Chris Simms' Week 5 NFL Picks
There's a common philosophy in the NFL that the season is a long one. You might not view games in Week 5 as particularly important, but I'm here to tell you that every game this week is meaningful.
Every NFL organization I was with broke the season down into quarters. Heading into the second month of the season was big because it represented a chance for an almost-new start. Jon Gruden would stress this idea, and sometimes he'd even put an assistant like Mike Tomlin in charge of motivating the team and sparking changes for the new quarter.
What does this mean for Week 5 in 2017? It means that 1-3 and 0-4 teams have a chance to kick off a new chapter with new-found confidence. Teams that are 2-2 have the opportunity to start the second month with a record above .500—and I promise you that being below .500 in October is a sinking feeling. Any team that manages to get to 4-1 this week will carry a whole lot of momentum moving forward.
This is also the week when we're going to figure out what teams are truly made of. Can a 2-2 team like the Houston Texans cement itself as a threat in the AFC? Are the Cincinnati Bengals as bad as their first-month record would indicate? Is the Patriots defense really enough of a liability to pull the perennial contender down into the depths of the also-rans?
Are there any truly great teams this season, or will there be a bunched pack at the top?
We should have some answers—and plenty of teams are going to have new attitudes—once Week 5 reaches completion. How do I see the week shaking out? Let's take a look.
New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon), Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Thursday night games are always weird, and that stinks because we could be cheated out of an awesome matchup if that's the case again this week. Regardless, Thursday's game between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries plenty of implications.
It's been well documented that the Patriots defense has had too many blown coverages this season. That's scary against a team like Tampa Bay. However, I believe the Patriots will simplify things for this matchup in order to minimize risk. The big thing is that New England should have a better plan to eliminate deep passes.
Defensively, the Buccaneers are at a disadvantage because players like Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David and T.J. Ward are all dealing with injuries. This is a big problem for a defense that struggles to rush the passer because Tom Brady will have the time to exploit holes in the back end.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Buccaneers 20
San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
The San Francisco 49ers offense should be able to move the ball and score points against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts defense is not great, it doesn't have a special pass rush, and the secondary has issues too. The 49ers have also proven their ability to run the ball, and Kyle Shanahan always seems to find ways to create a few long plays down the field.
The question is whether or not 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer can avoid that one big mistake that ends up costing the team. He's had a penchant for turnovers this season, and he missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone in overtime last week.
Indianapolis can do positive things on offense. There are weapons on the outside that can scare the San Francisco secondary, and Jacoby Brissett is playing solid ball in a tough situation.
What I look at here is the San Francisco defense overall. The front seven is good, and the Colts should struggle to run the ball consistently. I'm not sure Indianapolis can get enough out of its passing game to gash the secondary with any regularity. While the San Francisco secondary isn't special, it's still solid.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Colts 20
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), First Energy Stadium, Cleveland
The New York Jets might not have a ton of receivers who will scare a defense, but their run game has come alive, and Josh McCown is a capable quarterback. The Jets do enough scheme-wise that they should be able to move the ball up and down the field on the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland might have Myles Garrett back this week, but the back end of the defense is devoid of special talent.
The Browns are going to struggle to move the ball offensively. DeShone Kizer has shown promise as a rookie quarterback, but he has no reliable weapons around him. Cleveland cannot run the ball, and it doesn't have a receiver who is going take the top off a defense. The Browns offensive line, on paper, is good, but it seems to have some issues.
The Jets, meanwhile, have a strong defensive line and a solid back seven behind it. I don't see anything in this matchup that truly favors Cleveland.
Prediction: Jets 20, Browns 16
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
The game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers is going to feature a pair of phenomenal defenses. Pittsburgh's defense, in particular, is a lot better than people probably realize.
The Steelers have arguably the best front seven in football. That makes it hard to believe the Jaguars run game will be able to get going in a big way. The Steelers know the Jaguars want to lean on the run game, and they're going to make Blake Bortles beat them.
It's hard to trust Bortles in that situation.
The Steelers could have a hard time moving the ball themselves. However, their running game has gotten better each and every week, and this allows Pittsburgh to pound the ball, utilize play action and hit the occasional deep pass to Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant.
