Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
You know what, maybe today we should call it the Pick Four newsletter, because there are only four teams left trying to get to the Super Bowl. If you're not a fan of one of those four teams, I have some good news for you: There's still time to jump on someone's bandwagon before Sunday.
If you're trying to figure out who you should cheer for, don't worry, we've got you covered. If you're thinking about rooting for the 49ers this weekend, our Jordan Dajani came up with five reasons why you should go ahead and do that. On the other hand, if the Rams' bandwagon is more your style, then you should click here to see why becoming a Rams fan for the rest of the playoffs is a good idea.
Finally, as the resident Bengals homer here at CBSSports.com, it was my job to convince all of America to jump on Cincinnati's bandwagon and if you click here to read my piece, there's a 98% chance it will turn you into a Bengals fan for life. Just remember, if you do jump on the Bengals' bandwagon, you have to be willing to put chili on your spaghetti for the rest of your life.
Alright, we have got a huge newsletter today that will include conference title game picks, so 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.
1. Today's show: AFC and NFC Championship best bets
For today's podcast, Will Brinson rounded up R.J. White and Pete Prisco so they could argue about who's going to win the conference title games on Sunday.
The three guys spent nearly 60 minutes going over the best bets for both games and we're going to cover three best bets from each person below. The twist here is that since there are only two games, that only covers two of their best bets, which means they had to come up with a third bonus one on their own. I usually don't trust Brinson to do anything on his own, but I will this week because he's been ON A ROLL in the playoffs, going 6-0 with his best bets (The three guys went a combined 7-2 last week)
Pete Prisco (Prisco went 2-1 with his divisional picks featured here).
- Bengals (+7.5) to cover against the Chiefs
- Bengals at Chiefs OVER 54.5 points
- 49ers at Rams UNDER 45.5 points
Will Brinson (Brinson went 3-0 with his divisional picks featured here and is now 6-0 on the postseason)
- 49ers (+3.5) to cover against the Rams
- Joe Burrow UNDER 38.5 passing attempts
- Bengals (+7.5) to cover against the Chiefs
R.J. White (White went 2-1 with his divisional picks featured here)
- 49ers (+3) to cover in the first half against the Rams
- Joe Burrow OVER 284.5 passing yards
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire OVER 37.5 rushing yards
To hear the rest of the best bets for the divisional round -- 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.
2. AFC and NFC Championship picks
This is the final newsletter of the week, which means this is the newsletter where I'm going to give you more picks than you can possibly handle. Over the past 48 hours, we've had multiple writers make their picks for the conference title games and I'm going to share those picks with you right now.
The picks below will be coming from Will Brinson, Tyler Sullivan, Tom Fornelli and Jordan Dajani, along with CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones and these picks are all over the place. Some of them are picking the 49ers to win, some are picking the Rams. Others are picking the Bengals to pull off an upset, while some of them are going with the Chiefs. I think what I'm trying to say is that this weekend could get crazy.
As always, 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: Bengals 35-31 over Chiefs (Cincinnati covers +7.5). "Based on the Chiefs' phenomenal recent track record in the playoffs, the only real argument for taking the Bengals is Joe Burrow. And, honestly, it's a pretty good argument. Burrow, as I've noted plenty of times, is now 8-0 in 'must-win games.' He obliterated the college football playoffs, and has won two massive regular-season games (at Baltimore, vs. this same Chiefs team) and now two playoffs games. The box scores generally indicate the Bengals have no business winning, but they find a way to advance anyway. " For Brinson's conference title game picks, be sure to click here.
- Jonathan Jones: Chiefs over Bengals (Kansas City -360 moneyline). "I've picked against the Bengals this entire playoffs. They've proven me wrong each week (obviously.) Well ... why stop now? Especially when the Chiefs have the greatest young QB the game has ever seen." For Jones' conference title game picks, be sure to click here.
