Welcome to the Christmas Eve Eve edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
So I ran into Santa last night and I have some good news: It appears every one of you made the nice list this year, so as a present from me to you, you're getting a newsletter today! Actually, you were going to get one no matter what, but I feel a lot better about writing it knowing that everyone made the nice list.
We were all so good this year that the NFL is giving us three straight days full of NFL games (Saturday, Sunday, Monday). Remember, Saturday is the new Sunday this week with 11 games being played tomorrow on Christmas Eve. One day later, the NFL will be giving us three games on Christmas (You can see the full weekend schedule here).
One of the games coming on Christmas will be Broncos at Rams on CBS and since both teams are struggling this year, we decided to spice things up. Not only will that game also air on Nickelodeon, but the two teams will be wearing special ugly Christmas sweater uniforms. OK, that last part won't actually be happening, but CBS did pull a prank on both Rams and Broncos players to make them THINK it would be happening and you can see that here.
Remember, if you're hanging out with family and/or friends this weekend, you should tell them all to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. Signing someone up makes a great holiday gift and that's mainly because it's free. Everyone loves free. Alright, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Jaguars blow out Jets to keep AFC South title hopes alive
Four weeks ago, it seemed like the Jaguars would need a Christmas miracle to win the AFC South, but now, it seems like a very realistic possibility following their dominating 19-3 win over the Jets on Thursday night.
Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I got together after the game to record a 40-minute podcast about the Jaguars' win and what ramifications it might have on the AFC playoff race. Here are a few key points from the game that we went over:
- The Jaguars suddenly look unbeatable. "Jaguars" and "dangerous" are two words you don't usually see in the same sentence -- at least in a football context -- but this team is looking dangerous. During their win over the Jets, the Jags looked impressive in all three phases of the game. Trevor Lawrence threw for 229 yards, despite the fact that most of the game was played in a torrential downpour (Lawrence also had a rushing touchdown). Not to be outdone, Travis Etienne totaled 112 yards, with 83 of those coming on the ground. Evan Engram continues to thrive in Doug Pederson's offense. After averaging 112 receiving yards over the past two weeks, Engram topped that total by going for 113 against the Jets. As good the offense was, the defense was even better, holding the Jets to just 227 total yards while recording three sacks and forcing a turnover. This is a team that's getting hot at the right time and as crazy as it sounds, they could be dangerous come playoff time if they can find their way into the postseason.
- Zach Wilson might be done in New York. When you get benched for a fourth-string quarterback, that generally means the coaching staff has lost all faith in you, and that's what happened to Zach Wilson on Thursday night. With the offense sputtering -- it produced just 66 yards in the first half -- the Jets decided to bench Wilson in the third quarter in favor of Chris Streveler. Wilson completed just 9-of-18 passes for 92 yards before getting yanked. It wasn't completely his fault that the offense struggled -- he didn't get much protection from the offensive line and he got zero help from New York's rushing attack -- but he also struggled with his accuracy while having zero pocket awareness. Following the game, head coach Robert Saleh said Jets fans "haven't seen the last of" Zach Wilson, but that sounds like coach speak. After getting benched twice, it's hard to see a situation where Wilson returns to New York in 2023 as the starting QB.
- Slumping Jets will likely miss postseason. When the month of December started, the Jets were 7-4 and they looked like a lock for the playoffs, but following Thursday's game, they've now lost four straight and look like a long shot to make the postseason. The Jets' playoff hopes aren't dead just yet, but it kind of feels that way. At 7-8, the Jets are now 1.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Chargers and the seventh-seeded Dolphins, who are both 8-6. If both those teams win this weekend -- the Chargers play the Colts while the Dolphins play the Packers -- then the Jets can probably go ahead and start thinking about next year, and honestly, I'd probably do that anyway.
- Jaguars could steal AFC South. The Jaguars only have two games left and things are pretty simple from here on out: If they beat the Texans in Week 17, then the AFC South division title will be on the line when the Jags host Tennessee in Week 18. The fact that this team could be playing for the division title in two weeks is pretty remarkable when you consider that they were 4-8 just three weeks ago. The Jags haven't made the playoffs since 2017 when they made it all the way to the AFC title game.
