Chris Simms' Week 16 NFL Picks
This is an exciting time of year for NFL fans because the playoff chase is hitting full stride. This year is especially exciting because there are a lot of teams still in the mix. In fact, 13 of the 16 games this week hold some sort of playoff implications.
This is also a time of year that should remind everyone that the guys on the field whom so many idolize are people too. They can get just as excited and emotional as the wildest of fanatics.
This is especially true for players in the postseason hunt. For the first time all year, you start to become a fan of other teams—or more accurately, certain teams' opponents—because they can potentially impact your playoff chances or postseason standings.
You don't tend to pay attention to other games, but you do late in the season. When I was lucky enough to be involved in some playoff hunts, I'd catch myself watching the scoreboard during games. Heck, sometimes we'd gather as a team and watch other games in the locker room.
It's human nature to be curious about another team when that team's loss might guarantee you home-field advantage in the postseason.
It's an interesting time for players because you don't always know what to expect either. Playoff-bound teams cannot just expect to roll over bad teams because those teams want to win too. Most guys in the NFL love playing the game. They love winning even more. And many are playing out the season for their jobs.
Let's not forget that these guys have families too. They'll have those families, the holidays and plenty of other things on their minds even as they're running out of the tunnel.
There's something at stake for every member of the NFL this time of year—as players and as people. Expect every game in Week 16 to have some energy behind it, even those few that don't have playoff implications.
Here's how I see the week unfolding.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
When: Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET (NFL Network), M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano came from the Baltimore Ravens, so there's going to be some familiarity between the two teams. However, familiarity won't be enough to get Indianapolis a win.
The Ravens are hot right now, and they have something to play for. Their defense is good, Joe Flacco's play has improved, and Alex Collins has brought life to the run game. The Colts, meanwhile, lack the offensive weapons needed to threaten the Baltimore defense.
The Colts might be able to hang tough against the run game, but they have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. A few deep throws from Flacco should be enough to produce the points the Ravens need.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Colts 17
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
When: Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
There's no Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers. Their season is officially over. That will allow them to play freely, but the Minnesota Vikings are quite simply one of the best teams in football.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley had just been finding his rhythm when the Packers pulled him for Rodgers. Now Hundley is back in the lineup and going against a terrific Minnesota defense. Expect him to struggle.
The Vikings won't struggle on offense. They can run the ball well, and they can get big plays out of Case Keenum, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. While the Packers do play hard defensively, they aren't talented enough to stop Minnesota for four full quarters.
Prediction: Vikings 28, Packers 13
Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
If the Los Angeles Rams can stop the Tennessee Titans' run game, they should win. Run defense is the only real weakness L.A. has shown, and running the ball is the only thing the Titans do really well.
However, the Rams have shown the ability to buckle down and slow the run when it's their primary goal. They usually struggle more when facing teams that are more pass-heavy because they cannot focus as much on just the one area. Tennessee's passing game isn't a major threat, so the focus should be on the run.
The Titans are a team going in the wrong direction. The Rams are a team that continues to get better. Their offense has too many weapons—Todd Gurley should be in the MVP conversation—and the defense is too good at rushing the passer and creating chaos up front. I don't trust Marcus Mariota to carry his team against L.A. at all.
Prediction: Rams 24, Titans 20
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
This matchup between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills is the Rob Gronkowski revenge game. Gronk had better have his head on a swivel. I don't think the Bills will do anything dirty, but Gronkowski is definitely a marked man.
Buffalo will be looking to hit hard in this game, but the Patriots have the advantage. They're at home, and they desperately need a win to keep the top seed in the AFC. There could be a bit of a letdown after last week's dramatic win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it won't last long.
The Bills don't do enough on the offensive side of the ball to scare the Patriots once they tighten up. Buffalo essentially has three weapons—Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay—and the Patriots should be able to handle them. I like the Bills defense, but the Patriots offense is special. Don't expect this one to be close in the end.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 20
Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Soldier Field, Chicago
This is a game the Cleveland Browns can win. They match up well with the Chicago Bears.
