Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter.
It's a sad day for all of football due to the passing of Mike Leach, who died Monday night at the age of 61. Although Leach spent his entire coaching career in the college ranks, he did have an impact on the NFL. His high-flying offenses produced multiple receivers who went on to have highly successful NFL careers, including Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola.
Heading into the 2022 season, Leach was also one of just two active head coaches -- along with Nick Saban -- who had produced at least one first-round pick at three different college stops.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury had a prolific college career while playing for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Kingsbury went on to use Leach's concepts during his own stint at Texas Tech, where he coached Patrick Mahomes. Basically, Leach's Air Raid offense helped usher in a new way of playing football, and even though he used it at the college level, those concepts found their way to the NFL over the years.
For more on Leach's life, be sure to read our full story here.
Here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get them to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. Alright, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Patriots keep playoff hopes alive in game where Kyler Murray suffers serious injury
The Patriots needed a win in the worst kind of way Monday night, and although they were trailing at halftime, they steamrolled the Cardinals in the second half of what ended up being a 27-13 win.
Here are four key things from the game that Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I covered during our postgame podcast:
- Kyler Murray goes down with injury. This game got off to an unfortunate start for the Cardinals, who lost Kyler Murray to an injury after just the third play from scrimmage. On the play, Murray took off scrambling and then suffered a non-contact injury to his knee (you can see it here). The early prognosis is that Murray has a torn ACL and will be out of the season. This injury doesn't just have ramifications for this year, but it could also impact next season for Arizona. With the injury happening in December, it's unlikely Murray will be back in time for Week 1. The Cardinals have a lot to figure out this offseason -- like whether they're going to bring back Kliff Kingsbury and/or Steve Keim -- and now they're going to have to worry about how much time Murray could miss in 2023.
- Patriots ride their defense to win. The Patriots owe this win to their defense, which absolutely beat up on the Cardinals. Not only did the Patriots rack up six sacks -- with 5.5 of those coming from Josh Uche (three) and Matthew Judon (1.5) -- but they also forced two turnovers, including a fumble recovery for a TD by Raekwon McMillan in the third quarter that blew the game open. Marcus Jones also came up with an interception in the third quarter that essentially put the game on ice. Belichick always loves to see his defense dominate, so he probably thoroughly enjoyed this win.
- Patriots rookies shine. The Patriots haven't hit very many home runs in the draft over the past few years, but their 2022 class has looked impressive all season, and it helped carry the team to the win Monday night. After Rhamondre Stevenson went down with an injury, two rookie running backs -- Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris -- came in to fill the void. Strong, a fourth-round pick in April, carried the ball five times for 70 yards and a TD while Harris (sixth round) rushed for 26 yards and a TD. This game marked the first time since 2006 that two Patriots rookies both scored a TD in the same game. Not to be outdone, the human Swiss Army knife, Marcus Jones, also had an impressive game: Not only did he pick off Colt McCoy, but he also had 47 kick return yards, 12 receiving yards and seven punt return yards to go along with 18 return yards on his interception. If this game proves anything, it's that the Patriots hit a home run with their 2022 draft.
- Playoff ramifications: A loss Monday would have been devastating for the Patriots' playoff chances, but they're now firmly in the hunt thanks to this win. At 7-6, the Patriots how hold sole possession of the seventh-seed in the AFC. If the Patriots can get to 10 wins, that would almost make them a lock to get in the postseason, but going 3-1 down the stretch won't be easy with a remaining schedule that includes the Raiders (away), Bengals, Dolphins and Bills (away).
We talked about those four things, plus everything else you could possibly want to know about Monday's game. If you want to listen to the rest of our recap, be sure to click here. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Prisco's Power Rankings heading into Week 15
It appears sending Pete Prisco five dollars every week for the past 15 weeks has finally paid off for me, because he has finally put my Bengals in the top five of his power rankings. The jump by Cincinnati was the only major change at the top as the top-four teams all stayed the exact same.
