Happy New Year and welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
We’re only three days into the year and I have to say, there’s a 98% chance that we won’t see anything crazier in 2022 in the NFL than what we saw on Sunday in New York: Antonio Brown stormed off the field while wearing no shirt.
As the official newsletter of shirtless people, you can bet that we’ll be covering that in detail today. We’ll also be taking a look at the playoff picture and making picks for tonight’s game between the Browns and Steelers, which could very well be the final time that Ben Roethlisberger plays at Heinz Field.
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. Getting your friends signed up is a great way to help them start 2022 off on the right foot.
1. Today’s show: Week 17 winners and losers, plus full recap
It’s Monday, which can only mean one thing: I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson that touched on everything you need to know about Week 17, and let me just say, it’s probably for the best that you listen. Not only did we cover all 15 games from Sunday, but we also tried to predict which teams will earn the final three playoff spots that still haven’t been clinched.
One thing we do every week is hand out our winners and losers from Sunday’s action. For this week’s winners, we all picked a quarterback.
- Winner: Jalen Hurts, Eagles. They didn’t win pretty, but they won, and more importantly, they clinched a playoff berth on Sunday night thanks to the Packers‘ win over the Vikings. Also, Hurts avoided death at FedEx Stadium, which also makes him a winner. To see a clip of Hurts almost being knocked over by a stadium railing, be sure to click here.
- Loser: Vikings. This team is going in the wrong direction. Not only were they eliminated from the playoff race, but now they’re going to have to answer a bunch of tough questions about their future like whether they should bring back their head coach and whether they should bring back their starting QB.
- Winner: Derek Carr and the Raiders. Carr is quietly having an impressive season for the Raiders. Although he struggles at times during big games — he threw two interceptions against the Colts — he’s been absolutely clutch in crunch time this year and he proved that again on Sunday when he led the Raiders to 10 points over the final 11 minutes to help lead his team to a huge 23-20 upset win.
- Loser: Dolphins. They went into Sunday’s game looking to prove they were a playoff contender, but instead, they fell flat on their face. After their 34-3 loss to the Titans, the Dolphins are back at square one when it comes to trying to figure out whether Tua Tagovailoa is their QB of the future.
- Winner: Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Not only did the budding stars lead the Bengals to one of their biggest home wins ever, but they also helped their team clinch the AFC North, which means the Bengals are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Now, they just have to hope that the playoffs go better this time around for the Bengals than they have for the past 30 years.
- Loser: Giants offense. Just when you though the Giants season couldn’t get more embarrassing, it got more embarrassing. In a 29-3 loss to the Bears, the Giants finished with -10 passing yards, and yes, that’s a negative sign in front of the 10. If that’s not rock bottom, I don’t know what is.
Not only did we list our winners and losers, but we also recapped every game from Sunday. To listen to today’s episode — and to subscribe to the best daily NFL podcast out there — be sure to click here. You can also WATCH today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.
Every week I team up with six of my colleagues here at CBSSports.com to hand out grades, and this week, the Patriots got an ‘A+’ for embarrassing the Jaguars.
