Chris Simms' Week 11 NFL Picks
I don't like Thursday night games, and not just because they make it necessary for me to make my NFL picks before most injury reports are released. Thursday night games aren't fair to players or to fans.
First of all, Thursday games don't give players enough time to recover from their previous contests. A week isn't enough time to recover in most cases. Hell, I was only a quarterback and I'd still be nursing injuries from the previous week on Sunday afternoons. I can only imagine what it's like for linebackers, linemen and skill players.
I just don't see how the NFL can say it's all for players' safety while also asking players to suit up 96 hours after bashing their heads in on a Sunday.
Thursday games also leave coaches and coordinators with three fewer days to implement a game plan. This hurts the teams involved and usually leads to a less exciting game for fans.
That's a shame this Thursday because the Steelers and Tennessee Titans game is one of the marquee matchups of Week 11. It's definitely a great way to kick off another slate of games. Both the 6-3 Titans and 7-2 Steelers are in the playoff hunt, and both even have a shot at earning a playoff bye.
The week ends with another matchup of potential playoff teams. The Atlanta Falcons will take on the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night—and there are plenty of other great games on the schedule as well. How do I see them unfolding? Here are my game-by-game picks for Week 11.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL, Amazon, NBC), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
The first thing that jumps out at me in this game is the fact we get two Dick LeBeau-style defenses going against each other. This is a return for LeBeau to Heinz Field, and his protege, Keith Butler, is running the defense in Pittsburgh.
Tennessee is a hair underrated—even I've underrated them to a degree—and the Titans definitely shouldn't be underestimated in this game. Tennessee doesn't have any glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball, and that's something that bodes well against the Steelers. The Titans have enough size up front to make things tough on Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh run game. They're coached well enough by LeBeau and have enough pieces in the secondary to slow down the pass game as well.
The fact that it's Thursday night and is at home for Pittsburgh gives an advantage to the Steelers. They'll have the crowd behind them, and the Titans haven't had a normal week's worth of preparations to counter everything Pittsburgh does.
I also don't trust Tennessee's offense—specifically the passing game—against Pittsburgh's defense, which is one of the best in football. This should be a close game, but with the Steelers' defensive talent, Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and home-field advantage, Pittsburgh will be too much even for the surging Titans.
Prediction: Steelers 23, Titans 17
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
The matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars features two good defenses. It also features two of the worst quarterbacks in the game.
I have a hard time believing the Browns will be able to move the ball with any consistency. Who on their offense is going to scare that Jacksonville secondary? No one. That will allow the Jaguars to clamp down on the run even more.
Cleveland's defense is going to give Jacksonville all it can handle too. The way the Los Angeles Chargers played Blake Bortles last week was downright disrespectful, and I expect Cleveland to play defense the same way. The Browns are also going to gear up to shut down the run.
Ultimately, though, Jacksonville is the better team and the Jaguars are learning how to win tough, ugly games. Even with Cleveland locking down on the run, Leonard Fournette is the type of back who can wear down its defense and break enough big plays late for Jacksonville to pull away.
This should be close for much of the contest, but the Browns have yet to show they can close out a game. That isn't going to start in Week 11.
Prediction: Jacksonville 23, Cleveland 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
This is the Week 1 hurricane game. Week 11 was supposed to be a bye week for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins, but instead, we're finally getting the postponed matchup between the two.
Both of these teams are average in my eyes. I still have faith in Adam Gase, but turnovers are killing Miami. It was a 10-7 game against the Carolina Panthers on Monday night, but an interception thrown by Jay Cutler gave Carolina the ball just before the half. The next time Miami touched the ball on offense, it was 24-7.
Either one of these teams can win the game, but the one that makes the fewest mistakes will come out victorious. That's scary because Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick are two quarterbacks who tend to make mistakes.
The Miami defense is a little better than Tampa's defense, and I have more faith in the Dolphins' ability to move the ball with consistency right now. This game is also in Miami, which gives the Dolphins another slight edge in a game that was nearly a coin flip for me.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Buccaneers 23
Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
I was impressed with how physically the Green Bay Packers played last week when I watched the game film. They won that battle against the Chicago Bears, and that isn't easy to do.
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off their bye week, and the results of the bye can go either way. Sometimes, teams come out refreshed and ready. Other times, the time off makes teams sluggish at the opening whistle.
Regardless, it's still early in the Brett Hundley era, and this Packers offense is way too simple right now to have its way with a stout Ravens defense. Baltimore's run defense has been better since Brandon Williams returned, and if the Packers are going to win this game, they're going to have to lean on the run. The Ravens have had an extra week to break down the Packers offense as well.