With that in mind, let's check out the top five:
Dropped out: Vikings
I'm not going to spoil the rest of the power rankings here, but I am going to give you a few nuggets. Here's what has changed since last week:
- The biggest jump this week went to the Chargers. Following their win over the Dolphins on Sunday night, Prisco bumped them up three spots from 15th to 12th.
- The biggest jump in the NFC went to the Panthers, who actually tied the Chargers for the biggest overall jump. After watching the Panthers beat the Seahawks, Prisco moved them up three spots from 28th to 25th. All four NFC South teams are ranked between 17th and 26th.
- The biggest drop this week went to the Giants, who are in a total free fall right now. The Giants are now 1-4-1 in their past six games. Following their loss to the Eagles, Prisco dropped them three spots, from 13th down to 16th.
- As for the bottom of the rankings, the Texans are in the cellar this week, but just barely. If they had been able to upset the Cowboys in Week 14, Prisco might have moved them out of last place, but instead, they gave up a 98-yard TD drive in the final minutes that cost them the game, which wasn't overly surprising, because that's exactly what a team ranked last would do in that situation.
If you want to know where your favorite team ended up in Prisco's Power Rankings, be sure to click here. If you want to argue with Prisco over his rankings, you can do that on Twitter by clicking here. I argue with him all the time about everything.
If you want more rankings, we also ranked the top Super Bowl contenders this week. You can check that out by clicking here.
3. Breech's Week 15 picks: Bills destroy Dolphins, Titans upset Chargers
If it's Tuesday, that can only mean one thing: It's time for my weekly picks.
Last week, I correctly predicted the Ravens would upset the Steelers and the Chargers would beat the favored Dolphins, which helped boost me to a 9-4 overall record for the week. However, I also picked the Buccaneers to beat the 49ers, so I can't really gloat about anything right now.
Here are three of my picks for Week 15:
- Dolphins at Bills (-7.5) (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NFL Network): The Dolphins are 0-7 since 2017 in games where the kickoff temperature is under 40 degrees, and it's supposed to be 30 degrees Saturday night in Buffalo. If human history has taught us one thing, it's that people who don't live in cold weather, hate cold weather. I think the Bills roll here. PICK: Bills 34-20 over Dolphins.
- Lions (PK) at Jets (1 p.m. ET, CBS): The Jets have three options at quarterback this week: They can start a banged-up Mike White, start a guy who got benched earlier this year (Zach Wilson) or start Joe Flacco. I don't really like any of those options, which is why I have to pick the Lions here. PICK: Lions 20-17 over Jets.
- Titans (+3) at Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): If I've learned one thing about the Chargers in my time covering the NFL, it's that they always seem to win when you think they're going to lose, only to turn around and lose when they're expected to win. The Chargers are favored by three, but I'm not sure if they're going to be able to stop Derrick Henry, considering they have one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL this year. PICK: Titans 23-20 over Chargers.
To check out the rest of my picks for Week 15, be sure to click here.
4. NFL Week 14 overreactions and reality checks
Everyone on the internet loves to overreact to things, and that's especially true when we're talking about the NFL. With that in mind, Jeff Kerr decided to take a look at several things that happened around the NFL in Week 14 to decide if we're all overreacting.
Statement: Deshaun Watson does't make the Browns any better.
Overreaction or reality: Reality. "Another poor game for Watson, who finished 26 of 42 for 276 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Browns offense could only muster 10 points in a loss to the Bengals. In the two games Watson has played, he's completed 59.4% of his passes for 407 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions (70.3 rating). Sure, Watson has to shake the rust off, but this team isn't better with him in the lineup."
Statement: The Lions will make the playoffs.
Overreaction or reality: Overreaction. "The Lions continue to be one of the hottest teams in the NFC, and after winning five of their last six games, Detroit is all of a sudden 6-7 and sitting just two games in the loss column behind the Giants (7-5-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) for the final playoff spot. The Lions' problem is that they have little room for error. A 4-0 finish and Detroit has an excellent shot to get in, but anything other than that could leave them on the outside looking in."
