Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six Newsletter!
It's a big day around the NFL and that's because it's Aaron Rodgers' birthday. At this point last year, I'm pretty sure his birthday wish was to get out of Green Bay, but since that didn't work, I'm guessing he won't be making one this year. Also, in what has to be the greatest birthday-related coincidence of all-time, he isn't even the only Aaron on his team celebrating a birthday today and that's because it's also Aaron Jones' birthday.
In other birthday news, Britney Spears is turning 40 today, which I'm only mentioning because nothing makes me feel older than knowing Britney Spears is 40.
To celebrate all of those birthdays, the NFL decided to schedule a game tonight between the Cowboys and the Saints and we'll be covering that extensively in today's newsletter. We'll also be looking at the easiest remaining schedules along with our latest playoff projections, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Cowboys-Saints betting preview
If you're planning on betting any money on tonight's game, then you're going to want to make sure to listen to today's episode of the podcast before you place any bets. For today's show, Will Brinson brought on CBSSports writer Tyler Sullivan, and the two went into full gambling mode.
Here are several props they like for the game:
- Ezekiel Elliott OVER 2.5 receptions (-160). The value isn't great here at -160, but this almost feels like free money because Elliott has gone over 2.5 receptions in six straight games. One thing that could scare you away from this bet is the fact that he's dealing with a knee injury, but the Cowboys have been insisting that he'll get plenty of playing time in this game.
- Dalton Schultz UNDER 43.5 receiving yards (-160). With the Cowboys getting most of their offensive weapons back tonight, it seems likely that Schultz is going to see his production take a major hit against New Orleans.
- Taysom Hill anytime TD (+150). Hill already has three touchdowns this year and there's no reason to think he won't add to that total in a game where he'll be touching the ball on EVERY offensive snap as the Saints' starting quarterback.
- Long shot prop: Taysom Hill first TD (+850). If Taysom Hill scores a TD at any point in the game, you'll win +150 on your bet, but if you bet on him to score the first TD, the odds take a tremendous swing in your favor. Betting on Hill to score the first TD would win $85 on a $10 bet, which is solid value considering we've already seen him score three touchdowns this year.
For more props and their actual predictions for tonight's game, be sure to click here so you can listen to today's episode. If you'd rather watch today's show, you can now do that on YouTube by clicking here!
2. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for Cowboys at Saints
One month ago, these two teams were a combined 11-3 and looking like playoff contenders, but then November happened. The nightmare month saw the Cowboys go 1-3 while the Saints were actually worse, going 0-4. Both of these teams could really use a bounce-back win tonight, which is why this game is so huge.
My good buddy Jared Dubin put together our deep-dive preview for this game at CBS Sports, and here's how he sees it playing out:
- Why the Cowboys can win: The Cowboys offense will be getting a lot of firepower back tonight with CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper both expected to return to the field. (Cooper missed two games with COVID while Lamb missed Dallas' Thanksgiving game with a concussion.) More importantly, the Cowboys are going to have Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins on the field together for the FIRST TIME EVER in this game. As Dubin noted in his preview, the Cowboys have had games where only one or two of those players were out, but they've never had all eight on the field together. Basically, the Cowboys offense should be able to light up the scoreboard in New Orleans tonight.
- Why the Saints can win: The Saints will be missing several key offensive players tonight, including Pro Bowlers Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, but that doesn't mean they can't win. One thing New Orleans will have working in its favor is the element of surprise with Taysom Hill, who will reportedly start at QB tonight. Hill is a human Swiss Army knife, and with him under center, no one knows exactly what the Saints offense is going to look like, which opens the door for Sean Payton to put together a game plan that will leave the Cowboys defense guessing all game.
You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here. The Cowboys are currently favored by 6 points. The point spread opened with the Cowboys favored by 4.5 but jumped up to 6 after Kamara, Ramczyk and Armstead were ruled out.
Dubin's pick: Cowboys 27-17 over Saints.
My pick: Cowboys 24-17 over Saints.
If you're thinking about betting on the game, Tyler Sullivan put together a full gambling preview.
- ONE PROP TYLER LIKES: Dak Prsecott UNDER 35.5 passing attempts (-125): "Over the last three weeks, opposing quarterbacks are averaging 26.3 pass attempts per game against New Orleans. With Taysom Hill on the other side, they'll look to grind this game out on the ground, limiting Prescott's opportunities."
- ONE PROP I LIKE: Greg Zuerlein OVER 1.5 field goals (-110): Not many teams in the NFL love kicking field goals more than the Dallas Cowboys. Zuerlein has gone over this number in five of the Cowboys' past six games, and the only game in that span where he didn't go over came against the Broncos when Dallas decided that field goals wouldn't do them any good after falling behind 30-0. I don't think they'll be falling behind 30-0 in this game.
