Guys, I'm not sure how it happened, but we've done it: We've made it through 2020. Between the murder hornets, COVID-19 and the squirrels who were trying to spread bubonic plague, I wasn't sure it was going to happen.
I still can't believe the NFL is actually going to finish its regular season, although I probably shouldn't have just said that because I've definitely now jinxed everything. If the NFL has to cancel every game on Sunday due to COVID, blame me.
I think we can all agree that 2020 has felt like it's been nine different years rolled into one. I mean, I remember the innocent times back in early March when I thought watching a documentary about some guy named Joe Exotic would be the craziest thing any of us did this year. Instead, that was arguably the most normal thing about 2020.
In just hours, we'll be kicking 2020 out the door to welcome 2021 and let me just say that my resolution for 2021 is to forget 2020 ever happened and to never talk about it again.
Since I will need at least 72 hours to get accustomed to living in a year that's not 2020, I have some bad news: There will be no newsletter tomorrow. For all I know, 2020 is going to try and take us all down with it, so just to be safe Friday's newsletter has been axed. However, I will be returning on Monday for the first newsletter of 2021. That one should be extra exciting and that's because we'll know who's in and who's out of the NFL playoffs.
With that in mind, let's get to the rundown (New Year's Eve edition). As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link. If your pet has an email address, feel free to sign them up too. I've heard that cats love me.
1. Today's Show: NFL Week 17 picks and best bets
Will Brinson's New Year's resolution for 2021 is to not work any holidays and now that I'm saying that out loud, I can't believe I also didn't make the same resolution. Anyway, what this means for you is that you're going to get a sneak peek at the Week 17 picks podcast. This pod is usually recorded on Friday, but since tomorrow is Jan. 1 and Brinson won't be working holidays, he recorded the entire thing on Dec. 31. Despite the fact that it was New Year's Eve, Pete Prisco, R.J. White and Kenny White were all kind of enough to join Brinson so that he didn't have to record the podcast alone.
With that being said, here are a few of their best bets for Sunday.
Ravens (-13) to cover against the Bengals
Packers (-5.5) to cover against the Bears
Cowboys (-1.5) to cover against Giants
Texans (+7.5) to cover against the Titans
Eagles (+1.5) to cover against Washington
Raiders at Broncos OVER 51
Buccaneers (-6.5) to cover against the Falcons
Panthers (+6.5) to cover against the Saints
Chiefs (+3.5) to cover against the Chargers
Steelers (+9) to cover against the Browns
Jets (+3) to cover against the Patriots
Dolphins at Bills UNDER 44.5
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for Week 17 -- and there are quite a few -- be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast. If you need some daily fantasy help for the weekend, we also have a podcast covering that angle of Week 17 in the feed, so there's plenty to listen to if you get tired of your family and you need to get away for an hour or two.
2. COVID troubles mounting in Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns aren't just battling for a playoff spot right now, they're also in a battle with COVID-19 and right now, things aren't going so well.
If the Browns want to end their 18-year playoff drought, all they have to do on Sunday is beat a Steelers team that will be resting multiple starters, including Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt. The problem for the Browns is that they might also be missing a few starters and that's because the team has been ravaged by COVID-19 this week.
After closing the team facility on Wednesday, the Browns had to once again close it on Thursday so that they could conduct contact tracing. It's been an ugly week for the Browns who added tight end Harrison Bryant along with safeties Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. One day later practice squad center Javon Patterson was also added to the list and unfortunately for the Browns, things don't seem to be slowing down. The team also had two additional players test positive for COVID-19 on Thursday (LB Malcolm Smith and TE Harrison Bryant), which means neither player will be eligible to play on Sunday.
This all comes on the heels of a Week 16 upset loss to the Jets where the Browns found out the night before the game that nearly every receiver on their roster would be ineligible to play as Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge were all placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Although all four receivers are expected to be back this week, that might not matter if the Browns keep losing players to the COVID list before Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.
One thing to keep in mind here is that the NFL has insisted that the game will be played as scheduled, which means don't look for a postponement to happen even though it's arguably the biggest regular season game the Browns have played in nearly 20 years.
3. Cowboys, Giants or Washington will make NFL history on Sunday
If you've been following the NFC East this year, then you've probably noticed that it seems to be the one division in the NFL that no one wants to win. Despite that fact, someone HAS to win it and this Sunday, we're going to find out who that someone is.
