Saturday, January 29, 2022

Recapping a wild NFL Week 18, plus Dolphins shockingly fire head coach and looking at playoff schedule

Recapping a wild NFL Week 18, plus Dolphins shockingly fire head coach and looking at playoff schedule

Here’s everything you need to know about the NFL for Jan. 10

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Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

If you wear reading glasses, you might want to go grab those now, because there’s going to be a lot to read about today. I don’t have the official newsletter record book in front of me, but this might go down as the longest newsletter in Pick Six history. I didn’t do that on purpose, but that’s what happens when we get 24 hours of absolute craziness in the NFL.

Here’s what has happened since the season ended yesterday: 

  • Four coaches have been fired
  • Two general managers have been fired
  • The playoff schedule came out and it somehow includes the Steelers, who looked like they had no shot to make the playoffs going into Week 18. 

We’ll be covering all three of those things, plus plenty more in today’s newsletter, so without further ado, 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. Getting your friends signed up is a great way to help them start 2022 off on the right foot. 

1. Today’s show: Week 18 winners and losers, plus full recap

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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 18, and let me just say, it’s probably for the best that you listen. The final week of the season ended up being one of the craziest weeks in NFL history and we broke down all the craziness. 

We took a look at every game from Week 18, but we spent most of our time talking about the following three games: 

  • Raiders 35-32 over Chargers in OT. This game was bonkers from beginning to end and it had three fan bases on the edge of their seats. The game wasn’t decided until the final play when Daniel Carlson hit a 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime. If Carlson had missed, the game would have ended in a tie, which would have sent the Raiders and Chargers to the playoffs. Instead, the Raiders and Steelers got the final AFC playoff berths. We spent some serious time talking about Brandon Staley’s decision-making, from the timeout he called with 38 seconds left in overtime — when it looked like the Raiders were content to run out the clock — to his decision to go for it on fourth down from his own 18-yard line in the third quarter (The Chargers failed and the Raiders got three points out of it). 
  • Jaguars 26-11 over Colts. In the biggest shocker of the day, the Jags stunned the Colts. To get in the playoffs, all the Colts had to do was beat the worst team in the NFL and they couldn’t even accomplish that. The Jags’ game plan was simple: They went all-in to stop Jonathan Taylor, which meant Carson Wentz was going to have to win the game and he just wasn’t good enough to make that happen. Taylor finished with 77 rushing yards, while Wentz threw for just 185. Over their past 34 games, the Jags now have more wins against the Colts (3-2) than they do against EVERY OTHER NFL TEAM COMBINED (2-27). The Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. 
  • 49ers 27-24 over Rams in OT. The Rams had never lost a game where they had a halftime lead under Sean McVay (45-0), but that streak ended on Sunday after the 49ers made a wild comeback. The 49ers’ win came mostly thanks to Deebo Samuel, who was a one-man show. Not only did the 49ers Swiss Army knife finish with 95 yards receiving, but he also rushed for 45 yards (and a TD) AND he threw a 24-yard TD pass. Samuel’s 43-yard catch at the end of regulation helped set up the 49ers’ game-tying TD. The fact that the 49ers got in the playoffs should worry other NFC teams because they’re going to be a tough team to beat. 

Not only did we go over each game, but we also made some early playoff picks. 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

2. Eleven crazy facts from Week 18

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 11 crazy facts about Week 18: 

  • Tom Brady breaks another NFL record. The Buccaneers QB completed 29 passes on Sunday, which means he finished with 485 for the season, a number that smashes Drew Brees’ previous NFL record of 471. I’m starting to feel like Brady is going to have every QB record possible before he finally retires.
  • Gronk also sets NFL record. Brady wasn’t the only Buc breaking NFL records and that’s because Rob Gronkowski also broke one. Gronk’s 137-yard game against the Panthers was the 32nd game of his career with at least 100 receiving yards, which moves him past Tony Gonzalez for the most 100-yard games by a tight end. 
  • Super Samuel. In the 49ers’ wild 27-24 win over the Rams, Deebo Samuel became just the third receiver over the past 71 years to finish a game with a rushing TD and a passing TD, joining Lynn Chandnois (1951 Steelers) and David Patten (2001 Patriots). 
  • 49ers end Sean McVay’s mastery. Before Sunday, the Rams had been 45-0 in games they led at halftime under Sean McVay, but that streak is now over after the 49ers rebounded from a 17-3 halftime deficit to beat Los Angeles. 

  • Chasing history: Ja’Marr Chase had 25 receiving yards on Sunday, bringing his season total to 1,455, which not only broke Chad Johnson’s franchise record for receiving yards, but it was the second-most by a rookie in NFL history, trailing only Bill Groman, who had 1,473 in 1960 with the Houston Oilers. 
  • Waddle breaks rookie record. Ja’Marr Chase wasn’t the only rookie putting his name in the record book. Jaylen Waddle recorded five receptions against the Patriots, which gave him 104 for the season. That number is a rookie record, breaking the old record of 101, which was set by Anquan Boldin in 2004. 

