The Jeopardy! hosting job is once again available. I repeat, the Jeopardy! hosting job is once again available.
Welcome to the Pick Six newsletter where we usually talk about football, but we're opening with the Jeopardy! job. Now that the job is open again, the biggest winners in the country are the Lions, Vikings and Bears. I mean, let's be honest, Aaron Rodgers retiring and taking the Jeopardy! job is the only way one of those team will be able to win the NFC North this year. Basically, every Vikings, Lions and Bears fan in America should be writing letters to Sony and demanding that they hire Rodgers to take the job.
Anyway, we have a jam-packed newsletter today, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Analytics-based projections for the AFC West and NFC West
It's officially "Nerd Week" on the Pick Six podcast, which is our way of saying this is the week where we bring people on the show who are smarter than us. For today's show, Will Brinson was joined by Larry Hartstein of SportsLine.com and the two took a deep dive into the AFC and NFC West. Using analytical data, they made predictions on the win totals for each team in both divisions and they also tried to figure out how each division will play out.
The one team we're going to focus on here is the Raiders. Las Vegas has an over/under of seven and if you listen to this podcast regularly, then you already know that Brinson is taking the under (Brinson is a noted Raiders hater). Hartstein is also taking the under, but it's not because he dislikes the Raiders, he just doesn't think the Las Vegas is going to be able to overcome two key problems: Their defense and their depleted offensive line.
"Overall, this defense has not done enough to really get better [compared to last year]," Hartstein said. "I think the biggest concern is -- Derek Carr had an amazing year last year, but his O-line is pretty much gone. I mean, Rodney Hudson is gone, Trent Brown is gone. [Rookie] Alex Leatherwood, he was blocking the wrong guys in the first preseason game and he was getting stood up in the run game."
For what it's worth, I actually disagree with these two: I'll be taking the over on the Raiders and I'm not just doing it to spite Brinson. The Raiders won eight games last year even though their defense was horrible and they have a much easier schedule in 2021 with games against the Bengals and the entire NFC East. If they go just 3-2 in those five games and 3-3 in the division (they went 4-2 last year), that gets them to six wins. At that point, they'd have six other games to pick up two wins and I think they can do that (Their opponents in the six other games are: the Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Dolphins, Bears and Colts). If they go just 1-5 in those six games, you get a push.
As for the NFC West, we're going to focus on the 49ers here. San Francisco has an over/under of 10.5, but despite that high number, both guys like the over. Hartstein especially loves the addition of Alex Mack, who will be reuniting with Kyle Shanahan for the third time (They were previously together in Cleveland and Atlanta).
"I love the 49ers. Injury luck cannot be as bad it was last year. They were absolutely decimated," Hartstein said. "Alex Mack. This one guy changes an entire offense and the Kyle Shanahan history with them. When they were in Atlanta, they had the best offense in football."
The two guys also noted that Mack had some serious success in Cleveland in 2014 before he was lost for the season due to an injury. Brinson actually likes the 49ers so much that he's thinking about making them his NFC SUPER BOWL PICK this year. My problem with the 49ers is that they have the worst QB situation in the division and because of that, I don't think they'll have enough firepower to get to the Super Bowl (Trey Lance might eventually be awesome, but for 2021, I'd take Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray over Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo).
How do Brinson and Hartstein feel about the other NFC West teams? You'll have to listen to find out.
The best get-rich-quick scheme going right now is betting against the NFC East in the preseason. Thanks to the Patriots' 35-0 win over the Eagles on Thursday, the NFC East is now 0-6. The good news for the NFC East is that losing in the preseason isn't that big of a deal. However, losing your starting quarterback 20 minutes before the game kicks off is a big deal and that's exactly what happened to the Eagles.
Here are a few nuggets from Thursday's game.
- Jalen Hurts sent to the hospital. Just minutes before the game, the Eagles announced that Hurts wouldn't be playing due to a non-COVID related illness. As it turns out, Hurts ended up going to the hospital due to a stomach illness. Despite the hospitalization, the Eagles expect him to be just fine. You can read more details about Hurts' situation by clicking here.
- Hurts' absence proves why he should be the starter. If we learned one thing about the Eagles quarterback situation in Thursday's game, it's that Hurts is definitely Philly's best option at QB. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora says that Hurts' case to be the starter was strengthened by his absence and you can check out his take by clicking here (With Hurts out, Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens combined to go 15 of 27 for 81 yards with one interception each).
- Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones still not settled. The ongoing QB battle between Jones and Newton has suddenly turned into one of the more intriguing training camp competitions in the NFL. If the Patriots had to pick a starter after Thursday's game, it wouldn't be easy and that's because both quarterbacks were equally impressive. Newton was nearly perfect, going 8 of 9 for 103 yards and a TD while Jones was also good, going 13 of 19 for 146 yards (He was even better than his numbers suggested because several of those incompletions were drops). At the beginning of training camp, Belichick said Newton was the starter and I don't think Jones has done enough to pass him on the depth chart yet. If Jones plays against the Giants next week and shines, he might be able to win the job, but if I had to guess now, I'd say that Newton is going to be the Week 1 starter.
- Patriots kicking situation takes an interesting turn. Nick Folk ended the season as the Patriots kicker last year, but he hasn't yet kicked this preseason due to an injury. With Folk out, rookie Quinn Nordin was having a great training camp, but he definitely hurt his chances of winning the job with an ugly performance on Thursday. Not only did Nordin miss two extra points, but he also missed a 36-yard field goal. The good news for Nordin is that Bill Belichick did cut him some slack after the game (Belichick is not exactly known for cutting anyone any slack ever). The Patriots coach pointed out that both the holder and snapper have to do their job before Nordin can do his. This seemed like Belichick's way of putting some blame on long snapper Brian Khoury. New England's normal long snapper Joe Cardona is currently out with an injury.
The Patriots definitely looked good on Thursday, but with just one preseason game left, they still don't know for sure who their starting quarterback or starting kicker will be, so this will definitely be a team to watch over the next few weeks.
3. Preseason Week 2: Things to watch for this weekend
The NFL preseason schedule is loaded this weekend, so let's take a quick look at what's on tap. Here's a schedule of games for the weekend plus my recommendation on which games you should focus on since you probably won't have enough time to watch them all.
If you can only watch one of these games tonight, I'd definitely go with Chiefs-Cardinals (and that's coming from a Bengals homer). Not only are the Chiefs likely going to play their starters for the entire first half, but Kyler Murray is expected to make his preseason debut.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 21
Bills at Bears (1 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
Jets at Packers (4:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
Falcons at Dolphins (7 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
Ravens at Panthers (7 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
Lions at Steelers (7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
Titans at Buccaneers (7:30 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
Texans at Cowboys (8 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
Colts at Vikings (8 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
Raiders at Rams (10 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
Broncos at Seahawks (10 p.m. ET, Check local listings)
If you're one of the three people out there who's dying to see Mitchell Trubisky get revenge on his old team, then the Bills-Bears game is going to be must-see TV for you. Actually, everyone else should also be watching this game and that's because Justin Fields is expected to get some serious playing time. If you want to watch another rookie QB in action, then you should definitely watch the start of the Jets-Packers game so you can see Zach Wilson. At 7:30 p.m. ET, Ben Roethlisberger will be making his preseason debut, which adds a fascinating element to Pittsburgh's game against Detroit. The other intriguing game is the Broncos-Seahawks and that's because we could see a winner declared in Denver's QB competition. If Drew Lock torches the Seahawks, I wouldn't be surprised if he's named the Week 1 starter a few days after the game.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 22
Giants at Browns (1 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
49ers at Chargers (7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network)
If you're only going to watch one game on Sunday, I'd make it 49ers-Chargers. The 49ers have been insisting that Jimmy Garoppolo will be their starting quarterback this year, but it will be interesting to see if Trey Lance can sneak in and steal the job away before Week 1.
If you want to know everything that's going down this weekend, Bryan DeArdo came up with one reason for why you should watch each game. You can click here to read that, but I have to warn you, Bryan's arguments are so convincing that if you do click over, there's a good chance you'll be watching all 14 games being played over the weekend (The Jaguars-Saints game isn't being featured here because we'll be talking about that on Monday).
4. 2021 All-NFC West team
According to oddsmakers, the Rams are currently the favorites to win the NFC West, but that definitely didn't help them when it came to putting together our All-NFC West team. Jared Dubin went through all four rosters in the division to create one Super Team that consisted of 27 players (12 on offense, 12 on defense plus three special teams) and out of those 27, only four of them came from the Rams, which was the lowest number of any team in the division.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the offense for the NFC West's all-division team, which features exactly ZERO Rams players:
QB: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
RB: Chris Carson, Seahawks
WR: DK Metcalf, Seahawks
WR: Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals
TE: George Kittle, 49ers
FLEX: Deebo Samuel, 49ers
OT: Trent Williams, 49ers
OT: Mike McGlinchey, 49ers
OG: Justin Pugh, Cardinals
OG: Gabe Jackson, Seahawks
C: Alex Mack, 49ers
Overall, the Rams put four players on the All-Division team while the Cardinals were just ahead of them with five. The 49ers had the most players on the team with nine and the Seahawks were right behind them with eight.
