Chris Simms' Week 17 NFL Picks

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 28, 2017

Chris Simms' Week 17 NFL Picks

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    Picking NFL games in Week 17 can be tricky. It's hard to know which teams are going to rest starters and which are going to put forth inspired performances.

    Obviously, there are teams that have a lot to play for in Week 17. Some are fighting just to get into the postseason. Others are jockeying for seeding. These teams are going to treat things like a normal week—and they might even ramp up the intensity.

    Teams that are locked into playoff positions are a different story. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, slacking off in the final week would be a bad idea because they're heading into a bye and need to remain sharp. Some teams without a shot at the bye, however, will rest starters in games that have no meaning.

    The Los Angeles Rams are one such team.

    Teams that have no shot at the postseason are yet another story. They have to find their own forms of motivation—whether it's trying to reach 8-8, finishing the season strong or aiming to send a coach out on a high note. With these teams, the path of their seasons can play a role too.

    Take a team like the San Francisco 49ers. They were awful at the start of the year, but now they're reeling off wins with new star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. They're going to want to keep it up for the finale. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, on the other hand, have been in the playoff hunt all season and only recently fell out of the race. Their players may relax a little bit to end the year.

    These are all reasons why Week 17 can still be fun, exciting and unpredictable, even with much of the playoff picture already painted. These are also things I take into consideration when trying to predict the regular season's final week.

    Here's how I see it unfolding.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Ford Field, Detroit

    Neither the Green Bay Packers nor the Lions have a shot at making the playoffs. However, these are two rivals who are still going to engage in a heated finale.

    While I like the way head coach Mike McCarthy has gotten his team prepared to go all season long—and believe me, the Packers have fought hard—I have to go with the home team here. The Lions will have the crowd behind them, and they'll still have Matthew Stafford under center. The defenses and running games for both teams are lackluster, so this is going to come down to a matchup of quarterbacks.

    I'm taking Stafford over Brett Hundley every time.

    Plus, Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell still may be coaching for his future. He'll find a way to motivate his team, and Stafford will find enough magic to knock off the Packers.

    Prediction: Lions 24, Packers 17

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

    The Minnesota Vikings didn't have their sharpest offensive performance last week against the Packers. Expect them to try to right the ship this week and send the offense out on a positive note. A win over the Chicago Bears earns them a bye, and they'll want to have as little rust as possible in the postseason.

    Now, I do expect the Bears to keep things close for a while. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is playing well, and the defensive front seven can give the Vikings some trouble. Chicago will be eager to end Trubisky's rookie campaign with its third win in four games.

    However, Minnesota is clearly the better team here—and by a significant margin.

    I got to see the Vikings in person last week, and let me tell you, the size of their skill players is astounding. You can't appreciate how big guys like Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are by watching them on television.

    It's amazing just how big, fast and physical Minnesota is at virtually every position. It'll be able to pull away from Chicago late and secure itself a break to open the postseason.

    Prediction: Vikings 24, Bears 14

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

    This is another game between two teams with little to play for. I'm not quite sure what the Houston Texans' quarterback depth chart will look like this week—the team is looking at bringing in another backup for T.J. Yates—but regardless, they're limping into the offseason.

    Houston has been battered all season and has lost some of its best players to injury. Still, I expect the Texans to fight hard for head coach Bill O'Brien, who deserves to return in 2018. With that said, though, fighting hard is the one aspect I've loved about the Indianapolis Colts all year.

    Indianapolis is not going to be outmuscled or outworked by Houston. The Colts also have home-field advantage and the better quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.

    Plus, they may be fighting to get head coach Chuck Pagano a win in what could very well be his final game with Indianapolis. I believe the team will do just that.

    Prediction: Colts 28, Texans 24

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

    It's hard to tell exactly how many starters will suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week or how long they'll play. Conventional wisdom, though, says the team will go all in for a win in Week 17. While Pittsburgh has already secured a first-round bye, it can still earn the AFC's No. 1 seed with a win and a New England Patriots loss.

    Unless head coach Mike Tomlin looks at the scoreboard and sees the Patriots with a 40-point third-quarter lead, expect to see the first string for the majority of this game.

    Even if the Steelers do decide to rest some key players, they'll have enough firepower to defeat the Cleveland Browns. After all, we're talking about one of the most dangerous teams in football and the league's most inept.

    I do expect Cleveland to battle hard in its last shot to get a lone 2017 win. Oddly enough, I think it'll keep the game surprisingly close too. The Browns just have a habit of making key mistakes, though, and as I've said all season, I have to see them win one before I'll pick them.

    Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 17

New York Jets at New England Patriots

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

    The New England Patriots need to have this game if they want to stay out in front of the Steelers in the AFC. The last thing they can afford to do is slip up against the rival New York Jets and cost themselves home-field advantage.

    This is similar to the situation New England found itself in back in 2015. The Patriots lost the finale to the Miami Dolphins and eventually had to meet the Denver Broncos on the road in the AFC title game. Anyone who has followed Peyton Manning's career knows how all of that played out.

