Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
If you're a regular reader here, then you know that for some reason, CBS Sports put a giant Bengals homer in charge of this newsletter, which means the next two weeks are going to be extra fun for me and I hope they're also going to be extra fun for you. If you don't like the Bengals, then feel free to hate-read each day's newsletter, I will not be insulted. As a matter of fact, I hate-read my way through college English.
I've been watching football my entire life and never did I think I would ever see the Bengals get back to the Super Bowl. I literally thought talking cats would exist before I'd see the Bengals get back to the NFL's biggest game, but here we are.
Of course, the Bengals aren't the only team in the Super Bowl; they'll be traveling to Los Angeles to play the Rams. However, I'm not going to get ahead of myself here. We have two weeks to talk about the Super Bowl, so I'll keep the chatter to a minimum today. Instead, we'll be recapping the conference title games, plus looking at what the heck happened on Saturday with Tom Brady being forced to deny a report that he's decided to retire.
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. If you know anyone who's a fan of the Bengals or Rams fan, then you should just go ahead and sign them up right now. They'll thank you later.
1. Today's show: Full recap of the conference title games
It's Monday, which can only mean one thing: I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson that touched on everything you need to know about the conference title games. As the resident Bengals homer here at CBS Sports, I can tell you that this podcast basically consisted of Wilson and Brinson talking for the first 15 minutes while I sat in shock at the idea that the Bengals -- THE CINCINNATI BENGALS -- are going to the Super Bowl.
Here's a brief look at the topics we touched on from each game:
Bengals 27-24 over Chiefs in OT
- Bengals defense comes up big in second half. Although the Bengals got huge performances from Joe Burrow and kicker Evan McPherson in the second half, the reason they won this game is because the defense figured out how to stop Patrick Mahomes and they did it by constantly dropping eight guys into coverage, something they didn't really do in the first half. After getting diced up for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, the defense limited Mahomes to just 55 YARDS in the second half while also forcing two interceptions. The first pick, which came on an unbelievable play by defensive lineman B.J. Hill, set the Bengals up with the ball at Kansas City's 27-yard line. Five plays later, Burrow hit Ja'Marr Chase for a game-tying touchdown. The second pick (by Vonn Bell) came in overtime and set the Bengals up with the ball at their own 45-yard line. From there, Burrow drove them 42 yards to set up McPherson's game-winning kick from 31 yards away.
- Chiefs head-scratching decision before halftime. No NFL game is decided on one play, but in the AFC Championship, it felt like there was one play that dramatically shifted the momentum in the game. With just five seconds to play until halftime, the Chiefs were sitting at Cincinnati's 1-yard line looking to extend their 21-10 lead. With only five seconds, a field goal probably would have been the best option, but instead, they went for a TD and didn't get it after Tyreek Hill got tackled in the field of play following a short pass from Mahomes (You can see the play by clicking here). After scoring 21 points in the first half, the Chiefs would get zero on that drive and would only score three the rest of the game. In the second half, their offense looked lost with Mahomes air-mailing several passes during a half where his receivers also dropped several balls. If the Chiefs had just taken the field goal before halftime, it would have been 24-10 and those three points certainly would have come in handy.
Rams 20-17 over 49ers
- Super Cooper carries Rams to Super Bowl. There are a lot of reasons why the Rams won this game, but the biggest one was probably Cooper Kupp. Even though the 49ers were well aware that Kupp would be getting the ball in this game, they still couldn't stop him. Not only did the Rams receiver catch 11 passes for 142 yards, but he also scored the Rams' only two touchdowns. Odell Beckham also had a huge day with nine catches for 113 yards. Kupp and Beckham combined to provide 64.4% of the Rams' total offensive yardage in the game.
- 49ers defense melts down in the fourth quarter. After holding the high-powered Rams offense to just seven points through the first three quarters, the 49ers' defense pulled a disappearing act for the game's final quarter. On three consecutive possessions in the quarter, they allowed the Rams to score three straight times (TD, FG, FG). The one play that will definitely be remembered from this meltdown was a dropped interception by Jaquiski Tartt. With just under 10 minutes to play in the game, Matthew Stafford handed Tartt a gift, but the 49ers safety couldn't hold on to it (You can see the play by clicking here).
