Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
Just when I thought nothing would divide the country more than the last presidential election, along comes Brandon Staley with his newfangled football strategies. If there's one coach in the NFL who fully embraces analytics, it's definitely Staley, and for the most part, the analytics have been working out in his favor this year. However, a lot of Chargers fans weren't happy with Staley following his team's 34-28 overtime loss to the Chiefs.
The Chargers failed on three different fourth downs in the game and those all came in situations where they could have easily kicked a field goal instead. After the game, the internet was basically divided on whether they loved Staley's coaching style or hated it. Some people thought he cost his team the game while others simply pointed out that he made the correct decision on each fourth down even if he didn't get the desired outcome.
The Chargers already have an analytics guy and right now, I feel like they also need a common-sense guy. I agreed with two of Staley's three fourth-down calls, but I probably would have taken the points before halftime (The Chargers went for it on fourth down from the 1 and failed on the final play of the first half).
We'll have more on the Chargers' loss to the Chiefs, plus we'll be taking a look at the COVID outbreak that has ravaged the NFL this week, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Recapping Kansas City's wild win over the Chargers
In one of the wildest games you'll ever see, the Chief and Chargers went blow for blow before Patrick Mahomes called game with a 34-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in overtime. The only thing wilder than the game was the podcast that I recorded afterward with Ryan Wilson and Will Brinson.
Here are a few key aspects of the game that we touched on:
- Chiefs get big-time performances from their big three. For the first 14 weeks of the season, we didn't see a game where the Chiefs' three biggest offensive stars were all on the same page, but that changed on Thursday as Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Kelce all came up big for Kansas City. Mahomes threw for a season-high 410 yards and that includes throwing for 197 yards and three touchdowns over the final 9:30 of the game along with overtime. On Hill's end, he caught 12 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, including a 1-yard score midway through the fourth quarter that tied the game at 21. Of course, the star of the game was Kelce, who caught 10 passes for a career-high 191 yards. Kelce also caught two touchdowns and they couldn't have been any bigger. The first one came with 1:16 left to play and tied the game at 28. The second one was a 34-yard walk-off TD in overtime that won the game for Kansas City. After struggling for a good chunk of the year, the Chiefs' offense might finally be back.
- Chargers offense sputters inside Kansas City's 5-yard line. If you're wondering why the Chargers lost this game, a big reason is because they came away with ZERO points on THREE different possessions inside of Kansas City's 5-yard line. On their first drive of the game, the Chargers were stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the 5. On their final drive of the first half, they were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1. In the second half, Josh Kelley lost a fumble while attempting a goal-line jump from the 1-yard line (It was possibly the worst goal-line jump ever and you can see it by clicking here). The Chargers were their own worst enemy. Although their offense moved the ball at will -- they didn't punt for the first time until there was just 25 seconds left in the game -- they kept shooting themselves in the foot. On their first nine possessions, they had three failed fourth downs, an interception and a lost fumble.
- Chiefs basically wrapped up the AFC West with win. With the win, the Chiefs didn't officially clinch the AFC West, but for all intents and purposes, the race feels like it's over. The Chiefs have a two-game lead with just three weeks left, which means if they go 2-1 over the final three weeks, they win the division. Also, if the Chargers lose at any point over the final three weeks, then the Chiefs would need to just win one more game to clinch. As for the Chargers, they're locked in the fifth spot right now in the AFC, but they could actually fall out of the top seven based on how other games shake out this weekend.
2. Today's show Part II: Best bets for Week 15
The best part about Friday -- besides the fact it's Friday -- is that you get two episodes of the podcast in your feed. After the recap of the Chiefs-Chargers game, Brinson politely asked me and Ryan Wilson to leave so that he could bring on R.J. White and Pete Prisco for a discussion about their best bets for Week 15.
The three guys spent nearly 60 minutes going over the best bets for every single game, and we're going to cover three of each person's picks below.
Pete Prisco (2-1 last week in picks featured here)
- Jaguars (-3.5) to cover against the Texans
- Seahawks (+4.5) to cover against the Rams
- Jets (+10) to cover against the Dolphins
Will Brinson (1-2 last week in picks featured here)
- Bills (-10.5) to cover against the Panthers
- Eagles (-7) to cover against Washington
- Patriots (+2.5) to cover against the Colts
R.J. White (1-2 last week in picks featured here)
- Bengals (+1.5) to cover against the Broncos
- Lions (+13) to cover against the Cardinals
- Packers (-5.5) to cover against the Ravens
The guys also have a parlay they like that pays out at +595.