The Jaguars defense is great. Yet it cannot stop all of Pittsburgh's weapons for four full quarters, and Bortles and Co. aren't likely to rack up points if Jacksonville cannot run.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 17
Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Surprisingly, stopping the run has been a struggle for the New York Giants this season. However, the Los Angeles Chargers aren't exactly in a position to take advantage of that weakness. L.A. will probably have to lean on Philip Rivers once again, and this Giants secondary is very, very good.
I've talked about this all season, but the Chargers simply don't have enough defensive talent to shut down teams. The only two weapons on that side of the ball are Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Now, pass protection has been an issue for New York, but the team seems to be dialing in the short-passing game to help compensate.
New York has more than enough weapons in the pass game to threaten L.A.'s questionable secondary.
Both teams are winless and will be desperate here. However, the Chargers are traveling across the country and playing a game that is 10 a.m. their time. That's a big disadvantage on top of a game that already doesn't favor Los Angeles.
Prediction: Giants 24, Chargers 21
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bengals are still a good football team. They're certainly the best of the 1-3, 0-4 teams. They'll be at home, they've figured out how to get A.J. Green going, and they have weapons at the running back position.
However, this is a Buffalo Bills team that is playing smart football. I'm not sure if Cincinnati is creative enough to take advantage of the Bills because Buffalo plays a style that forces a team to execute flawlessly all the way down the field to win.
The Bills could also have some difficulty on offense. They don't have a ton of downfield weapons, and running against Cincinnati's talented defensive front could be a problem.
Ultimately, this is going to be a physical, close football game. That favors the Bills because that's exactly the type of game Buffalo has been winning this season. The Bills are accustomed to pulling out close games, which only adds to the toughness Sean McDermott has brought to Buffalo.
Prediction: Bills 19, Bengals 16
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Ford Field, Detroit
The Carolina Panthers finally got their offense going in Week 4, but we can't sit here and say the offense is fixed. A lot of the big plays the Panthers found came as a result of defensive breakdowns by the Patriots. Carolina is going to find it much more difficult to get chunk plays against the Detroit Lions.
The Lions defense is big up front and it is physical. That's going to help counter the power of the Panthers in the run game. I also stand by my belief that Teryl Austin is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, and I think he'll bring enough creativity to counter Cam Newton and the passing game.
Now, the Lions offense isn't going to have an easy time either. However, the fact there aren't any dominant pass-rushers on the Carolina defense is going to be huge. We know Matthew Stafford can slice up a defense if he has time. The fact the Panthers don't have great man-to-man cornerbacks also favors the Lions.
If the Panthers have to play zone defense all game long, Stafford is going to start poking holes in the secondary with regularity.
Prediction: Lions 24, Panthers 20
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
If the Tennessee Titans have to rely on Matt Cassel at quarterback, it could cause the team problems against the Miami Dolphins. Pass defense has been Miami's biggest weakness this season, and Cassel isn't equipped to fully take advantage of it.
The Titans haven't exactly been eating teams up with their passing game anyway. They've been relying on the run, and that's something Miami has been pretty good at defending.
What scares me about the Dolphins is the amount of travel the team has already seen this season. The Dolphins had to fly out to L.A. for their first game, fly up the coast in Week 3 and just got back from London. I promise you that travel will take a toll on players.
Ultimately, though, this isn't a good matchup for the Titans. The Dolphins are allowing fewer than 80 rushing yards per game and will be able to gear up to stop the run even more with Cassel under center. If Miami can get the run game going, Jay Cutler and Adam Gase should be able to cook up enough big plays in the pass game to come out on top.
Prediction: Dolphins 20, Titans 17
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
The Arizona Cardinals have the receiving weapons to take advantage of the Philadelphia Eagles secondary. The problem is that pass protection has been horrendous for Arizona, and the Eagles have one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL.
Philadelphia should be able to overpower Arizona's offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, though, Arizona has the pieces to make life tough on Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense. The defensive front is good, and Philadelphia isn't likely to run the ball the way it has in recent weeks. There's enough talent in the secondary to really challenge Wentz and the Eagles' mediocre group of receivers.
Patrick Peterson can match up with any one of Philly's receivers all game long, which allows the Cardinals to do some creative things in coverage.
This is going to be a close, low-scoring game. I'm going to pick the Eagles because they're at home and because I don't think there's any way the Cardinals can protect Carson Palmer for four quarters against the Philadelphia defense on the road.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Cardinals 20
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California
Injuries are going to play a big part in the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Oakland Raiders. Baltimore is without two of its best defenders in Brent Urban and Brandon Williams. The Raiders are without starting quarterback Derek Carr.