The fun part is that no matter who wins the division, that team will be making history on Sunday.
The three teams still alive in the NFC East race -- the Cowboys, Giants and Washington -- all started the season 2-7, which is notable, because no team has ever made the playoffs in a year where they came out of the gate with a 2-7 record. Since the Super Bowl era started in 1966, there have been a total of 258 teams that have started the season at 2-7 and none of them rebounded to make the postseason, which means NFL teams are a combined 0-for-258 in that situation. After Sunday, that record will improve to 1-for-263 (A total of five teams started 2-7 this season with the Texans and Chargers joining the three NFC East teams).
Here's a quick look at how the Giants and Cowboys could make even more history if they end up winning the division:
- Giants: If the Giants claim the NFC East title, not only would they become the first 6-10 playoff team in NFL history, but they'd also become the first team ever to rebound from an 0-5 start to make the playoffs. The Giants also were 1-7 at one point this year and they'd become the first team ever to start with that record through eight games and then end up in the postseason.
- Cowboys: If the Dallas ends up with the division crown, the Cowboys would become the first team ever to start 3-9 and then make the playoffs. The Cowboys were basically left for dead after 12 games -- the Giants and Washington were both 5-7 at that point -- but now, they might win the division. As someone who picked them to win the NFC East in the preseason and the got made fun of by everyone on the internet after they fell to 3-9, I will definitely be gloating for at least a week if the Cowboys pull this off.
So who's going to win the division? Washington is in the driver's seat right now. If the Football Team beats the Eagles on Sunday night, then Washington will win the division. However, if the Football Team loses, then the division title will go to the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game, which is set to kick off at 1 p.m. ET on Fox.
4. NFL Week 17 NFL picks
In case you haven't noticed, we love to make picks here at CBS Sports. As a matter of fact, I even love to make picks about who's going to have the best picks each week. Two guys who almost always do a good job with their picks are Jordan Dajani and Tom Fornelli. Even though they've been good with their picks this year, they've both made a New Year's resolution to be EVEN BETTER in 2021. The problem is that I'm not sure if that 2021 resolution applies to this week's picks since they were technically written in 2020. I guess we'll find out together.
With that in mind, let's check out one pick from each guy for Week 17:
- Dajani: Cowboys (-1.5) at Giants. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think I've convinced everyone here at CBS Sports to jump on the Cowboys bandwagon, because it's starting to seem like everyone here is on the Cowboys bandwagon. Even Jordan is picking them to win this week and Jordan never picks them to win. On a somewhat related note, if Jordan jinxes them with his pick, there's a 100% chance I'll be unfriending him on Facebook. I can't be going into 2021 with that kind of bad juju. Dajani's pick: Cowboys 30-21 over Giants (Cowboys cover).
- Fornelli: Packers (+5.5) at Bears. You might not know this, but Tom Fornelli is a lifelong Bears fan who actually lives in Chicago. Knowing those facts, I thought for sure that he would bet his rent money on the Bears this week, but it turns out he's one of those jilted fans who has no faith in his team. Fornelli is picking the Packers to win big and a big reason for that is because the Bears can never seem to beat Aaron Rodgers, who is 7-1 in his past eight games against Chicago. Fornelli's pick: Packers 31-17 (Packers cover).
For a look at Fornelli's three "Best Bets" for Week 17, be sure to click here. If you're looking for the rest of Dajani's Week 17 picks -- he picks every game -- be sure to click here. One other thing, if you like this newsletter, I should have you know that Fornelli also writes a newsletter and it's just as fun. It's the CBS Sports HQ PM edition newsletter and you can subscribe to it by clicking here.
5. Packers and Bills on the cusp of adding key players
It's not often you see a playoff-bound team make any splashy player moves this late in the season, but it looks like the Packers and Bills have both tried to pull one off over the past 24 hours.
In Green Bay, the Packers claimed former Seahawks defensive lineman Damon "Snacks" Harrison off of waivers after he was released on Monday. Harrison isn't quite the same player he was back in 2016 when he was named a first-team All-Pro while he was with the Giants, but he could help right away in Green Bay. If the Packers defense has had one weakness this year, it's their ability to stop the run. Heading into Week 17, the Packers are surrendering a total of 4.6 yards per carry on the season, which is tied for the eighth-worst number in the NFL.