- Saints (+11) to cover against the Buccaneers
- Steelers (+1.5) to cover against the Titans
- Packers (-5.5) to cover against the Ravens
If it hits, that parlay would win $595 on a $100 bet.
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for Week 15 -- and there are quite a few -- be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast. You can also watch the trio give out their picks on YouTube by clicking here.
3. NFL Week 15 picks
This is the final newsletter of the week, which means I feel morally obligated to cram as many picks as possible into this space. I once crammed 17 marshmallows onto one graham cracker while making a S'mores, so I know I'm good at cramming.
With that in mind, we've got some Week 15 picks coming your way and those will be coming from Tom Fornelli, Tyler Sullivan, Jordan Dajani along with CBS Sports NFL insiders Jason La Canfora and Jonathan Jones.
Here's how things are going to work: I'm going to give you one pick from each guy and then direct you to the rest of their picks. That way, if you like their pick, you'll be able to read the rest of them, but if they pick against your favorite team, you can ignore the rest of their picks and move on.
- Jonathan Jones: Bengals over Broncos (Cincinnati +140 moneyline). "The Bengals are going to make this interesting right down to Week 18. I haven't believed in Denver all year and the Cincy pass rush should be able to impact Teddy Bridgewater." For the rest of Jones' Week 15 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jason La Canfora: Cardinals beat Lions (Arizona covers -13.5). "It's the year of the big spread, but I don't think this is big enough. The Lions had their Super Bowl beating the Vikings but they are dealing with major virus issues and they don't have much talent to begin with." For the rest of La Canfora's Week 15 picks, be sure to click here.
- Tom Fornelli: Texans 21-17 over Jaguars (Houston covers -3.5). "The Jaguars have lost five straight and have been outscored 57-7 in the last two weeks. Everything about the franchise seems dysfunctional, and while the Texans are pretty awful themselves, at least they seem to have a plan. I don't know what Jacksonville's is." For the rest of Fornelli's Week 15 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani: Cowboys 31-17 over Giants (Dallas covers -10.5). "Without Daniel Jones, the Giants lost by 16 points to the Chargers last week and by 11 points to the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. Jones will be out of the starting lineup yet again this week. Exactly half of NFL games last week were decided by at least 11 points. I'm not too afraid to lay the points here with Dallas." For the rest of Dajani's Week 15 picks, be sure to click here.
- Tyler Sullivan: Packers 27-21 over Ravens (Green Bay covers -5). "Both quarterbacks -- Aaron Rodgers (toe) and Lamar Jackson (ankle) -- are dealing with injuries. While both are expected to play, it'll be interesting to see how each ailment impacts their overall play. I lean more on Rodgers being able to play through at a higher level as Jackson has been shaky even before this injury." For the rest of Sullivan's Week 15 picks, be sure to click here. .
4. NFL makes changes to COVID protocols with outbreak getting ugly
When it comes to COVID, it's been an ugly week for the NFL and if you want to know how ugly, there have been more than 100 players placed on the COVID list since Monday. With so many players on the COVID list, the NFL has changed its protocols so that it's actually easier for a player to get back on the field following a positive test.
Here's a look at the changes:
- One positive test will get you back on the field. Any vaccinated player who tests positive and is also asymptomatic can now return to the field after recording just one negative test. Previously, a player in this situation had to record two positive tests that were taken at least 24 hours apart.
- Possible to get back on the field while still having COVID. A player in quarantine can return to the team if their CT value is 35 or higher. When a player is tested, their viral load is measured by the cycle threshold (or CT value) and research has found that someone who registers 35 or higher might still test positive for COVID, even though they're not infectious.
- All teams must follow intensive protocols. For the rest of Week 15, all 32 teams will have to follow the league's intensive protocol rules. This means that everyone has to wear a mask and that social distancing will now once again be required. Also, all meetings will be held virtually and there will a limit on how many players can be in a room at once. If the outbreak continues into next week, you can bet the intensive protocols will continue.
- Some teams will be getting tested daily. If you've been following the Browns situation, you may have noticed that they seem to have a few new positives every day and that's because they're being tested every day. Although intensive protocols call for every player on each team to be tested daily, not every team will have to follow that part of the protocol. Only the teams that were in the intensive protocols before Thursday will have to continue with daily testing. Those include the Browns, Rams and Washington.
Speaking of those three teams, it's starting to get ugly and we'll give you an idea of how ugly right now.
5. COVID ravages Browns, Washington and Rams: Baker Mayfield rips NFL, Jarvis Landry wants Cleveland's game postponed
With COVID ravaging the NFL right now, there are no teams that have been hit harder than the Browns, Rams and Washington, who all have 20 or more players on the COVID list.
