Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ben Roethlisberger gives first huge hint he might retire, plus there seems to be a clear-cut MVP favorite

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the New Year’s Eve eve edition of the Pick Six newsletter! 

Apparently, 2021 isn’t the only thing that will soon be coming to an end and that’s because it looks like Ben Roethlisberger’s career will also soon be coming to an end. 

It seems the end of the year has everyone thinking about their future. Not only did Big Ben hint at it during a press conference, but AARON RODGERS said he wasn’t going to rule out retirement after the 2021 season. For the record, I would like you guys to know that I don’t plan on retiring at the end of the year. 

As for Rodgers and Big Ben, we’ll be covering their retirement comments in today’s newsletter along with Ryan Wilson’s mock draft and our latest playoff projections, so let’s get to the rundown. 

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. If you want to help everyone you know get off to a good start in 2022, then you’ll definitely want to subscribe them to this newsletter. 

1. Today’s show: Ryan Wilson’s 2022 Mock Draft 

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USATSI

For the past 16 weeks, our Thursday podcast has been used to preview the Thursday night game, but since there’s no game this week, we decided to turn the podcast over to Ryan Wilson so he could go over his latest mock draft. If you’re a fan of a team that might end up having a top 10 pick, you’re definitely going to want to listen because Wilson spent a lot of time breaking down his projected top 10 along with Josh Edwards and Chris Trapasso.  

Here’s a look at the top 10 picks in Wilson’s mock draft: 

1. Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, DE (Michigan)

2. Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE (Oregon)

3. Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB (LSU)

4. Jets: Ikem Ekwonu, OT (North Carolina State)

5. Lions: Kyle Hamilton, safety (Notre Dame)

6. Panthers: Evan Neal, OL (Alabama)

7. Jets: Nakobe Dean, LB (Georgia)

8. Giants: Charles Cross, OL (Mississippi State)

9. Washington: Matt Corral QB (Ole Miss)

10. Falcons: Kenny Pickett, QB (Pittsburgh)

For the rest of Wilson’s mock draft, be sure to click here

If you listen to today’s show, you’ll notice that the three guys don’t only focus on the top 10 picks in the draft, they also go through the entire first round. The three also debate which QB is most likely to go off the board first (Wilson has Corral over Pickett) and the guys also talk about why this isn’t a great year to have the top overall pick (Since there’s no consensus top QB or top player, it’s going to be almost impossible to trade out of the top spot). 

To listen to today’s podcast, be sure to click here.  

2. Ben Roethlisberger gives first public indication that he may retire

Even though this was long expected to be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in Pittsburgh (and final season in the NFL), the Steelers quarterback has pretty much been avoiding every retirement question thrown his way this offseason. However, that changed on Thursday when Roethlisberger was asked whether this week’s showdown with the Browns would be his final game ever at Heinz Field. 

Roethlisberger’s reply? 

“I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees, that’s just not what I’ve ever done or who I am, but looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs are pointing to this could be it,” Big Ben said at his weekly press conference.” Regular season that is, I know we still have a chance to potentially get a playoff game there if things fall our way and we take care of business and things have to happen, but in the grand scheme of things, in terms of regular season, signs are pointing that way, this could be it.”

Although a playoff game at Heinz Field might sound improbable, it is possible. If the Steelers win out (vs. Browns, at Ravens), they would just need three things to happen for them to win the division: The Bengals would have to lose their final two games (vs. Chiefs, at Browns) and the Ravens would have to lose on Sunday against the Rams

During his press conference he also mentioned that the writing has been on the wall all season when it comes to his future with the Steelers. 

“I’ve always been one to fulfill my obligation to the team with contracts and I don’t have a contract next season,” Big Ben said. “I guess the writing was on the wall from them, but kind of all of us together.”