Now, Green Bay can make life difficult on the Baltimore offense, which is poor. The Packers did a great job of slowing the Bears run game last week, and they can do the same to Baltimore. The big difference is that Joe Flacco has a few more weapons around him and definitely has more experience than Mitch Trubisky had. Green Bay won't be able to simply sell out against the run.
Expect Flacco and the Ravens to make just a few more plays, which will be enough in a physical, low-scoring game.
Prediction: Ravens 20, Packers 17
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Soldier Field, Chicago
The big question in this game is whether the Bears front can pressure and contain Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. If they can get a lot of hurries, hits and sacks—while keeping Stafford in the pocket—the Bears will win this game.
Chicago should be able to move the ball on Detroit's defense. Trubisky is better and more comfortable with each passing week. The offensive line will have another week of jelling after being shuffled around in Week 10. The big thing is that Hroniss Grasu is back at center
The run game, as we know, can be special. That's trouble for the Lions, who gave up 201 rushing yards to the Browns last week.
Chicago had a chance to win against the Packers last week but made a few key mistakes. If the Bears don't make those mistakes this week, they'll be able to pull off the upset at home.
Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 20
Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
The matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings is definitely the game of the week. The real showdown, of course, will be between the explosive Rams offense and the smothering Vikings defense.
Now, one thing that jumps out at me in that showdown is this: As explosive as the Rams offense is, it really hasn't played many great defenses yet. The good ones it has played—like the Jaguars and Seahawks—have stopped Jared Goff and Co.
The L.A. defense, while capable of forcing turnovers and making plays, isn't this dominant defense that shuts down opposing offenses. It certainly isn't on the level of Minnesota's defense. That could be the difference in this game because the Vikings offense has been quite good this year.
By the way, all of this talk of benching Case Keenum for Teddy Bridgewater has to stop. Keenum is playing better than Bridgewater ever has, and it's been nearly two years since Bridgewater was in a game. I don't know what people expect the Vikings to accomplish with a quarterback switch, but there's no need for one.
Minnesota is at home, it has weapons on offense, and I still need to see Goff play a good defense and throw into tight windows before I'll fully believe in the Rams.
Prediction: Vikings 30, Rams 24
Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), NRG Stadium, Houston
This is a match between two teams that are falling apart. Usually, it's the Arizona Cardinals I don't believe in. However, I trust the Houston Texans and Tom Savage even less.
Having Blaine Gabbert at quarterback is actually an upgrade for the Cardinals. I don't expect him to miss as many open receivers as Drew Stanton did last week. Arizona would have won that game had Stanton simply thrown the ball accurately. As long as Adrian Peterson and the ground game can keep pressure off Gabbert and set up play action, the Cardinals should move the ball just fine.
The Houston offensive game plan has been good for most of the season, but it's hard to like the way Savage has been playing. The Cardinals have had extra time to prepare for the Texans' schemes, and they still have some playmakers on defense.
It's hard to trust Savage, it's hard to trust Houston's pass defense, and the Texans feel like they've lost all drive since Deshaun Watson went down. I just cannot pick Houston to win, even at home against an inconsistent Arizona team.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Texans 17
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
The New York Giants are the worst team in football, aside from perhaps the Browns. The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid are coming off the bye week. Now, that isn't always good for teams, but if there's a coach I trust to succeed out of the bye, it's Reid.
This is trouble for the Giants, who have a very simple offense and a defense that isn't playing up to its talent level. Giving Reid two weeks to prepare could turn this into a lopsided game.
Eli Manning and the New York offense will be able to move the ball on Kansas City some, but the Chiefs can game-plan to limit big plays and force mistakes. The Giants defense is an absolute mess, and Reid will be able to draw up some big plays—and I expect him to come out with some new looks we haven't seen before.
The Chiefs are the better team. The Giants are in total disarray. This one won't be that close.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Giants 21
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
This has the potential to be another terrific game. The Washington Redskins will present an excellent test for a New Orleans Saints defense that is becoming one of the best in football—it's ranked eighth overall and fifth in scoring.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins can create big plays, and the Redskins have explosive players he can utilize. Of course, the Saints defense is going to present a great challenge for Washington as well—especially with the Superdome crowd behind it.
I've been a big fan of the way the Redskins defense has played all year long, but the New Orleans offense is a different animal. It's a machine. New Orleans has one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the NFL, and it still has Drew Brees at quarterback. The Saints offense can beat you any way it wants.
