Welcome to the Christmas Eve edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
So I ran into Santa last night and I have some good news: It appears every one of you made the nice list this year, so as a present from me to you, you're getting a newsletter today! Actually, you were going to get one no matter what, but I feel a lot better about writing it knowing that everyone made the nice list.
We were all so good this year that the NFL is giving us two presents for Christmas in the form of two big games. The Browns and Packers will be starting the Christmas fun tomorrow with a game that kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET (Fox). After that, the Colts and Cardinals will play in a nightcap that kicks off at 8:15 p.m. ET (NFL Network).
Since the games kick off in the late afternoon, that should give you plenty of time to do everything you need to do. For instance, I'm pretty sure my day is going to go something like this: Open presents, eat brunch, take a nap, drink some egg nog, take another nap, put together the complicated toys I got for my 20-month old that I didn't need to get because she would have been just as happy with an empty box, and then watch the games. Seriously, my 20-month-old daughter loves empty boxes. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Alright, let's get to the rundown.
Remember, if you're hanging out with family and/or friends this weekend, you should tell them all to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. Signing someone up makes a great holiday gift and that's mainly because it's free. Everyone loves free.
1. Today's show: Recapping Tennessee's wild win over the 49ers
The Titans got a Christmas miracle on Thursday night, and that miracle was that A.J. Brown was able to come off injured reserve and play against the 49ers after missing the past three games with a chest injury. Thanks to Brown, the Titans were able to overcome an ugly first half to beat the 49ers, 20-17.
The only thing uglier than the Titans' first half was the Christmas pajamas I wore for today's podcast with Ryan Wilson and Will Brinson, where we thoroughly covered Tennessee's win. Here are a few key aspects of the game that we touched on:
- A.J. Brown and the Titans were unstoppable, especially on third down. After being out for more than a month with a chest injury, A.J. Brown finally returned to the field Thursday and it's a good thing he did, because he ended being the Titans' entire offense in the game. Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards, and the most impressive part is that eight of those receptions came on third down. According to ESPN, Brown's eight catches on third down were the most by any player in the past 40 seasons. Overall, not only did Tennessee convert nine of 16 third downs, but eight of those came on third-and-7 or longer. The Titans also became the first team in the NFL this season to convert at least five third downs of 10 yards or longer (they converted six). Basically, the Titans were living on the edge and it ended up paying off.
- Jimmy Garoppolo had a meltdown. After playing mostly mistake-free football for the past six weeks, Jimmy Garoppolo finally had a meltdown. The 49ers quarterback was off his game and he definitely picked a bad night to do that since the Titans have one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. With Tennessee focused on the run, that meant the 49ers were going to need a big game from Garoppolo to win, but they didn't get it. The 49ers QB threw two interceptions, including one in the first quarter that came on a second-and-goal from Tennessee's eight. Garoppolo also missed a pass to a wide open Kyle Juszczyk that should have been the easiest 40-yard TD pass of his life, but instead it fell incomplete. If you want to see how wide open Juszczyk was, feel free to click here. Deebo Samuel basically provided the 49ers with their entire offense in this game, as he totaled 191 yards (159 receiving, 32 rushing).
- Playoff picture after Tennessee's win. Going into Thursday, it looked like the Titans were in danger of choking away the AFC South, but that doesn't feel like it's going to happen anymore thanks to their win. If the Colts lose on Christmas Day to the Cardinals, Tennessee will win the division. If the Colts win, the Titans' magic number is still one, which means one Tennessee win or one Colts' loss over the final two weeks would clinch things for the Titans. As for the 49ers, they're still in good shape, but they've definitely added some drama to the NFC wild-card race with their loss. The 49ers will still be in the top-seven heading into Week 17 as long as the Eagles, Saints and Vikings don't ALL win in Week 16.
To listen to or watch today's episode on YouTube, be sure to click here. (You'll have to watch if you want to see my Christmas pajamas.) You can also check out our takeaways from the game by clicking here.
2. Today's show Part II: Best bets for Week 16
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 49ers-Titans 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 16.
