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Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter! 

It's been three days since Damar Hamlin was taken off the field in an ambulance, and in that time, NFL fans everywhere have been holding their breath waiting to hear good news about the Bills safety. That good news finally came on Thursday with the Bills offering the most encouraging update yet. 

We'll be covering what the Bills had to say in today's newsletter, plus we'll take a look at what the potential AFC playoff ramifications would be if the NFL decides to cancel the Bills-Bengals game. 

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. 

1. Latest details on Damar Hamlin

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Over the past 24 hours, positive news has slowly been trickling in about Damar Hamlin, who has been hospitalized in critical condition since Monday night when he went into cardiac arrest during the first quarter of the Bills' game against the Bengals. 

Here's the latest on the situation, which includes several very positive notes: 

  • Bills offer encouraging update on Damar Hamlin. The Bills offered an updated around 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday with some very encouraging news. "Damar has shown remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours. While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress." The neurological signs are important because in most situations like this, doctors are never sure how the brain will respond after going several minutes without oxygen following a cardiac event like the one Hamlin suffered. 
  • Bills corner Kaiir Elam offers an even more encouraging update. After Hamlin was injured on Monday night, he had to be sedated. As recently as Tuesday night, he was still sedated, but apparently, that's no longer the case. Elam wrote on Twitter that Hamlin is now "awake and showing more signs of improvement," which is another very encouraging sign. 
  • Hamlin's father spoke with the team. Damar Hamlin's dad, Mario, spoke with the Bills' entire team on a Zoom call Wednesday night and let them know that signs are pointing toward a positive recovery right now, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported.
  • President Biden spoke with Hamlin's family. During an interview on Wednesday, the president revealed that he had spoken with Damar Hamlin's parents "at length." Biden was also asked by reporters on Wednesday if the NFL had become too violent. "I think working like hell on the helmets, the concussion protocols, that makes a lot of sense," Biden said. 
  • Hamlin's jersey is the top seller on Fanatics. NFL fans have been looking to support Hamlin in any way they can, and one of those ways is by purchasing his jersey. Hamlin's jersey has been so popular this week that it has been the No. 1 seller on Fanatics since Monday night. Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin has already announced that all proceeds from Hamlin's jersey sales will go to the safety's charity. By the way, fans aren't the only ones trying to purchase Hamlin's jersey. Jets corner Sauce Gardner is trying to get his hands on one so he can wear it during pregame on Sunday against the Dolphins. Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd is also trying to get his hands on one
  • Donations still pouring in for Hamlin's charity. The Bills safety started a charity in 2020 and as of Monday afternoon, that charity had a GoFundMe Page that had $2,900 in donations. After Hamlin got injured, donations started pouring in and the total has now topped $7 million. Multiple NFL players have made huge contributions to the cause, including Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford, who all donated at least $10,000. The Patriots ($18,003) and Texans ($10,003) also made substantial donations as did Rams coach Sean McVay ($10,000). The biggest donation so far, though, has come from Colts owner Jim Irsay, who pledged $25,003 to Hamlin's charity. 

When it comes to Hamlin's health, this has definitely been the most encouraging day yet.

2. NFL schedule still up in the air: How a Bills-Bengals cancellation would impact the playoff race

The health of Damar Hamlin is obviously the top thing on everyone's mind at NFL headquarters, but one other thing the league has to think about this week is what to do with the Bills-Bengals game. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones went over how the league might handle the situation and there are essentially two options

1. Cancel the game
2. Reschedule the game

The second option is likely what the league would prefer, but going that route would create even more problems. You could reschedule the game at some point next week (Wednesday or Thursday), but that would impact the playoff schedule because the Bengals and Bills would need a break before playing again. You could schedule the game during wild-card weekend, but that would completely shake things up. Under that scenario, the NFC would play its wild-card games on wild-card weekend while the AFC playoff teams would get a bye since the final seeding in that conference wouldn't be determined until after the Bills-Bengals was played. 

After speaking with several league sources, Jones notes that the "clearest path forward" is likely to declare the game a no contest or cancel it. Pro Football Talk has also noted that "momentum seems to be building" for cancelling the game. Since that scenario seems to be the front-runner right now, we decided that now would be a good time to take a quick look at what would happen to the AFC playoffs if the game is canceled. 

