one. With today's contract sizes, current players are lucky if a Pro Bowl nod covers their cumulative fine totals.
The skills challenge Roger Goodell brought back? I'm all for it. But if star NFLers have to play dodgeball with Mickey Mouse and Goofy, I'm out. I'd rather pony up my own money and take my family someplace nice—like say, Hawaii.
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars
Be honest: Would anyone be surprised to watch a Brock Osweiler-quarterbacked team stumble down the stretch?
Watch what the Jaguars do to Houston's passing game Sunday. Jalen Ramsey and a talented secondary can eliminate the rare accurate Osweiler throw outside. C.J. Fiedorowicz, a favorite target who is in the concussion protocol, will have athletic Telvin Smith to contend with in coverage if he plays. Yikes.
The Blake Bortles show should find equal resistance when the field is flipped. But that signals a defensive struggle, which means Houston is only a bad turnover or special teams play away from relinquishing the AFC South lead.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For some odd reason, there's still space left on the Buccaneers bandwagon.
Maybe it's because this team started so slowly. Or the fact that Tampa Bay isn't as sexy a market as New York or Seattle or Washington. I'm just not hearing the type of national respect other teams on five-game winning streaks would get.
That'll change when the Bucs notch a sixth consecutive W. By knocking off the Dallas Cowboys (in prime time, no less), Tampa will announce three things: 1) Jameis Winston is a deep-playoff kind of quarterback, 2) Gerald McCoy and Co. are as good a defense as any in football and 3) in an NFC without any clear-cut favorite, the young Bucs should be respected and feared.
Next Man Up!
Prediction: Daniel Sorensen
Derrick Johnson's loss to a torn Achilles tendon won't plug the leak that is Kansas City's gushing run defense.
Unless defensive coordinator Bob Sutton can think outside the box, that is. Kansas City has thrived in "big nickel" sets in 2017, a defensive alignment that uses all of its safety talent. One such safety—Daniel Sorensen—might become a pseudo-Johnson for Sutton's squad.
Sorensen has already earned All-22 honors for a 48-yard interception return he made in Week 7. He can cover, and at 6'2", he has the size to mix it up in the box in Johnson's old spot.
The Chiefs are running out of linebacking options. Perhaps a turn to one of their best-tackling safeties can help.
Prediction: Sam Bradford
Bad Indianapolis secondary? Check.
Lack of pass rush to expose Minnesota's line? Check.
A quarterback on the other end who can force the offense out of conservative mode? Check and check.
All the elements of a great Sam Bradford game are there for Week 15. The Vikings passer is coming off his best game in months down in Jacksonville. Expect that upward trend to continue in what could be a back-and-forth battle with Andrew Luck.
Defense I’d Least Like to See
Prediction: New England Patriots
Denver's game tape doesn't suggest good things are on the horizon for Patriots week.
Gary Kubiak's offense was boiled down to its two main ingredients against the Titans: ineffective runs and Emmanuel Sanders/Demaryius Thomas one-on-one shots. Tennessee caught on early; Bill Belichick already knows what's coming.
Armed with that knowledge, I sure wouldn't like to be Trevor Siemian this week. He'll see tons of zone looks aimed to take deep throws away. And New England's defense—with all its confusing end/linebacker hybrid looks—is swarming to the ball much better since its home loss to Seattle in Week 10.
America’s Real Game of the Week
Prediction: Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Because that's exactly what these teams are giving to early postseason prognostications. Few, if any, picked the Lions and Giants to be playoff-positioned by mid-December.
Yet here we are, with an MVP-caliber quarterback on one end and a defense that went from bottom-feeders to a respected unit in just one offseason. I'll enjoy watching them do battle for 60 minutes in Week 15.
Under/Over: Le'Veon Bell Total Touches
Let's break down Pittsburgh's play-calling from Week 14.
The Steelers ran 72 plays, excluding three kneel downs from victory formation at the end. Bell either touched or was targeted on 43 of those plays. I've crunched the numbers and discovered that's a lot of Todd Haley's offense.
Now factor in Cincinnati's personnel. It doesn't have the run-stopping tackles (outside of Geno Atkins) to contain Bell's ground game. And name one Bengals linebacker who can keep No. 26 in front of him when Ben Roethlisberger drops back to pass. I'm waiting.
Under/Over Josh Norman Interceptions
By all accounts, Cam Newton and Josh Norman have maintained the friendship that sparked a run to Super Bowl 50.
That won't stop them from going at each other's throats, though. We saw these two talents throw hands at Panthers training camp in 2015. I'd imagine competitive juices will be flowing when they line up as actual opponents in Week 15.
Norman knows Newton. He knows the offense and the receivers through and through. So write it down: Norman will make sure he finds his way to at least one of the reigning MVP's throws.
Under/Over: Tom Brady Passing Yards
Tom Brady threw 56 times when he last faced Denver's vaunted secondary.
Expect half that total this time around. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels won't give those rangy defensive backs more playmaking opportunities—especially when New England's offense can move the ball without a Brady-heavy game plan.
McDaniels will look at Denver's game tape from last week. Then he'll look at his offensive line, which is every bit as physical as Tennessee's. Chances are, he'll put two and two together and we'll see more LeGarrette Blount and less Tom Terrific.
More Sacks: Jadeveon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus?
Prediction: Jadeveon Clowney
This isn't a slight on Whitney Mercilus, the most under-the-radar pass-rusher of 2016.
It's simply Jadeveon Clowney's time. The former first overall pick is coming off his best professional pass-rushing day. He's finally realizing all the promise that made him a force at South Carolina.
To say Clowney dominated his blocking assignment last week would be an understatement. His speed rush is now as deadly as his bull rush is; No. 90 will use both to get after Blake Bortles all Sunday afternoon.
More Receiving Yards: B. Cooks and W. Snead or L. Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson?
Prediction: Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead
Both Sean Payton and Bruce Arians call for a heavy dose of downfield throws.
Only Payton's offense is equipped to hit them. New Orleans' offensive line is big and strong enough to buy Drew Brees time. And for all his faults, Brees still looks at Cooks and Snead a lot.
Meanwhile, Arizona's offensive line was on roller skates last weekend in Miami. Conditions back at home will be slightly drier, but the quality of opponent remains the same. Cameron Jordan and Co. will have an Ndamukong Suh-like effect on Carson Palmer's ability to find Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson.