We're now officially past the midway point of the 2021 NFL offseason. Hooray! Football is on the horizon. And since John Breech is taking a break from his post-vacation return to work, I -- Cody Benjamin -- am here to guide you through all the latest from around the NFL.
This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)
We've got Julio Jones trade buzz, division rankings and much more:
1. Today's show: Julio Jones trade talk, NFC South preview
There's a lot happening in the NFC South ahead of the 2021 season. The Buccaneers are preparing to defend their Super Bowl title. The Saints are set to play without Drew Brees for the first time in more than 15 years. The Panthers are banking on Sam Darnold rebounding with fresh scenery. And the Falcons? They may or may not be trading arguably their best player in Julio Jones.
On Wednesday's Pick Six NFL Podcast, Jared Dubin joined Will Brinson to break down the latest rumors regarding a potential Jones deal, as well as preview the rest of the South. Some highlights:
- Dubin sees the 49ers, Titans, Chargers and Colts as some of Julio's most logical landing spots, with Los Angeles potentially eyeing a short-term upgrade on Mike Williams, a 2022 free agent; and Indianapolis potentially in the mix for a new No. 1 for Carson Wentz
- Brinson thinks Jones will produce "top five" numbers if he stays healthy in 2021 and probably has "two to three years left in the tank"
- If the Titans get Jones, Brinson believes oddsmakers might quickly pivot to make Tennessee the new favorites in the AFC South
Catch the entire episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.
2. Davante Adams, other Packers join Rodgers in skipping OTAs
If you thought the drama in Green Bay was dying down, think again. A day after Aaron Rodgers spoke publicly about his ongoing feud with the Packers, hinting that Green Bay's front office has a distorted "philosophy," the star quarterback wasn't the only big-name player absent from team OTAs. No. 1 receiver Davante Adams, along with four other wideouts including potential starters Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, skipped Tuesday's practice.
This round of OTAs is completely voluntary, so no veterans are required to show up. But it's probably not a coincidence that four of Rodgers' top pass targets decided to stay away on the same day. Adams, of course, is fresh off his own comments about the Rodgers situation, telling reporters he's unsure if the QB will be back and hinting he's uncertain about his own Packers future in the event Rodgers is dealt elsewhere. Buckle your seat belts, because this thing doesn't appear to be ending soon.
3. Insider: Why NFC West is the NFL's top division of 2021
NFL Insider Jason La Canfora refuses to rank all 32 teams like most analysts, but he's all about sorting the divisions. Which ones are superior entering 2021? Which ones are pushovers? Here's how he stacks them up, plus some insight on his No. 1:
- NFC West
- AFC North
- AFC West
- NFC South
- AFC East
- NFC North
- NFC East
- AFC South
Why the NFC West at No. 1? I could make the case for all four of these teams reaching the postseason, if I wanted. Personally, I still have major reservations about the Cardinals' ability to compete at a high enough level defensively and I am waiting for that offense to truly evolve as well. Kyler Murray can only run around and make so many plays. With the Rams making a major upgrade at quarterback, I am more bullish on them than I have been in years. The Seahawks are in the dance every year as long as Russ is there (and he still is!), and the 49ers are a trendy pick for a bounce-back season for good reason. The games between these teams will be wild. I really believe three of these teams have the chops to win the NFC West despite the challenges playing in it presents. Ultimately, injuries and travel could be what separates them. There is no truly weak link. Power division; power ratings.
4. Deshaun Watson case could remain open until after 2021 season
There doesn't appear to be any clean resolution in sight for the star Texans quarterback, who's still facing 22 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual assault or misconduct. ESPN reports that neither Watson's camp nor his accusers have engaged in settlement talks, while Watson himself cannot be deposed, or asked to provide sworn out-of-court testimony, until late February 2022.
In other words, there's a chance the Watson case could remain unresolved until after the 2021 season. The QB's 22 accusers are set to begin depositions in September, per ESPN, barring a settlement before then. In any event, it's unclear if Watson will take the field for the Texans -- or any team -- when the 2021 season begins. The former first-rounder reportedly still desires a trade out of Houston (and is skipping OTAs to reinforce his request), but he also remains under investigation by the NFL. Even if he faces no criminal charges as a result of his case, the league could opt to place him on the commissioner's exempt list (essentially paid leave) or outright suspend him.
5. Predicting every game on the Patriots' 2021 schedule
As the season draws closer, we're running through the entire NFL with full-season predictions. This week, resident Patriots expert Tyler Sullivan offered his forecast for New England's 17-game slate. Will Bill Belichick rebound? Can the Pats ride an uncertain QB room back to the playoffs? Let's take a look at some of his key game picks and a final record projection:
- Week 4 vs. Buccaneers: Welcome back, Tom Brady! This is the game that we're all waiting for ... For the first time as a visitor, Brady will be taking his Buccaneers into Gillette Stadium to face the team he called his own for two decades ... I don't expect this game to be particularly close and could be one of the early periods where Cam Newton's status as the starter is seriously in jeopardy. Patriots lose 33-20.
- Week 6 vs. Cowboys: The strength of Dallas will remain on the arm of Prescott and the Cowboys' passing attack, but that should play into New England's hand in this matchup. The Patriots' strength this season is their defense, particularly in the secondary with Stephon Gilmore and newbie Jalen Mills. Patriots win 24-20.
- Week 18 vs. Dolphins: New England ends the 2021 regular season on a high note. Mac Jones gets to go head to head with his former college teammate in Tua Tagovailoa and this matchup could possibly have a playoff trip on the line for the Patriots as a wild card. Patriots win 24-17.
Final record prediction: 9-8
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Steelers defend Big Ben, another comeback story?
Want more NFL news? Good. Here are some other nuggets worth your time:
- Cam Heyward tired of Ben Roethlisberger criticism: The Steelers vet says the QB deserves more respect
- Justin Blackmon hints at an NFL comeback: The ex-Jags first-rounder hasn't played since 2013
- Patriots, Titans reportedly on Julio Jones' wish list: The Falcons WR may have a preferred landing spot
- Champ Bailey opens up on Tim Tebow: The Broncos legend dishes on Tebow's chances in Jacksonville
- Falcons upset over Julio interview: Atlanta was reportedly blindsided by Jones' trade talk on Fox