Not only did we go over each game, but we also took a very early look at the Super Bowl. To listen to today's episode -- and to subscribe to the best daily NFL podcast out there -- be sure to click here. You can also WATCH today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Eleven crazy facts from the conference title games
Every Sunday night, I get an email from our research department here at CBS Sports, and every Sunday, that email always includes some amazingly wild facts about the games that were just played.
With that in mind, here are 11 crazy facts about the conference title games (We'll have plenty of Super Bowl facts over the next two weeks, so these will be conference title game only):
- Comeback kids. The Bengals' 18-point comeback was tied for the biggest comeback in conference title game history while also being the the second-largest comeback win in a road game in NFL postseason history.
- Bengals unbeaten in conference title games. With their win over the Chiefs, the Bengals are now 3-0 in conference title games, which is the best record in the AFC. The best record in the NFC belongs to the Giants, who are 5-0.
- Patrick Mahomes can't be Joe Burrow. Mahomes is now 39-4 in his career when the Chiefs are leading by 14 or more points at any point in a game. Here's how that breaks down: 0-2 against Joe Burrow, 39-2 against everyone else.
- Chasing history. With 54 yards against the Chiefs, Ja'Marr Chase now has 279 for the playoffs this year, which breaks Torry Holt's rookie receiving record of 242 yards. Chase will now have one more game to add to that record
- Evan McAwesome. With four field goals against the Chiefs, Evan McPherson is now 12-for-12 in the playoffs, which is the record for the most kicks without a miss in a single postseason. He also now has three playoff games with four or more field goals, which is tied with Adam Vinatieri for the NFL CAREER record. McPherson also set the Bengals franchise record of most playoff field goals for a career (12), breaking the previous mark of nine, which was held by Jim Breech (Shoutout to my dad).
- Burrow joins Tom Brady in the record books. Burrow is only the third QB in NFL history to have multiple game-winning drives in a single postseason in one of his first two career seasons The other guys (Tom Brady in 2001 and Kurt Warner in 1999) both ended up winning the Super Bowl.
- Mahomes and Kelce moving up the all-time list. Mahomes and Travis Kelce have now connected for 11 playoff touchdowns which is the third most by a QB-receiver duo in NFL history. The duo now sits behind Brady and Rob Gronkowski (15) along with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (12).
- Comeback kids Part II. The Bengals and Rams both won after trailing by double-digits marking just the second time in NFL history that both teams won a conference title game after trailing by 10 or more. The only other time it happened came in 1998 (Falcons over Vikings and Broncos over Jets).
- 49ers suffer another title game setback. The 49ers have now lost 10 conference title games, which is the most of any team in the NFL since the merger in 1970. The 49ers have been to the NFC title game a total of 17 times, which puts their record at 7-10.
- Rams rare comeback. The Rams are 2-23 under Sean McVay in games where they trailed by 10 points or more in the second half, but both of those wins are big ones: The 2018 NFC Championship and the 2021 NFC Championship. This game also marked the first time under McVay that they came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to win a game. They were previously 0-14 in that situation.
- Cooper Kupp breaks record held by Michael Irvin. With his 142-yard performance, Kupp now has 13 games this season with 100 yards or more, which breaks Irvin's NFL record of 12 games, which was set in 1995.
3. Early odds for Super Bowl LVI
When it comes to the Super Bowl, the oddsmakers never waste any time getting the first point spread out. As a matter of fact, I'm 90% the first official point spread was released before the clock in the Rams-49ers game even hit zero.
Even though the point spread has only been out for about 24 hours, there has already been some movement on it.
Let's take a look at where things are at:
Super Bowl LVI (Sunday, Feb. 13)
(4) Rams vs. (4) Bengals in Los Angeles, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Opening line: Rams, -3.5
Current line: Rams, -4
The fact that this game is being played at the Rams' home stadium adds an extra twist to this point spread because the home team usually gets two or three points added in for home-field advantage. I'm not sure if that's the case here, but if it is, that would suggest the his game is closer to -1.5 or -2.
Also, in another twist, the Rams aren't even the "home" team in this game and that's because the AFC is the designated home team this year, which means the Bengals will get to pick their jersey color and which locker room they want (I'm secretly hoping they steal the Rams' locker room).
This will be the first Super Bowl in history that won't feature a top-three seed from either conference. This will also mark the second time in NFL history that two top picks have faced each other in the Super Bowl (The only other game came in Super Bowl 50 with Peyton Manning against Cam Newton).
