Howdy do, everybody! John Breech is gone, and he promised you that I -- Cody Benjamin -- would be using such happy-go-lucky greetings during my week filling in as your friendly Pick Six Newsletter host. What he didn't tell you, however, is that his story about once spending three hours with me in Florida was absolute malarkey. That never happened. I think he confused me with Brady Quinn. Or Pete Prisco. Anyway, you didn't come here for intra-newsletter drama. So let's get to the good stuff.
We've got QB competition updates, more NFL comeback attempts, insider predictions and much more:
- Today's show: Which NFL teams belong in different divisions?
If you're looking for a good time, Wednesday's Pick Six NFL Podcast can offer one. Sorting through another round of mailbag questions, the crew was tasked with rearranging NFL divisions, either for fun or to create a better league landscape. And Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and John Breech all had unique suggestions, as did producer and resident Philly fanatic Eric DeBerardinis.
Brinson said he'd move the Rams out of the NFC West, swapping them with the Vikings in the North, just to give Matthew Stafford a clearer -- and also more dramatic -- path to dominance. Can you imagine, after all, Stafford going up against old North rivals, as well as his old team in Detroit, under Sean McVay's guidance? Wilson suggested swapping the Bills or Buccaneers with the Raiders in the AFC West, mostly to add multiple marquee quarterback matchups (e.g. Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes) to the schedule.
Debo, meanwhile, was all about infusing drama in one of the NFL's most unpredictable divisions: "I would bring the Patriots to the NFC East," he said. "I love the rivalries there, but I'd probably swap New England for Washington (and) play Boston two times a year."
Catch the entire episode -- and subscribe for daily NFL talk -- right here.
Which teams are most likely to improve or decline in 2021, when the offseason finally subsides and games get underway? Insider Jason La Canfora has identified 10 different clubs most likely to be on the move -- either for better or worse -- come fall. Here's a look at a few of the teams he sees leaping upward (or tumbling downward) this season:
Justin Herbert is already a top eight QB for my money, and those dudes tend to end up playing into January. Too much talent on that defense to keep flailing around, and that will change. At some point injuries won't torpedo them (right?). I know I have had feel for this one before, but this roster is legit and I believe in the rebuilt offensive line, and I like this team to no longer come undone in critical situations under new game-day management. Bolt up!
Every bit of empirical data and every hour of film review painted a very bleak picture of where this offense was headed with Ben Roethlisberger hanging on by a thread. Hard to see this ending well, and the offensive line is a shell of what it once was, too. This franchise has staved off a losing season in ways most could only dream of, but this league will eventually pull everyone down, and this roster is not good enough to overcome the shortcomings moving the ball downfield. I'm getting worried about all the tread on the defensive line as well.
Their injury luck has to improve, I figure. The Bosa boys will eventually stay healthy. If San Fran gets back its beastly front four, it will make life a lot easier for the offense. We know the Niners are going to run the hell out of the football, and perhaps Trey Lance can impact the team in special situations along the way. Just a few years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, I think they can be one of three playoff teams from the NFC West.
They seem to be preordained to win nine games or so a year and get into the big dance. But that run ends now. Too many questions about that defense -- which was already poor a year ago -- and too much brain drain from recent coordinator defections and too many departures and injury questions on offense. This ain't the same group up front or on the outside that helped Ryan Tannehill revive his career, and the loss of Arthur Smith drawing things up will prove massive. Will struggle to defend the big play, and also struggle to produce as many of them as they once did. Derrick Henry's workload will catch up to them at some point, too.
3. Where and when Mac Jones could take over for Patriots in 2021
Everyone's talking about when Trey Lance and Justin Fields could see their first action this year, but what about Mac Jones? Didn't the Patriots just spend a 15th overall pick on the quarterback? Why, yes, yes they did. And we're glad you asked. Because Tyler Sullivan has a few potential answers. He identified three spots where Jones is most likely to take over in New England this season:
Week 5: Patriots at Texans
This is likely the earliest ... we'd (see) Jones start under center for the Patriots. It's hard to envision a scenario where Belichick unseats Newton over the first month of the season, especially with (a) matchup with Tom Brady on deck when the Buccaneers come to town in Week 4. If that game proves to be a blowout, however, and Brady gets the last laugh over his former team and head coach who could be under .500 at that time, this would seem like a prime spot to make a change.
