Chris Simms' Week 7 NFL Picks
When NFL teams go to the Super Bowl, everyone expects them to be awesome again the next season. This is especially true when a team wins the big game. I can tell you, though, that this isn't always the case.
I was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, just months after they won the Super Bowl. Fans, media members and eventually the players around me believed we were destined to go back. I heard talk about the Buccaneers having the greatest defense of all time and chatter about a possible undefeated season.
We weren't the exact same team as the year before, though. A few things went wrong, and we finished the year 7-9.
This is why people need to realize Sunday night's big matchup between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons isn't a true rematch of Super Bowl LI. Players have come and gone on both teams. The Falcons are trying to replicate last year's identity, but that's proving difficult with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gone. The Patriots have turned the page on last year's identity and are still searching for this year's.
Identities don't just change from year to year either. The New York Giants can't play the same way with guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall done for the season. The Arizona Cardinals are more of a smashmouth rushing team with Adrian Peterson in the fold.
The teams we're seeing in Week 7 aren't the same ones we saw in Week 1. They certainly aren't the same ones we saw in 2016. Which of these teams will emerge from Week 7 with another mark in the win column? Here's how I see the week shaking out.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL, CBS, Amazon), Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
This is a big game, especially for the Oakland Raiders. They were a playoff team last year but are sitting at 2-4 and desperate. At the same time, the Kansas City Chiefs are coming off one of the most physical games we've seen this season.
The fact they are coming off such a physical and emotional game with the Pittsburgh Steelers—which resulted in the Chiefs' first loss on a short week—does play a factor. However, I just don't have a lot of faith in any aspect of the Raiders right now.
Oakland will be able to move the ball on the Chiefs, but Kansas City will be able to move the ball as well. Kansas City has the better defense and the better offensive line, and those two factors could make all the difference.
This should be a close game, but Kansas City is the better team and should be able to pull out a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Raiders 20
Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
The Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens game is a matchup of two physical defenses, certainly. However, the Vikings have the healthier defense and have had more success on offense, regardless of who has been under center.
There are too many questions with the Ravens. The offense has been inconsistent, and the defense is banged up. Quarterback Joe Flacco is playing as mistake-prone as he has in his career, and when the defense cannot dominate, Flacco and the offense have a hard time pulling their weight.
Minnesota's defense could make it difficult for the Ravens to get anything going offensively. The Vikings, meanwhile, should be able to get enough offense to put points on the board. The health of wideout Stefon Diggs will be a factor, but Minnesota should be able to move the ball even without him. Three-and-outs are common for the Baltimore offense, and an injury-weakened Ravens defense can only hold up for so many snaps.
Expect the Vikings to pull away late in a physical battle.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Ravens 13
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
The New Orleans Saints are my biggest team to watch out for over the remainder of the season. They're riding a three-game winning streak and have everything moving in the right direction. The defense is coming together, and the two-headed rushing attack of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram is legit.
The only thing not firing on all cylinders is the Saints' passing attack, and it should only be a matter of time before Drew Brees and Co. get that rolling. We know coach Sean Payton will make the offense tough to defend once they do.
When you look at the other side of the matchup, the Green Bay Packers, you have to be concerned. I watched the film from last week, and quarterback Brett Hundley certainly did some good things. However, the Packers cannot run the same offense they did with Aaron Rodgers on the field. Rodgers is too special.
Green Bay has to figure out a new way to run the offense, and I'm not sure successfully doing so in a seven-day span is possible. The Saints defense is sneaky good, and it should be a problem for an offense searching for a brand-new identity.
Prediction: Saints 24, Packers 16
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are both teams that can be all over the place from week to week. The Jets, for example, played a great game against the Patriots and lost after playing a horrible game and beating the Cleveland Browns the week before.
This is an interesting matchup because the Dolphins seem to have figured out how to get their running game going. At the same time, Miami has a stout defensive front that can make it difficult to run the ball.
The problem for the Dolphins is they have issues with the passing game. They are doing a better job of protecting quarterback Jay Cutler, but he and the rest of the aerial attack are inconsistent. At the same time, pass defense is a weakness for Miami. While the Jets don't have a truly frightening passing attack, they do some great things scheme-wise, and Josh McCown is a capable signal-caller.
This is going to be a close game, but it's one that favors the Jets.
Prediction: Jets 20, Dolphins 17
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Soldier Field, Chicago
A lot of people are going to look at the records involved in this game and think it's going to be a cakewalk for the Carolina Panthers. It's not. This Chicago Bears actually match up very well with the Panthers.
The Bears offensive and defensive lines match up with the size and the physicality of the Panthers. Carolina also lacks the dynamic passing game needed to exploit Chicago's biggest weakness, the secondary. What could make the difference in this game is how Carolina's defensive front does against Chicago's rushing attack, which is one of the best in the league.