Statement: The Seahawks will miss the playoffs.
Overreaction or reality: Reality. "Washington is the No. 6 seed in the NFC and New York is No. 7 with both teams at 7-5-1. The Seahawks need one of them to collapse down the stretch in order to get in the playoffs, but even if that happens, Seattle still has to play the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets in their next three games, so a playoff berth is anything but guaranteed."
There are plenty more overreactions from Week 14, and if you want to check those out, be sure to click here.
5. Sean Payton appears to be eyeing three teams for potential 2023 return
Although Sean Payton is currently taking a year off from coaching football, he's made it clear that he would be willing to return in 2023, but only if it's in the right situation. So what would the right situation be? Glad you asked.
Here's the latest on Payton and where he might be looking to coach in 2023:
- Payton would apparently prefer to coach one of three teams. Back in July, there was a report suggesting that Payton was eyeing the Chargers, Dolphins or Cowboys, but now, it seems that his preferences have changed. According to NFL.com, Payton would prefer to coach one of the teams in Los Angeles (Rams or Chargers) if "somehow or some way" one of those jobs came open. According to NOLA.com, Payton would also consider returning to the Saints if he were to make a coaching comeback in 2023.
- Payton has a few preferences and at least one demand. Back in July, it was reported that Payton wanted to coach in a warm-weather city, and all three cities mentioned above would fit that bill. Also, Payton currently lives in Los Angeles, which is one of the big reasons he would prefer to coach the Rams or Chargers, according to NFL.com.
- It won't be easy to get Payton. Even if a team wants to hire Payton next season, it won't be easy. Even though he's out of football right now, he's still under contract with the Saints, which means any team that wants to pursue him will have to first work out a potential trade with New Orleans.
So what will happen? The guess here is that Payton DOES return to the NFL in 2023. Although the Rams and Chargers jobs aren't open right now, it's not inconceivable that one of them becomes available. If the Chargers don't make the playoffs, they could make the decision to move on from Brandon Staley. As for the Rams, Sean McVay gave some serious thought to retirement during the offseason, and after suffering through the first losing season of his career, he might give it some more thought this offseason.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Cowboys and Bills both add veteran receivers
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.
- Cowboys sign T.Y. Hilton. The Cowboys signed a receiver Monday, but it wasn't Odell Beckham Jr.. Instead, the team signed veteran T.Y. Hilton. The former Colts receiver only caught 23 passes last year and hasn't played in a single game this year, so it will be interesting to see how much he can actually help Dallas. As for the Odell sweepstakes, the Cowboys are still poking around the free agent receiver, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson.
- Cole Beasley returns to Bills. The Bills are bringing back an old friend in the form of Cole Beasley. The receiver spent three seasons in Buffalo (2019-21) before spending a short time with the Buccaneers earlier this season. Beasley knows the Bills' offense and gives them some depth at receiver, which is likely why he decided to come out of retirement to sign with Buffalo.
- Deebo Samuel has sprained MCL. The 49ers got some good news and some bad news on Deebo Samuel. The bad news is that he likely won't be able to play Thursday against the Seahawks. The good news is that the 49ers do expect him to return during the regular season after being diagnosed with a sprained MCL.
- Eagles have busy Monday The Eagles added two players Monday, including three-time Pro Bowler Brett Kern. The former Titans punter was signed to replace Arryn Siposs, who was injured after running the ball on a blocked punt against the Giants. The Eagles also brought back safety Anthony Harris, who the team released in September.
- Jets expect Mike White to play against Lions. The Jets starting quarterback was taken to the hospital Sunday after taking a brutal hit against the Bills. However, that was just a precautionary measure and Robert Saleh is expecting him to play against the Lions. "We're proceeding as if he's going to be a full participant [in practice] and play in the game on Sunday," Saleh said Monday, via ESPN. Saleh wouldn't reveal who might start if White can't go, which seems to indicate that he fully expects White to be on the field against Detroit.