Chris Simms' Week 3 NFL Picks
Heading into Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season, it's time to realize that last year's narratives need to be left behind. We can no longer sit here and look at Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian as a place holder. We can't view the Kansas City Chiefs as a team with a conservative run-first offense. While the uniforms—and many of the faces—are still the same, there are 32 very different teams in the NFL this season.
After two weeks, we're starting to get a good idea of what those teams actually are. The first week of the season is hard to figure out because what we see in the preseason isn't always real. The second week can be hard because we don't know how much of Week 1 was altered by mistakes, poor coordination and the opening-day jitters. By now, we have a better idea of what are tangible trends.
We're still learning, though, which is why Week 3 still holds an aura of mystery. We have a pretty good idea that teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots are a cut above the rest. What about 2-0 teams like the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, though? Are they also contenders or simply teams off to a hot start?
The answer to this question should begin to present itself in Week 3. We should also start seeing the good coaches distance themselves from the average ones this week. From my time in a front office, I can tell you that the third week is when coaches really have enough film to successfully scout opponents and to fully self-scout their own teams.
Which coaches and teams will start distancing themselves in Week 3? These are my game-by-game predictions.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m ET (NFL Network), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
This is a tough game to call, it really is. The San Francisco 49ers defense is good. It's better than most expected it to be at this point. The Los Angeles Rams obviously have a solid defense as well.
As good as the 49ers defense can be—and Rams quarterback Jared Goff is still shaky—L.A. has enough weapons to put points on the board. The big issue for San Francisco is the passing game. Can Brian Hoyer make enough plays against that Rams defense to answer?
After seeing the 49ers running game explode against the Seattle Seahawks last week, I don't believe Hoyer will have to do all that much.
The Rams have the better team, but this is a home game the 49ers. Both teams are coming off short weeks. This is also a case of the teacher (Kyle Shanahan) going against the former pupil (Sean McVay). San Francisco can steal this one.
Prediction: 49ers 17, Rams 16
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars (London)
When: Sunday at 9:30 a.m. ET (Yahoo) Wembley Stadium, London
The benefit for the Jacksonville Jaguars in this game is that they have the experience of playing across the pond. This won't be a home game for the Jaguars, but this will be a more familiar environment for Jacksonville than it will be for the Ravens. That could keep the game close.
I just have to go with Baltimore, though. The Ravens have a special defense, while the Jaguars have a questionable passing attack. That will allow the Ravens to load the box and stop Leonard Fournette from taking over the game. Jacksonville is going to have a hard time moving the ball.
Baltimore is going to have a tough time moving the ball against that Jaguars defense as well. However, Joe Flacco is an experienced and poised quarterback, and he has several quality weapons at his disposal. This should be a defensive battle, but the Ravens will be able to find the end zone, while the Jaguars will struggle.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Jaguars 12
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS) New Era Field, Orchard Park, New York
I can tell you that it's never easy playing in Buffalo. That probably goes a little overlooked at times. While I'm not quite sure what the reason for it is—maybe the weather, maybe the dullness of knowing you're not on national TV—it does give the Bills a tangible home-field advantage.
This could make things a little difficult on the Broncos. So could the fact the Buffalo defense is very good. The Bills will present a formidable test for Siemian and the Broncos offense.
Ultimately, though, this is about Denver's defense. It's definitely one of the best in football. Conversely, the Bills offense lacks weapons and doesn't feature a lot of creativity. All Denver really has to worry about is LeSean McCoy and possibly a handful of wow plays from Tyrod Taylor.
With the cornerbacks on Denver's roster, the Broncos defense will be able to play man defense all game long and focus on stopping McCoy and Taylor on the ground. There isn't a receiving weapon the Broncos will need to be scared of. While Taylor is capable of making some incredible throws, he won't be able to make enough to beat Denver's man defense consistently.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Bills 13
Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS) Soldier Field, Chicago
The Chicago Bears used rookie running back Tarik Cohen as a wide receiver last week. That should tell you how desperate the team is to find weapons in the passing game. That doesn't bode well for Bears quarterback Mike Glennon, whose three turnovers were a big part of the Week 2 loss.
The Bears certainly don't have enough weapons to match up with the Steelers. If there's one weakness on the Steelers team, it's the fact Pittsburgh doesn't have a shutdown corner and is still not great in man coverage. Unfortunately, Chicago doesn't have enough talent to take advantage of that.
We know about Pittsburgh's weapons. Chicago has the front seven to match up with the Steelers offensive line. However, the Bears lack top-tier talent in the secondary. Against the likes of Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger, that's a problem.
