Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
Going into today, there were nine open coaching jobs in the NFL and those nine teams were taking so long to make a hire that I was starting to think that some of them were just going to go into the 2022 without a coach. That might sound crazy, but let's be honest, even no coach would be a step up from Urban Meyer.
As it turns out, though, there will be some coaching hirings this offseason and they officially started today with the Bears and Broncos both making hires. The Jaguars are also inching closer to making a hire and that could be a done deal by the end of the day.
When you have multiple coaching hires in one day, that's usually the biggest news, but not today, and that's because Ben Roethlisberger officially announced his retirement.
We've got a huge newsletter today that will feature everything I just mentioned, PLUS some bold predictions for the conference title games, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Bold predictions for the AFC and NFC title games
The Thursday episode of the Pick Six Podcast got kind of crazy and that's because Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I got together to hand out our bold predictions for the conference title games.
Here's a look at a few of our bold predictions for Sunday's games:
AFC Championship bold predictions
- Cincinnati Bengals (John Breech): Joe Burrow breaks the AFC title game record for passing yards. The last time the Bengals played the Chiefs, Burrow threw for 446 yards and if he gets anywhere near that number this time around, there's a good chance he'll break the passing record, which has stood for nearly 40 years. The record is held by Dan Marino, who threw for 421 yards against the Steelers in 1984. The fact that the record has stood for so long is rather remarkable when you consider that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes have all had multiple chances to break it.
- Kansas City Chiefs (Ryan Wilson): Chiefs and Bengals combined for more than 74.5 points. The Over/Under in this game is currently set at 54.5 and as you can tell by this prediction, Wilson thinks the total is going to go WAY over. Based on his prediction, it sounds like he's expecting the AFC title game to turn into a shootout that might get just as crazy as Kansas City's win over Buffalo.
NFC Championship bold predictions
- Los Angeles Rams (Will Brinson): Matthew Stafford throw for 400 yard or more and four touchdowns and the Rams win by double-digits. Brinson going all-in on the Rams here is very interesting, because he's one of the few guys in the country who actually made the 49ers his PRESEASON PICK to make the Super Bowl out of the NFC. Although the Rams have lost six straight to the Niners, that streak will end with a blowout win for L.A. if Stafford gets anywhere close to these numbers. If Stafford does top 400 yards, it would break Matt Ryan's NFC title game record for passing yards (396 in 2012)
- San Francisco 49ers (Breech): 49ers score a defensive TD and win. The 49ers were able to win in the divisional round thanks to a special teams TD and this week, I think the non-offensive touchdowns continue with a defensive TD against the Rams. The one big thing the 49ers have going for them is that they're going to have a lot of confidence going up against Stafford. In two games this season, the 49ers picked him off four times and even returned one for a touchdown.
I've only listed four bold predictions here, but if you listen to today's episode, you'll get several more. As a matter of fact, we each made one bold prediction for each team playing on Sunday, so there's a total of eight bold predictions on the podcast. (The four here, plus four more.)
To listen to today's episode -- and to subscribe to the best daily NFL podcast out there -- be sure to click here. You can also WATCH today's episode on YouTube by clicking here. Watching it is definitely more fun than listening to it.
2. Three more bold predictions for the conference title games
We love making bold predictions here, so you're getting a double-dose of bold predictions today, except these predictions aren't coming from the podcast. This time, you'll be getting them from CBSSports.com's Tyler Sullivan.
Here are Tyler's three bold predictions for the conference title games:
1. Mahomes and Burrow combine for 800 yards passing. If you're wondering why this is a bold prediction, it's because it's NEVER been done before in a conference title game (AFC or NFC). The current record for most combined passing yards in a conference title game is 747, which was set in that 1984 Steelers-Dolphins game.
2. Travis Kelce ties Jerry Rice's playoff record. Kelce has seven career playoff games with 100 receiving yards or more and if he gets one more, he'll tie Jerry Rice for the most in NFL history. However, it won't be easy, especially when you consider that Kelce had just 25 yards in Kansas City's first meeting with the Bengals.
3. 49ers upset Rams. Although the Rams are a 3.5-point favorite, the 49ers have beaten them SIX straight times, so there's a good chance Tyler won't be the only person this week predicting an upset in this game.
If you'd like to read Tyler's explanation for each of his predictions, be sure to click here.
3. Ben Roethlisberger officially announces retirement
Over the final few weeks of the season, Ben Roethlisberger was asked multiple times if he was going to retire and each time, he would give a vague answer that seemed to leave the door open for a possible return in 2022. However, that return definitely won't be happening after the two-time Super Bowl winner officially announced his retirement on Thursday in a video posted to Twitter (You can check out the entire video by clicking here).
Big Ben was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history, who ended up spending his entire 19-year career with the Steelers after being selected with the 11th overall pick out of Miami of Ohio in 2004. His 18 seasons are the most a QB has ever spent with one franchise without ever changing teams.
- Roethlisberger won more games than almost anyone. Big Ben finishes his career with a record of 165-81-1. His 165 wins are the fifth-most in NFL history behind only Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
- Big Ben's passing number put him in elite company. Roethlisberger ends his career with 64,088 passing yards, which is fifth all time. Big Ben also ranks eighth on the all-time list for most touchdown passes with 418.
- Never had a losing season. In his 18 seasons in Pittsburgh, the Steelers never had a losing season, which tells you just how consistent this team was during his time under center.