There's a chance that four of the top 11 rushing teams in the NFL could be in the NFC playoffs -- the Cardinals (third), Saints (seventh) Rams (10th) and Seahawks (11th) -- which means the Packers could stand to use all the defensive help they can get their hands on.
As for the Bills, they recently met with former Texans receiver Kenny Stills, who was released in early December. Although the Bills have Stefon Diggs, they are currently dealing with some issues at wide receiver, which is why they're meeting with Stills. Not only is John Brown on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but Cole Beasley (leg) was injured during Monday's win over the Patriots and it's not clear when he's going to be available to play. Bills coach Sean McDermott said that Beasley is "week-to-week," which basically tells us nothing about when he might return.
Although Stills didn't do much in Houston this year, he did catch 40 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 and he'd be an interesting player for the Bills to add as they head into the postseason.
6. Terrell Owens: Donovan McNabb was hungover at Super Bowl
One of the greatest mysteries in the history of the NFL revolves around Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and whether or not he threw up near the end of Super Bowl XXXIX, a game Philadelphia lost 24-21 to New England. For years, McNabb has insisted that he did not throw up. On the other hand, several of his teammates claim he did throw up. It's been nearly 15 years and over that time, there haven't really been any new details added to this story, that is until earlier this week when Terrell Owens did an interview on a show called "Untold Stories."
According to T.O., not only did McNabb throw up, but he puked because he was hungover from going out the night before the game.
"I've talked to teammates since then and know for a fact that he was out the night before," Owens said. "He was out the night before, before the biggest game pretty much of all of our careers there. There are people that saw him out the night before, said he was drinking, and I think that contributed to him throwing up in the huddle. He's obviously had a history of condition problems. So for me, knowing all this information, I felt like that was irresponsible, especially for somebody of his caliber, his status, to obviously be the leader of the team and you're out the night before the biggest game of your career, you're out drinking or what have you, and then that maybe contributed to him throwing up in the huddle. It's just not good."
Owens also insisted that the puking happened, even though he didn't actually see it.
"Why would somebody lie? There were teammates that said he threw up in the huddle," Owens said. "Personally, I didn't see it, but there are guys, and I know that there are teammates that I've talked to recently, that said they saw him throw up in the huddle."
Of course, this is where I point out that I'm pretty sure T.O. and McNabb have a beef with each other, so there's definitely a possibility that the former Eagles receiver is trying to make his former quarterback look bad, but there's also certainly a chance that T.O. is telling the truth and if that's the case, the moral of the story here is that you probably shouldn't get drunk the night before the Super Bowl if you're one of the quarterbacks who's expected to be starting in the game.
7. The Kicker!
Although 2020 has arguably been the worst year in the history of humanity, it has given us one thing: Two of the greatest kicking seasons in NFL history. Does that make up for the pandemic? No. Do I still want 2020 to end ASAP? Yes.
With just one week left to play NFL in the season, Seattle's Jason Myers and Green Bay's Mason Crosby have both hit 100% of their field goals this year, which is notable, because THAT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO PULL OFF.
As I mentioned earlier this year, in the history of the NFL, there have only been two kickers ever who have attempted 20 or more field goals in a season and made all of them (Gary Anderson and Mike Vanderjagt), and the crazy thing about that is that we could see that list double by the end of the day on Sunday. Myers is already 20-for-20 on the season. All he has to do to join Anderson and Vanderjagt is not miss a kick in Week 17, which is doable, since he'll be kicking indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium where the 49ers will be hosting the Seahawks. As for Crosby, he's 16-for-16, which means he's going to have to hit four field goals on Sunday to join the exclusive list. Even if that doesn't happen, Crosby will still be in rarified air as only five kickers in NFL history have hit 100% of their field goals in a season where they attempted 15 or more (Myers and Crosby would be the sixth and seventh members of that list).
If both of them make history, I will definitely be celebrating by downing whatever leftover champagne I have from New Year's Eve and there will probably be a lot since my plan is to purchase 2020 bottles for Thursday night (I feel like drinking 2020 bottles of champagne is the only guaranteed way to make sure 2020 is completely erased from my memory).
Have a Happy New Year, stay safe and I'll see you guys on Monday!