Prediction: Steelers 28, Bears 17
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox) Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
It's hard to have a whole lot of faith in the New Orleans Saints right now. It's hard to have any faith in their defense. It's not like the Saints are facing a great offense from the Carolina Panthers, but the Panthers do have enough weapons to take advantage.
Carolina's defense, on the other hand, is very good. The front seven is tremendous. Can the Saints move the ball some on a suspect Carolina secondary? Sure. However, New Orleans is still hurt by not having Willie Snead on the field. The Panthers secondary is the team's biggest weakness, and Snead is one of the few downfield Saints targets who could truly expose it.
New Orleans should be able to play the Panthers tough. This game is in Carolina, however, and the Panthers should be able to get enough production out of Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart and the rest of the offense to pull ahead on the scoreboard.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Saints 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox) U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
As of now, I don't know the status of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford—and that's going to have a huge impact on this game. Case Keenum wasn't awful playing in his place last week, but he can't stretch the field the way Bradford can.
This makes things tricky because otherwise, this is a strength vs. strength matchup. The Vikings have one of the top defenses in the NFL, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the type of offense that can challenge it. Jameis Winston is an aggressive thrower, and now the Buccaneers obviously have the deep-ball weapons to go with him.
The Buccaneers offense is a lot of fun to watch, and it's going to be tough to defend this season—for any defense.
The question in this game is whether or not the Vikings can get enough out of their offense to answer Winston and Co. That very much comes down to whether Bradford can go. If he can't, I think the Buccaneers take this one. If, however, the Vikings get good news and Bradford is able to suit up, I think Minnesota wins at home.
Prediction (w/o Bradford): Buccaneers 24, Vikings 20
Prediction (w/Bradford): Vikings 27, Buccaneers 23
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS) Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts are two teams that have better defenses than people realize. They also have better offensive lines than people realize. Unfortunately, both teams are also hampered by having inexperienced quarterbacks under center.
Neither has shown the ability to win a football game this year either.
Someone has to win this one, though (hopefully it isn't a tie). This is going to be close, but the Colts have home-field advantage and a slight edge in the quarterback-experience department. They should be able to win an ugly one.
Prediction: Colts 19, Browns 17
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS) MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
I still have major concerns about the Miami Dolphins pass defense, especially with no Lawrence Timmons. The Dolphins traded for Stephone Anthony, but he isn't likely to have a big impact on the defense this week.
The New York Jets defense, though, is still a formidable unit. There is enough talent there to give Jay Cutler and the Miami offense problems. If the Jets' impressive front can shut down Jay Ajayi and the ground game, there's going to be a ton of pressure on Cutler too.
Even though the Jets lack playmakers on offense, their scheme is good enough and Josh McCown is good enough to take advantage of a poor back seven for Miami. Let's not forget Miami is back on the road after making the cross-country trip to Los Angeles.
New York has the better defense, home-field advantage and will pull off the upset.
Prediction: Jets 20, Dolphins 19
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS) Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
The Houston Texans defense is going to be a pain in the butt for the Patriots. We saw it last year in the playoffs, and we're likely to see it again on Sunday. This is still a really good defense.
The problem for Houston is having the inexperienced Deshaun Watson at quarterback. While he did have a big touchdown run last week, he isn't likely to have much running room against the Patriots. Bill Belichick will make sure of that. His No. 1 priority will be making Watson sit in the pocket and win with his arm.
Unfortunately, Watson has shown little ability to win with his arm, in the preseason or even last week.
This is a game where Houston's defense may keep the Texans in it for a little while. Eventually, though, New England is going to have too much on the offensive side and will pull away.
Prediction: Patriots 30, Texans 13
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox) Ford Field, Detroit
This is one of the best games of the week, hands down. Atlanta's defense is in the conversation for one of the best in football. It certainly could be the fastest in football. That defense is going to have a challenge, though.
We talked about changing narratives in the opening. One that has to change is the narrative that Matthew Stafford has to make magic for the Lions to win. Detroit now has a solid line, an emerging running game and a very underrated defense.
The Lions have a defensive line that can slow down Atlanta's running game. They have just enough talent in the secondary to slow down Atlanta's passing game. Conversely, we saw Detroit handle the New York Giants defense on the road last week—and the Falcons defense isn't as good as New York's.
The Lions are playing at home this week and will pick up another win.
Prediction: Lions 24, Falcons 21
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox) Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Speaking of the Giants, they'll be looking for their first win on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles. This is another game that should evolve into a defensive struggle.