- Two-time Super Bowl winner. Big Ben is one of just 12 starting quarterbacks in NFL history who has won multiple Super Bowls. Roethlisberger's wins came in Super Bowl XL (against the Seahawks) and Super Bowl XLIII (against the Cardinals). The Steelers' win over the Seahawks made Roethlisberger the youngest QB in NFL history to ever win a Super Bowl (he was 23 at the time), which is a record that still stands today. The Steelers also played in Super Bowl XLV with Big Ben, but lost to the Packers 31-25.
- Iconic plays Part I. Two of Big Ben's most iconic plays both came during playoffs runs. In 2005, Roethlisberger made a shoestring tackle on a Colts defender that prevented a touchdown after Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line in a divisional round playoff game. That tackle saved the Steelers' season. After beating the Colts 21-18, the Steelers would beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl three weeks later.
- Iconic plays Part II. With Steelers trailing 23-20 in Super Bowl XLIII, Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes with just 42 seconds left to play that will likely go down as one of the best TD passes in NFL history. Roethlisberger had about a six-inch window to work with and you can click here to see how just how amazing the throw was.
It's impossible to fit all his accolades into this newsletter, but if you want to read more about his retirement, then be sure to click here.
4. Broncos hire Nathaniel Hackett
After more than two weeks of waiting, we finally have our first coaching hire of the offseason. According to CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson, the Broncos are set to hire Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as the team's next head coach. Hackett replaces Vic Fangio, who was fired after compiling a 19-30 record over three seasons.
Here's what you need to know about Hackett:
- He's leaving Green Bay after three seasons. Hackett has been the Packers' offensive coordinator since 2019 and during that time, Green Bay had one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Not to mention, under Hackett's guidance, Aaron Rodgers is likely going to win his second straight MVP award. Over the past three seasons combined, the Packers have had the fewest turnovers and second-best red-zone offense, two things that reflect well on Hackett.
- Worked a miracle in Jacksonville. Before taking the Packers job in 2019, Hackett was in Jacksonville from 2015 to 2018. After being named interim offensive coordinator in 2016, he got the full-time job in 2017, a season that ended with the Jaguars playing in the AFC Championship Game. Basically, Hackett has been the offensive coordinator for a team that made it to the conference title round in three of the past five seasons.
- NFL career started under Jon Gruden. Hackett's first NFL job was in Tampa Bay where he served as an offensive quality control coach under Jon Gruden for two years (2007-08).
- Let the Aaron Rodgers rumors begin. Last offseason, there was a lot of speculation that Rodgers might end up in Denver and now that Hackett is there, you can expect that speculation to reach a fever pitch this year. Rodgers and Hackett are believed to be on very good terms and it wouldn't be surprising at all if Rodgers tries to force his way to Denver.
As an offensive-minded coach, one of Hackett's biggest hires will come on the other side of the ball, and apparently, he already has his eyes on one specific candidate for defensive coordinator. According to NFL.com, Hackett is looking at Ejiro Evero, who currently serves as the Rams' secondary coach and passing game coordinator.
5. Bears hire Matt Eberflus
The Broncos weren't the only ones who made a coaching hire on Thursday, so did the Bears. According to CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, the Bears are set to hire Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as the team's next head coach. Eberflus replaces Matt Nagy, who was fired after compiling a record of 34-31 over four seasons.
Here's what you need to know about Eberflus:
- He's leaving Indianapolis after four seasons. During his four years with the Colts, Eberflus built a defense that ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in nearly every major statistical category. In 2021 alone, the Colts forced 33 turnovers, which were the most in the AFC and second-most in the NFL.
- Has been in the NFL since 2009. Eberflus got his first NFL coaching job when the Browns hired him as their linebackers coach in 2009. After two seasons in Cleveland, he moved on to Dallas where he spent the next seven seasons.
- What Eberflus' hire means for Justin Fields. Since Eberflus is a defensive-minded coach, his first big hire will come in the form of his offensive coordinator. If the OC is someone who can build an offense around Fields' skill set, that will be good news for the Bears, but if the new hire is someone who tries to force their offense on Fields, that could turn into a disaster (This is what Nagy tried to do for part of the season before changing things up). According to NFL.com, one name to watch for the Bears' OC job is Eagles passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo.
The Bears job is likely going to come with a lot of pressure and that's because fans are going to have high expectations after watching Nagy get to the playoffs twice in four seasons.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Jaguars likely to hire Byron Leftwich
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.
- Jaguars seem to have found their guy. By the time you read this, there's a good chance Byron Leftwich will be the team's coach, but it's not a done deal yet. Apparently, the hold up right now is that Leftwich wants to bring in his own GM to replace Trent Baalke. The bad news for Baalke is that it sounds like Leftwich is going to get his way. To keep tabs on all the coaching news that happens, be sure to click here and head over to our coaching tracker.
- Dan Quinn takes his name out of the running. One of the hottest names on the coaching market this offseason was Dan Quinn, but he won't be taking a new job this offseason. The Cowboys defensive coordinator informed Dallas that he plans to stick around for at least another year, according to Patrik Walker.
- Eagles Brandon Brooks retires. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't the only former Miami of Ohio player to retire. Brooks announced his retirement on Wednesday after 10 NFL seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler spent time with both the Texans (2012-15) and Eagles (2016-21) during his 10-year career.
- Baker Mayfield is taking a break from social media. The Browns QB announced on social media that he has decided to take a break from social media, "Gotta do what's best to focus on me, my family and loved ones."
- Washington's new NFL name may have leaked. It seems like there's a new name leak every week, but this one feels a little more realistic. According to one internet sleuth, the name is going to be Washington Commanders, because Commanders has been registered with the company that's in charge of handling the domain names for NFL websites. We'll find out in less than a week if this leak is right.