Here’s a look at the grades from two notable games that were played Sunday:
Patriots 50-10 over Jaguars (Click here for full recap)
- Jaguars takeaway: It’s almost unfair to ask a rookie QB to go up against a Bill Belichick defense and Trevor Lawrence found out why on Sunday. The Jaguars rookie looked absolutely lost going up against the Patriots defense. Lawrence threw three interceptions and the Patriots turned those three picks into three touchdowns, which is a big reason why this was such a blowout. Of course, even if Lawrence had thrown zero interceptions, the Jags probably still would have lost the and that’s because their defense couldn’t stop a Patriots offense that racked up nearly 500 total yards. Grade: F
- Patriots takeaway: The Patriots were on a two-game losing streak going into Sunday, but they ended that in a resounding fashion by absolutely destroying the lowly Jaguars. The defense set up three touchdowns in the game by picking off Trevor Lawrence three times. Offensively, Mac Jones also produced three touchdowns with three scoring throws. The Patriots were basically able to move the ball at will on a day where they converted 8 of 10 third downs while totaling 471 yards. Grade: A+
- Jets takeaway: For most of the first three quarters, the Jets played a nearly perfect game, but then they melted down. With one minute left in the third quarter, the Jets were up 24-10 and it looked like they were on their way to pulling off an improbable upset, but then they remembered they were the Jets. On their final four offensive possessions, they went three-and-out twice, they fumbled once and they got stopped on a huge fourth-and-2 at Tampa Bay’s 7-yard line with under 2:30 left to play. The loss overshadowed a mostly impressive day from a Jets offense that was surprisingly able to move the ball well against the Buccaneers. Grade: B-
- Buccaneers takeaway: On an off day for the Buccaneers, Tom Brady was able to muster up enough magic to make sure that the Jets weren’t able to pull off the upset. Brady threw for 410 yards with 93 of those coming on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes that he had to run with no timeouts left. Brady hit Cyril Grayson for a 33-yard score with just 15 seconds left to win the game. Of course, there’s a good chance no one will remember Brady’s comeback and that’s because the only thing anyone is going to be talking about from this game is the fact that Antonio Brown basically quit the team in the middle of the game. Grade: C
As for the other 26 grades we handed out over the weekend, you can check those out by clicking here.
3. 13 crazy facts from Week 17
Every Sunday night, I get an email from our research department here at CBS Sports, and every Sunday, that email always includes some amazingly wild facts about the games that were just played.
With that in mind, here are 13 crazy facts about Week 17:
- Ja’Marr Chase’s big day for Bengals. With 266 receiving yards, not only did Ja’Marr Chase break Chad Johnson’s franchise record for most receiving yards in a single game (260), but he also set the NFL ROOKIE RECORD for most receiving yards in a single-game. The record had stood since 1979 when Jerry Butler had 255 yards for the Bills. Chase now also has the highest single-season receiving total of any rookie since the 1970 merger. Chase is also just the fifth player ever to have multiple 200 yard games in a single-season.
- Joe Burrow’s big day for Bengals. One week after throwing for 525 yards, Burrow was just as impressive against the Chiefs, throwing for 446 yards and four touchdowns. With those numbers, Burrow has now set the single-season franchise record for passing yards and TD passes. Burrow is also the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 or more yards with four or more touchdowns and ZERO interceptions in consecutive games. Not to mention, his two-game passing total of 971 yards is the second-highest two-game total in NFL history, trailing only Dak Prescott, who threw for a total of 974 in Weeks 3 and 4 last season.
- Tom Brady is in the record book with Aaron Rodgers. With three TD passes against the Jets, Brady now has 40 on the season, marking the third time in his career he’s hit the 40-touchdown mark. That ties him with Aaron Rodgers for the most 40-TD seasons of all-time. Brady also tied Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw 40 or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons.
- Patriots light up the scoreboard. The Patriots scored 50 points against Jacksonville marking the second time this season they’ve hit the 50-point mark, which means New England is now the first NFL team since the 2014 Packers to score 50 or more points in multiple games. The Patriots also have three of the eight biggest wins by any team this season.
- Super Cooper Part I. After a six-catch game against Baltimore, Cooper Kupp now has 138 receptions on the season, which is the third-most in NFL history. Only Michael Thomas (149 receptions in 2019) and Marvin Harrison (143 in 2002) have finished with more. Kupp could break the all-time record with 12 receptions against the 49ers in Week 18.
- Super Cooper Part II. Not only could Kupp end up breaking the single-season receptions record, but he might also get the yardage record. Kupp has 1,829 receiving yards this season, which is currently the fifth-highest total in NFL history, trailing only Calvin Johnson (1,964 receiving yards in 2012), Jerry Rice (1,848 in 1995), Antonio Brown (1,834 in 2015) and Julio Jones (1,871 in 2015). Kupp needs just 43 yards in Week 18 to reach second all-time and 136 yards to break Johnson’s record.
- Matthew Stafford throws another pick-six. In the first quarter against the Ravens, Matthew Stafford threw a pick-six to Baltimore’s Chuck Clark, which is the 27th of his career. That’s the fourth-most in NFL history, trailing only Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Joe Namath.