- Other playoff ramifications. Thanks to the Jaguars win, the Bengals officially clinched a playoff spot on Thursday night. There will be no Super Bowl hangover for the Bengals, who have now earned back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since 2011 thru 2015 when they went five straight times. The Bengals started the season 0-2, making them the first team since 2018 to make the playoffs after losing their first two games. Their berth means that three of the seven AFC spots have now been clinched (Bengals, Chiefs, Bills).
If you want to hear our entire recap of the game, be sure to click here. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Today's show Part II: Best bets for Week 16
The best part about Friday -- besides the fact that it's Friday -- is that you get two episodes of the podcast in your feed. After recording the Thursday night postgame podcast with Wilson and myself, Brinson kicked us to the curb so that he could record his weekly picks show with Pete Prisco and R.J. White.
Those three guys spent nearly 60 minutes going over their best bets for every single game being played in Week 16, and we're going to cover three of those bets from each guy below.
Pete Prisco (1-2 last week in picks covered here, 26-18-1 on the season)
- Packers (+4) to cover against the Dolphins
- Giants (+4) to cover against the Vikings
- Rams (+2.5) to cover against the Broncos
R.J. White (1-2 last week in picks covered here, 25-18-2 on the season)
- Titans (-3) to cover against the Texans
- Bengals (-3) to cover against the Patriots
- Saints at Browns UNDER 32.5 total points
Will Brinson (3-0 last week in picks covered here, 22-22-1 on the season)
- Eagles (+5) to cover against the Cowboys
- Steelers (-2.5) to cover against the Raiders
- Bengals (-3) to cover against the Patriots
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for Week 16 -- and there are quite a few -- you can check out the episode on YouTube by clicking here.
3. Week 16 picks: Dolphins, Bengals and Cowboys all pick up big wins
This is the final newsletter of the week, which means we will be cramming as many picks as humanly possible into this space.
With that in mind, we've got four more Week 16 picks coming your way, and those will be coming from NFL senior writer Pete Prisco, along with Jordan Dajani, Tyler Sullivan and myself.
Here's how things are going to work: I'm going to give you one pick from each guy and then direct you to the rest of their picks. That way, if you like their pick, you'll be able to read the rest of them, but if they pick against your favorite team, you can ignore the rest of their picks and move on.
- Pete Prisco -- Dolphins 31-30 over Packers (+3.5). From Prisco: "The Packers are still alive after winning Monday night, but this is tough turnaround on a short week. The Dolphins have lost three straight, but they played better last week. This will be a shootout with the Packers keeping it close as Aaron Rodgers and Tua Tagovailoa put on a show." For the rest of Prisco's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here. Speaking of the Packers, they gave an early Christmas present to offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, who landed a four-year $68 million extension on Friday.
- Tyler Sullivan -- Cowboys 27-24 over Eagles (+5). From Sullivan: "I consider Gardner Minshew to be one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL and he has an ideal cast -- elite defense, stellar offensive line, and plenty of pass-catching weapons -- around him to keep the Eagles afloat in this game. This game feels destined to be close, which is why I'll be taking Philly to cover and Dallas to win." For the rest of Sullivan's Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani -- Lions (-2.5) 24-20 over Panthers. From Dajani: "The Lions have won six out of their last seven games, and still have a chance at a playoff spot. They are also a good team to bet on, as Dan Campbell is 10-4 ATS on the year (tied for second-best in the NFL). I'm taking Detroit here." For the rest of Dajani's Week 16 best bets, be sure to click here.
- John Breech -- Bengals (-3) 27-20 over Patriots. I'm not sure how long it will take the Patriots to mentally recover from suffering possibly the most humiliating loss in NFL history, but I'm guessing it will be longer than a week. For the rest of my Week 16 picks, be sure to click here.
4. Bold predictions for Week 16: Tom Brady and the Buccaneers finally explode on offense
There's nothing we love here more than making bold predictions, so we asked Jared Dubin to come up with some for Week 16.
With that in mind, let's take a look at his predictions:
- Malik Willis keeps the Titans' division-title hopes alive. "The Titans are 1-1 in Malik Willis' two starts this season and that one win, notably, came against the Houston Texans, who also happen to be Tennessee's opponent this week. Derrick Henry went absolutely berserk in his first meeting with Houston, rushing 32 times for 219 yards and two scores. For his career, Henry averages 114 yards and a touchdown per game against Houston, and there's no reason not to expect him to match or exceed those totals this weekend. As long as Willis doesn't lose the game himself, the Titans are going to win it."
