Welcome to the divisional round edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I'm not saying anyone should start getting sad right now, but I'd like everyone to know that there are only SEVEN NFL games left to play this season and four of them will be going down this weekend. OK, so I know I said don't get sad, but I'm already getting sad.
The divisional round of the playoffs almost always gets crazy, and I'm expecting nothing different this weekend.
- Josh Allen vs. Joe Burrow? Sounds awesome.
- The Chiefs trying to beat a guy (Trevor Lawrence) who's never lost a Saturday game in his life? I'm watching.
- The Cowboys and 49ers renewing one of the best playoff rivalries in NFL history? Can't miss that.
- Two division rivals (Eagles and Giants) battling for a chance to go to the NFC title game? That's must-see TV.
We'll be covering all four games in today's newsletter with some best bets, bold predictions, and of course, we'll be making picks.
Remember, if you're hanging out with family and/or friends this weekend, you should tell them all to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. All right, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Best bets for the divisional round
For today's podcast, Will Brinson rounded up R.J. White and Pete Prisco so they could argue about who's going to win every game being played this weekend. Of course, based on their picks, it doesn't seem like there was much arguing going on, because they seemed to agree on everything for the divisional round.
The three guys spent nearly 45 minutes going over the best bets for every single divisional game, and we're going to cover three picks from each person below. Prisco, White and Brinson combined to go 9-2 with their picks last week -- and both losses were by Brinson, so if we pretend like he doesn't exist, the other two actually combined to go 6-0 -- so you should definitely pay attention to what they have to say this week.
Pete Prisco (3-0 last week in picks covered here, 33-23-1 on the season)
- Bengals (+5.5) to cover against the Bills
- Jaguars at Chiefs OVER 52.5 points
- Giants (+8) to cover against the Eagles
R.J. White (3-0 last week in picks covered here, 34-21-2 on the season)
- 49ers (-4) to cover against the Cowboys
- Chiefs (-8.5) to cover against the Jaguars
- Patrick Mahomes OVER 2.5 TD passes (-110)
Will Brinson (1-2 last week in picks covered here, 28-27-1 on the season)
- Bengals (+5.5) to cover against the Bills
- Cowboys at 49ers OVER 46.5 points
- Miles Sanders OVER 66.5 rushing yards (-137)
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for the divisional round, you can check out the episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Ranking the eight remaining playoff quarterbacks
Last year, the divisional round was littered with former Super Bowl winning quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, but this year, not so much. The only starting quarterback who currently has a Super Bowl ring is Patrick Mahomes, and not surprisingly, he tops our list of the best remaining quarterbacks in the playoffs.
One thing every quarterback has in common this year is that they were all born in the 1990s, and yes, I would like to apologize if I'm getting your weekend off to a bad start by making you feel old with that stat.
Anyway, Cody Benjamin was given the job of ranking the quarterbacks. Here's the list he came up with:
1. Patrick Mahomes
2. Joe Burrow
3. Josh Allen
4. Jalen Hurts
5. Dak Prescott
6. Trevor Lawrence
7. Daniel Jones
8. Brock Purdy
Only one QB on this list has zero career losses, and he's ranked last. If you want to know why he's ranked last, you can check out Cody's full explanation for his rankings by clicking here. If you want to argue with Cody about his list on Twitter, then feel free to click here.
3. Divisional round playoff picks: Bengals and Cowboys both pull off upsets
After going 4-0 with our collective wild-card picks last week, I have dragged Pete Prisco, Jordan Dajani and Tyler Sullivan back to make more picks this week.
Here's how things are going to work: I'm going to give you one pick from each guy and then direct you to the rest of their picks. That way, if you like their pick, you'll be able to read the rest of them, but if they pick against your favorite team, you can ignore the rest of their picks and move on.
- Pete Prisco -- Cowboys (+4) 27-26 over 49ers. From Prisco: "The 49ers will actually have an extra day of rest since they played last Saturday. But the Cowboys seemed to find their offense against the Bucs, especially Dak Prescott. It will come down to Brock Purdy against the Dallas pressure. This will be the best defense he has faced. The Dallas pass rush can be disruptive, which I think happens here." For the rest of Prisco's divisional round picks, be sure to click here.