- Tom Fornelli: Rams 23-21 over 49ers (San Francisco covers +3.5). "I can't go against the 49ers in this matchup. There's far too much history that says this is the right side to be on. San Francisco has won six straight against the Rams, as Kyle Shanahan seems to have his old friend Sean McVay's number. I'm taking the Rams to win, but 49ers to cover." For Fornelli's conference title game picks, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani: Rams 27-20 over 49ers (Los Angeles covers -3.5). "The Rams were swept by the 49ers in the regular season. There's no way they go 0-3 against Jimmy Garoppolo, right? A team losing three times to one opponent in the same season hasn't happened since 2017. Additionally, if L.A. loses on Sunday, it would be Sean McVay's seventh straight loss to Kyle Shanahan. The last time a head coach lost to an opposing head coach seven straight times was Marvin Lewis and his Bengals struggling against Mike Tomlin's Steelers. It just doesn't seem possible here so I'm taking the Rams." For Dajani's conference title game picks, be sure to click here.
- Tyler Sullivan: 49ers 24-21 over Rams (San Francisco covers +3.5). "The 49ers have won six straight meetings against the Rams, including a sweep of the regular-season series this year. Kyle Shanahan seems to have Sean McVay's number and knows how to slice through his defense with his running game. Meanwhile, San Francisco has done a nice job going at Matthew Stafford in his first season with the Rams. In the regular season, Stafford has thrown as many touchdowns as he has interceptions (4) against the Niners and has been sacked seven times." For Sullivan's conference title game picks, be sure to click here.
3. Ranking the best possible Super Bowl matchups
With just four teams still left in the NFL playoffs, that means there are only four Super Bowl matchups that are still in play and since we've been ranking the best possible ones during every week of the playoffs, we decided to put together one more ranking heading into the conference title games.
The man in charge of putting together today's ranking was Cody Benjamin and here's how he ranked the best possible Super Bowl matchups:
- 1. Chiefs-Rams: This is the Super Bowl everyone wanted to see after they played that wild 54-51 game in 2018 and although we didn't get it then, I think most people would be more than happy to get it now.
- 2. Bengals-Rams: Not only would this game feature two high-flying offenses, but it would also feature Zac Taylor's return to L.A. Taylor was on Sean McVay's staff until the Bengals hired him away after the Rams' Super Bowl season in 2018.
- 3. Chiefs-49ers: The 49ers would have a chance to get revenge on the Chiefs just two years after Kansas City beat them in the Super Bowl.
- 4. Bengals-49ers: If this game happens, it would mark the THIRD time that these two teams have met in a Super Bowl, which would tie Cowboys-Steelers for the NFL record.
Based on this ranking, it seems that Cody does not particularly want to see the 49ers in the Super Bowl. If you'd like to check out Cody's full explanation for his rankings, be sure to click here.
4. NFL names Super Bowl referee
We don't know who will be playing in the Super Bowl yet, but we do now who will be officiating it and that's because the NFL announced this week that Ron Torbert has been tabbed as the ref for the game. This will mark the first time that Torbert has been the referee for a Super Bowl.
Torbert has been an official in the NFL since 2010 when he was hired as a side judge. In 2014, he was promoted to referee and he's been doing that ever since. In his eight seasons on the job, Torbert has been the ref for six playoff games, but he's never officiated a game of this magnitude with all of his experience coming in either the wild card round (four games) or the divisional round (two games).
One notable thing about Torbert is that his crew threw the fourth-fewest penalty flags in the NFL this year with an average of 12.3 flags per game, according to NFLpenalties.com. Of course, Torbert won't be working with his normal crew, so it's possible that number could trend up or down.
With four teams still fighting to get to the Super Bowl, here's a look at how the Rams, 49ers, Bengals. and Chiefs have fared over the past five years when Torbert has served as the ref in one of their games (stats via Pro Football Reference).