  • 1. Chiefs in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed. The Bills were in a spot to clinch the No. 1 overall seed by winning their final two games, but if the Bengals game gets canceled, then the Chiefs would control the fate of the top seed. A cancellation would mean that Kansas City only has to beat the Raiders on Saturday to clinch the top seed in the AFC. 
  • 2. Bengals win the AFC North. The Ravens probably wouldn't be thrilled with this because a cancellation would give the AFC North title to the Bengals. Even if the Ravens won on Sunday, that would put them at 11-6, but they'd still be a half game behind the Bengals, who would finish 11-5 with a loss. With a win over Cincinnati, the Ravens would sweep the Bengals and have the better division record, but still not get the AFC North crown. 
  • 3. Bengals can't get the No. 1 seed. The upside for the Bengals is that a cancellation would give them the division title, but the downside is that it would prevent them from getting the top seed in the AFC. If the Bengals had beat the Bills and Ravens to close the season and had that combined with a Chiefs' loss in Week 18, Cincinnati would have gotten the top seed, but the 1-seed will become impossible to claim for the Bengals if the Bills game is canceled. 

Those are the issues the NFL is dealing with right now, which is likely why a decision hasn't been made yet. Cancelling the game might be the easiest solution, but even that decision will have a major impact on multiple teams. 

One thing the NFL could do is just wait until after Week 18 is played. The league likely won't wait that long, but if the Bengals beat the Ravens, then the Ravens won't feel like they got a division title taken away from them. Also, if the Patriots were to beat the Bills combined with a Chiefs win over the Raiders, then Kansas City would fairly claim the top seed and the NFL would have no need to play the Bills-Bengals game. (The only question at that point would be who get the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, but that would be very minor issue compared to everything else). 

3. Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists revealed 

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has officially taken one giant step closer toward revealing its next class. The finalists for the class of 2023 were announced on Wednesday night

Here's a look at the 15 finalists who are now just one step away from induction: 

  • Jared Allen, DE: Chiefs (2004-07), Vikings (2008-13), Bears (2014-15), Panthers (2015)
  • Willie Anderson, OT: Bengals (1996-2007), Ravens (2008)
  • Ronde Barber, CB/S: Buccaneers (1997-2012)
  • Dwight Freeney, DE/OLB: Colts (2002-12), Chargers (2013-14), Cardinals (2015), Falcons (2016), Seahawks (2017), Lions (2017)
  • Devin Hester, PR/KR/WR: Bears (2006-13), Falcons (2014-15), Ravens (2016)
  • Torry Holt, WR: Rams (1999-2008), Jaguars (2009)
  • Andre Johnson, WR: Texans (2003-14), Colts (2015), Titans (2016)
  • Albert Lewis, CB: Chiefs (1983-93), Raiders (1994-98)
  • Darrelle Revis, CB: Jets (2007-12, 2015-16), Buccaneers (2013), New England Patriots (2014), Chiefs (2017)
  • Joe Thomas, OT: Cleveland Browns (2007-17)
  • Zach Thomas, LB: Dolphins (1996-2007), Cowboys (2008)
  • DeMarcus Ware, LB/DE: Cowboys (2005-13), Broncos (2014-16)
  • Reggie Wayne, WR: Colts (2001-14)
  • Patrick Willis, LB: 49ers (2007-14)
  • Darren Woodson, S: Cowboys (1992-2003)

To be inducted, a finalist needs to receive at least 80% support from the 49-person selection committee, and the committee is only allowed to induct up to five modern-era finalists per year, so 10 of these guys definitely won't be getting in this year. There are also four other finalists: Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley are the senior finalists while Don Coryell is the coach/contributor finalist. Those four will have their own separate committee vote with each guy needing at least 80% support to get in. 

As for the 15 modern-era finalists, Dwight Freeney, Joe Thomas and Darelle Revis are finalists in their first-year of eligibility. On the other hand, Albert Lewis has waited two decades to become a finalist. The cornerback was voted a finalist for the first time in his 20th and final year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate. And let's not forget about Darren Woodson, who is in his 15th year of eligibility, but is just now a finalist for the first time. 

Of the other finalists this year, Holt, Thomas and Wayne have been named a finalist the most times (4), which means those three have gotten one step away from induction on FOUR different occasions without getting in. 

The next step in the process will come in February when the HOF selection committee actually holds its vote to determine who gets in. That vote will come during the the week of Super Bowl LVII and the official class will be announced at the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 9.  

4. Five crazy predictions for the NFL offseason

Only 14 teams make the playoffs in the NFL, which means the offseason will officially be starting after the weekend for the 18 teams that don't make the postseason. Since we're going to see so many teams go into offseason mode starting on Monday, we thought we'd also go into offseason mode right now by offering some crazy predictions for the 2023 NFL offseason. 