- Tyler Sullivan -- Chiefs (-8.5) 30-21 over Jaguars. From Sullivan: "Back when these teams met in Week 10, the Chiefs were able to beat the Jaguars by 10 and were even up by 20 at halftime. Two second-half turnovers in that game allowed things to be a bit closer than they actually were. So long as Patrick Mahomes keeps the turnovers from getting out of hand this weekend, Kanas City should roll." For the rest of Sullivan's divisional picks, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani -- Eagles 27-20 over Giants (+8). From Dajani: "The Giants have quickly become this year's postseason darling, and they have history of making runs from the wild-card round. But in this spot -- on the road against the No. 1 seed that knows them very well -- I can't pick New York straight up. The Giants have lost in nine straight trips to Philadelphia." Dajani actually made an attempt to predict ALL 13 playoff games -- from the wild-card round to the Super Bowl -- and he's off to a hot start after going 6-0 in the wild-card round. You can check out each one of his picks here.
- John Breech -- Bengals (+5.5) 27-24 over Bills. The Bengals have thrived as an underdog in Joe Burrow's two full seasons at QB. This game will mark the 10th time that the Bengals have been an underdog of two or more points since the start of the 2021 season. In the previous nine games, they've gone 8-0-1 against the spread and 6-3 straight-up (and those three losses were by an average of 3.3 points per game). Also, did I mention that Burrow has never lost a game in January (6-0), because he's never lost a game in January. An unbeatable QB who thrives as an underdog? I'll take the Bengals. For the rest of my divisional picks, be sure to click here.
4. Bold predictions for divisional round: 49ers steamroll Cowboys
There's nothing we love here more than making bold predictions, so we asked Jared Dubin to come up with some for the divisional round.
Let's take a look at three of his bold predictions for the weekend.
- 49ers roll Cowboys. "Brock Purdy barely broke a sweat during the 49ers' offensive detonation against the Seahawks last week. Among his 30 passing attempts, just TWO were thrown into a tight window, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats. That's the Kyle Shanahan Effect. San Francisco's offensive mastermind can scheme players open as well or better than any coach in the NFL, and with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Elijah Mitchell, he has one of the best skill-position corps in the NFL with which to work. It's borderline unfair. The Dallas defense shut down Tampa on Monday night, but it's still working shorthanded in the secondary and could have a somewhat gimpy Jayron Kearse after he sustained a knee injury against the Bucs."
- Eagles shut down Daniel Jones. "In two games against Minnesota this season, Brian Daboll and Co. allowed Jones to air it out, taking advantage of one of the NFL's friendliest pass defenses. The Eagles do not have a friendly pass defense. They have one of the best pass-rush units in the league, and an extremely sticky group of coverage players. Jones was 18 of 27 passing for 169 yards and a touchdown the last time these two teams played, and though he added four carries for 26 yards and an additional score, he also took four sacks. Things could get ugly."
- Travis Kelce goes off on Jaguars. "Jacksonville ranked 32nd (also known as last) in the NFL in DVOA on throws to tight ends, according to Football Outsiders. The Jags yielded 81 receptions for 1,066 yards and seven scores to players at the position, and we have seen their linebackers, in particular, get taken advantage of in coverage throughout the year. Even against the Chargers last week, Gerald Everett and Donald Parham Jr. combined for 10 receptions for 133 yards and a score on 13 targets. Kelce could have a record-setting day Saturday."
You can check out all of Dubin's bold predictions by clicking here you can check those out by clicking here.
5. Lamar Jackson's status: Ravens coach and GM attempt to answer questions about QB's future
No matter what happens with Lamar Jackson, the Ravens offense is going to have a different look in 2023, and that's because offensive coordinator Greg Roman resigned Thursday. With Roman out, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta took some time to answer a few questions about the team's future. As you can imagine, most of the questions were about Jackson.
Based on what the two guys had to say, it sounds like they expect Jackson to return to Baltimore in 2023:
- Harbaugh makes it clear that the Ravens want Jackson. Here's what Harbaugh had to say when asked if Jackson will be returning to Baltimore. "One hundred percent, 200 percent. There's no question about it," Harbaugh said, via NFL.com. "Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He's been our quarterback. Everything that we've done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of putting people around him, is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness."
- Jackson will have a say in who gets hired as the new offensive coordinator. You know Harbaugh is serious about keeping Jackson because he is going to let the QB have some input on who the next OC is, "I'll keep him abreast of what's going on, and I'm sure he'll have some input along the way."
