Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
With the NFL playoffs down to just eight teams, I’ve decided we’re going to completely focus on those eight teams today. OK, we’re actually going to focus on nine teams, and that’s because there’s no way I can leave out the Dallas Cowboys. I’m starting to have a feeling the drama there is never going to end.
For today’s newsletter, we’ve got a double-dose of Divisional Round bold predictions, plus we’re ranking the eight remaining playoffs teams. We’ll also be taking a look at the latest details in Jon Gruden’s lawsuit in the NFL, so let’s get to the rundown.
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1. Today’s show: Bold predictions for the Divisional Round
The Thursday episode of the Pick Six Podcast got kind of crazy and that’s because Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I got together to hand out our bold predictions.
Here’s a look at a few of our bold predictions for this weekend’s playoff games:
AFC Divisional Round bold predictions
- Cincinnati at Tennessee (Ryan Wilson): Joe Mixon finishes with more rushing yards than Derrick Henry. This game is giving us a matchup of two of the best running backs in the NFL, who both finished in the top 10 for total rushing yards this year. Although Henry is arguably the best running back in football, there are a lot of questions about his health going into Saturday’s game. The Tennessee running back hasn’t played since October, so there’s a chance we’ll see the Titans ease him into action with only 10-20 carries, which could pave the way for Mixon to top him in rushing yards.
- Buffalo at Kansas City (John Breech): Josh Allen has twice as many touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes. Based on this prediction, you can probably guess who I’m picking to win the game (Bills). I think the Bills offense is going to have a big day, which is going to allow Allen to total at least four touchdowns. On the other hand, the Bills have had the best defense in football this year, and I think they’re going to be able to keep Mahomes’ touchdown total in check.
NFC Divisional Round bold predictions
- L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay (Breech): Rams and Buccaneers combine to break NFC divisional record for most yards by both teams. The record for most combined total yards by both teams in an NFC Divisional round playoff game is only 762, but despite that, the record has managed to stand since 1999 when the Rams and Vikings combine to hit that number in a 49-37 Minnesota loss. The Rams and Bucs totaled 853 yards when they met back in Week 3, and although I don’t expect them to hit that number this time around, I do think they can get within 75 yards of it, which would allow them to break the record.
- San Francisco at Green Bay (Will Brinson): 49ers pull off upset. The Packers are currently favored by six points in this game, which makes the 49ers the biggest underdog of the Divisional Round. Despite the fact that the weather is only supposed to be about 15 degrees on Saturday night, Brinson still thinks the 49ers can go into Lambeau and pull off an upset. The 49ers have a strong rushing attack that should be able to move the ball on the Packers defense, and that’s one big reason why Brinson is picking them to win.
I’ve only listed four bold predictions here, but if you listen to today’s episode, you’ll get several more. As a matter of fact, we each made one bold prediction for each game, so there’s a total of 12 bold predictions on the podcast. (The four here plus eight more.)
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. Watching it is definitely more fun than listening to it.
2. Four more bold predictions for the Divisional Round
We love making bold predictions here, so you’re getting a double-dose of bold predictions today, except these predictions aren’t coming from the podcast. This time, you’ll be getting them from Tyler Sullivan, who is a noted Patriots homer who appears to finally be taking his anger out on Tom Brady because he’s predicting the Buccaneers to lose!
Here are Tyler’s four bold predictions for the Divisional Round:
I think the most interesting prediction is the second one. Although most people are expecting the Chiefs and Bills to play a close game, Tyler is predicting Kansas City to win in a blowout. If you’d like to read Tyler’s explanation for each of his predictions, be sure to click here.
3. Ranking the eight remaining 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 the eight remaining playoff teams. The dirty work of actually ranking the teams went to CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr, who ranks the CHIEFS as the best team left in the playoffs.
Here’s how his rankings break down:
The top half of the playoff field is so good that you could put any of the top-four teams at No. 1 and I really wouldn’t argue with you. The Buccaneers, Packers, Chiefs and Bills all have a solid case for being in the top spot. If I had done these rankings, I would have had the Bengals at No. 1, which is probably why I never get asked to rank things.
If you want to read Jeff’s entire rankings and his reasoning for ranking each team where he did, be sure to click here.
4. Cowboys drama continues: Troy Aikman bashes wild card game-plan, Mike McCarthy defends final play call
It’s been four days since the Cowboys’ wild card loss to the 49ers, and the drama is still going strong in Dallas. Not only is everyone still talking about the asinine play the Cowboys called at the end of the game, but now, we have even more drama with Cowboys legend Troy Aikman throwing the offense under the bus FOR SOMETHING ELSE that had nothing to do with the play call.
- Aikman says the Cowboys should have thrown more to CeeDee Lamb. With the 49ers playing soft coverage on Lamb, Aikman went on radio Wednesday and made it clear that he thought Lamb should have gotten more targets. “There was a lot of single coverage on CeeDee Lamb. I hate going back to (when I was playing) because nobody cares, but what I see around the league — it’s not just Dallas, I’ve seen it with a lot of teams — a lot of these offenses want to scheme things. The coordinators, it’s all about scheme, rather than, ‘This corner is playing soft. He’s scared to death.’ Just run the route tree. Run a comeback. Run a dig route. Run a curl. Run anything,” Aikman told 96.7 The Ticket in Dallas.
- What the Cowboys should have done. With the 49ers playing such soft coverage, Aikman says the Cowboys should have kept feeding Lamb, “(Michael Irvin) would’ve had 10 catches at halftime if they played us the way they played CeeDee Lamb in that game,” Aikman said. “The game is not that difficult. If I’ve got a great player at wide receiver and a corner is playing him in single coverage, throw him the ball. He’s going to win most of the time.”
