Chris Simms' Week 9 NFL Picks
Winning ugly has become a lost art in today's NFL. Football is a week-to-week affair, and teams cannot always rely on what they do best in order to win. Very few teams, though, are actually capable of doing this with any consistency.
When I was with the New England Patriots, we devised a different game plan every week. It wasn't always about playing to our strengths but more about avoiding game-killing mistakes. Sometimes, even those game plans went to crap, and we just had to make the adjustments necessary to win.
The Seattle Seahawks over the past few years haven't cared about style points. They've cared about getting the win. They're fine with winning a 12-9 defensive battle over the San Francisco 49ers. They're also fine with winning a 41-38 shootout with the Houston Texans. Getting wins is what matters.
Unfortunately, making adjustments on the fly and winning ugly isn't as easy or natural as it might sound. The Atlanta Falcons, for example, are just now figuring out that they cannot rely on a historically good offense the way they did last season. The Denver Broncos are struggling to lean on their defense like they did back in 2015. Instead of playing smart defense and trying to win low-scoring affairs, they're trying to be a balanced team—which they are not.
I bring up ugly games because there are likely to be a lot of them this week. There are plenty of evenly matched contests, and I believe all but a couple of games will come down to a field goal. In those types of games, it's usually the team that hurts itself the least that comes out on top.
So how do I see Week 9 shaking out? Let's take a look.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
In a lot of ways, this is a really evenly matched football game. Both the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets are good up front on both sides of the ball. Both defenses are also strong, which makes sense since both teams have defensively-minded coached in Sean McDermott and Todd Bowles.
The big thing, though, is that it's hard to score points on Buffalo. The Bills utilize a bend-but-don't-break pass defense that holds teams to field goals or knocks them out of the red zone more often than not. That's going to continue in this matchup.
Now, Buffalo does give up yards against the pass, but the Jets aren't built to take advantage of that. On the other side, the Jets run defense—which is 27th in the NFL—is a liability against the Bills running game.
One team has a formula for winning football games. That's the Bills. They know what they want to do, they're hot, and that's why they're 5-2. Look for Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy to make a few more plays than anyone on the Jets offense is capable of making.
Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints are playing as well as anyone in football. They're on a five-game winning streak, they're at home, and they're playing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that is struggling.
Tampa Bay's defense isn't good enough to match up with a Saints offense that can beat you however it wants. Running game, passing game, it doesn't matter.
The other big problem the Buccaneers are having is a lack of consistency on offense. This is a team that was built to tear people up in the passing game with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. That hasn't been the case, and it isn't likely to all come together on the road in a tough environment and against a good Saints defense.
Expect New Orleans to continue rolling.
Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 21
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
This is one of the matchups of the week and one of the toughest games to pick.
The Carolina Panthers defense, plain and simple, is one of the best in football. It's hard to do anything against it with any consistency. The front four is special. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are special. And the secondary is coached well.
The Falcons defense is good too, though, because it's one of the fastest in the game. It may actually have the advantage in the matchup because the Panthers offense hasn't been great—and it also just lost Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo. It'll be a fun matchup to watch because we'll get a speed-based defense against a power-based offense.
The Falcons offense, while not as good as last year, is still dangerous. The talent is there. It can be explosive, and it has the weapons needed to strike deep against the Panthers.
Expect a hard-fought, physical game that ends with Atlanta making just a couple more plays than the opposition.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Panthers 20
Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Both the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams are coming off bye weeks. That makes this game a little unpredictable because teams often come out sluggish off the bye.
The one thing we know about the Rams, though, is that they've found ways to get guys open and create big offensive plays against every opponent this season. The Giants are almost a polar opposite. They do nothing creative on offense, and with Odell Beckham Jr. out, big plays have been hard to find. The Giants also don't have the running game needed to take advantage of L.A.'s biggest defensive weakness.
The Giants defense is still good and is capable of giving L.A. a tough time. However, the Rams have the weapons and the system to find enough success against New York to get a win. The Rams defense may give up a few plays, but it will also make plays. Don't be surprised if a key sack, fumble or interception seals this one for Los Angeles.
Prediction: Rams 24, Giants 20
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
It appears Joe Flacco will be able to play, so that's definitely a boost for the Baltimore Ravens. Even with Flacco, though, their inconsistent offense—which is 31st in yards per game—may not be enough to get them past the Tennessee Titans.
As much as I respect the toughness and the physicality of the Ravens, I don't know that their 30th-ranked run defense will hold up against the Titans running game. Tennessee isn't running the ball as well as last year, but it's still a good running team. Marcus Mariota appears to be back to 100 percent too, so that's going to give the Titans a nice complement in the passing game.
Again, it's hard to trust the Ravens offense. To win, Baltimore will need its defense to dominate like it did last week against the Miami Dolphins. I don't see that happening.
Prediction: Titans 23, Ravens 16
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
This is going to be one of the most physical games of the year. The Cincinnati Bengals are ranked fifth in total defense. The Jacksonville Jaguars are sixth. This is going to be a tough, ugly game in which points will be hard to come by.
If there's going to be an ugly contest to win, I like Jacksonville's chances.
The Bengals aren't good enough on offense to take advantage of Jacksonville's worst-ranked run defense all game long. Jacksonville added Marcell Dareus before Tuesday's trade deadline to help in that area, and the Jaguars should be able to scheme against a Cincinnati offense that lacks creativity.
Jacksonville's defense can feast on that simple Cincinnati offense. The only downfield weapon the Bengals really have is A.J. Green. The Jaguars have the cornerback talent to shut him down. And on offense, Jacksonville's biggest weapon, Leonard Fournette, should make some plays.