With that in mind, Jordan Dajani came up with a few crazy predictions for the offseason: 

  • 1. Tom Brady signs with Raiders. "Brady will be a free agent this offseason, and I'm sure he will again mull retirement, but ultimately, I say he decides to head to the west coast and join the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders have some pieces on offense with Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Davante Adams, plus Brady has plenty of experience working with Josh McDaniels."
  • 2. Colts hire Jim Harbaugh. "Harbaugh helped the Colts get to the AFC Championship game during the 1995 campaign while picking up Pro Bowl honors and winning Comeback Player of the Year. We already know Jim Irsay likes his former players. Harbaugh would be a better option than Jeff Saturday."
  • 3. Commanders add Derek Carr. "Washington isn't in a position to go after Tom Brady or choose one of the top signal-callers in the 2023 NFL Draft, so Carr seems like a perfect fit. The former Raider isn't bad, but he's not a young gun who's going to rejuvenate the franchise either. Some fans will really like this decision, while others won't."
  • 4. Jimmy Garoppolo signs with the Jets. "Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be one of the more intriguing signal-callers looking for a new home. After all of us witnessed Zach Wilson's struggles, the Jets are going to be looking to add another quarterback. With Robert Saleh's familiarity with Garoppolo, it could be a match. The Jets have underrated talent in the backfield and at wide receiver. Adding a quarterback who can be a consistent game manager would make New York better immediately."
  • 5. Odell Beckham signs with the Giants. "The Giants have a need at the wide receiver position, and OBJ has remained in touch with some of his friends there."

To see Jordan's full story, which includes a total of 10 crazy predictions, be sure to click here.  

5. Three teams could do something this year that only two NFL teams have pulled off over the past 56 years

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When an NFL team starts the season with a 2-6 record, that's usually a kiss of death when it comes to making the playoffs. Since the Super Bowl era started in 1966, only two teams out of 186 have made the postseason after opening the season with a 2-6 record, according to the AP. That's a 1.07% chance.  

Although only two teams have rebounded from 2-6 to make the playoffs over the past 56 years -- the 1970 Bengals and the 2020 Commanders -- that number could more than double this year and that's because there are three teams that could end up pulling off this amazing feat. 

  • Steelers (8-8). After dropping to 2-6 following a Week 8 loss to the Eagles, the Steelers' season seemed to be all but over. However, things changed in a big way when T.J. Watt returned from injury. The Steelers went 1-6 with Watt out, but since his return, they've gone 6-2. Watt has been a driving force for why the Steelers are on the cusp of a playoff berth. If the Steelers want to make history, they'll need to beat the Browns on Sunday and then hope that the Dolphins lose to the Jets and Patriots lose to the Bills. 
  • Jaguars (8-8). Doug Pederson's first season in Jacksonville looked like it was going to turn into an nightmare after a loss to Denver in Week 8 dropped them to 2-6. Since then, though, Trevor Lawrence has caught fire over an eight-week span where the Jags have gone 6-2. Since Week 9, Lawrence has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. If the Jags want to join the rare group of 2-6 teams to make the playoffs, all they have to do is beat the Titans on Saturday.  
  • Lions (8-8). If the Lions make the playoffs, it would actually be more impressive than the other two teams above, and that's because Detroit actually started 1-6. Only one team in NFL history has rebounded from a 1-6 start to make the postseason and that's the 1970 Bengals. If the Lions want to join them, they'll have to beat the Packers on Sunday night and then hope that the Seahawks lose to the Rams. If that happens, the Lions will be headed to the postseason for the first time since 2016.'s Doug Clawson took a look at how these three teams -- along with the Packers -- were able to turn around their season, and you can check that out by clicking here

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Quarterback chaos in Week 18

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.

  • Justin Fields out for Week 18. The Bears QB had a chance to break the single-season rushing record for quarterbacks, but that won't be happening now. The Bears announced Wednesday that Nathan Peterman will be the starter on Sunday against the Vikings. Fields is being sidelined due to a hip injury even though he's just 64 yards away from breaking Lamar Jackson's QB rushing record of 1,206 that was set in 2019.  
  • Commanders turning to Sam Howell. With Washington eliminated from playoff contention, the Commanders have decided it's now time to see what their rookie quarterback can do. Howell is set to make his first career start on Sunday against the Cowboys. He'll be the third QB the Commanders have started this year, joining Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. 
  • David Blough to start for Cardinals. David Blough has been on the Cardinals' roster for less than three weeks and he's already getting ready to make his second start. Blough made his first start of the season for Arizona in Week 17 and after acquitting himself well, he's now been named the starter for Arizona's game on Sunday against the 49ers. 
  • Kyler Murray might not be ready at start of 2023 season. The Cardinals might be in the market for a QB this offseason and that's because there's a good chance Kyler Murray won't be ready for the start of the 2023 season. Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged on Wednesday that the Cards "probably" won't have Murray at the beginning of next season. The Cards quarterback underwent surgery on his torn ACL this week
  • Jim Harbaugh unconvincingly shoots down NFL rumors. With rumors swirling that Harbaugh might be headed back to the NFL, the Michigan coach addressed the speculation on Wednesday, "Although no one knows the future, I think I will be coaching Michigan next year," Harbaugh told Queen City News. Using the words "I think" doesn't make this sound very convincing. Harbaugh had reportedly spoken with Panthers owner David Tepper about the Carolina job at some point this week.