- Playoff rarity. All four teams that played in a conference title game last season made the playoffs this year, which is notable, because it marks the first time since 1995 that we’ve seen that happen. The four teams were the Packers, Buccaneers, Chiefs and Bills.
- Robert Quinn makes Bears’ history. With one sack on Sunday, Quinn now has 18 for the season, which is a franchise record for the Bears. That’s an impressive feat when you consider that the Bears have had some of the best defensive players in NFL history.
- Kyle Pitts joins Mike Ditka in record book. The Falcons tight end now has 1,018 receiving yards on the season, making him just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark, joining Mike Ditka, who did it back in 1961.
- Justin Herbert enters Chargers record book. With two touchdown passes against the Broncos, Herbert now has 35 for the year, which moves him past Philip Rivers for the Chargers single-season record.
- Packers make history. With their win over the Vikings on Sunday night, the Packers are now 13-3, which makes them the first team in NFL history to win 13 games in three consecutive seasons. Of course, that record won’t mean anything if they don’t end up winning the Super Bowl.
- Giants embarrassing passing game. During their 29-3 loss to the Bears, the Giants finished with -10 passing yards, which means you had more passing yards than the Giants on Sunday. The total was the second-lowest by any NFL team over the past 30 years. The only team with fewer in that span was Ryan Leaf’s Chargers back in 1998 when they finished with -19.
4. NFL playoff picture heading into Monday night
After a wild Week 17, there’s not going to be much drama left for the final week of the season and that’s because 11 of the NFL’s 14 playoff berths have now been clinched. Heading into Week 18, there are still two spots currently available in the AFC and one spot in the NFC.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the playoff picture in each conference:
1. Titans (11-5)*
2. Chiefs (11-5)*
3. Bengals (10-6)*
4. Bills (10-6)*
5. Patriots (9-7)*
6. Colts (9-7)
7. Chargers (9-7)
Still alive: Raiders, Ravens, Steelers
The only team with anything to play for on Monday night is Pittsburgh. If the Steelers win, that will keep alive their faint playoff hopes heading into the final week of the season. The problem for Pittsburgh (and Baltimore) is that if the Colts win against the Jaguars in Week 18, then both teams are eliminated. The Colts will clinch a spot with a win and the other spot will go to the Chargers-Raiders winner. That AFC West showdown has been flexed to Sunday night and will be final regular season game of the 2022 NFL season.
Although the Eagles are one spot BEHIND the 49ers, they’ve clinched a spot and San Francisco hasn’t. The reason for this is simple: If the Eagles lose and end up in a tie with the Saints at 9-8, Philly gets in thanks to its head-to-head win in Week 11. If the Eagles and 49ers both lose (and the Saints win), the 49ers would be the odd man out in a three-way tie at 9-8 (Because it’s a three-way tie, the 49ers head-to-head win over the Eagles doesn’t help them). In Week 18, the 49ers are playing a team they’ve already beaten this season (the Rams) while the Eagles (vs. Cowboys) and Saints (vs. Falcons) are playing teams that they lost to earlier this year.
5. Monday preview: Prepping you for Browns at Steelers
In the grand scheme of things, this game doesn’t mean much and that’s mostly because there aren’t really any playoff implications. The Browns have already been eliminated and although the Steelers are still alive, they’re going to need a miracle to get in. However, this is a huge game for Ben Roethlisberger and that’s because it’s almost certainly going to be his final game ever at Heinz Field. Although that will likely motivate the Steelers, you can bet the Browns would love nothing more than to spoil Big Ben’s final game. Not to mention, a Browns win would officially eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention, so Cleveland will likely also have some motivation in this game.
My good buddy Jared Dubin wrote our deep-dive preview for this game here at CBSSports.com, and here’s how he sees the game playing out:
- Why the Browns can win: The Browns have Nick Chubb and that might be all they need to win against a Steelers team that has been horrible at stopping the run for most of the season. Since Week 9, the Steelers have surrendered an average of 174.9 rushing yards per game and if the Browns get anywhere near that number, they’re likely going to win. The Browns are 7-3 this season when topping the 100-yard mark and 0-5 when they don’t.