Prediction: Jaguars 16, Bengals 13
Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
The Denver Broncos' biggest issue is themselves right now, plain and simple. Denver cannot figure out how to play through the defense enough to win. The offense and special teams consistently screw everything up. Now Brock Osweiler is under center, and I don't think he's going to carve up the Philadelphia Eagles in his first start of the season.
On the flip side, the Eagles have everything rolling right now. This is a tough matchup for them because they have a simple offense. Philadelphia relies on a physical running game and a few big plays from Carson Wentz. The Broncos have the defensive talent to counter.
The difference in this game will be Philadelphia's dominant defensive front. Osweiler has a tendency to hold on to the ball, and that's a death sentence against Fletcher Cox and Co. The Broncos won't be able to help him out by running on that defensive front. It's going to be tough for both offenses, but the Eagles are in a better position to move the ball.
Philadelphia has a formula for winning games, even an ugly one like this one will be.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Broncos 16
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), NRG Stadium, Houston
The bottom line is that the Indianapolis Colts have one of the worst defenses in football—they have the second-worst pass defense—and they're playing perhaps the hottest quarterback in the NFL. I'm talking, of course, about Houston Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson.
While I respect a lot of things about the Colts and their toughness, they're not explosive enough on offense to take advantage of the Texans defense. They can move the ball with some success against a unit that is missing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but they're not going to be able to keep up with Houston on the scoreboard.
They are playing in Houston, it's a big AFC South game for the Texans, and Watson is on fire. Expect Houston to pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Texans 34, Colts 24
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), CenturyLink Field, Seattle
If the Washington Redskins were at full strength, this would be a really tough matchup for the Seahawks. Even though Josh Norman is back, the Redskins are still an injury-hampered team right now. I don't know how much of that Washington can overcome on the road against Seattle.
This isn't the same Seahawks team we've seen in years past. The defense is ranked 17th in football, and the run defense, ranked 20th, is a weakness. However, the Redskins don't have the running game to expose it. I do think Washington will be able to move the ball some, but scoring touchdowns against Seattle is still a struggle for guys not named Deshaun Watson.
While Washington's defense is solid, it isn't going to be able to consistently contain Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are finally putting the ball in his hands and allowing him to make plays.
Seattle's firepower, a long road trip and Washington's injuries are going to be too much for the Redskins to overcome.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Redskins 20
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
This is the week. If the 49ers want to win a football game, this is the time to do it. They have a lot of things going on off the field with Jimmy Garoppolo, sure, but there are even more distractions for the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona is giving quarterback Drew Stanton his first start of the season. The Cardinals have lost two of their last three and are going on the road. I also think the 49ers realize they let one slip away the last time they played Arizona.
I think you're going to see a desperate 49ers team, and I don't trust Arizona's offense. There are problems on San Francisco's defense, but the Cardinals are without both David Johnson and Carson Palmer. Arizona may not be good enough in the running game or the passing game to take advantage.
Look for the 49ers to win at home in an upset.
Prediction: 49ers 28, Cardinals 27
Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Well, there's no Ezekiel Elliott. That's a big problem for the Dallas Cowboys. They just got the running game going and got the offense going in general. Now, their biggest weapon is being taken away.
I do think Dak Prescott will be able to move the ball and carry the team to an extent. The issue is that it's going to be difficult to contain the explosive Kansas City Chiefs offense without controlling the pace via the run. The strength of the Cowboys defense is the defensive line. Since David Irving returned to the lineup, it's been a different group. I think that will get neutralized a bit, though, against the Chiefs offensive line.
Without Elliott, the Cowboys aren't going to be able to exploit Kansas City's 28th-ranked run defense. That will be the big difference in the game.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Cowboys 23
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
This is a must-win game for the Oakland Raiders if they want any shot at getting to the playoffs. It isn't as important for the 4-3 Miami Dolphins, but it is big if they want to keep pace with the New England Patriots and Bills in the AFC East.
The problem with this game is it's a matchup of two inept offenses. Jay Cutler should be back for the Dolphins, but even with him, the offense has been inconsistent at best in Miami. The Raiders offense, which is ranked 20th overall, is one of the NFL's biggest disappointments this season.
Oakland has too much offensive talent to be playing the way it is—and I still don't understand getting rid of coordinator Bill Musgrave. The offense isn't as creative, the running game hasn't been there, and the Raiders aren't creating big plays. That's an issue against a Dolphins defense that is solid, if not spectacular.
I just have no faith in the Raiders right now because they seem incapable of putting a complete game together. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has had a few extra days to put a game plan together. That should allow Miami to win an ugly game in South Florida.
Prediction: Dolphins 23, Raiders 21
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Offensive tackle Taylor Decker returned to practice this week for the Detroit Lions, though it seems unlikely he'll play Monday. Regardless, the Lions should be able to take out a Green Bay Packers team that is missing Aaron Rodgers.
It's never easy to win on the road at Lambeau Field. However, I need to see the Packers win a game with Brett Hundley at the helm before I'll have any confidence in them. There's nothing this team has ever done elite on either side of the ball, except for No. 12.
I don't know that Hundley and the passing attack can take advantage of Detroit's questionable secondary. Conversely, the Packers have a good pass defense but an atrocious run defense. The Lions should be able to run the ball just enough to keep Green Bay defense honest and to open up some passing lanes.
This is going to be another close, ugly game. I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. That's the Lions and Matthew Stafford.
Prediction: Lions 28, Packers 24