Howdy ho, everyone. This is not John Breech; it's his Wednesday fill-in, Cody Benjamin. I am one day away from flying out to Pennsylvania and visiting my old stomping grounds. You might say I'm reporting to camp, or something of that sort. Anyway, enough about me, because real training camp is actually around the corner and we've got plenty of NFL news to get to.
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.)
- Today's show: Burning camp questions for the NFC North
Training camp is nearly upon us, so we're tackling all kinds of hot-button issues in each division. On Wednesday's Pick Six Podcast, I joined Will Brinson to break down the NFC North. Some highlights:
- Packers: It's all about Aaron Rodgers. Surprised? We both agree that Green Bay has to resolve its quarterback plans -- for both 2021 and beyond -- before Week 1. And neither of us is convinced Rodgers will (or won't) be back.
- Bears: How long is Andy Dalton's leash? That's the key question in Chicago. We also note how the Bears' wide receiver and offensive line groups probably deserve more attention for their lack of depth.
- Vikings: Can Danielle Hunter stay healthy? Both Brinson and I believe Minnesota is capable of winning the North, but so much of their turnaround depends on Mike Zimmer's defense returning to form.
- Lions: What is 2021 all about? We think Detroit's top (and only?) priority going into the year is identifying what qualifies as an acceptable debut for the new regime.
Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.
2. AFC North questions: Can Big Ben bounce back in 2021?
Bryan DeArdo took a deep dive on the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers to ask three questions of each team entering the new season. His entire breakdown is worth a read, but one of his most notable inquiries involves the reigning North champions:
Can Ben Roethlisberger flourish in Matt Canada's offense?
The Steelers' offense finished last in the NFL in rushing in 2020. They also became far too predictable, which led to the team promoting Canada to offensive coordinator. While Canada spent last season as Roethlisberger's position coach, his offense will be vastly different from the one Big Ben has operated for the majority of his career. Fortunately for Roethlisberger, he has familiarity in the form of receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington and tight end Eric Ebron. Canada's offense will also focus more on the running game, which will feature rookie running back Najee Harris. Roethlisberger will have to do his part, but Canada is hoping to take some of the pressure off of the 39-year-old gunslinger.
3. Dak Prescott is a heavy favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year
A number of big names are attempting bounce back this year, whether due to injury or poor performance in 2020. Tyler Sullivan rounded up all the oddsmakers' favorites to capture 2021 Comeback Player of the Year honors, and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the overwhelming top choice entering camp. Here's a look at the top five:
4. Tim Tebow's role: What Urban Meyer's history can tell us
Tebow isn't guaranteed to make the Jaguars' final roster. But he's going to draw plenty of eyes when he makes his return from an eight-year NFL hiatus this month. In the event he actually looks serviceable in camp, there's also reason to believe Urban Meyer will find ways to use the former QB this season. I looked back at how Meyer used tight ends during his days as a college head coach to forecast a potential role for Tebow in 2021:
Meyer's best years utilizing TEs without a freakish No. 1 came when he had a do-it-all chess piece (see: Ben Moa, Trey Burton). That is exactly what they brought in Tebow to be, so long as he proves ready to return to the NFL. You don't sign Tim Tebow in 2021 solely because you're confident in his hands or blocking ability; you could've easily added any number of unsigned veteran TEs to fill the standard role of camp body. You sign Tim Tebow because he's an athlete. Because, if he's even a fraction of what he was as a QB when last seen in the NFL, or in college, he gives Meyer a low-risk chance to deploy another utility man.
5. Tom Brady ready to play Patriots: 'It'll be a great day for football'
The reigning Super Bowl MVP is fresh off a visit to the White House, where he joked with President Biden and soaked in his latest Lombardi Trophy. Now, he's looking ahead to something even more dramatic: His first -- and potentially only -- matchup against his old team, the Patriots.
"There's a lot to happen between now and then, and obviously, I know the challenge of beating a great team like that, a great organization, great players, so many friends that are still on the team that still are my brothers," Brady told Jim Gray of SiriusXM Radio. "Unfortunately, we're going to be on different sides of the stadium this time around. I've got a lot of familiarity playing in the stadium. You know, we've got to first get to training camp and see where we're going to be and then get through the first three weeks of the year, but I'm sure it'll be a great opportunity for me to go back to a place I know as well as anyone."
"It'll be a great day for football," he added.
Yes it will, Tom. Yes it will.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Hall of Fame speeches, Cam Akers fallout
Hungry for more NFL news? We've got you covered:
- Cam Akers injury impact: Fantasy reaction to the Rams running back going down
- Trevor Lawrence a full go for camp: The rookie QB underwent shoulder surgery this offseason
- Baker Mayfield not worried about new deal: The Browns QB is eligible for an extension
- Dwayne Haskins fighting for Steelers job: The QB headlines Pittsburgh's key camp battles
- Hall of Fame unveils induction speech order: For the 2020 and 2021 induction classes