- Where things stand with Jackson now. The quarterback's contract expires at the end of the 2022 league year in mid-March, which means the Ravens will be working with him to get an extension done between now and then. If the two sides can't get a deal done, then the Ravens will almost certainly hit him with the franchise tag, which will allow them to negotiate with Jackson until July. At that point, if they didn't get a deal done, then Jackson would go into 2023 on a one-year deal.
- Does Jackson even want to be in Baltimore? Although Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens want Jackson, no one knows for sure if Jackson feels the same way. However, DeCosta did say that he thinks Jackson wants to stay in Baltimore. "I truly believe Lamar wants to finish his career in Baltimore."
- Will a deal get done? Harbaugh said he has faith that a deal would get done, but he didn't guarantee it. "I don't know anything about the details or the whole thing, but I know one thing: I'm like all the fans out there and everybody else. I'll have my fingers crossed, my toes crossed and I'll be saying prayers," Harbaugh said. "I have faith it's gonna get done, and we've got the best people in the world doing it. ... Eric wants him here, I want him here, [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti wants him here, and Lamar wants to be here. it's gonna work out."
Former NFL agent Joel Corry took a look at how this situation might play out, which you can read here. Long story short, he thinks Jackson will be in Baltimore for at least the 2023 season due to the franchise tag. It's definitely worth clicking over, though, because Corry touches on a multitude of other topics, including what Jackson's asking price might be, which franchise tag the Ravens might use (exclusive or non-exclusive) and the key deadlines the Ravens and Jackson will be working against.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: NFL teams go on firing spree of coordinators
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you, and that roundup involves a lot of coordinator firings.
- Vikings fire their defensive coordinator. After just one year on the job, Ed Donatell has been fired as the defensive coordinator of the Vikings. This move wasn't a total surprise considering the Vikings gave up the second-most offensive yards in the NFL this year and the fifth-most points. The defense also struggled in Sunday's playoff loss to the Giants, surrendering more than 400 yards.
- Dolphins fire their defense coordinator. Kevin O'Connell wasn't the only first-year coach to fire his DC; so did Mike McDaniel, who gave a pink slip to Josh Boyer on Thursday. Boyer was actually a carry over from Brian Flores' staff and had been the team's defensive coordinator since 2020. Besides Boyer, the Dolphins also dumped safeties coach Steve Gregory, outside linebackers coach Ty McKenzie and assistant linebackers coach Steve Ferentz.
- Buccaneers clean house. Not only did the Buccaneers fire Byron Leftwich on Thursday, but they also dumped several other members of their coaching staff, including specialists coach Chris Boniol, wide receivers coach Kevin Garver, offensive quality control coach Jeff Kastl, assistant defensive line Coach Lori Locust and running backs Coach Todd McNair. The Bucs will also be losing three coaches to retirement with QB Coach Clyde Christensen, senior offensive assistant Rick Christophel and outside linebackers Coach Bob Sanders all stepping down. With the coaching staff and the team seemingly in rebuild mode, it's hard to see Tom Brady returning here next season.
- Russell Wilson has apparently contacted Sean Payton. According to Colin Cowherd, Wilson has contacted Payton and let the former Saints coach know that he wants Payton in Denver. Cowherd doesn't usually break news, but he is buddies with Payton -- who makes regular appearances on Cowherd's show -- so it was interesting to hear these comments from him.
- Panthers violate rule for head coaching searches. The Panthers could be facing some sort of punishment in the near future for a violation of NFL rules regarding their search for a permanent head coach, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones exclusively reported Thursday. Under NFL rules, every member of a team's search committee has to go through mandatory inclusive hiring training, but Nicole Tepper -- wife of Panthers owner David Tepper and Chief Administrative Officer of Tepper Sports & Entertainment -- has not done that yet even though she's on the committee.
- Bill O'Brien interviews for Patriots OC job. It looks like Bill Belichick might be looking to bring back an old friend. The Alabama OC interviewed for the same job with the Patriots on Thursday, according to NFL.com. Belichick loves hiring familiar faces and O'Brien definitely fits that mold. He spent five seasons coaching under Belichick (2007-11), including one as the team's offensive coordinator (2011).
In other coaching news, the Falcons interviewed Brian Flores for their open defensive coordinator job, according to NFL.com. Flores is also in the running for at least one head coaching job (Cardinals), so it's unlikely he'll be taking a DC job unless he finds out for sure that the Cardinals don't want him. We're not going to list every coaching interview here, because it would triple the length of the newsletter, but if you want the latest updates on every coach and GM interview being held this offseason, then be sure to click here so you can follow along in our tracker.