If you want to see the defensive side on the NFC West's All-Division team or if you want to see which Rams players actually made the cut, then be sure to click here.
5. Antonio Brown kicked out of practice as training camp fights were everywhere
I'm not sure if yesterday was "National Start a Fight at Training Camp" Day, but it kind of feels like it was. There were two big fights on Thursday and one of them ended with Antonio Brown getting kicked out of practice.
The joint practice between these two teams got kind of crazy and by crazy, I mean that there FIVE FIGHTS on Thursday.
- Antonio Brown vs. Titans cornerback Chris Jackson was the main event. Apparently, Brown got upset because he thought he was being held by Jackson. The Buccaneers receiver then reacted by ripping Jackson's helmet off and punching him multiple times (You can read the entire story and see a few by clicking here).
- Three other fights that weren't as rough. According to ESPN.com, there was also a fight between Titans wide receiver Fred Brown and Bucs cornerback Herb Miller, along with a separate altercation that involved Tampa Bay's K.J. Britt and Tennessee's Nick Dzubnar, who are both linebackers. At another point in the practice, Titans wide receiver Cam Batson wrestled Buccaneers linebacker Devin White to the ground.
- Leonard Fournette gets in on the action. The fifth altercation happened between Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette.
Based on how this practice went, I'm not sure if you're going to get something closer to a football game or a UFC match if you tune-in to the Titans-Buccaneers preseason game on Saturday.
Things got so crazy in Southern California that the Raiders actually cut out early and left the field before their practice with the Rams was over.
- Special teams fight. According to the Athletic, the biggest fight of the day started on special teams and during the fight, both Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby were seen throwing punches. During the scuffle, tight end Darren Waller had his jersey torn.
- Jon Gruden was not happy with the fighting. "That's enough of that crap," Gruden said after the practice, via ESPN.com. "That's not good for football, that's not good for anything, so that's the end of that practice session."
There probably won't be much fighting during the game on Saturday and that's mostly because the Rams aren't planning to play very many of their starters.
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, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Jets lose key defensive player for the season. One of the Jets' biggest signings this offseason was Carl Lawson, but unfortunately, he won't get to play a single snap for them this year. The defensive end tore his Achilles during practice on Thursday and will miss the entire season. Jets safety Zane Lewis is also out for the season after tearing his patella tendon.
- Browns linebacker could be out for season. Jacob Phillips tore his biceps tendon this week and the injury is serious enough that he could end up missing the entire season. The injury is a huge blow to the Browns and that's mainly because Phillips was a key piece of depth at a vital position for the team.
- Colts have no idea who their left tackle is going to be. The start of the Colts season is barely three weeks away and the Colts still don't have a left tackle. The job is expected to go to Eric Fisher, but he's still recovering from an Achilles injury that he suffered last season. With Fisher out, Sam Tevi, Will Holden, and Julie'n Davenport have been fighting for the job, but no one has played well enough to earn the spot. For more on that story, be sure to click here.
- Saints have no idea who their kicker is going to be. With Wil Lutz likely to miss a few weeks to start the season, the Saints need a kicker and right now, they don't have one. The Saints were hoping the job would go to Brett Maher, but he got cut this week, so now they're going to try out Aldrick Rosas, Alex Kessman and Dominik Eberle, according to ESPN.com.
- Raiders may owe back taxes. The Raiders have had a mass exodus of front office executives this offseason and it appears the exits might have been motivated by the team's finances. According to Forbes, the Raiders are facing some "major tax implications" from money not reported as income. According to another report, the tax issue stems from a $200 million loan to the team that was written off in 2013. If the debt was written off, the Raiders would have needed to pay taxes on it, which means Mark Davis might soon have to write a gigantic check to the IRS.
- Cardinals starter calls for daily testing for vaccinated players. Arizona's Justin Pugh wants to see vaccinated players face daily testing for COVID and I actually think he makes a good point. Right now, players are only tested once every 14 days, which means if they caught COVID one day after testing, they'd be walking around the facility for 13 days where they could be potentially spreading the disease. That's not ideal for anyone and something like that could be a huge issue for the NFL.
- The Dak Prescott story that you need to read. If you have some free time today, I highly suggest you read this Sports Illustrated cover story about Dak Prescott that covers everything from his devastating injury to his brother's suicide to how he's struggled with stress and anxiety.