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Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter! 

The NFC South already has the craziest division race in the NFL this season, and now it's going to get even crazier because the second-place team in the division (Atlanta) has decided to bench its starting quarterback (Marcus Mariota). As you probably figured, the biggest winner here is Tom Brady, who now gets to face two rookie quarterbacks (Brock Purdy and Desmond Ridder) over the final five weeks of the season. Tom Brady is always the winner. 

We'll be covering more on the Falcons' QB switch in today's newsletter, plus we'll be previewing tonight's game between the Rams and Raiders. Also, we'll be taking a look at the top-five MVP candidates, so let's get to the rundown. 

As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. 

1. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for Raiders at Rams

Josh Jacobs USATSI

Tonight's game is being played in Los Angeles, which I'm only telling you about because it's hard to keep track of where these two teams play each other. This will be the third different city these two teams have met in over their past three meetings, joining St. Louis (2014) and Oakland (2018). This is a huge game for the Raiders, who could sneak back into the playoff conversation with a win

My good buddy Jared Dubin wrote our deep-dive preview for this game here at, and here's how he sees the game playing out:

  • Why the Raiders can win: The Raiders have two of the most productive offensive players in the NFL right now in Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams, and they'll be going up against a depleted Rams defense that will be without multiple starters, including Aaron Donald, outside linebacker Terrell Lewis and cornerback David Long Jr.. With the Rams hurting, the Raiders offense should be able to light up the scoreboard, and if that happens, they'll almost certainly win because the Rams don't have the offensive firepower to keep up.
  • Why the Rams can win: The Rams are missing nearly offensive weapon on their roster, including Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson -- and they could be down to their third-string QB. Actually, they might be down lower than that: There's a chance that a guy they just added to the roster two days ago (Baker Mayfield) could end up playing. If Mayfield plays, it will be very interesting to see how he does running Sean McVay's offense. Even with Mayfield, though, the Rams' best -- and possibly only -- chance to win is to get the run game going. They totaled a season-high 171 yards against the Seahawks last week and that was almost enough for them to pull off the upset. The Raiders haven't been great against the run, and if the Rams get going on the ground, they might have a shot of winning. On the other side of the ball, the Rams will also need Jalen Ramsey to shut down Davante Adams. 

You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here.

If you're thinking about betting on the game, Jordan Dajani put together a full gambling preview (odds via Caesars Sportsbook). You can check out Jordan's full gambling preview by clicking here, but if you don't feel like clicking over, here's one prop from both of us for tonight's game.

  • ONE PROP JORDAN LIKES: Derek Carr OVER 1.5 TD passes (-117): "I like the over here. Carr has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five straight games, and there's no reason to think that streak will end against a Rams defense that has struggled to stop the pass this year. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a 97.4 QB rating, which is an ugly number for the Rams when you consider that only three NFL teams have given up a higher average rating this year." 
  • ONE PROP I LIKE: Daniel Carlson OVER 7.5 points (-119): The Raiders love using Carlson, so he tends to rack up quite a few points every week. Carlson has gone over 7.5 in three straight games and nine of the Raiders' past 11 games overall. Carlson has averaged 8.3 points per game on the season, and that includes a Raiders shutout loss to the Saints in Week 8 that slightly weighs down his average. 

Finally, if you're wondering who we're picking, here's who we have tonight in a game where the Raiders are 6.5-point road favorites: 

Dubin's pick: Raiders 26-10 over Rams
Jordan's pick: Raiders 23-13 over Rams
My pick: Raiders 30-20 over Rams

Over on our picks page, our experts have unanimously agreed that the Raiders are going to win. 

2. Five reasons the Raiders can still make the playoffs

When it comes to making the playoffs, things might seem pretty bleak for the Raiders right now, so we asked our eternal optimist here at, Doug Clawson, to come up with five reasons why Raiders fans shouldn't give up hope on the season. 