    The Jets can make things difficult on the Patriots too. Their defense is stout, and offensive coordinator John Morton gets enough out of his skill players to test New England's defense. However, I just have no faith in the Jets with Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg at quarterback.

    Petty isn't a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, but he's New York's best healthy option. That's enough for me to believe the Patriots will secure the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row.

    Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 17

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

    I do believe this will be Eli Manning's last game with the New York Giants. It could very well be his last game as an NFL quarterback period. Expect Manning's teammates and the New York crowd to be fully behind him.

    Still, I don't think it will be enough for the Giants to send Manning out with a win. They are a mentally exhausted team that has dealt with turmoil all season. Now it has to deal with suspended cornerback Eli Apple and decide what to do with him in the offseason.

    The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, are physically beaten but not broken. They've suffered numerous injuries at key positions throughout the year, but they still have a chance to finish 8-8. That's big.

    A .500 season may be enough to convince Washington it should keep the core of the team—including head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins—intact. They'll get to .500 with a hard-fought win over the Giants.

    Prediction: Redskins 31, Giants 27

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Fox), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

    This is yet another game between teams with nothing to play for. The Cowboys are out of the playoff mix after losing to the Seattle Seahawks last week. The Eagles are locked into the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

    Of the two, I expect Philadelphia to come out with more of a fighting spirit.

    The Eagles offense struggled last week against the Oakland Raiders. In fact, they were lucky that Ronald Darby snagged the late-game interception that set up a game-winning field goal. It was good to see the defense play well again after a few weeks of subpar action, but Nick Foles and the offense were concerning.

    Look for the Eagles to come out and try to get Foles and the offense into an early rhythm. They want to get the backup-turned-starter some confidence and more playing time with the starters before the bye. Expect enough first-stringers to play to win an ugly one.

    The Cowboys may play their starters as well, but that may not matter. I think after last week's loss, Dallas is ready to pack it in.

    Prediction: Eagles 17, Cowboys 14.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

    The Tennessee Titans need a win here in order to get into the postseason. The Jacksonville Jaguars have already punched their ticket. However, I expect Jacksonville to come out just as hard as it would if the playoffs were on the line.

    There are two reasons for this. The first is that the team just got embarrassed by the 49ers. This isn't what the Jaguars are going to want to remember heading into the postseason. They'll want to cleanse that bad taste with a win in Week 17.

    Jacksonville will also want to keep the Titans out of the postseason. As a player, you never want to see the same team three times in a season. That's especially true when that team's strengths play well against your weaknesses.

    In this case, the Titans' best asset is their running game. Jacksonville's biggest weakness is run defense. The Titans ran the ball down the Jaguars' throats in Week 2 and earned a 37-16 victory. Jacksonville must ensure that doesn't happen a second time so that it can't happen a third.

    Expect the Jags defense to lock down on Tennessee's running game and for Blake Bortles to outplay Marcus Mariota just enough to get the win.

    Prediction: Jaguars 19, Titans 17

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

    When Jameis Winston and the passing game get hot the way they did last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can be tough to beat—especially at home. The problem is that their defense has too often struggled to close out games.

    The New Orleans Saints defense, on the other hand, has played well this season and has done its part to nab a few wins. It should be able to do enough to slow down Winston and Co. so that the Saints can lean on their special rushing attack in this one.

    When New Orleans is running the ball well and can remain balanced on offense, it is nearly impossible to defend. That's what should happen against the Buccaneers because Tampa simply lacks playmakers on defense.

    The Saints need this game to lock up the NFC South. They'll fight hard on both sides of the ball and get their win.

    Prediction: Saints 27, Buccaneers 20

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

    One thing I find strange about the Atlanta Falcons is the fact they don't seem to have a set offensive game plan. Coordinator Steve Sarkisian seems to just call whatever's next on the play sheet, with no rhyme or reason.

    The Carolina Panthers, on the other hand, know who they are and what they want to do. They know the offense runs through Cam Newton, and they're going to feature him as much as possible in this game.

    Still, I have to pick the Falcons in a close one. They need a win here to make the playoffs, and they have home-field advantage. Not only will the Falcons have the crowd behind them, but they'll have the playing surface that favors the faster team—which is Atlanta.

    Besides, even with an offense that doesn't always make sense, the Falcons are loaded with receiving weapons. My biggest question all year with the Panthers has been whether they have the secondary talent to stop elite pass attacks. At least for this week, they won't.

    Prediction: Falcons 22, Panthers 20

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

    As mentioned earlier, these are two teams with little to play for in Week 17. The 49ers, though, are going to want to ride the wave of Garoppolo-mania to another win to close out the season.

    That would make five straight wins for San Francisco for those keeping track.

    The Rams, meanwhile, just want to get out of the game and into the postseason healthy. Head coach Sean McVay has already confirmed that Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald will sit out the finale, per Marc Sessler of Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan will rest as well.