- Rams: 6-1 (1-0 in 2021)
- 49ers: 3-2 (2-0 in 2021)
- Bengals: 4-2 (1-0 in 2021)
- Chiefs: 3-1 (0-1 in 2021)
Torbert has already worked one postseason game this year as he was the referee in San Francisco's 13-10 wild card win over Green Bay. In a twist, the only Bengals or Chiefs game Torbert did this year was when the two teams played each other back in Week 17 and it was a game he wasn't even supposed to officiate. The ref assigned to the game was John Hussey, but Torbert ended up subbing in for him in a game the Bengals would win 34-31.
5. Raiders eyeing Josh McDaniels
When it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders, things have been pretty quiet on the coaching front over the past few weeks. Since the end of the season, the Raiders have only interviewed three candidates and one of those was their interim coach, Rich Bisaccia.
Basically, it seems like Mark Davis has been biding time until he could land the guy he really wants and as it turns out, that guy might be Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora has reported that McDaniels will be interviewing with the Raiders this weekend.
- Davis has been eyeing McDaniels. According to NFL.com, Davis has had "interest" in McDaniels for weeks and it appears he was working through backchannels to make sure the interest was mutual. With McDaniels taking the interview, that almost certainly means the interest is mutual, so it wouldn't be surprising at all if he eventually gets the job.
- Raiders giving McDaniels just third interview since his Colts debacle. McDaniels' head coaching stock went down in 2018 after he accepted the Colts job and that's mostly because he decided to spurn them at the last second. Since that debacle, McDaniels has only held two other interviews: He got interviewed by the Browns in 2020 and the Packers in 2019.
- McDaniels wants to turn Raiders into Patriots west. If McDaniels does take the Raiders job, it appears he would want to bring in a GM he knows and right now, the top candidate would be Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler. If that happens, the two would almost certainly try to turn the Raiders into the West Coast version of the Patriots.
- McDaniels hiring would be good news for Derek Carr. According to Mike Silver, both Ziegler and McDaniels have a high opinion of Carr, which bodes well for the Raiders QB. Carr's future in Las Vegas is currently up in the air, but if the team hires a coach that wants him to stick around, then he'll likely be in Vegas for awhile.
- Patriots replacement for McDaniels. If McDaniels does end up taking the Raiders job, then the Patriots will need to find a new offensive coordinator. According to ESPN.com, one top option would be former Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who worked for Belichick from 2007-11 in New England.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Ravens hire new defensive coordinator
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.
- Ravens make defensive coordinator hire. Less than a week after firing Wink Martindale, the Ravens already have a new defensive coordinator in place. The new man on the job is Mike Macdonald, who is very familiar to John Harbaugh and the Ravens. Macdonald was on Baltimore's staff from 2014 to 2020 before jumping to Michigan to join Jim Harbaugh as the defensive coordinator there in 2021. After one year with Jim, Macdonald is heading back to Baltimore to rejoin John.
- Jerry Jones confirms Mike McCarthy is staying put. Despite an ugly end to the season, the Cowboys definitely won't be making a coaching change, which is something that Jerry Jones confirmed on Friday. Of course, that doesn't mean Jones won't dump McCarthy in 2023 and hire Sean Payton, but for now, McCarthy's job is safe.
- Jeff Fisher lands USFL job. After five years out of football, Fisher is set to make a return after being hired as the coach of the USFL's Michigan Panthers. Fisher hasn't coached football since being fired by the Rams in 2016. Fisher has a long coaching career that includes time with both the Titans (1995-2010) and the Rams (2012-16).
- Amazon trying land Marshawn Lynch for NFL studio show. With Amazon getting set to take over "Thursday Night Football" in 2022, the internet giant needs to fill almost every key role that comes with airing a prime-time game. Amazon is in the process of looking for people for its studio show and according to the New York Post, one person it's eyeing is former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. I would definitely watch Amazon's studio show if it included Beast Mode.
- Gronk says he would retire if he had to make decision right now. Rob Gronkowski hasn't decided if he's going to play in 2022, but if he had to make his decision right now, he said that he'd probably retire. Basically, it sounds like Gronk is leaning toward retirement, so it won't be completely surprising if it ends up happening.