Now, I was encouraged by what I saw from Oakland backup EJ Manuel against the Denver Broncos in Week 4. However, the way Oakland's offensive line has been playing (not well) is reason for concern. Baltimore's defense—even though it's beat up—is still one of the best in football.
Offensively, the Ravens need to get more out of their running game, and Joe Flacco needs to play better. Period. Some of his mistakes have cost the team and ruined things for the defense. He may be able to turn things around against a Raiders defense that is playing better but is still suspect.
The Ravens match up well with the Raiders, especially with Manuel under center instead of Carr. I have faith that Dean Pees and the Ravens defense will confuse Manuel enough to force some mistakes. I expect a low-scoring game, which is the type Baltimore is built to win.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Raiders 16
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Rams are definitely an improved team. There's no doubt about it. However, I'm not sold on them being a playoff team yet. This game against the Seattle Seahawks is going to tell us a lot about where the Rams really are.
It's going to be difficult for the Rams to consistently move the ball on the Seattle defense, which is still one of the best in the NFL—even without Cliff Avril. Points could be at a premium for L.A.
The Seahawks seem to have found their formula for getting points too. Relying on Russell Wilson and the passing game is opening things up for the running game, and stopping the run has been an issue for the Rams. Seattle may have found something in running back J.D. McKissic, and if he can get going, watch out.
Seattle is the more battle-tested team in this matchup, and that gives it the mental edge.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Rams 16
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
You have to be concerned about the run defense of the Green Bay Packers (19th in the NFL) against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys run game. You also have to be concerned about the health of the Packers offensive line.
However, you cannot dismiss the fact that Dallas' offensive line and the Cowboys run game aren't as dominant as they were last year. You also cannot overlook the reality that the Cowboys defense has zero legitimate difference-makers outside of perhaps DeMarcus Lawrence.
This is a Green Bay defense that is more talented on the back end than in years past. If the Packers can sell out on the run and force Dak Prescott to beat them, that will put Dallas at a big disadvantage.
There isn't enough talent on Dallas' defense to stop Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have the advantage in a shootout, and even in a close contest, I have to side with the Magic Man and the Packers to pull it out in the end.
Prediction: Packers 27, Cowboys 24
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), NRG Stadium, Houston
This has "trap game" written all over it for the Kansas City Chiefs. They're coming off a short week, they're being told they're the best team in football, and now they have to go on the road in prime time and play a very good team in the Houston Texans.
The Texans and Deshaun Watson are hot right now, and they're believing in themselves.
Even with all the weapons the Chiefs have on offense, this is going to be a tough test for them. The Houston defense is for real.
When I look at Houston versus the Kansas City defense, I like Watson and the Texans. Now, the Chiefs defense is really good too; let's not overlook that. With the way Watson is moving and playing right now, though, he can really give it problems.
The Chiefs have a tendency to give up long plays in the passing game. However, they also do a good job of forcing field goals in the red zone. The question is whether or not the Texans can get touchdowns where teams like the Washington Redskins have failed this year. I say yes, and I believe the Texans announce themselves as legit contenders this week.
Prediction: Texans 23, Chiefs 20
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Soldier Field, Chicago
The Minnesota Vikings have one of the top three defenses in the NFL right now. Everything they do on that side of the ball is special. The Vikings are going to make things hard on the Chicago Bears and Mitch Trubisky—who is making his first ever NFL start.
The Bears should try to establish dominance along the offensive line and in the run game to help Trubisky. The problem is that the Vikings have the cover corners to match up with Chicago's weapons one-on-one. Minnesota can leave them on an island and sell out to stop the run and to pressure Trubisky in the pocket.
Not having Dalvin Cook is going to be an issue for the Vikings offensively. However, Case Keenum has been doing positive things in the passing game in the absence of Sam Bradford. The Vikings have enough weapons in the passing game to take advantage of an underwhelming Bears secondary.
All Keenum needs to do is get the ball to his playmakers and protect the football. If not for turnovers, he and the Vikings probably would have beat the Lions in Week 4, and Detroit certainly has a more talented team and a more experienced quarterback than Chicago does.
Prediction: Vikings 19, Bears 17