Week 12: Patriots vs. Titans
New England travels to Atlanta to face the Falcons on 'Thursday Night Football' to kick off Week 11. If the Patriots are treading water by this point in the year and fall to the Falcons on a national stage, I like this as another area where we could see a change. After playing on Thursday night, Belichick would have a little extra time to prep Jones leading up to a home matchup with Tennessee, making this an advantageous pocket for him. In all, there is a 10-day window between Week 11 and Week 12 for New England.
Week 15: Patriots at Colts
If they are out of playoff contention by mid-December and Newton is still entrenched as the starter, it makes all the sense in the world for the organization to turn things over to Jones for the final four games of the year.
4. Bears insist Andy Dalton, not Justin Fields, will take QB1 reps
Speaking of first-round QBs on the way to starting jobs, Chicago continues to give public assurances to Andy Dalton, its "prized" free agent addition, even after trading up to draft Fields at No. 10 overall. This time, it's coach Matt Nagy confirming Dalton will get all the QB1 reps to start the offseason. Is it unusual? Not necessarily. The Bears aren't going to crown Fields before he's taken a single snap. But we all know it's a matter of time until they turn to their biggest investment under center since Mitchell Trubisky. And, honestly, Nagy's remarks seem to acknowledge as much.
"I know that time is the biggest question right now for Justin, and I completely understand that, because there is an excitement, there is that want for all of us to see what Justin can do," Nagy told NFL.com. "We'd be lying to you if we didn't say that or believe that. But (we've) got to make sure as we go through this thing that we also do what's best for the Bears and for Justin."
5. Transaction wire: Kelvin Benjamin to Giants, Ryan Kerrigan to Eagles
Stop us if you've heard this before, but a former NFL veteran who's been out of the league for years is trying to revive his football dreams by switching to tight end. This time, though, his name isn't Tim Tebow, so your friends and coworkers probably won't be shouting incessantly about it! Kelvin Benjamin, best known as the big-bodied Panthers wide receiver who fizzled out after a promising start alongside Cam Newton, has officially signed with the New York Giants. Last seen as a little-used backup with the Chiefs in 2018, Benjamin will attempt to win a reserve job behind Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph this summer.
Elsewhere in the NFC East, Ryan Kerrigan is relocating from Washington to Philadelphia, with the Eagles announcing Monday they have are signing the longtime pass rusher to a one-year deal. The 32-year-old was notoriously productive against Philly, his former divisional rival, during a 10-year run in D.C. Now, he's reportedly shrugged off interest from other teams like the Bengals and Steelers to get a crack at his old employer. With the Eagles, Kerrigan figures to split time with top edge rushers Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett following a significant reduction in snaps under Ron Rivera in 2020.
6. 2022 mock draft: Saints, Steelers, Texans take QBs of the future
Ready for another draft already? Good, because Josh Edwards has forecast the 2022 first round, and he's got a bunch of juicy picks in his first 32, including a couple of big-name franchises adding new signal-callers. Take a peek at his projected No. 1 QB selections:
- Texans (No. 1): UNC QB Sam Howell
- Steelers (13): Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler
- Saints (22): USC QB Kedon Slovis
- Broncos (24): Liberty QB Malik Willis
Houston's QB room is probably the most uncertain of all entering 2021, with Deshaun Watson's status still up in the air. Pittsburgh may or may not be bidding farewell to Ben Roethlisberger after this year. New Orleans is only experimenting with Jameis Winston this fall. And Denver has been open about searching for potential QB upgrades even after acquiring Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Drew Lock. Chances are, as Edwards predicts, all four will be in the market for a passer next spring.