After going 2-0 against the spread with my picks in the conference title round, my early gut is telling me that the Bengals cover, but you guys already knew I was going to say that.
4. Tom Brady seems to be near retirement
The only thing crazier than the conference title games over the weekend was Tom Brady's non-retirement, retirement.
Here are the details on what happened:
- People close to Brady think he's retiring: On Friday night, CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported that people close to Brady believe he's going to retire and that he's likely make the announcement in the coming days. JLC noted that Brady did not want to upstage the playoffs, so an announcement at some point this week seemed like the most likely scenario (and it's still in play).
- ESPN reports that Brady is going to retire: On Saturday, ESPN reported that Brady was definitely done with football and that he was going to retire. Although that might be the case, Brady's camp immediately pushed back with his agent, Don Yee, saying that no decision has been made yet. Brady also called Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht to let him know that he's still on the fence about what to do.
- Brady decision likely coming this week. No matter what he does, he's made it clear that he wants to make a decision sooner rather than later and as JLC noted, most people close to him think the decision will be coming in the next day or two. Basically, you should start mentally preparing yourself for a Brady retirement announcement because it could be coming soon.
One interesting thing to note is that Brady will be taking part in his podcast tonight. The QB co-hosts the podcast with Jim Gray and it wouldn't be surprising at all if he makes an announcement on the show. You can listen to tonight's episode when it comes out by clicking here.
5. Raiders getting Josh McDaniels
The Raiders officially have a new general manager and they're about to have a new coach. The team announced on Sunday that they've hired Dave Ziegler as GM. Ziegler will be headed to Las Vegas from New England, where he was the Patriots director of player personnel.
According to CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, Ziegler will be bringing Josh McDaniels with him to Vegas, where the two will try to set up a West Coast version of the Raiders.
- Raiders make a move on their guy. Everything happened quickly in the hiring of McDaniels. Going into Friday morning, there wasn't much chatter about McDaniels taking a head coaching job this year, but then out of nowhere, he had a weekend interview in Vegas and now he's about to have the job.
- This is McDaniels first head coaching job in more than 10 years. The last time McDaniels was a head coach came in 2010 when he got fired during his second season with the Broncos. During his time in Denver, he went 11-17, but most teams are willing to overlook that due to the immense success he's had as the Patriots offensive coordinator.
- McDaniels hiring is 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 and his contract will put the new regime in the perfect situation. Carr's deal expires after the 2022 season, so McDaniels can basically give Carr a test drive this year. If he plays well, then the Raiders could likely extend his contract, but if he flops, then the Raiders can move on without taking a salary cap hit.
The expected hiring of McDaniels wasn't the only coaching news from the weekend. Here are the other big things that happened over the past 48 hours.
- Giants hire Brian Daboll. The Giants conveniently waited until I sent out the newsletter on Friday to announce their hiring. Daboll has spent the past four seasons as the Bills offensive coordinator and based on what he did with Josh Allen, it feels like he's the perfect guy to try and turn things around for Daniel Jones and the Giants offense. For more details on Daboll's hiring, be sure to click here.
- Jim Harbaugh might return to the NFL. After weeks of speculation that Harbaugh might return to the NFL, he actually interviewed with a team over the weekend. That team was the Vikings, and according to ESPN.com, he's firmly in the mix to land the job. Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC title games (2011-13) before being unceremoniously fired following the 2014 season.
If you want to keep track of every coaching interview that has gone down and will go down, then be sure to click here so you can follow our interview tracker.
6. NFL Draft order is partially set: Top 30 picks are locked in
With the 49ers and Chiefs now done for the season, that means we just took two steps closer to finalizing the NFL Draft order for 2022. The most notable thing about this week's draft order is that you'll notice that the Dolphins now have the 29th overall pick. Miami landed San Francisco's first-rounder as part of the 2021 trade where the 49ers moved up to grab Trey Lance.
The 49ers are probably loving the fact that they only had to give up the 29th overall pick in that trade.
With that in mind, here is the official order for the top 30 spots in the draft:
7. Giants (via Bears)
10. Jets (via Seahawks)
15. Eagles (via Dolphins)
16. Eagles (via Colts)
29. Dolphins (via 49ers)