Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

With just three weeks left to play in the season, the NFL playoff chase should get pretty wild down the stretch and I fully expect that to start tonight with the Saints heading to Los Angeles for a showdown with the Rams. At this point, both teams fully control their own postseason fate: If they win out, they'll make the playoffs, but as we know, both teams can't win tonight, so they're both not going to win out. 

The loser of tonight's game will be in a lot of trouble and if you're wondering who that loser is going to be, we have some picks for you in today's newsletter. We'll also take a look at the MVP race, plus we'll be going over the details of all the Pro Bowl games that the NFL announced this week.  

As always, here's your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. Let's get to the rundown. 

1. Today's show: Two former NFL players break down the latest NFL news

For today's episode of the "Pick Six NFL" podcast, we brought on two former NFL players to break down all of the latest NFL news: Brady Quinn and Leger Douzable

Host Will Brinson joined them during Thursday's show, and the three of them had an interesting conversation about Arthur Smith's future in Atlanta. Falcons owner Arthur Blank was asked about Smith this week and he didn't exactly give his coach a vote of confidence. 

Blank said he'll "let the season play out and go from there" when asked if Smith will be sticking around. 

Based on Blank's comments, Douzable thinks Smith will almost certainly be gone after the season. 

"Usually, as a coach, you want that vote of confidence in that last couple of weeks," Douzable said. "I think Arthur Blank sits back and looks at the talent on this team and realizes that Arthur Smith is not getting the best out of the current players on the roster. I would not be surprised if this is the end of the Arthur Smith era. I don't like to say anyone is going to lose their job, but I don't see Arthur Smith being the coach after this year."

Brinson then pointed out that he wouldn't be surprised by any firings that take place in the NFC South this offseason. The Panthers have already dumped Frank Reich and Brinson wouldn't be shocked to see Smith, Dennis Allen or Todd Bowles get canned. 

If you want to hear their full thoughts on the situation, then be sure to click here so you can listen to today's episode. The three guys also made some predictions for tonight's game between the Saints and Rams. If you prefer your podcasts in video form, you can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here

2. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for Saints at Rams

When it comes to the NFC playoff picture, this is a huge game. There are currently five NFC teams sitting at 7-7 and that total includes both the Rams and Saints. Although they have the same record, the Rams are in a slightly more comfortable spot in the standings. Heading into tonight, the Rams are sitting the seventh-seed in the NFC while the Saints are on the outside looking in at No. 9 in the NFC. 

My good buddy Jared Dubin put together CBS Sports' deep-dive preview for this game, and here's how he sees things playing out:

  • Why the Saints can win: The Saints are expected to have Chris Olave back for this game, which is a huge deal, because it gives them a strong downfield threat. It's also a big deal, because the Rams haven't done a great job of stopping the pass this year (They're surrendering 226.1 yards per game, which ranks 21st in the NFL). If the Saints can throw the ball, that could pave their way to a win. The one thing that Saints can't do is turn the ball over. NFL teams almost always struggle when turning the ball over, but the Saints have been especially bad. The Saints are 1-5 this season when turning the ball over two or more times. On the flip side, they're 6-2 when turning the ball over once or zero times. 
  • Why the Ram can win: As good as Matthew Stafford has been this year, this game might come down to how well the Rams run the ball. Los Angeles is facing a Saints team that is one of the worst in the NFL at stopping the run (They're surrendering 126.4 yards per game, which ranks 24th in the league). That's good news for the Rams, because they have a running back in Kyren Williams who LEADS the NFL in rushing yards per game. If the Saints try to stop him, that should open things up for the Rams passing attack, but if the Saints try to slow down the passing attack, then Williams could have a huge game. Either way, the Rams offense could have a big night. 

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

If you're thinking about betting on the game, here's one prop I like: 

  • ONE PROP I LIKE: Alvin Kamara OVER 4.5 receptions. There is nothing Derek Carr loves more than dumping the ball off to Kamara. Whenever Carr is facing pressure, he almost always looks to his checkdown guy and for the most part, that's usually Kamara. The Saints running back has gone over this number in three of his past five games and I won't be surprised if it happens again tonight. Of course, if I'm wrong, then I'm giving up on regular props and going back to kicker props for the rest of the year.  

My prime-time prop record is 20-14 this year. 

Finally, if you're wondering who we're picking, here's who we have tonight in a game where the Rams are favored by four points: 

Jared's pick: Rams 26-17 over Saints
My pick: Rams 27-17 over Saints

You can see who all of our experts are taking over on our picks page

3. MVP Watch: Lamar Jackson shoots up to No. 1


From now until the end of the season, we'll be taking a weekly look at the MVP race. To give you an idea of how the MVP voting might turn out this year, we're having 14 of our NFL writers here at CBS Sports turn in a ballot each week. 

The 50 media members who actually 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 here. 

Here's a look at our top five heading into Week 16, along with each player's point total. (A player got five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.)

1. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (52.5 points)
2. 49ers QB Brock Purdy (47.5)
3. 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey (41)
4. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (24)
5. Bills QB Josh Allen (23) 

To me, the biggest shock here is that Jackson is now on top after being in the fifth spot last week. Apparently, our voters were impressed with how he played on Sunday night against the Jaguars. If this vote proves anything, it's that we could see a very tight MVP race this year. The top three players are separated by just 11.5 points and all three of them will be on the same field Monday night when the 49ers host the Ravens. It's not crazy to think that one of the players in the top-three could almost clinch the award with a huge game on Monday. 

Jackson and Purdy were the only two players named on all 13 ballots. Overall, a total of nine players received at least one vote. If you want to see a full list of every player who got a vote, then be sure to click here

4. One player from each playoff contender who needs to step up

Getty Images

If you want to win a Super Bowl, you usually have to get hot down the stretch and getting hot means that you have nearly every player playing at the top of their game. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at one player who needs to step up for each playoff contender. 

Let's check out five of the players on the list: 

If you want to see the full list of players from Josh Edwards, be sure to check out his full story here

5. Pro Bowl Games details: NFL reveals skills competitions for 2024 

For the second straight year, and likely for the rest of time, the NFL won't be holding an actual game for the Pro Bowl. Instead, the league will be pitting the AFC and NFC against each other in a series of skills competitions where points will be awarded and the team with the most points will be deemed the winner of the Pro Bowl Games. 

If you're wondering what those competitions are, the NFL revealed them on Wednesday. Here's a look at a few of the competitions with a description of each event from he NFL

  • Dodgeball: "A multi-round tournament of classic dodgeball featuring four teams of five players. In the first match, the AFC offense will face the NFC defense, and in the second game, the NFC offense squares off with the AFC defense. The winner will earn three points for their conference."
  • Precision passing: "Each of the conference's three quarterbacks will battle it out in a one-minute accuracy competition, as they attempt to accumulate points by hitting as many targets as possible. The conference with the highest cumulative score among all participants earns three points. There are a total of 10 targets that are either static or attached to robotic dummies and drones, each worth a different amount, ranging from one to five points."
  • Best Catch: "Best Catch will feature one player from each conference, as they show off their creativity, inventiveness and talent. Fans will vote online to determine their favorite catch, and the player with the highest number of votes will earn three points for his conference."
  • Closest to the Pin: "This golf accuracy competition will feature six players from each conference. They will drive the golf ball, working to hit it as close to the hole as possible. The winner will earn three points for his conference."
  • Kick Tac Toe: "Each team's kicker will compete in a giant Tic-Tac-Toe competition to showcase their skills. The first kicker to complete a connecting line of three squares or hit five squares total will be declared the winner and earn three points for his conference."

There will also be a Madden Tournament, a tug-of-war and a seven-on-seven flag football game. All the events will be going down in Orlando and each competition will be televised. The Pro Bowl Games will be a two-day TV event with competitions airing on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 on the ABC/ESPN family of networks. 

If you don't hear from me in the coming days, it's because I've already gotten in line to watch Kick-Tac-Toe in person. 

6. Extra points: Deflategate II hits Chiefs-Patriots


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. 

  • Kicker balls were underinflated in Chiefs-Patriots game. Harrison Butker missed his first field goal of the season in Week 15, and now, we might know why: Apparently the kicker balls were underinflated during the first half. The officiating crew is in charge of making sure they're properly inflated to 13.5 psi, but for Sunday's game, the balls were at 11 psi, according to That led to an ugly first half for kickers that saw both teams miss a field goal and the kickoffs fall way shorter than usual. For more details on this story, be sure to go here
  • Aaron Rodgers activated off IR. The Jets QB won't be playing this year, but the team decided to activate him off of injured reserve so that he can continue to practice. This ended up being bad news for fullback Nick Bawden, who got cut so the Jets could make room on the roster for Rodgers. 
  • Bills-Chargers won't have commercials in fourth quarter. If you hate commercials, then you're going to want to watch the fourth quarter of the Bills-Chargers game on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET). The game, which will exclusively air on Peacock, won't have any commercial breaks in the fourth quarter. 
  • NFL could be sending a Week 1 game to Brazil in 2024. The 2024 NFL schedule won't be released until May, but it looks like the league is already thinking of making a big change. According to NBC Sports, the NFL is thinking about putting a game in Brazil in Week 1. If that happens, it would mark the first time ever that the league is playing an international game during the opening week of the season. If you're wondering how that would work, you can check out our full story here
  • Ryan Tannehill to start for Titans if Will Levis can't play. The Titans could have a new QB on the field on Sunday against the Seahawks. If Will Levis can't play due to his injured ankle, then Tennessee is going to turn back to Ryan Tannehill. This week's game is an interesting one for the Titans because it will mark the first time in Mike Vrabel's six years with the team that the Titans will have nothing to play for. Before this year, they had never been eliminated from playoff contention before the end of the season under Vrabel.