Luke Kuechly's status will be important, but I'm not sure it's quite as important as everyone thinks. From what I've seen on tape, Shaq Thompson actually fills in well as a defensive leader.
Overall, though, the Chicago offense is a little too one-dimensional to keep the Panthers off balance. Carolina should be able to key in on the run and force rookie Mitchell Trubisky to beat them through the air.
This one should stay close for a while, but Carolina should be able to pull away late.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Bears 17
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Twickenham Stadium, London
Two weeks ago, I would have picked the Los Angeles Rams to beat the Cardinals without much hesitation. As we mentioned in the opening, though, this is a different Cardinals team. The addition of Peterson has significantly changed the dynamic.
Peterson is still a physical running back who can wear down a defense. With offensive tackle D.J. Humphries back in the lineup, the Cardinals can lean on the run more, and they can do more with the play-action passing game. Arizona showed devotion to both against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, and they'll likely use the same approach against the Rams.
This is a problem because run defense has been a weakness for L.A. If the Cardinals can get their ground attack going and use play action off that, it could be difficult for the Rams to keep pace. Sean McVay has produced the most creative offense in the NFL, but quarterback Jared Goff is still a bit mistake-prone.
The Cardinals have a top-tier defense, and it can both force Goff to make mistakes and take advantage of them. Expect somewhat of a weird game here—London games rarely unfold as expected—but expect Arizona to win the important individual matchups.
Prediction: Cardinals 28, Rams 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), New Era Field, Orchard Park, New York
As we saw last week, byes can be scary. Just because the Buffalo Bills are coming off theirs, it doesn't mean they're going to be better. In fact, when I was playing, I usually found we weren't as sharp after the bye as we would have been otherwise.
I don't think the Bills are the type of team to rest on their laurels, though. Even at 3-2, Buffalo knows it has work to do if the playoffs are going to be in the future. For a team that relies on sound defense, a strong running game and a few plays from Tyrod Taylor, this is the right attitude to have. It wants a physical, hard-fought game.
The Buccaneers are in a more desperate situation. They've lost two games in a row and are sitting in last place in the NFC South.
This isn't a great matchup for the Buccaneers with Jameis Winston injured. The Bills don't have the most potent of offenses, but the Tampa defense isn't exactly terrific. If Winston cannot go or is less than 100 percent, the Buccaneers will struggle against a defense that forces you to execute flawlessly. The Bills offense should be able to produce enough points against that Bucs defense to win.
Prediction: Bills 23, Buccaneers 16
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to have this pattern where they play a complete game every other week. If that's true, then their game against the Indianapolis Colts will be a good one.
In reality, this is a tough one to pick. The Colts pass defense is what scares me about Indianapolis, but Blake Bortles isn't going to be scaring it. The Colts have also shown the ability to run the ball at times, and Jacksonville gets gashed more than it should in the running game.
For as talented as Jacksonville is, it has a problem of running too many stunts up front, which affects gap integrity against the run. The Jaguars really need to play more straight on.
I just don't know if Jacoby Brissett and the Colts passing game can do enough against Jacksonville's secondary—which may well be the best in the league. If Leonard Fournette can keep the chains moving for the Jaguars, they'll win.
Prediction: Jaguars 27, Colts 21
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns are going back to DeShone Kizer at quarterback. Is that enough of a change to spark them against the Tennessee Titans? Maybe, but probably not to a win. Cleveland is going to come out and play hard, but it's just so difficult to pick the Browns in a football game.
Here's the thing. The Browns can limit Tennessee's ground attack. When Cleveland's front seven is healthy, as it is now, it's really hard to run on. The problem is that the Browns secondary can be a real liability—and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota can exploit that.
In my opinion, Mariota is coming off the best game of his pro career as a passer. He can continue that against the Browns.
Tennessee might not be a great team, but it's a solid one. It's the better team here, and it has the better quarterback. That should be enough to get the Titans to 4-3. This will be a closer game than people probably expect, but the Browns will find some way to lose.
Prediction: Titans 24, Browns 23
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
The Dallas Cowboys are concerning. Their defense is nothing special, and it lacks playmakers not named Demarcus Lawrence. The one thing we've seen from the San Francisco 49ers is that Shanahan finds ways to move the ball on offense. The 49ers can run the ball well, and they find ways to get explosive plays by passing.
Of course, the flip side is that the 49ers defense is also a weakness—perhaps more so than Dallas'. That's scary because Ezekiel Elliott is still eligible to play, and the Dallas offense should be at full strength.
Also, the 49ers are having quarterback C.J. Beathard make the first start of his NFL career. We saw some good things from him in his debut last week, but we also saw him narrowly avoid disaster on a few plays. While the Dallas defense isn't tremendous by any stretch, it can confuse Beathard with creative looks.