One thing that should be noted about Roethlisberger’s comments is that he was very careful not to use the word retirement. Basically, it seems like Roethlisberger has accepted the fact that he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh next season, but if he feels like he still has something left in the tank, it seems like there’s at least a small possibility he could try to play somewhere else next season. 

3. MVP watch: Aaron Rodgers seems to be the clear-cut favorite

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Getty Images

This has been one of the tightest MVP races in recent NFL history, but as we head into Week 17, it’s starting to feel like we finally have a clear-cut favorite and that favorite is Aaron Rodgers. 

Since the start of November, we’ve been doing a weekly MVP vote here at CBSSports.com and if this vote is indicative of how the actual MVP voters are going to do things at the end of the season, then it feels like Rodgers is pretty close to locking up his second straight MVP award, barring a total collapse over the final two weeks. 

We had 11 CBSSports.com writers vote on the MVP award this week and Rodgers received nine out of the 11 first-place votes (The other two went to Tom Brady and Cooper Kupp). 

Here’s a look at our top five along with their point total in the vote. (Each writer was allowed to put five players on their ballot and a player got five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.)

1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (55)

2. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (44)

3. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (24)

4. Rams WR Cooper Kupp (19)

5. Bills QB Josh Allen (15)

Overall, a total of 10 players received at least one vote. If you want to see how the rest of the vote broke down, then be sure to click here

4. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams could leave Green Bay after this season

If Aaron Rodgers does win the MVP, he’d become the third player over the past 30 years to win it in back-to-back seasons and if that happens, it’d be even more shocking to see him leave the Packers. However, based on what Rodgers had to say during his weekly press conference on Wednesday, leaving Green Bay this offseason is definitely still in play. 

For the Packers this could be a double whammy and that’s because Davante Adams might also end up leaving if Rodgers doesn’t return. 

Here’s what the two players had to say this week about what’s going to happen once the season is over: 

  • Rodgers not ruling out retirement. The Packers QB contemplated retirement last season and apparently it’s something that could actually happen this offseason.  “I wouldn’t rule that out. I think that I’m just enjoying this season for this season. I think that playing next year will definitely be in the thought process. One of the things, wanting to not be a bum on the way out and still be able to play, I think, is important to me.”
  • Rodgers not going to milk things out this year. Although the drama between Rodgers and the Packers went all the way to the start of training camp in 2021 before he returned to the team, don’t look for that to happen again. The QB made it clear that he’s going to make a quick decision about his future in 2022, “It won’t be something that I’ll drag out for months and months. I’ll have conversations with my loved ones after the season, and with Brian [Gutekunst] and Mark [Murphy] and Russ [Ball] and the coaching staff and then make a decision at some point.”
  • What will Rodgers do? Rodgers really only has three options here: Stay in Green Bay, leave Green Bay or retire. The fact that he didn’t commit to the Packers would be slightly concerning to me if I were a Packers fan. It would have been pretty easy for him to say, “This team is awesome, I’m definitely coming back next year,” but he definitely didn’t say that or even hint at it. The only upside for the Packers is that Rodger is under contract for next year, so if they’re not willing to deal him, he’ll only have two options for 2022: Stay in Green Bay or retire. 
  • Davante Adams’ future in Green Bay also up in the air. The Packers star receiver has a contract that’s expiring at the end of the 2021 season and if Rodgers decides to leave Green Bay, that could also lead to Adams’ exit. “There’s a lot that goes into it,” Adams said of the decision about his future.” So [Rodgers’ decision] won’t be the end-all, be-all, but it’ll definitely be something I’m monitoring and paying attention to, to see where his head is at.”

The one advantage the Packers have with Adams is that they can hit him with the franchise tag, which would guarantee that he’ll be sticking around for at least one more year. 

As for Rodgers, if the Packers offer to make him the highest-paid QB in football for 2022, that might be enough to bring him back. Although the team made him an offer like that in 2021, there was still a severe distrust between Rodgers and the front office, which is likely one reason why he didn’t take it. However, Rodgers seems to trust the front office more and a two-year deal this time around would basically erase Jordan Love from the Packers’ future plans, which is something Rodgers probably wouldn’t mind seeing since the front office’s decision to draft Love is one of the big things that upset him in the first place. 

