Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Christmas Eve Eve edition of the Pick Six Newsletter!
I'm going to start things off today with some sad news, and that's the fact that tonight's game between the 49ers and Titans marks the final Thursday game of the year. Actually, I guess that could also be construed as good news, especially for me, and that's because my DVR is about to break. I think my wife told me yesterday that we have 94 Hallmark Christmas movies to catch up on and those definitely aren't going to watch themselves, so I guess I already know what I'll be doing next Thursday.
Although this will be the final Thursday game of season, this isn't your final newsletter of the week. I'll coming to be you tomorrow with a Christmas Eve edition of the newsletter, so ho ho ho, but I'm going to stop talking about tomorrow's newsletter so we can get to the one from today.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them.
1. Today's show: 49ers-Titans betting preview
If you're planning on betting any money on tonight's game, then you're going to want to make sure to listen to today's episode of the podcast before you place any bets. For today's show, Will Brinson brought on CBSSports writer Tyler Sullivan, and the two went into full gambling mode.
Here are several props they like for the game (all NFL odds from Caesars Sportsbook):
- Ryan Tannehill OVER 217.5 passing yards (-115). Not only will Tannehill possibly be getting his two best receiving targets back tonight (A.J. Browns and Julio Jones), but he'll be facing a San Francisco secondary that's ranked 21st in the NFL against the pass. Basically, this feels like a game where Tennessee is going to have to pass the ball to win, so it wouldn't be surprising at all for Tannehill to hit the over here.
- Jimmy Garoppolo OVER 243.5 passing yards (-115). Garoppolo is averaging 276.7 passing yards per game over the past three weeks, and considering the 49ers will be going up against the NFL's second-best rushing defense, you have to think Garoppolo will definitely be airing it out tonight.
- Deebo Samuel ANYTIME touchdown (+103). The 49ers' Swiss army knife has scored a touchdown in nine of San Francisco's 14 games this season, and that includes scoring a TD in each of the 49ers' past five games. Basically, Samuel has been a scoring machine and if you can get plus-money on him scoring a TD, you almost have to take it.
For more props and their actual predictions for tonight's game, be sure to click here so you can listen to today's episode.
2. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for 49ers at Titans
For the final Thursday game of the NFL season, we're getting a huge cross-conference showdown that both teams need to win. On the Titans' end, they're in the middle of a free fall with three losses in their past four games, and the Colts might catch them in the AFC South if they lose this game. As for the 49ers, they would take one giant step toward clinching a wild-card berth with a win. However, a loss could land the 49ers on the outside of the playoff picture looking in if the Eagles, Vikings and Saints all win in Week 16.
My good buddy Jared Dubin put together our deep-dive preview for this game at CBS Sports, and here's how he sees it playing out:
- Why the 49ers can win: One big reason the 49ers have been on a roll over the past six weeks is because they've been able to run the ball so well. In their past six games, the 49ers have gone 5-1 and over that span, they've averaged nearly 145 rushing yards per game. However, getting the ground game going won't be easy against a Titans team that has the second-best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing just 86.9 yards per game. If the 49ers can move the ball on the ground, they should be able to win this game going away, but they'll have to do it without Eli Mitchell, who won't be playing due to injury.
- Why the Titans can win: If the Titans are going to pull the upset tonight, their offense is going to have to actually produce some points. That might seem obvious, but it's worth noting because the Titans offense has been horrible over the last four weeks, scoring 13, 13, 20 and 13. (The 20-point showing was against Jacksonville, which is like scoring four points against a normal team.) The Titans are 9-1 this season when they score 20 or more points, so if their offense can somehow hit that number it will likely mean a win with how well their defense has been playing. Having both Julio Jones and A.J. Brown on the field would be huge for Tennessee, and there's a chance both could be playing tonight. (Jones injured his hamstring Sunday and Brown hasn't played since Week 11.)
You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here. The 49ers are currently favored by three points, and as you can see below, Dubin and I both think that they're going to cover.
Dubin's pick: 49ers 27-17 over Titans.
My pick: 49ers 27-20 over Titans.
If you're thinking about betting on the game, Tyler Sullivan put together a full gambling preview.