The Raiders are currently 5-7 and sitting two full games behind the Jets for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. With that in mind, here are five reasons why the Raiders could still sneak into the playoffs: 

  • 1. The remaining schedule is easier than it looks. Their final five games look like this: at Rams, Patriots, at Steelers, 49ers, Chiefs"If the stars align, the five quarterbacks the Raiders will be facing would be John Wolford, Mac Jones, Kenny Pickett, Brock Purdy and Chad Henne -- if the Chiefs have clinched their playoff seed and decide to rest Patrick Mahomes."
  • 2. Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams are on fire. "Jacobs leads the NFL in rushing and Adams ranks fourth in receiving. Both are on pace to break the Raiders single-season rushing and receiving records held by Marcus Allen and Tim Brown, respectively. They've been so good in recent weeks that they are now on pace for 1,600 rushing yards and 1,600 receiving yards. Only one duo in NFL history has hit those numbers: Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin for the 1995 Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys."
  • 3. Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow could return soon. "As good as Jacobs and Adams have been, the Raiders offense would benefit from the return of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Both are eligible to come off injured reserve this week, although that's more likely to happen in Week 15 against the Patriots, rather than a short week."
  • 4. Chandler Jones starting to break out. "Crosby has been a one-man wrecking crew on defense all season until Jones woke up in recent weeks. Jones leads the NFL with 20 pressures during the Raiders' win streak, more than he had in his first nine games combined (18). He also had his best game of the season in Week 13, racking up 3.0 sacks against the Chargers. Jones (20) and Crosby (19) rank 1-2 in the entire league in pressures in the last three weeks, just ahead of Micah Parsons (18). With the duo finally playing at the level we expected, the Raiders' struggling defense might have enough firepower to close out games."
  • 5. They ran the table last year. If the Raiders beat the Rams tonight, they'll be 6-7 heading into Week 15, which was their exact record last year heading into Week 15. From there, they won four straight games to sneak into the postseason. There's no reason they can't do it again. 

You can check out Doug's full explanation for each reason by clicking here

3. Falcons benching Marcus Mariota for Demond Ridder

Marcus Mariota USATSI

After 13 games of rolling with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, it appears Falcons coach Arthur Smith has seen enough. According to, the Falcons have decided to bench Mariota in favor of rookie Desmond Ridder. Smith had left the door open for a possible QB change after the Falcons' 19-16 loss to the Steelers in Week 13, and now, he's going through with it. 

Ridder was the second quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft behind only Kenny Pickett. The Falcons selected the former Cincinnati QB in the third round with the 74th overall pick. Ridder will be the fifth rookie QB to see action this year, joining Pickett, Malik Willis, Bailey Zappe and Brock Purdy. 

Here's everything you need to know about the situation: 

  • Why bench Mariota now? The Falcons have a Week 14 bye, which means Ridder will get a full week of running the first-team offense in practice before making the first start of his career against the Saints in Week 15. 
  • Arthur Smith changes his mind. As recently as Week 12, it had been reported that Smith was going to stick with Mariota as long as the Falcons were in playoff contention. At 5-8, the Falcons are still in contention, just 1.5 games behind the Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South. Although Smith was planning to stick with Mariota, he may have changed his mind after watching Atlanta's last two games. In Week 12, Mariota threw an interception at Washington's four-yard line in the final minute of a 19-13 loss. In Week 13, Mariota threw an interception in the final 40 seconds of a 19-16 loss to the Steelers. 
  • Smith is making the right move. Mariota kept the driver's seat warm, but the bottom line is that he's not the future of the franchise. If he had played better this year, the Falcons could be leading the NFC South right now, but he's had an up-and-down season. By turning the offense over to Ridder now, the Falcons will get to see what they have in their rookie QB in games that MATTER. If the Buccaneers lose to the 49ers on Sunday, the Falcons will only be one game out of first place with four weeks to play. Not to mention, they still have one game left against the Bucs, so if Ridder shines, he could certainly throw a wrench into the division title race. 

Ridder finished is college career with 44 wins, which is the third-most by a QB in FBS history. He also was the first QB to lead a Group of 5 team to the College Football Playoff. 

For more on the Falcons' decision, be sure to click here.  

4. MVP Watch: There's a three-horse race for the NFL's top award 

It's been more than 10 years since we've had a wide open race for MVP, but that appears to be what's happening this season. With no candidate running away from the field, you could make a solid argument for several different players to be MVP heading into Week 14. 

