Ladies and gentlemen, today is a very special day. As you may well know, it's Inauguration Day. But what you may not know is that it's also Inauguration Day for the Pick Six Newsletter. That's right. I, Cody Benjamin, have been sworn in as your official Wednesday newsletter guide. John Breech's term is up. At least until tomorrow.
Anyway, enough with the shenanigans. We've got quite a bit to get to. (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: Will Patrick Mahomes be ready for AFC Championship?
Everyone's pumped for the AFC and NFC championship games, but everyone also wants to know the answer to one question: Is Patrick Mahomes going to play? The Chiefs' superstar quarterback is just beginning light practice as he proceeds through concussion protocol after exiting Sunday's divisional-round win early. There's no timetable for his official return. But according to Brady Quinn, who joined Will Brinson on today's Pick Six NFL Podcast (listen and subscribe right here), the Chiefs have even more time than usual to clear their QB for Sunday's showdown with the Bills.
"You could technically be in the concussion protocol and not have a concussion," Quinn cautioned. "This might be one of those rare circumstances where it's not what everyone thinks it is. Technically, he can get cleared Sunday, because they're at home, with that independent neurologist." Quinn acknowledged that it's still possible Mahomes could be sidelined for the Chiefs' biggest game of the year, but Wednesday's developments seemed to increase the likelihood he will, in fact, be back: Mahomes reportedly showed no concussion symptoms ahead of a scheduled return to the field, and his work is expected to "ramp up" throughout the week.
2. Philip Rivers retires: Colts' top five options to replace him
As two longtime QB legends prepare for the NFC Championship, another is bidding the NFL farewell. Philip Rivers, 39, announced Wednesday morning that he's calling it quits after 17 seasons, marking a big blow not only to the league's crop of trash-talking veterans but to the Colts' 2021 QB room. We've got you covered with everything you could possibly need from the fallout of Rivers' retirement:
- Rivers explains his decision to hang up the cleats after just one season in Indianapolis
- The Pick Six NFL Podcast crew breaks down Rivers' big decision in an emergency episode
- Cody Benjamin identifies five logical candidates to replace Rivers on the Colts in 2021
3. Prisco's Picks: Aaron Rodgers tops Tom Brady to go to Super Bowl
Two games. Four teams. That's all we've got left before Super Bowl LV. Which means it's time to pay extra close attention to Pete Prisco's weekly predictions! You'll want to check them out for yourself to see which two teams he has advancing to Super Sunday, but we'll reveal one of them for you right here, just because we're feeling generous. In the NFC, where Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will go head to head for a shot to win it all, Pete's riding with the home team:
This will be Tom Brady against Aaron Rodgers. It doesn't get any better than that. But this game will come down to Rodgers against the Tampa Bay defense more than anything else. That defense was outstanding last week against the Saints, locking down the receivers in man coverage and making it tough for Drew Brees. But that's going to be a bigger challenge against this Green Bay offense, especially the way Rodgers can make plays off schedule. Green Bay made the top-ranked Rams defense look ordinary last week. I think they will continue that here as well. Rodgers is playing the best football of his career.
Pick: Green Bay 27, Tampa Bay 20
4. Insider notes: NFL may need more rules to increase coaching diversity
As this year's head coaching cycle nears its finish line, there's been growing concern in and around the NFL regarding the league's apparent lack of diversity among lead coaches. Just months after instituting rewards for teams that lose minority coaches to promotions around the league, the NFL could be headed toward even more changes in that regard. According to CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, in fact, it's not out of the question that even stricter rules could follow what many have described as a disappointing offseason for minority candidates:
There is growing sense among many I spoke to that, ultimately, as much as the NFL continues to dangle a carrot in terms of additional draft pick compensation for teams that make diverse hires, it might truly require a stick (stripping teams of draft picks when they go three hiring cycles without making a diverse hire) to get the attention of NFL owners.
5. Playoff QB rankings: Chiefs are best suited for emergency
We've seen several backup QBs already forced into action during the 2020 playoffs. So which team is best prepared for an emergency on Championship Sunday? We ranked all four remaining teams' No. 2 QB options ahead of this weekend's matchups. Good news for Chiefs fans: Kansas City's veteran reserve came in at the top of the list as Mahomes works to return from injury.
1. Chad Henne
Henne is easily the most experienced of the No. 2 QBs still alive, and he's also the most reliable. He hasn't started a meaningful game since 2014, when he opened the year as the Jaguars' QB, but he's now spent three full years under Andy Reid's tutelage and filled in for Mahomes on four occasions. Originally a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2008, Henne's never been a particularly "safe" QB as a full-timer, throwing at least 10 interceptions in every season as a starter, but he knows how to play conservatively at this stage of his career. In the confines of Reid's loaded offense, his experience makes him plenty capable of managing a game. He also showed some fight after replacing Mahomes against Cleveland, notably barreling into potential contact en route to a late first down.
6. Ranking potential Super Bowl matchups: Chiefs-Packers easy No. 1
With just two games left before the Big Game, we're down to four possibilities for this year's Super Bowl showdown. So, of course, we had to rank them! And while each matchup has its genuine perks, none is an easier pick for No. 1 than ...
Chiefs vs. Packers
Too easy. The Bills are more intriguing because they're still playing for that first Lombardi, but if the Chiefs have Mahomes, they're must-watch material. Not to mention, this would be a rematch of Super Bowl I! A-Rod versus Mahomes? Andy Reid versus one of his old teams? This would be a fireworks show from start to finish, and we'd all be booking manicures on Monday morning because of the relentless nail-biting guaranteed by a fourth-quarter shootout.