- ONE PROP TYLER LIKES: George Kittle OVER 69.5 receiving yards (-115): "This number is just too low for what Kittle has been bringing to the table over these last few weeks. In his previous three games heading into Week 16, Kittle is averaging 141.7 receiving yards per game."
- ONE PROP I LIKE: Robbie Gould OVER 1.5 field goals (+105): If I'm getting plus odds on a field goal prop in a game involving the Titans, I'm taking it. The Titans have a really good red-zone defense and because of that, they give up a lot of field goals. Tennessee's opponents have hit 28 field goals against the Titans this year, which is the fourth-most in the NFL. Basically, if the Titans are playing, their opponent is going to be kicking field goals, and Robbie Gould has gone over this number in three of his past five games.
3. Prisco's Week 16 picks: Titans upset 49ers, Cardinals beat Colts
Pete Prisco's weekly picks usually come out on a Wednesday, but this week, everything got pushed back a day due to the Tuesday games, so you're getting Prisco's picks TODAY. Prisco went 12-4 with his straight-up picks last week, and I would say that I expect him to do just as well this week, but he's a man of routine and I'm just not sure how he's going to respond to the fact that his routine was thrown off.
- San Francisco at Tennessee (+3): "The 49ers have turned their season around and they have the look of a playoff team. The Titans are struggling. But this is a tough road trip for the 49ers on a short week against a Tennessee team that is in big-time need of a victory. I think the Titans will do enough on offense to pull this out as their defense will limit San Francisco." THE PICK: Titans 23-17 over 49ers.
- Indianapolis at Arizona (-1): "The Cardinals are looking to regroup after an embarrassing loss to the Lions where they were outplayed in every area. The Colts beat the Patriots last week with their run game keying the win. I think Arizona will bounce back here and play well as they put the game on Carson Wentz. In that scenario, Arizona gets the best of it." THE PICK: Cardinals 30-20 over Colts.
- L.A. Rams at Minnesota (+3): "This is a bigger game for the Vikings if they are to have any chance to be a playoff team. The Rams are coming off a nice victory over Seattle that saw the defense play well. But the offense wasn't as crisp. It will be here. But Minnesota will also play well on offense. Look for a lot of points with the Vikings pulling off a home upset." THE PICK: Vikings 30-28 over Rams.
For the rest of Prisco's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
4. NFL reveals Pro Bowl rosters: Here's everything you need to know
After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, the Pro Bowl will be returning this year with the game being played on Feb. 6 in Las Vegas. (Players got voted to the Pro Bowl last year, but there was no game.) There will be 88 players in Vegas and those players were revealed Wednesday night when the NFL announced the official roster for both the AFC and NFC.
Here are a few nuggets about this year's Pro Bowl rosters:
- Colts surprisingly have most Pro Bowlers. The Colts might not have the best record in the NFL, but they had the most players named to the Pro Bowl. The Colts had seven players voted into the game, which was slightly ahead of the Chiefs and Chargers, who both had six. In the NFC, the Cowboys, 49ers and Buccaneers all had five players get in, which was the most in that conference.
- Rookie party. A total of four rookies were named to the Pro Bowl with Ja'Marr Chase (Bengals), Micah Parsons (Cowboys), Kyle Pitts (Falcons) and Rashawn Slater (Chargers) all getting in. These four led a list of 31 players who were voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
- Tom Brady breaks another record. The Buccaneers QB was selected to his 15th Pro Bowl, which is a new NFL record. Going into the season, Brady had 14 selections, which was tied with Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews, Tony Gonzalez and Merlin Olsen for the most in NFL history.
- Six teams get shut out. There were 26 teams that had at least one Pro Bowl player, which means there were six teams that had zero: the Broncos, Jaguars, Jets, Texans, Lions and Giants. The most embarrassing part is that the two teams that share MetLife Stadium couldn't get a single player in.
5. NFL playoff clinching scenarios heading into Week 16
The playoff race is a jumbled mess right now, as only ONE out of 14 spots has been clinched. (The Packers punched their ticket in Week 15.) However, that number could shoot way up in Week 16 and that's because there are a total of seven teams that could clinch a spot.
Since there are so many playoff-clinching scenarios this week, we decided to make a cheat sheet for you. However, our cheat sheet will only include the simplest ways a team can clinch.