Lamb finished with one catch for 21 yards — on five targets — and was basically a non-factor in the game.
Thanks to Aikman, the Cowboys are now going to be answering two questions for the rest of the offseason: Why didn’t they throw more to Lamb and WHAT WERE THEY THINKING ON THEIR FINAL OFFENSIVE PLAY?
Earlier this week, I dissected why the QB draw was such a horrible play-call, but Mike McCarthy still doesn’t agree. After 72 hours of thinking about it, the Cowboys coach still thinks he made the right decision.
- McCarthy insists it was the right call. “We had great confidence in that situation because we were just trying to get inside the 30-yard line to change the play-call for the final play,” McCarthy said, via NFL.com. “So, it’s the right call based on our preparation.” Calling a run play with 14 seconds left and no timeouts is never the right call. Sorry, Mike.
- McCarthy also defended both Dak Prescott and center Tyler Biadasz for trying to spot the ball. “The center can spot the ball. The receiver can spot the ball. So (the opinion) of you can’t spot the ball is not correct,”McCarthy said. “So, the center can spot the ball. Our guys are trained to spot the ball exactly how the referee spots the ball.” This is just total lunacy. The ref has to touch the ball before the next play starts, and by giving it to anyone but the ref, you’re basically costing yourself time, which the Cowboys didn’t have much of on Sunday.
I feel like Cowboys fans are going to be mad about Sunday’s loss until McCarthy admits he was wrong about the play call, and based on how things are going, he’s never going to admit he was wrong, so Cowboys fans are going to be mad forever. It’s going to be a fun offseason in Dallas.
5. NFL asks court to dismiss Jon Gruden lawsuit
It’s been two months since Jon Gruden filed his lawsuit against the NFL and over that time, we haven’t really heard anything about the case. Well, that changed Wednesday when the league finally responded to the lawsuit, which was filed in Nevada.
The NFL is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Here are a few of their main points:
- Gruden shouldn’t have had any expectation of privacy with his emails. “Gruden does not, and cannot, dispute that he wrote the published emails. He does not, and cannot, dispute that he sent those emails to multiple parties,” the league’s filing said, via the AP. “Nor does he claim that they were somehow altered or edited and that the repugnant views espoused in them were not in fact expressed by him. Instead, Gruden filed the instant complaint against the NFL and the commissioner, painting himself as the victim in a fictional story and seeking money through baseless claims against the NFL.”
- Gruden sent offensive messages to at least six people. We know Gruden sent several emails to former Washington team president Bruce Allen, but apparently, he sent offensive emails to at least five other people. “Gruden sent a variety of similarly abhorrent emails to a half dozen recipients over a seven-year period, in which he denounced `the emergence of women as referees,’ and frequently used homophobic and sexist slurs to refer to Commissioner Goodell, then-Vice President Joseph Biden, a gay professional football player drafted in 2014, and others,” the league wrote, via The Athletic.
- The leaked emails didn’t just hurt Gruden, they also hurt the NFL. “The crux of Gruden’s Complaint is that somehow the NFL or the Commissioner ‘leaked’ his non-confidential emails (which were already sitting in the hands of Gruden’s many recipients and as to which Gruden had no colorable expectation of privacy) to, for some inexplicable reason, destroy his career and ruin his reputation, despite the fact that the emails precipitated numerous media stories critical of the League, and also negatively impacted the League and the Raiders in the middle of the football season.”
It will be interesting to see where this case goes next. Of course, if the NFL gets its way, the case won’t be going anywhere because it will be getting dismissed.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Chiefs linebacker arrested
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.
- Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay arrested. The 23-year-old Gay was arrested and hit with a misdemeanor criminal charge after an incident where he damaged “a vacuum cleaner, wall and door frame during a confrontation with a woman,” according to KCTV-5 in Kansas City. For more details on the case, be sure to click here. Gay started 11 games this year for a Chiefs team that’s scheduled to play Sunday against the Bills.
- Bruce Arians gets fined $50,000 for striking one of his players. The Buccaneers coach could be writing a big check to the NFL this week after being fined for slapping one of his players during Sunday’s wild card game. Arians said he will appeal the fine, stating that he slapped Andrew Adams because he was trying to prevent the safety from getting a penalty.
- Baker Mayfield will be sidelined for four-to-six months. The Browns QB underwent surgery Wednesday, which is expected to sideline him for the next four-to-six months. What that means is that he probably won’t be doing much during spring OTAs, but he’s expected to be fully healthy for training camp.
- Eagles GM expects Jalen Hurts to be Philly’s QB in 2022. According to Eagles GM Howie Roseman, there’s no questions about who the QB in Philadelphia will be next season. During an interview Wednesday, Roseman said Hurts did enough to keep the job.
- Roger Goodell will be at Bengals-Titans game. If you ask someone to guess which game Roger Goodell will be attending Saturday, they’d probably guess 49ers-Packers, but that’s not the case. The NFL Commissioner will be in Nashville for Bengals-Titans. That’s also where I’ll be, so I’ll let you know if I bump into him.
- Wild card ratings are huge. A total of 102 million people watched the wild card round over the weekend, and most of those people were watching 49ers-Cowboys. That game, which was on CBS, generated an average audience of 41.5 million viewers. The 49ers’ thrilling win was the most-watched wild card game on any network in seven years. It was also the second-most-watched wild card game ever for CBS.