Here's a quick look at each team's situation heading into the weekend:
- Browns. Baker Mayfield was already on the COVID list and now Case Keenum has also tested positive, which means the Browns are down to third-string QB Nick Mullens for Saturday's game. The Browns also signed Kyle Lauletta off the Jaguars' practice squad so that he can serve as the backup QB in the game. The Browns currently have more than 20 players on the COVID list, including seven offensive starters and multiple defensive starters along with coach Kevin Stefanski. Despite that, the NFL has insisted that Saturday's game against the Raiders won't be postponed. Browns receiver Jarvis Landry has let the NFL know that the game should be postponed due to the Browns' untenable situation.
- Mayfield calls out NFL. The Browns' QB was upset because the NFL required every player to take a COVID test after practice on Thursday. Apparently, Mayfield was under the impression that vaccinated players who were asymptomatic wouldn't have to test and because no one was tested BEFORE practice, he assumed that was the case. With the testing done AFTER practice, that meant that any player who might have had COVID could have spread it to someone else during practice. Mayfield's ultimate point seems to be that the NFL has no idea how to handle this latest COVID outbreak and he might not be wrong. Mayfield also added that if the NFL truly cares about player safety, they'll postpone the game.
- Washington. The Football Team's situation is almost as dire as Cleveland's and that's because their top two quarterbacks -- Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen -- are both on the COVID list. With no great QB options on the roster, Washington had to sign Garrett Gilbert off the Patriots' practice squad and he might actually have to start. Washington also has quarterbacks Kyle Shurmur and Jordan Ta'amu on its roster, but neither of them have any NFL starting experience. According to ESPN.com, Ron Rivera is going to wait until Sunday to name a starter. Washington now has more than 20 players on the COVID list and of those 20, 12 were projected to be starting in Sunday's divisional showdown with the Eagles. Rivera wouldn't mind seeing the game postponed by at least one day.
- Rams. The Rams haven't lost a quarterback yet, but their COVID list is now up to 25 players and that total includes key starters like Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham and Von Miller. Unless some of those players are able to test out of COVID protocols, the Rams could be missing as many as six starters for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.
Roger Goodell made it clear this week that the NFL is not planning to postpone any teams and as of Friday at noon, that still seems to be the case, despite the alarming number of players testing positive for COVID.
If you want to know who has tested positive for COVID this week, then you'll definitely want to click here to check out our COVID tracker.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: More COVID news
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, especially when it comes to COVID, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Bears place six players and all three coordinators to COVID list. The Bears likely won't have their offensive, defensive or special teams coordinator for Monday's game against the Vikings. The team also put six players on the COVID list, including Allen Robinson and Eddie Jackson.
- Packers place Kenny Clark on COVID list. The Packers likely won't have one of their best run-stoppers on Sunday against the Ravens, which isn't ideal since Baltimore one of the best running teams in the league. On the flip side, the Ravens likely won't have starting safety Chuck Clark, who was also placed on the COVID list.
- Cardinals place starting center on COVID list. Kyler Murray will likely be taking snaps from someone else during Sunday's game against the Lions and that's because center Rodney Hudson has been placed on the COVID list.
- Seahawks place two key offensive players on the COVID list. Both Tyler Lockett and Alex Collins are now on the COVID list, which means Seattle could be down one receiver and one running back for this weekend's NFC West showdown with the Rams.
- Bengals likely down two starters against Broncos. Bengals right tackle Riley Reiff has been placed on injured reserve, which means he definitely won't be playing this week. On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has been placed on the COVID list and will also likely miss Sunday's game.
- Donald Parham in stable condition. The Chargers tight end, who was taken to the hospital after being knocked out during a play in the end zone on Thursday, is now in stable condition. According to the team, Parham is being evaluated for a head injury. The team provided an update today that Parham is likely to be discharged.
- Larry Fitzgerald likely not reuniting with Cardinals. After DeAndre Hopkins was lost for the season, there was some speculation that Arizona might bring in Fitzgerald, but apparently, that's not going to happen. According to ArizonaSports.com, the Cards aren't currently planning to bring in another receiver, even one who knows the team as well as Fitzgerald.
- NICKELODEON game is returning. Last year, ViacomCBS unveiled the Nickelodeon game during the wild card round and it was such a hit that it will be returning this season. Whatever wild card game CBS gets in the 4:30 p.m. slot on Sunday Jan. 16 will also double as the Nickelodeon game. If you have kids, this is actually a pretty exciting way to watch football with them. And to be honest, even if you don't have kids, it's still a pretty fun way to watch football.