I gladly left because it's Christmas Eve and I have way better things to do than hang out with Brinson all day.
Anyway, 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 (1-2 last week in picks featured here)
- Panthers (+10) to cover against the Buccaneers
- Vikings (+3) to cover against the Rams
- Texans (+10) to cover against the Chargers
Will Brinson (2-1 last week in picks featured here)
- Colts (+1) to cover against the Cardinals
- Bengals (-3) to cover against Ravens
- Saints (+1.5) to cover against the Dolphins
R.J. White (2-1 last week in picks featured here)
- Bears (+6.5) to cover against the Seahawks
- Broncos pick'em over Raiders
- Patriots (-2.5) to cover against the Bills
The guys also have a parlay they like that pays out at +595.
- Broncos pick'em over Raiders
- Steelers (+8) to cover against the Chiefs
- Falcons (-5.5) to cover against the Lions
If it hits, that parlay would win $595 on a $100 bet.
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for Week 16 -- 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 16 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 112 ornaments on to a mini Christmas tree, so I know I'm good at cramming.
With that in mind, we've got some Week 16 picks coming your way and those will be coming from Will Brinson, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Sullivan and 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.
- Will Brinson: Saints 24-14 over Dolphins (New Orleans covers +2). "I'm backing Sean Payton here in a game where he simply out-coaches Brian Flores, thanks to Dennis Allen cooking up a game plan to wreck Tua's day. That home holiday energy in New Orleans plus Alvin Kamara in prime time will be enough to give the Saints a massive win." For the rest of Brinson's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jonathan Jones: Bengals over Ravens (Cincinnati -170 moneyline). "I don't like that Lamar Jackson has hardly practiced in the past half-month. Now that there's tape on Tyler Huntley, I think the Bengals win this." For the rest of Jones' Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jason La Canfora: Colts beat Cardinals (Indianapolis -105 moneyline). "The Colts are a bully. They beat you up at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, and lately the Cardinals look like a team that is questioning its own identity and questioning its own record. Arizona has just three wins in its last seven games and Kyler Murray is looking confused and confounded by the scope of this offense." For the rest of La Canfora's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Tom Fornelli: Patriots 24-16 over Bills (New England covers -2.5). "This is a series the Patriots have long dominated (they've won 36 of the 43 meetings since 2000), and I expect that run to continue. We've seen it all year. When Buffalo goes up against a team that's strong on its lines, it loses. It lost to Tennessee, it lost to Indianapolis, it lost to Tampa Bay, and it lost to these Patriots, 14-10, just a few weeks ago, as New England ran the ball all night long." For the rest of Fornelli's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani: Broncos 23-16 over Raiders (Denver covers in pick'em). "Let's get wild. Drew Lock is starting in place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater. That means the Raiders are the easy pick, right? Wrong! Lock may not be the best quarterback for Denver, but he actually takes some shots downfield. He threw the Broncos' only touchdown of the game last week on the same series in which he replaced Bridgewater." For the rest of Dajani's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Tyler Sullivan: Lions 24-21 over Falcons (Detroit covers +5.5). "The Lions have been a bettor's best friend this season. Despite the 2-11-1 record on the season, they are 9-5 ATS, which is tied for the second-best mark in the NFL entering Week 16. They are fresh off a surprisingly dominant win over the Cardinals and now head down to face the Falcons, who are 0-5 ATS at home this season." For the rest of Sullivan's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
4. MVP Watch: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady duking it out for the award
Once the NFL season reaches Week 16, it's usually pretty clear who's going to win NFL MVP. However, that's definitely not the case this year. In one of the most wide-open races you'll ever see, there are multiple players who definitely still have a shot to win the award.
To help clear things up, we rounded up 12 CBSSports.com writers and had them vote on who they think will win the MVP. Each writer was allowed to put five players on their ballot and based on our voting, Aaron Rodgers is definitely the favorite to win the award.
Here's a look at our top five along with their point total in the vote. (A player got five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.)
Overall, a total of 11 players received at least one vote. Also, Aaron Rodgers received nine out of the 12 first-place votes with Brady getting two and Taylor getting one. If you want to see how the rest of the vote broke down, then be sure to click here.