Expect this to be a high-scoring game where the more potent offense comes out on top.
Prediction: Cowboys 31, 49ers 28
Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
This is a really even matchup between two very similar teams. The Giants and the Seattle Seahawks both have offensive line issues. Both have simple and uncreative offenses. These are two teams who also have an absolute ton of talent on defense.
Expect this to be a low-scoring defensive struggle.
The Giants have changed their identity in the wake of receiver injuries. They played a lot more two-tight end sets and relied more on the run last week against the Denver Broncos, and it served them well. Because of this, there's a big part of me that wants to pick the underdog Giants.
However, New York is just a team that has struggled to get out of its own way this year. The Seahawks aren't dominant, but they do have more offensive weapons and a quarterback who can make plays on his own. In a defensive battle, that's big.
Prediction: Seahawks 19, Giants 17
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), StubHub Center, Carson, California
Hopefully, last week's loss woke up the Denver Broncos. My big concern with the Broncos this season has been quarterback Trevor Siemian. Can he rein it in and realize he doesn't have to do too much with the team around him? Can he avoid mistakes? He didn't against the Giants, and it cost the Broncos.
Really, Denver outplayed New York. When you make mistakes like missing two field goals, throwing a pick-six and turning the ball over in scoring range, however, you're going to lose. Don't expect that to happen against the Los Angeles Chargers this week.
Can the Chargers be a challenge? Sure. They beat Denver last year and almost beat the Broncos once already this season. Where the problem resides is in L.A's run defense. The Broncos can run the ball, and no one gives up more rushing yards (152.5 per game) than the Chargers.
L.A. has a dangerous passing attack, but Denver has the pass rush and the secondary to counter it. This will probably be another close one, but unless Siemian blows it, the Broncos should come out with a win.
Prediction: Broncos 21, Chargers 17
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
The Cincinnati Bengals are definitely a team to watch out for over the final 11 weeks of the season. The defense is extremely talented, especially with Vontaze Burfict totally healthy. The fact the Bengals have gotten Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis to boost the pass rush has made the defense even more impressive.
The Bengals are coming off their bye week and desperately need this game to stay in the AFC North race. The issue is that, while the offense has gotten better under Bill Lazor, they might not have enough firepower to overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the best defenses in the game.
That Bengals defense can slow down the Steelers offense to a degree, but Pittsburgh's revamped identity as a run-first team can wear the Cincinnati defense down. Ben Roethlisberger isn't likely to throw the ball 25 to 40 times in this game, but if he can hit a few big plays against a tired Bengals defense late, it should be enough.
Prediction: Steelers 20, Bengals 17
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these aren't the same Patriots and Falcons teams we saw in Super Bowl LI. That's actually a very important thing to keep in mind heading into the rematch.
The Patriots had one of the best defenses in football last season. They've been miserable for much of 2017, but that's caused Bill Belichick to find a new identity. Over the past couple of weeks, New England has employed more of a bend-but-don't-break scheme. That style has often served the Patriots well in the last decade, and it should serve them well against Atlanta.
The Falcons have put five games' worth of tape together on Steve Sarkisian's offense. Now it seems opposing teams are adjusting. Belichick will be able to adjust as well. Atlanta still has the offensive talent, but it doesn't have an offensive game plan to counter-adjust. Expect the Falcons to move the ball on New England but to settle for field goals in the red zone.
New England, meanwhile, has Tom Brady leading an offense that will score touchdowns and won't let up. The Falcons have struggled to keep their foot on the gas for four full quarters. We saw it in the Super Bowl, and we saw it in last week's loss to Miami.
Prediction: Patriots 28, Falcons 24
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
I know most people are looking forward to the Patriots-Falcons tilt, but boy, is the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles game going to be good. These are two of the best teams in the NFL right now, and certainly the two front-runners in the NFC East. With Washington a game-and-a-half back and already owning a loss to Philly, this one will be huge.
The Redskins lost the opener to the Eagles by two touchdowns, but this isn't the same Redskins team. They've gotten better on both sides of the ball, have adjusted to Jay Gruden calling the plays and have finally figured out how big of a weapon running back Chris Thompson can be.
While that Redskins defense is nothing to scoff at, the Eagles defensive front is special. If you've followed me at all this season, you know how highly I think of Fletcher Cox and the rest of the front seven. The Washington offensive line is good, but the Eagles are going to make life tough on it and on quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Overall, this is a very even matchup. What tips the scales for me is the camaraderie I saw from the Eagles in their win over the Panthers. The team feeds on the energy of coach Doug Pederson. It believes in quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles are playing true team football right now, and that's going to be the difference-maker against a team that stumbled a bit out of the bye. Washington may just now be getting back on track. The Eagles are full speed ahead on theirs.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Redskins 21