  • Russell Wilson passes Peyton Manning. The Seahawks‘ win over Arizona gave Wilson 113 for his career, which is a new NFL record for the most wins for a quarterback through his first 10 seasons. Wilson broke a record that had been held by Peyton Manning.  
  • Kupp hits the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown isn’t easy to pull off in the NFL and we know that because Kupp became just the fourth player since 1970 to pull it off (The Triple Crown is leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and TD catches in the same season). The Rams receiver joins Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith Sr. (2005). Also, Kupp finished the year with 1,947 receiving yards, which is the second-most in a single season all time, trailing only Calvin Johnson (1,964 receiving yards in 2012). Kupp’s 145 receptions are also the second-most in a single-season, trailing only Michael Thomas, who had 149 receptions in 2019.
  • High-wattage performance. With one sack against the Ravens, T.J. Watt finished the 2021 season with 22.5 sacks, which is tied with Michael Strahan (2001) for the highest single-season total in NFL history. 
  • Ekeler sets undrafted record: With two touchdowns against the Raiders, Austin Ekeler joined Priest Holmes (2002 and 2003) as the only undrafted players in NFL history to score 20 or more touchdowns in a season.  
  • Twist ending. There were a total of three overtime games on Sunday, marking the first time since 1993 that there were three OT games played in the final week of the season. The twist here is that 1993 was also an 18-week season and it’s the ONLY other 18-week season in NFL history (There were two byes that year, which is why there were 18 weeks). So there have been two 18-week seasons and the both got crazy at the end. 

3. NFL coaching firings have started: Dolphins pull off big surprise on a day where multiple coaches get axed 

There’s a reason the day after the regular season is known as “Black Monday” around the NFL and that’s because it’s the one day every year where at least one head coach gets fired and this year is no exception. 

The NFL season ended less than 24 hours ago and there have already been four firings, including a totally shocking one down in Miami. Let’s go over each firing real quick: 

  • Dolphins: In a move that came out of nowhere, the Dolphins shockingly made the decision on Monday to fire Brian Flores. It was especially surprising because the Dolphins finished the 2021 season on a roll, winning eight of nine to close the year and becoming the first team ever to finish a season with a winning record after a 1-7 start. Flores also had a winning record against Bill Belichick (4-2), which is not something that most coaches can say. The Dolphins are keeping general manager Chris Grier, which means I feel like this happened for one of two reasons: Either Flores wasn’t on board for whatever the team is planning to do at quarterback or owner Stephen Ross has a coaching candidate that he’s dying to hire. On the QB thing, if Flores wanted to keep Tua Tagovailoa and the front office wanted to dump him, that would’ve create a rift. That might not be exactly what happened, but clearly, the team wasn’t on the same page as Flores. You can read more about the Flores situation by clicking here
  • Vikings: After two straight losing seasons, the Vikings decided to dump Mike Zimmer, who had been the team’s head coach since 2014. During his time as coach, the Vikings went to the playoffs three times, including one NFC title game, but they couldn’t get over the hump. The Vikings had a habit of blowing leads in 2021 and that doesn’t reflect so well on the coaching staff. In a move that was somewhat surprising, the Vikings also made the decision to move on from general manager Rick Spielman. As a GM, he was the one who made the decision to dump Case Keenum — who led them to the NFC title game in 2017 — for Kirk Cousins, and so far, that decision hasn’t worked out so well. For more on the Vikings moves, be sure to click here
  • Bears: After losing to the Vikings on Sunday, the Bears decided to clean house. Not only did they fire Matt Nagy, but they also dumped general manager Ryan Pace. The moves mean that the franchise is planning on starting from scratch as it looks to build a contender around Justin Fields. Although it felt like Nagy wore out his welcome, the next coach is going to be under a lot of pressure, because it won’t be easy to duplicate Nagy’s success. In four years with the team, Nagy went 34-31, while making the playoffs two times. As for Pace, he hired two head coaches for the Bears during his seven-year run with the team and it appears the Bears had no interest in letting him hire a third one. For more on the situation in Chicago, be sure to click here
  • Broncos: The Broncos got the firings started on Sunday morning when they let go Vic Fangio. There was plenty of speculation that Fangio was going to get axed and he definitely didn’t help his cause when he made some questionable decisions during Denver’s 28-24 loss to the Chiefs on Saturday. During his three seasons in Denver, Fangio never had a winning record, but the front office also never gave him a QB he could win with. When you’re playing in the AFC West, you’re simply just not going to win the division with Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock. For more on the Broncos’ coaching move, be sure to click here

By the time you read this newsletter, there could be another firing or two added to this list. One coach who was definitely on the hot seat was the Giants‘ Joe Judge, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be fired. According to CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson, Judge will be staying on for at least one more year. Judge, however, will have a new GM watching over him as Dave Gettleman announced his retirement.