5. NFL Insider notes: Top head coaching candidates heading into 2022
As things stand right now, there are definitely going to be at least two NFL teams (Jaguars, Raiders) who will be looking to hire a new coach this offseason, and there's a good chance that number is going to shoot up over the next four weeks. The Bears could move on from Matt Nagy, the Giants could fire Joe Judge, and who knows, we might even see something crazy like Pete Carroll leaving Seattle.
Under a new NFL rule, any team that already has a coaching opening can start interviewing candidates as soon as Tuesday, which means the Jaguars and Raiders can start the hiring process early next week. With that in mind, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones decided to make a list of the best coaching candidates heading into this offseason. And I promise, not only did he make this list, but he checked it twice. Santa would be proud.
Top head coaching candidates:
- Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs OC: "He's been passed over two straight years (and you could argue three) for HC jobs. Bieniemy is a key part of what the Chiefs have going."
- Kellen Moore, Cowboys OC: "Don't let the current Dak Prescott slump confuse you. Moore will get a good look from teams this cycle."
- Doug Pederson: "This Super Bowl-winning coach took the year off and should be a candidate for Jacksonville's opening."
- Nathaniel Hackett, Packers OC: "Aaron Rodgers loves him, and Hackett helped Blake Bortles to the AFC title game."
- Todd Bowles, Buccaneers DC: "Bowles has been at the controls of the league's best rush defense since 2019 after four years as the Jets head coach."
Jones actually has a list of 16 guys, and you can check out his entire list by clicking here. If you click over, you'll also see a list of candidates who will likely be considered for open offensive and defensive coordinator jobs this offseason.
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, especially when it comes to COVID, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Cam Akers cleared to return from injured reserve. The Rams running back was supposed to miss the entire year after tearing his Achilles in July, but in a huge surprise, it appears he's going to return to the field this season. Akers has been designated to return from IR, which means there's a good chance he'll be back on the field for the playoffs, if not sooner.
- Saints expected to sign Blake Bortles. With their top two quarterbacks on the COVID list, the Saints are kind of thin at the position going into Monday's game against Miami, so they decided to add some depth Friday in the form of Bortles. According to The Times-Picayune, the former Jaguars QB is expected to sign today. Based on the Saints' current roster situation, Bortles will likely serve as the backup to rookie Ian Book in Monday's game.
- Washington safety involved in car crash. The team announced Friday that safety Deshazor Everett is in the hospital after a car crash Thursday night where he was the driver. According to police, a female passenger tragically died in the accident. As for Everett, he suffered serious, but non-life threatening injuries.
- Dalvin Cook placed on COVID list. The Vikings star running back won't be playing Sunday against the Rams after he tested positive for COVID. According to ESPN.com, Cook has been following all the protocols of an unvaccinated player this season and if he is unvaccinated, he'll he out for at least 10 days.
- Bills add two to COVID list. The Bills likely aren't going to have receiver Gabriel Davis and right guard Cody Ford for Sunday's showdown against the Patriots after both players were placed on the COVID list.
- Jets COVID list keeps growing. The Jets added several more players to their COVID list on Thursday and their total is now up to 21. The Jets currently have five defensive starters, three offensive starters and their head coach all on the list.
- Chiefs get two starters back from COVID list. It's still not clear if the Chiefs will have Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill on Sunday, but they did get some good news: Chris Jones and cornerback Charvarius Ward have both been removed from the COVID list. That should give the Chiefs a huge defensive boost for their game Sunday against the Steelers.
- Buccaneers place Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette on IR. The hits keep coming for Tampa Bay. Not only was Fournette (hamstring) placed on IR, but star linebacker Lavonte David (foot) is joining him there. This means both players are now done for the regular season, although they could still return for the playoffs.
- Tom Brady gets his own color. Tom Brady already has a bunch of things that most of us will never have in life, like millions of dollars and seven Super Bowl rings, and now he has his own color. Pantone teamed up with Brady's company to create a color called "Brady Blue," and you can see what it looks like by clicking here.