3. NFL playoff projections heading into Week 13
Tonight's game between the Cowboys and Saints will mark the first NFL game this year in December, and since we've now officially reached December on the NFL schedule, it seems like the perfect time to start talking about the playoffs. When it comes to the postseason, the only thing anyone wants to know is whether their favorite team is going to make it, 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:
For me, the biggest surprise here is in the NFC with the Saints still being projected to make the playoffs. After watching them lose every single game they played in November, I am personally projecting them to miss the playoffs. Also, one thing I love here is that if these projections pan out, we would get a Patriots-Chiefs game in the wild-card round, which would automatically make it the best wild-card round of all-time.
According to Oh's projections, the Cardinals 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.
4. Titans and Cardinals have easiest remaining strength of schedules
If you want to make your own playoff projections, one way to make an educated guess about who will be getting in is to look at the remaining schedule for each playoff contender. For instance, although the Eagles are currently on the outside looking in of the NFC playoff race, things are actually shaping up well for them down the stretch and that's because they have the fifth-easiest remaining strength schedule of any team in the NFL.
Over their final five games, the Eagles will only play one team that currently has a winning record (the Cowboys). If you're trying to predict who's going to win the NFC West, the Cardinals seem like the best bet right now and that's because they have the second-easiest remaining schedule of any team in the NFL. A big reason for that is because two of their next three games will be played against the Bears and Lions.
Here's a look at the five teams with the easiest remaining schedules:
1. Titans (Opponents have a .366 combined winning percentage)
2. Cardinals (.410)
3. Packers (.420)
4. Seahawks (.432)
5. Eagles (.436).
Here's a look at the five teams with the most-difficult remaining schedules:
Yup, you're reading that right: four of the five toughest remaining schedules belong to teams in the AFC North. Basically, this likely means that the division is going to be a dog fight down the stretch, and since the Browns' mascot is a dog, that could give them the advantage, but probably not.
5. Pro Bowl voting: Jonathan Taylor leads the NFL
After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, the Pro Bowl is finally returning this year and apparently, fans have forgotten that you're allowed to vote for quarterbacks, because a RUNNING BACK is the leading vote-getter right now.
Here's a list of the top-five Pro Bowl vote-getters through Dec. 1:
I'm not saying there should be a recount, but where is Joe Burrow on this list? I voted for him at least 115,000 times. He should definitely be in the top five.
As for other positions, there are some fascinating nuggets to share:
- The AFC quarterback with the most votes isn't Patrick Mahomes. That honor actually belongs to Josh Allen, who has racked up just over 84,000 votes so far.
- Although the Seahawks are struggling this year, fans still seem to love them as Seattle has three players currently leading the vote at their position: Quandre Diggs (free safety), Michael Dickson (punter) and Nick Bellore (special teams). That's tied for the second most of any team.
- The Cowboys currently have the most players leading the vote at their position with four as Ezekiel Elliott, Zack Martin (guard), Tyler Biadasz (center) and Trevon Diggs (corner) all lead at their respective positions.
Fan voting for the Pro Bowl will run through Dec. 16. The fan vote counts one-third toward determining the final roster with players and coaches also voting. Players and coaches will have until Dec. 17 to turn in their vote. Pro Bowl rosters will then be announced Dec. 20. The game will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 6, which is the latest the game has been held since 2008 when it was played on Feb. 9. (Back then, it was played the week after the Super Bowl.)
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.
- Seahawks sign Adrian Peterson. After a short stint with the Titans, the player with the fifth-most rushing yards in NFL history is now headed for Seattle after signing with their practice squad Wednesday. He's probably not going to save their season, but if you're the Seahawks, anything is worth a try at this point.
- Daniel Jones could play against Dolphins. Earlier this week, there were multiple reports suggesting Jones wouldn't be playing Sunday, but he says not so fast. The Giants QB said he's "preparing to play" and coach Joe Judge also added that Jones (neck) hasn't been ruled out. If Jones can't go, then Mike Glennon will start in his place.
- Kenny Vaccaro retires from NFL After eight years in the NFL, the former first-round pick has decided to hang up his cleats for good. Vaccaro entered the league as the 15th-overall pick of the Saints in the 2013 NFL Draft. He then spent five years in New Orleans before playing his final three seasons in Tennessee.
- Antonio Brown to miss at least two more games. The Buccaneers receiver hasn't played since Week 6 due to an ankle injury, and it doesn't appear he'll be coming back anytime soon. According to ESPN.com, Brown is going to miss at least two more games, which means the earliest he'd be back at this point would come in Week 15.
- Hunter Henry says he'll skip game if wife goes into labor. The Patriots could be down a tight end at some point this month if Hunter Henry's wife goes into labor. Henry has made it clear that if his baby is born on a game day, he'll be skipping the game to attend his child's birth. The baby is due in late December.
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