The way the Saints want to beat you is by pounding you to a pulp with the run game while Brees makes a few efficient throws. The Saints don't need the bombs-away passing attack we've seen in years past, but if the Redskins gear up to stop the run, Brees can certainly still chuck it.
This should be a close game, but it's one that also ends a rough three-game stretch for Washington, who just played the Seahawks and Vikings. It'll be too much for the Redskins to overcome. The Saints are the better team, and they'll prove it late in the game.
Prediction: Saints 31, Redskins 27
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox), StubHub Center, Carson, California
The Buffalo Bills are making a quarterback change from Tyrod Taylor to Nathan Peterman. That's interesting, but I don't know that it'll make the offense better. Against this Los Angeles Chargers pass rush, this might not be the best week to make such a change.
The L.A. defense has made a tangible turn for the better over the last few weeks. The run defense has improved, and the players seem to have a better understanding of the schemes overall.
The Bills are struggling. They aren't the most talented team, and we've known that for a while. They've been competitive because they've played sound football and haven't beaten themselves. At some point, though, you can't play to not lose. You actually have to go out and beat people, and I'm not sure Buffalo is capable of doing that.
Philip Rivers will be able to expose Buffalo's zone defense, and the Chargers will slow down both Peterman and Buffalo's run game enough to win a cross-country matchup at home.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Bills 17
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Sports Authority Field, Denver
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos both have good defenses and dysfunctional offenses. This is going to make for a physical, low-scoring, close game.
The problem for Cincinnati is that the offense is way too simple to take advantage of a Broncos defense that is still very good. The Bengals don't have weapons outside of A.J. Green, they have one of the worst run games in the NFL, and there's no creativity on the offensive side of the ball. Denver will be able to shut down the staples of Cincinnati's schemes consistently.
On the other side, Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler did show some ability to move the ball against the New England Patriots last week. Emmanuel Sanders is healthy, Demaryius Thomas is healthy, and Denver will be able to move the ball just a bit more than Cincinnati.
In a sloppy defensive struggle, I have to go with the Broncos at home.
Prediction: Broncos 19, Bengals 16
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders (in Mexico City)
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
The Oakland Raiders are coming off a bye week, and it's do-or-die for them in the AFC West. The Patriots are rolling. They're fresh, they've gotten better each week, and they're coming off a dominant performance against the Broncos. There's no chance they'll come into this game sluggish.
New England also stayed in Colorado during the week in order to better acclimate to the high altitude of Mexico City. The Raiders haven't done this. This is an advantage for the Patriots.
Of course, this game is advantage Patriots in all facets. Oakland hasn't been able to run the ball, and that isn't going to start against New England because the Patriots have size up front. Derek Carr might be able to throw the ball on New England some, but he's going to have to be perfect for the Raiders to have any chance in this game.
On the other side of the ball, I just don't see how the Raiders stop Tom Brady and Co. often enough to win this game.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Raiders 21
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
This is a desperation game for the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Eagles match up with them extremely well and will have a great scheme in place thanks to the bye week.
The Cowboys just aren't the same team without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith. The offensive line is one of Dallas' strengths, but it's weaker if Smith cannot go, and the Eagles' defensive line almost nullifies it anyway.
Dallas will have to lean on Dak Prescott, but the simplicity of the Cowboys' pass game will make it easy for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to counter.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line is Dallas' strength. Again, the Eagles have a tremendous offensive line that kind of takes that advantage away. If the Cowboys do start getting pressure on quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles can turn to their power-running game to ease that pressure and wear down the front seven. If Dallas cannot create pressure, Wentz and the passing attack will be able to expose the secondary.
The Eagles are the better team. Even if the Cowboys come out in desperation mode and Philly is a bit sloppy out of the bye, it should be able to pull out the win.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Cowboys 23
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), CenturyLink Field, Seattle
This is another game with similar defensive schemes going against each other. There's no more Richard Sherman on Seattle's side, and that's scary against this Falcons offense. Atlanta may not be as explosive as it was last year, but people seem to forget that last year's offense was a historic one.
The Falcons still have one of the best offensive units in football.
There are still concerns about Seattle's offense because it's a one-man show. As incredible as Russell Wilson can be, don't expect him to light up this speedy Atlanta defense. The Falcons have the quickness on the edge with ends and linebackers to contain Wilson. He won't be able to just run around and make some of the magical plays we've seen him make this year.
When the Seahawks have won, it's usually been because of Wilson and his incredible big plays. The Falcons are going to make more of those in this game.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Seahawks 21