Cleveland can slow down Chicago's rushing attack and can make life rough on Mitch Trubisky. Plain and simple, though, I'm not going to pick the Browns to win a game until they show me they're capable of doing so. They've had chances, but they keep failing to execute at the end of games.
I expect the Browns to keep things close, but Chicago has the better run game, the better quarterback and home-field advantage. I'll give them the edge in a close one.
Prediction: Bears 23, Browns 20
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints played each other a couple weeks ago, and Atlanta was clearly the better team on that night.
This time, though, the Saints are playing at home. That gives them an edge, as does the fact Marshon Lattimore has now been back for a couple games. The game in Atlanta was his first back from injury after a two-week layoff. He wasn't in 100 percent game shape, and against Julio Jones, that's a problem. He'll be better in the rematch.
The Saints are dealing with some injuries—Alex Okafor is out, Andrus Peat has been in and out of the lineup—but they have enough healthy talent to beat Atlanta. Remember, the Saints lost Alvin Kamara early in the first quarter in the last battle.
The Saints run game is special, and they still have Drew Brees under center. They're at home, and they have a ton to play for. I expect them to get the job done.
Prediction: Saints 24, Falcons 21
Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bengals are a beaten team. They're beaten down physically, and they're broken mentally. On top of being blown out the past two weeks, Cincinnati has had to deal with the talk of coach Marvin Lewis leaving after the season. That's tough to deal with.
I do expect the Bengals to come out with a better effort against the Detroit Lions. They have to be embarrassed with their performances the last two weeks. There will be some pride to play for. However, the Lions are competing for an outside playoff chance.
Cincinnati has the talent to slow down the Detroit pass game, but Matt Stafford has a habit of pulling out just enough magic to win. He'll do it again this week as the Lions fight to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bengals 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dangerous, especially when Jameis Winston plays like he did on Monday night. They will be able to make some plays against the Carolina defense—at least through the air. Running will be a struggle.
However, Tampa's offensive success will come to an end eventually because the offense will be one-dimensional. When that happens, the Panthers will be able to take control of the game. Carolina has a lot of power up front, and at some point, it's going to force Winston into making one of his game-altering mistakes.
The Panthers have enough talent on offense to hang some points on the Buccaneers, especially if Cam Newton gets going on the ground. Don't expect a total blowout, but don't expect the game to stay close late.
Prediction: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
The matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs is interesting. I think it's going to be a very good game. I've liked what I've seen from the Dolphins defense the last few weeks, and the Chiefs offense seems to have regained its mojo.
The Kansas City offensive line is healthier, and that's led to a resurgence in the run game. The problem for the Chiefs is that their defense still struggles at times. Miami has its own standout run game behind Kenyan Drake, and Jay Cutler can make some big throws when he has time. The Chiefs don't have a great pass rush, so the Dolphins will be able to move the ball.
Ultimately, Kansas City will get just enough from its defense to steal a win. Darrelle Revis has looked good the last couple weeks, and it wouldn't be surprising if a few big plays in the secondary decide this one.
Arrowhead is a tough place to play, and it's where Miami's playoff hopes will come to their official end.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Dolphins 21
Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
This is one of the few matchups this week where neither team has anything to play for. Things are a little different for the coaching staffs involved. I think Vance Joseph is coaching for his job in Denver, and there could be a chance Jay Gruden is doing the same in Washington.
The Denver Broncos defense is good enough to shut out the Washington Redskins if it gets rolling. Washington's offense has been inconsistent as of late, and the Redskins are dealing with numerous injuries.
The question is whether the Broncos can avoid enough offensive and special teams mistakes to play through their defense. I don't think they completely will—especially with inexperienced Paxton Lynch at the helm—but I think they'll play well enough to beat the Redskins.
Denver has had extra time to prepare for this matchup, and the running game has been good enough that the Broncos can lean on it. Leaning on defense and the ground game is how you win an ugly, close contest, which is what this will be.