4. Playoff schedule is out

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After the longest regular season in NFL history, it’s finally time for the playoffs, and this year, there’s an added twist to the postseason. This year, the NFL playoffs will feature a Monday night game for the first time, which will happen on Super Wild Card Weekend. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the playoff schedule for the wild card round. 

Saturday, Jan. 15

  • (5) Raiders at (4) Bengals: 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC). This is a rematch of a game that the Bengals won 32-13 on the road in Week 11. This is the first time these two teams have met in the postseason since January 1991 when the Raiders started Cincinnati’s 31-year playoff losing streak. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, the Raiders were still in Los Angeles at the time. 
  • (6) Patriots at (3) Bills: 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS). These two division rivals will be meeting for the third time this season. The Patriots and Bills split their season-series with the home team losing each time, which is something the Bills will have to change if they want to advance to the next round. The Patriots are 0-2 in the wild card round over the past 15 years. 

Sunday, Jan. 16

  • (7) Eagles at (2) Buccaneers: 1 p.m. ET (Fox). The Eagles will get another crack at a Buccaneers team that beat them 28-22 in Week 6. After that loss, the Eagles went 7-4 over their final 11 games to earn a playoff berth. 
  • (6) 49ers at (3) Cowboys: 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS and Nickelodeon). This will be a rematch of one of the most storied rivalries in NFL playoff history. Although these two teams have met seven times in the playoffs, this will mark their first postseason meeting since the 1994 season, which is also the last time the 49ers won the Super Bowl. 
  • (7) Steelers at (2) Chiefs: 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC). Ben Roethlisberger will get a chance to put off retirement for another week or two if the Steelers can figure out a way to upset the Chiefs. However, that won’t be easy, considering Kansas City blew the Steelers out 36-10 just two weeks ago. 

Monday, Jan. 17

  • (5) Cardinals at (4) Rams: 8:15 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN). These two division rivals will be meeting for the third time this season. The Cardinals and Rams split their season series with the home team losing each time, which isn’t great news for the Rams, who will be the home team in this game. 

The Packers and the Titans also made the playoffs, but they both got a first-round bye, so they won’t be on the field until the divisional round.  

5. Ranking the playoff teams 

As you’ve probably noticed, we love to rank things here at CBS Sports so in news that probably won’t come as a huge surprise, we decided to rank this year’s playoff field. There are a total of 14 teams and based on Cody Benjamin’s rankings, things are pretty top-heavy in the NFC with that conference earning the top two spots. 

Here’s how the rankings break down: 

1. Packers

2. Buccaneers

3. Chiefs 

4. Bills

5. Titans

6. Bengals

7. Rams

8. Cowboys

9. Patriots 

10. 49ers 

11. Cardinals

12. Eagles 

13. Raiders

14. Steelers 

Just for the record, I didn’t beg Cody to put the Bengals that high, he did that on his own. The only part of these rankings that I would disagree with is where the Titans are. Not only did Tennessee beat Buffalo and Kansas City during the regular season, but they’ll be getting a week off to heal, which is big news, since that’s one more week of rest for Derrick Henry before his potential return. 

If you want to read Cody’s entire rankings, be sure to click here

6. NFL Draft order is partially set: Top 18 picks are locked in

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The playoff race wasn’t the only thing that brought a lot of suspense on Sunday, there was also a lot of suspense revolving around who would land the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. With the Jaguars holding a 26-3 lead on the Colts in the second half, it became pretty clear that Jacksonville was going to win and at that point, the Lions knew that if they lost to the Packers, they would get the No. 1 overall pick.

Despite trailing 30-27 with two minutes left, Lions coach Dan Campbell still decided to go for the win. Detroit ended up beating the Packers 37-30, which clinched the top pick for Jacksonville. 

Besides those two teams, the NFL Draft is going to be big for everyone in New York and that’s mainly due to the fact that the Giants and Jets combine to hold four of the top 10 picks. The Eagles are the other big winner with three draft picks in the first round. Right now, they know where two of those will fall and they’ll know where the third one ends up after the playoffs are over.   

With that in mind, here is the official order for the top 18 spots in the draft: 

1. Jaguars (3-14)

2. Lions (3-13-1)

3. Texans (4-13) 

4. Jets (4-13)

5. Giants (4-13) (via Bears)

6. Panthers (5-12)

7. Giants (4-13)

8. Falcons (7-10)

9. Broncos (7-10) 

10. Jets (4-13) (via Seahawks)

11. Washington (7-10)

12. Vikings (8-9)

13. Browns (8-9)

14. Ravens (9-8)

15. Eagles (9-8) (via Dolphins)

16. Eagles (9-8) (via Colts)

17. Chargers (9-8)

18. Saints (9-8)

The six losing teams in the wild card round will all be officially added to the draft order next week. For more on the draft order, including a look at individual team needs, be sure to click here

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