To help clear things up, we rounded up 10 writers and had them vote on who they think will win the MVP. Under the new voting rules this year, the 50 media members who vote on the award will each get to name up to five players on their ballot, so that's exactly how we handled the voting with our ballots. 

Here's a look at our top five along with their point total in the vote. (A player got five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.)

1. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (43)
2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (41)
3. Bengals QB Joe Burrow (26)
4.  Bills QB Josh Allen (16)
5. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa (8)

As you can see, this race is a dead heat. Although Hurts has the highest point total, Mahomes actually garnered more first-place votes than the Eagles QB (5 to 4). The other first-place vote went to Burrow. 

Overall, a total of 10 players received at least one vote, including two defensive players and two wide receivers. If you want to see a full list of every player who got a at least one vote, then be sure to click here

5. Ranking the teams outside the playoff picture with the best chance of still getting in

Taylor Heinicke USATSI

Just because your favorite team is currently outside the playoff picture doesn't mean they can't still get in. With five weeks left in the season, we wanted to give some hope to a few fan bases, so we decided to take a look at teams who are currently outside the playoff picture and rank them by their chances of making the postseason. 

Jeff Kerr came up with these rankings, and the only rule here is that for a team to qualify, it has to currently be within two games of a playoff spot. With that in mind, let's get to Kerr's ranking: 

  • 1. Commanders (7-5-1). "The Commanders are only a half game out of the final playoff spot in the conference. Washington still can snatch a playoff spot by beating New York when the Commanders return from their bye in Week 15, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker."
  • 2. Chargers (6-6). "The next two games on the schedule are brutal (Dolphins, Titans), but the Chargers finish with the Colts (4-8-1), Rams (3-9) and Broncos (3-9). A split with Miami (8-4) and Tennessee (7-5) and taking care of business in the final three games get Los Angeles to 10 wins -- which may be enough to get in the AFC playoffs."
  • 3. Lions (5-7). "The offense makes Detroit dangerous going forward, but the margin for error is slim. The Lions have to win their next two games -- against the Vikings and Jets -- to have a shot at the final playoff spot. They finish with Chicago (3-9), Carolina (4-8) and Green Bay (5-8)."
  • 4. Patriots (6-6). "Back-to-back losses have significantly hurt the Patriots' playoff chances, but New England does hold the tiebreaker over the Jets after sweeping them earlier this year."
  • 5. Raiders (5-7). "The schedule is favorable over the next few weeks, starting with the Rams (3-9) this week. Las Vegas then faces New England (6-6) in what is essentially an elimination game for an opportunity at the playoffs, followed by a showdown with Pittsburgh (5-7). The odds are long, but Las Vegas still has a shot."

To check out Kerr's full ranking, be sure to click here

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Matt Araiza won't face criminal charges

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.

  • Matt Araiza won't face criminal charges. The former Bills punter, who was cut in August after being accused of gang rape in a civil lawsuit, won't be facing any criminal charges. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office announced that the evidence "does not support the filing of criminal charges." Araiza released a statement Wednesday night saying he hopes to now continue his NFL career. 
  • Odell expects to be ready to play in five weeks. Although Beckham went on a free agency tour over the past week, it seems that he's still more than a month away from being healthy enough to return to the field. Cowboys star Micah Parsons said Odell told him that it would still be at least five weeks before he's ready to play. The Cowboys once seemed excited to sign him, but that enthusiasm has waned over the past couple of days. 
  • Von Miller out for the season. The Bills defense took a major hit Wednesday after Miller was lost for the season due to a torn ACL. When the injury originally happened on Thanksgiving, the Bills thought Miller would only be out a few weeks with a meniscus injury, but doctors discovered that the ACL was torn after going in for surgery.  
  • Davis Mills gets his job back. After letting Kyle Allen start for the past two weeks, the Texans have decided to give the starting QB job back to Davis Mills for this week's game against the Cowboys. Mills went 1-8-1 this season before being benched heading into Week 12. The Texans are a huge underdog this week, which brings us to our next topic.  
  • Cowboys are historically big favorites over Texans. The Cowboys are favored by a whopping 16.5 points over the Texans, which is the second-most points the Cowboys have been favored by in a game over the past 25 years. The only larger point spread came in 2019 when they were favored by 22 over the Dolphins. The Cowboys covered in that game, winning 31-6.