- Can clinch division title with: Chiefs win over Steelers PLUS Chargers loss or tie with Texans.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Chiefs win over Steelers.
- Can clinch division title with: Patriots win over Bills PLUS Dolphins loss or tie to Saints.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Patriots win PLUS Bengals loss to Ravens AND Colts loss or tie with Cardinals.
- Can clinch division title with: Titans win over 49ers PLUS Colts loss to Cardinals.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: There are multiple ways the Titans can clinch a playoff berth, but they all involve five or more things going their way.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Cardinals win over Colts.
- Can clinch division title with: Cowboys win over Washington OR Eagles loss to Giants.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Saints loss to Dolphins OR 49ers loss to Titans OR Buccaneers win over Panthers.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Rams win over Vikings OR Eagles loss to Giants PLUS Saints loss to Dolphins.
- Can clinch division title with: Buccaneers win over Panthers OR Saints loss to Dolphins.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Easiest way to clinch is by winning the division title.
Remember, this just represents the easiest clinching scenario for each of these teams. For a look at every possible playoff-clinching scenario for each of these teams, be sure to click here. If I had to guess, I'd say we're going to see at least four more spots get clinched in Week 16.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: COVID continues to ravage NFL
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.
- Coroner reveals Vincent Jackson's cause of death. According to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's office, Jackson's death back in February was brought on by excessive alcohol use. Jackson suffered from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a condition that occurs when long-term alcohol use weakens the heart muscle. He had a BAC that was at least 0.28 when he died. For more details on the the coroner's report, be sure to click here.
- Saints down to their third-string QB. According to NFL.com, the Saints have lost their top two quarterbacks (Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian) to the COVID list, which means Ian Book will likely get the start on Monday night against the Dolphins. Book was a fourth-round pick this year and has yet to throw a regular-season pass.
- Jets hit hard by COVID. The Jets have placed 18 members of the organization on their COVID list, including 17 players AND coach Robert Saleh. This means there's a good chance they're going to be short-handed when they face the Jaguars on Sunday.
- Eagles coach tests positive for COVID. Robert Saleh isn't the only coach on the COVID list this week. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has also tested positive, which means there's a chance he could miss this week's game against the Giants.
- Dalvin Cook on COVID list. One of the league's best running backs could be out for the Vikings' monumental showdown with the Rams on Sunday. If Cook can't go, it'll be Alexander Mattison who shoulders the load as Minnesota aims to cling to the NFC's final wild card spot.
- Elliott Fry will kick for Chiefs. According to multiple reports, Harrison Butker is unvaccinated, which means he'll definitely be missing Sunday's game against the Steelers after being placed on the COVID list. With Butker out, the Chiefs will be turning to Fry, who has never kicked in an NFL regular season game.
- Teddy Bridgewater ruled out for Week 16. The Broncos quarterback definitely won't be playing Sunday due to a concussion, which means Drew Lock will be the starter when Denver faces the Raiders in a game where the loser will all but be eliminated from the playoffs.
- Cam Newton to start for Panthers, but might not finish. The Panthers have been making weird QB decisions all year and those will be continuing this week. Although Newton is expected to start against Tampa Bay on Sunday, coach Matt Rhule has said that Sam Darnold will likely also play.
- Ravens defense takes a COVID hit. The Ravens added five more players to their COVID list, and the most notable part if that four of those players come from their defense. This means that Baltimore is down to just 13 healthy defensive players on its roster. The players added Wednesday were safety Geno Stone, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and linebackers Chris Board and Kristian Welch.
- Taylor Heinicke returns for Washington. After being forced to start its third-string QB on Tuesday, the Football Team got some good news for this week. Starting QB Taylor Heinicke is back in the fold after testing negative for COVID and will be starting against the Cowboys on Sunday night.
- Browns cut their punter. The "Scottish Hammer" got the axe Wednesday when the Browns decided to cut ties with Jamie Gillan. The punter had been on the COVID list since Dec. 9 and was replaced by Dustin Colquitt during that period. Apparently, the Browns liked Colquitt so much that they decided they didn't need Gillan anymore. Gillan had been the team's punter since 2019.