The Giants have the weapons on the outside to take advantage of the lack of cornerback talent on Philadelphia's defense. However, the Eagles have one of the best defensive lines in all of football, and the Giants' offensive line is shaky at best. It won't help that Eli Manning isn't exceptionally mobile and the New York offense isn't creative.
Philadelphia should be able to steamroll the Giants up front.
On the other side, though, the Eagles don't have a ton of weapons who can challenge the Giants defense. New York also has a front four that is one of the best in football, to go with an exceptional secondary. That defense can slow the Philadelphia offense. With Odell Beckham Jr. a week healthier, the Giants will be able to answer.
In a game like this, I'll take the more desperate team. That's New York.
Prediction: Giants 20, Eagles 17
Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox) Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
The Seahawks struggled offensively at home against the San Francisco 49ers last week. They've had arguably the worst offense in the NFL through two weeks. That's worrisome. Now they have to go east to take on a much better team in the Tennessee Titans. Seattle also has to try its offense against Dick LeBeau.
We know the Seattle defense is good, but it was gashed on the ground by the 49ers last week. Tennessee has a phenomenal run game that features Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. It also had its way last week against a Jaguars defense that is very similar to Seattle's.
There isn't a lot in this matchup that favors the Seahawks—at least with the team playing like it is right now. If the Titans want to prove they're a playoff team, these are the games they need to win. They couldn't get it done against the Raiders in Week 1. They will this week.
Prediction: Titans 19, Seahawks 17
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), StubHub Center, Carson, California
The Los Angeles Chargers have a great passing game. There's no doubt about that. Philip Rivers can wheel it and deal it, and he has guys like Travis Benjamin, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates at his disposal. What should scare Chargers fans is the fact there isn't a lot of defensive talent on the team.
Outside of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, there isn't going to be much for the Kansas City Chiefs offense to worry about in this one. Casey Hayward is a good corner, but without Jason Verrett, the secondary is underwhelming.
With Kansas City coming to town, this is a scary matchup. The Chiefs are good at every level of their defense. They have enough big people to stop the run game, and they have enough corner talent to at least slow L.A.'s passing attack down.
As we've seen through two weeks, the Chiefs now have the weapons on offense to also score points in bunches.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 21
Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
The Cincinnati Bengals have had a long week to prepare, and they've spent it hearing about how terrible their offense is. I definitely think the Cincinnati offense will have some tricks up its sleeve.
The Bengals defense is good too, there's no doubt about that. Injuries to Green Bay's offensive line could cause major problems for the Packers offense. The health of Jordy Nelson and Mike Daniels, the team's best defender, will also play a part in the outcome of this game.
Cincinnati is a better team than their record would indicate. The Bengals are also the only team—other than the Packers, of course—Aaron Rodgers has never beaten. Still, this is going to be a pissed-off Packers team returning home and looking to rinse out the taste of last week's loss.
Green Bay is currently favored by nine points, according to Odds Shark. I think that's ludicrous, but I do think the Packers pull out a close one.
Prediction: Packers 24, Bengals 21
Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. (NBC), FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
We know the Oakland Raiders offense is pretty awesome. The Washington Redskins are now going to provide a stern test for the Raiders defense.
The Raiders defense has looked better this year. Oakland is big up front, it has a premier sack artist in Khalil Mack, and there's a lot of team speed in the back seven. However, there's some inexperience on the defense as well. Because of that, Kirk Cousins and Co. should be able to make some big plays from time to time.
While the Redskins defense is also improved, it probably hasn't improved enough to slow all of the weapons the Raiders have on their offense. Expect there to be some degree of offensive back-and-forth in this game, but Oakland will ultimately make more plays that matter.
This is prime-time football, and the Raiders have been aching to show the world what they're capable of. They'll do it, and they'll take home a win in the process.
Prediction: Raiders 31, Redskins 27
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
As we saw last week, there isn't a lot to write home about with the Dallas Cowboys defense. Aside from perhaps Demarcus Lawrence, there isn't a playmaker on that unit. There are plenty of good players, but no one special.
The Dallas offense should be embarrassed with how it played last week, but it's easily the better side of the ball. However, it will be going against an Arizona Cardinals defense that is also very, very good. If Arizona's defense can play the Dallas offense to a stalemate, the Cowboys could again be in trouble.
Ultimately, though, I don't trust Carson Palmer and the Arizona offense. The Cardinals are without David Johnson, and they just seem to have found a knack for screwing things up over the past two years.
I think Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will make just enough plays to pull ahead late. They're the type of offensive playmakers the Cardinals don't have right now, and they'll be the difference.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 24