    The Rams have no interest in winning. The 49ers do. While I still expect a close, physical matchup between rivals, I'll go with the team that wants to win.

    Prediction: 49ers 28, Rams 20

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers

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    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), StubHub Center, Carson, California

    The Oakland Raiders have been one of the NFL's biggest disappointments. Personally, I'm disappointed in Derek Carr. He simply hasn't looked like himself this season, and he's missed far too many throws that he would have made last year.

    Carr needs to change what he's doing because we've seen enough lobs down the middle of the field that go nowhere for him.

    The Raiders are going in an equally non-productive direction, and while they've fought hard the last few weeks, I think they're ready to finish out the season and get back to the drawing board. The Los Angeles Chargers, on the other hand, still have an outside shot at making the playoffs.

    A win over the Raiders coupled with losses or ties by the Buffalo Bills and the Titans would get L.A. into the dance. A win with a loss or tie by Tennessee and a Baltimore Ravens win or tie would do the same.

    Expect the Chargers to come out and play better than they have the last couple of weeks. Philip Rivers and the offense will put up enough points to win, while Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will make life miserable for Carr for another week.

    Prediction: Chargers 24, Raiders 14

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox), CenturyLink Field, Seattle

    The Seahawks still have a chance to make the postseason, but let's be real here. Seattle isn't a playoff-caliber team right now. The offensive line is a joke, the defense isn't what it once was and it's beaten up. The team is only in this position because it has a championship coach in Pete Carroll and a championship quarterback in Russell Wilson.

    Don't be surprised if the Arizona Cardinals give the Seahawks a game here.

    Now, I believe big changes have to come for the Cardinals in the offseason. They need some younger pieces on the roster, and they cannot possibly go into camp with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. However, there's still enough talent on this team for it to come close to one potentially final win for head coach Bruce Arians.

    Arizona's defense is still stout, and the front seven is going to harass Wilson all day long. Kerwynn Williams and Larry Fitzgerald will make enough big plays on offense to get Arizona up on the scoreboard late.

    I expect the Cardinals to outplay the Seahawks in almost the entire game, but I also expect Wilson and Carroll to find enough late-game magic to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

    Prediction: Seahawks 21, Cardinals 20

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Hard Rock Stadium, Miami

    The Bills need a win in order to get into the postseason. Unfortunately, they have to head to South Beach in order to get it. That's not an easy thing to do this late in the year.

    Just as the Bills have a big home-field advantage during the cold depths of winter, the Miami Dolphins get an advantage by forcing teams to come play in the heat and humidity. That could take a toll on a Bills team that has played in the Northeast in the past four weeks.

    I like what I've been seeing from Miami's defense lately too. It did a good job against the Kansas City Chiefs for most of last week, though the final score made the game look worse for the Dolphins than it really was. I believe Miami will be able to shut down LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor enough to play spoiler this week.

    Expect to see one more good game from Jay Cutler in Miami, and expect to see a Buffalo loss open the door for the Chargers in the postseason.

    Prediction: Dolphins 24, Bills 21

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver

    Speaking of the Chiefs, they're another team with nothing to really play for in Week 17. Kansas City is locked into the AFC's No. 4 seed. This is why rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to make his first-ever NFL start.

    In a way, this could be good for those looking for a Chiefs win. Kansas City views Mahomes as its future, and head coach Andy Reid will want to start the young quarterback's career off with a bang.

    Still, if Alex Smith isn't playing, it's fair to wonder how many other starters will be held out or pulled early. Those questions probably won't exist for the Denver Broncos.

    Denver will be looking to end its season with a strong performance from quarterback Paxton Lynch. Coach Vance Joseph will look to strengthen the case that he should return by winning as well. The defense is still very good, and it should be enough to fluster Mahomes down the stretch.

    The Broncos will finish the regular season with a win. The Chiefs will finish with a better idea of what their future looks like.

    Prediction: Broncos 19, Chiefs 17

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    When: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS), M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

    The Cincinnati Bengals showed last week that they are capable of playing hard for Marvin Lewis. I expect them to do the same this week—and yes, I do expect this to be the final game for Lewis as Cincinnati's head coach.

    Besides, the Bengals have given the Ravens a lot of trouble in recent years. Cincinnati has actually won six of its last eight against Baltimore.

    The Bengals are going to go out and be a pain in the ass for the Ravens one more time under Lewis. Yet, I have to pick Baltimore in the matchup. I don't think the offense is completely fixed, but it's been better in recent weeks. So has Joe Flacco. The Ravens defense is still one of the better units in football, and it'll make things hard on Andy Dalton and the offense.

    This is going to be a rough and physical game, but the Ravens need it if they want to get into the postseason. Baltimore can still get in if either the Bills or the Titans lose, but John Harbaugh's team isn't going to want to leave things to chance. The Ravens will be back in the postseason for the first time since 2014.

    Prediction: Ravens 23, Bengals 20

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