Prediction: Broncos 19, Redskins 17
Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
This isn't going to be an easy matchup for the Los Angeles Chargers. They're coming off a tough loss and playing across the country. Plus, the New York Jets have a good defense that will give Philip Rivers and Co. some problems.
I have to go with the Chargers, though, because there's no way I trust Bryce Petty to get the job done. He was very underwhelming against the Saints in a game that was closer than it should have been because of New Orleans' mistakes.
The Chargers stumbled last week, but they're still one of the better teams in football. They'll do their part to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Jets 14
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Jimmy Garoppolo is playing hot, and coach Kyle Shanahan has his San Francisco 49ers offense playing great. His defense is schematically similar to the one run by the Jacksonville Jaguars, so the 49ers will have some familiarity there.
San Francisco will have a good game plan for the Jaguars. However, Jacksonville is one of the best teams in football. Their Jimmys and Joes are so much better than anything San Francisco can accomplish with its X's and O's.
The Niners defense has been better as of late, but it isn't going to stop Jacksonville. The Jags' ability to run the ball is scary, and Blake Bortles has been playing more consistently over the last three weeks than he ever has. The Jaguars also have the NFL's best pass rush, and that's scary against a 49ers team that hasn't protected Garoppolo well.
This one should be close, but the better team will win.
Prediction: Jaguars 21, 49ers 17
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. (Fox), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
The Dallas Cowboys have been opening up holes in the run game, and Dak Prescott is playing well. Dallas really dominated the Oakland Raiders last week but made a few critical mistakes that allowed the Raiders to stay in the game. If the Cowboys avoid those mistakes, they'll beat the Seattle Seahawks.
This game will see the return of Ezekiel Elliott, and that can't be underestimated. He's a guy who can take an average hole and turn it into a huge play. Eight-yard gains with Alfred Morris can become 80-yard gains with Elliott.
We've seen the Seahawks defense break against the run this season too, like it did last week against the Rams.
Russell Wilson will be able to make some plays, but Dallas' defensive line is legit. It will be able to contain Wilson to a degree and make some big plays of its own. Don't expect Wilson to create enough magic to win this week.
Prediction: Cowboys 28, Seahawks 24
New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals
When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
This is another game that is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The only people who care about the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants right now are fans of those teams.
The Cardinals are going back to Drew Stanton at the quarterback position. He could provide a boost against a Giants defense that didn't play well but still deserves a lot of credit for playing hard last week.
However, the Cardinals have defensive talent of their own, and they have offensive weapons the Giants lack. I don't think Eli Manning will get some of the quick, easy completions he got last week. I don't think Stanton and the Cardinals will just pile up points either.
This will be a close game because these teams are very evenly matched. I'll take the home team here.
Prediction: Cardinals 23, Giants 21
Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
When: Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET (NFL Network, Amazon, NBC), NRG Stadium, Houston
The Steelers are going to be pissed off about the way they lost last Sunday. Don't be surprised if they take out their frustration on the Houston Texans.
I have a hard time believing T.J. Yates will be able to consistently move the ball against Pittsburgh. The Houston defense has been giving up a lot of big plays this season, and this is the last team you want to see when that is an issue.
Even without Antonio Brown, the Steelers will be able to create explosive plays. This will be a great week for Pittsburgh to figure out how it wants to operate without Brown, but it still has Le'Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eli Rogers.
Pittsburgh will roll.
Prediction: Steelers 31, Texans 14
Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
I'll give credit to the Raiders for playing hard and staying in the game against Dallas. The defense even looked respectable in the game, but it's still a liability. Nick Foles will give the Philadelphia Eagles enough of a passing attack to exploit it.
The Eagles will be able to run the ball down Oakland's throat too.
Offensively, the Raiders do nothing. It's bland, it's simple, and it won't consistently move the ball against an Eagles defense that is very, very talented. Philadelphia has the best defensive line in the game, and it's going to make life miserable for Derek Carr and the Raiders running backs.
Philadelphia needs to keep winning to secure the NFC's No. 1 seed. They'll do just that on Monday night.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Raiders 17