- Why the Steelers can win: In what will likely be Big Ben’s final game ever at Heinz Field, you have to think he’s going to want to come out and put on a show. Although Roethlisberger hasn’t been great this season, you have to figure he’s going to use every ounce of gas he has left in his tank to make sure the Steelers win this game.
You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here. The Steelers are currently favored by three points, but that could change before kickoff. The Browns actually opened as a three-point favorite, but after they were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, the point-spread took a wild swing toward the Steelers.
Dubin’s pick: Browns 20-17 over Steelers.
My pick: Steelers 20-17 over Browns.
If you’re thinking about betting on the game, Tyler Sullivan put together a full gambling preview.
- ONE PROP TYLER LIKES: Chase Claypool OVER 36.5 receiving yards (-115): “Claypool has only failed to go over this number in three of his 13 games played this season. He’s averaging nearly seven targets per game this season, and if he continues to see that volume, he should be able to go over this number with just a few receptions, as he’s averaging 15.8 yards per catch this season.”
- ONE PROP I LIKE: Chris Boswell OVER 1.5 field goals (+100): If you think the Steelers are going to win this game, then you should pound the over on this prop. Of the Steelers eight games this season that didn’t end in a loss (seven wins, one tie), Boswell hit two or more field goals in seven of them. On the other hand, in their seven losses, Boswell only went over this total once. Basically, when the Steelers win, it’s usually a defensive struggle where Boswell supplies most of the points and I think we’ll see that happen on Monday night.
6. Details on Antonio Brown’s bizarre exit
In what will definitely go down as one of the craziest things you’ll ever see in an NFL game, Antonio Brown stormed off the field DURING the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 28-24 win over the Jets. Before leaving, he took off his helmet, his shoulder pads and then he threw his undershirt into the crowd, which meant that yes, he left the field shirtless.
Here’s what we know about the bizarre situation, which ended with Brown being cut by the Buccaneers:
- Antonio Brown got into a spat with Bruce Arians. According to Fox Sports, the chaos started when Bruce Arians asked Brown to enter the game. According to NFL.com, Brown felt he was too injured to play so he refused to go in the game. Arians then told Brown to “get out.”
- Arians denies that the ankle was an issue. After the game Arians was asked if Brown’s ankle played a role in the situation and he said “no,” according to ESPN.com, but clearly, Brown doesn’t agree with that assessment.
- Brown becomes irate. Apparently, when Arians said “get out,” Brown took him literally. At that point, the receiver took off his helmet and stripped out of his jersey and shoulder pads. Although Mike Evans and O.J. Howard tried to talk him off the ledge, it didn’t work. Not only did Brown run off the field, but he gave the peace sign to the crowd and threw his undershirt to a fan.
- Brown basically set $1 million on fire. By quitting on the team, Brown won’t be able to earn $1 million in bonus money that he almost certainly would have been able to earn if he would have played out the season. According to Spotrac, Brown needed just eight more catches to earn a $333,333 bonus. He also only needed 55 receiving yards to earn another $333,333 and one TD to earn another $333,333.
- Brown confuses security. After Brown entered the tunnel, a security guard at MetLife Stadium thought he was a fan who had run on the field, according to ESPN.com. The receiver apparently asked for a ride to the airport, but security said no because Brown “was shirtless and didn’t have his wallet.”
- Brown gets a cab out of the stadium. After he was unable to get a ride from security, Brown had a well-known chauffeur pick him up from the stadium and you can see video of that by clicking here.
- Brown releases a rap video. The receiver took advantage of all the publicity that came his way on Sunday by releasing a rap song. If, for some reason, you want to know whether Brown can rap, you can listen to the song by clicking here.
- Tom Brady calls for compassion. The Buccaneers QB was asked about the situation after the game and he said that people should look to help Brown in any way they can, “I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it.” For more on what Brady had to say, be sure to click here.
Now that Brown has been released by the Buccaneers, he’s technically free to sign with anyone, but due to all the drama he’s created over the past few years, there’s a good chance that he’s played his final NFL down.