5. NFL playoff projections heading into Week 17

When it comes to the postseason, the only thing anyone wants to know is whether their favorite team is going to make the playoffs, which is why we decided to do some projections!

To figure out who’s going to make the playoffs this year, we had Stephen Oh of SportsLine crunch some numbers. We then used those numbers to project the 14 teams we expect to make the playoffs. 

Here’s how our projection breaks down for both conferences and remember, these are projections. If you want to see the current playoff standings, then be sure to click here (The teams with an asterisk below have already clinched a playoff spot). 

AFC

1. Chiefs*

2. Titans

3. Bills

4. Bengals

5. Colts

6. Patriots

7. Chargers

Although only one AFC team has clinched a spot, five more can officially join the party this week and you can read about their individual clinching scenarios by clicking here

NFC

1. Packers*

2. Buccaneers*

3. Rams*

4. Cowboys*

5. Cardinals*

6. 49ers

7. Eagles

The most interesting thing here is looking at what the potential wild card matchups would be if these projections end up panning out. Getting a third round of Bills-Patriots would be must-see TV. Also, if the 49ers and Rams play each other, that would mean they’d be playing each other two weeks in a row since they also will be facing off during the final week of the regular season.  

According to Oh’s projections, the Chiefs are currently the team favored to win it all. If you want more details on the projections, including what the playoff chances are for all 32 teams, be sure to click here.

6. Rapid-fire roundup

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. 

  • NFL teams will hold a moment of silence for John Madden. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has asked each to team to hold a moment of silence for the NFL legend, who died Tuesday night at the age of 85. 
  • Jimmy Garoppolo confident he can play against Texans. Despite a thumb injury, the 49ers QB said he’s “confident” in his abilities to play on Sunday. However, he didn’t practice on Wednesday, which is a minor red flag. I still think we’ll see Trey Lance, but Garoppolo seems determined to play.  
  • Ravens won’t have to start a third-string QB this week. Baltimore got a double-dose of good news in the QB department. Not only did Lamar Jackson return to practice, but Tyler Huntley has been activated off the COVID list. Jackson was hobbled by his injured ankle on Wednesday during practice, so there’s definitely a chance Huntley could be the team’s starter against the Rams. 
  • Chiefs get Travis Kelce back from COVID list. The Chiefs got some good news this week with Kelce returning from the COVID list, which means he’ll be able to play on Sunday against the Bengals. The Chiefs are also getting back kicker Harrison Butker.  
  • Colts get Darius Leonard back from COVID list. The Colts star defensive player will be eligible to play against the Raiders on Sunday after being removed from the COVID list. The Colts will also be getting back wide receiver Zach Pascal and safety Khari Willis. However, Carson Wentz still remains on the list.  
  • Darren Waller placed on COVID list. Waller hasn’t played in over a month due to a knee injury and although the Raiders could definitely use him on Sunday in Indianapolis, he likely won’t be on the field after being placed on the COVID list. 

  • Sam Darnold will start for Panthers. Matt Rhule has been playing QB musical chairs in Carolina and that will continue this week as Darnold has been given the starting nod over Cam Newton
  • Broncos expected to start Drew Lock. After missing Week 16 with a concussion, it appears that Teddy Bridgewater is going to miss at least one more week, which means Lock is likely going to be the starter for Denver’s game against the Chargers on Sunday.  
  • Vikings get Dalvin Cook back but lose Adam Thielen. The Vikings got some good news and bad news on Wednesday. The good new is that Cook has been activated off the COVID list, which means he’ll be able to play against the Packers this week. The bad news is that Thielen (ankle) has been put on injured reserve, which means he’s done for the regular season.  

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