- Lions stay firmly in the NFC playoff hunt. "The Lions of Detroit have won six of their last seven games. They have even won all three road games during that stretch, after beginning the season with an 0-3 record on the road. They travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers on Saturday, and the guess here is they stack yet another win. Carolina's offense since Steve Wilks took over has been based around the run game, but the Lions have been increasingly tough to run on of late and the Panthers do not have much in the way of an aerial attack. It just seems unlikely that the Panthers will be able to keep up with Detroit's high-flying offense."
- Buccaneers finally explode on offense. "The Buccaneers offense has been a disaster compared to Tom Brady's first two seasons, but Tampa Bay's fortunes could change this week. They're getting a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals defense at the best time. Arizona is 20th in yards allowed, dead last in points allowed, and 27th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. The Cards are 29th against the run and 20th against the pass, with a particular weakness against passes over the middle (Chris Godwin) and to tight ends (Cade Otton). This is the game where the Bucs finally look like last year's Bucs."
For a full look at Dubin's bold predictions, be sure to click here.
5. Playoff-clinching scenarios: Three teams can punch their postseason ticket this weekend
It's not just Christmas this weekend, it could also be a Merry Clinchmas for four different teams around the NFL. By the end of the weekend, 10 of the NFL's 14 playoff spots could be taken.
Here are the three teams that can clinch a playoff berth, and two teams that could clinch a division title in Week 16 and what they need to do to clinch:
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Ravens win over Falcons PLUS Dolphins loss or tie against Packers OR Ravens win over Falcons PLUS Patriots loss or tie to Bengals.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Chargers win over Colts PLUS Patriots loss to Bengals PLUS Raiders loss or tie to Steelers.
- Can clinch AFC East title with: Bills win over Bears OR Dolphins loss to Packers.
- Can clinch playoff berth with: Giants win over Vikings PLUS Commanders loss to 49ers PLUS Lions loss to Panthers OR Giants win over Vikings PLUS Commanders loss to 49ers PLUS Seahawks loss to Chiefs.
- Can clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC with: Eagles win over Cowboys.
Remember, this just represents the easiest clinching/elimination scenario for each of these teams. For a look at every possible playoff-clinching scenario, be sure to click here.
If you're scoring at home, here's a list of the teams that have already clinched:
AFC: Bills, Chiefs, Bengals
NFC: Eagles, Vikings, 49ers, Cowboys
Although seven playoffs spots are locked up, all seven seeds in each conference are still wide open since none of them have been clinched, which should add some serious drama to the final three weeks of the regular season.
6. Five best and five worst moves from the 2022 offseason
With the NFL season headed into Week 16, we thought now would be a good time to look back at some of the offseason's biggest moves and see how they panned out. With that in mind, we had Jeff Kerr rank the five best moves from the 2022 offseason and the five worst moves.
FIVE BEST MOVES
1. Dolphins trade for Tyreek Hill
2. Eagles trade for A.J. Brown
3. Eagles sign James Bradberry
4. Eagles sign Haason Reddick
5. Vikings sign Za'Darius Smith
I'm starting to think Jeff should have made a list that included only moves made by the Eagles and then a separate list for the other 31 teams. If you want to see a full explanation of these rankings, be sure to click here.
Although there are plenty of big acquisitions every March when the free agency period starts, the fact of the matter is that most big moves -- whether they're signings or trades -- don't end up panning out, which brings us to our list of the five worst moves.
FIVE WORST MOVES
1. Broncos trade for Russell Wilson
2. Rams sign Allen Robinson
3. Panthers trade for Baker Mayfield
4. Colts trade for Matt Ryan
5. Raiders sign Chandler Jones
The Wilson trade was especially bad because not only did the Broncos give up a lot of draft capital to acquire him, but they also gave him a monstrous contract extension, which means they're stuck with him whether he gets things figure out or not. If you want to know why these moves were ranked the worst, be sure to click here.
We also went back and re-graded some of the biggest trades of the 2022 offseason and if you want to check out that story, be sure to click here (Spoiler alert: The Wilson trade got a D.)
Finally, since Christmas is this weekend, we thought it would make sense to end on a holiday note: We went through and made a list of what would be the perfect gift for each NFL team and you can check out that list here.