Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six Newsletter!
I know there's a lot of change in the new year, but I didn't think it would happen so fast. There's been so much change that it's basically all we're going to talk about today. For one, the Steelers and Browns might both be changing their quarterbacks after this season. On Pittsburgh's end, it's almost certain at this point that Ben Roethlisberger is going to retire, and if that's the case, then his team sent him off with a nice retirement gift in the form of a 26-14 win over the Browns on Monday night.
As for Cleveland, it won't be surprising if the Browns move on from Baker Mayfield after he played what was likely the final game of a disastrous season for him. (Mayfield, who is dealing with a multitude of injuries, didn't sound like someone who plans on playing in Week 18 when asked about it after the game.)
The other big change coming is Washington's new team name. The organization announced that the new name will be revealed in less than a month. We'll be covering that and more in today's newsletter, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Recapping the Steelers' dominating win over Cleveland
In what was likely Ben Roethlisberger's final game ever at Heinz Field, his teammates made sure to send him out with a bang. The Steelers topped the Browns, 26-14, on Monday, and it was pretty clear that everyone in a black and gold uniform was doing their best to win the game for Roethlisberger.
Although we didn't record a postgame podcast, we're still going to give you our normal big takeaways from the game:
- Big Ben's teammates give him a proper sendoff. Roethlisberger didn't have a great game, but that didn't matter because nearly everyone else for the Steelers did. Pittsburgh's defense made life miserable for Baker Mayfield, who was sacked nine times (with four of those coming from T.J. Watt). Kicker Chris Boswell came up with four much-needed field goals (50, 48, 30, 22) to give the Steelers some breathing room on the scoreboard. Although Roethlisberger himself wasn't spectacular, he didn't have to be and that's because Najee Harris did more than enough to carry the offense with 188 rushing yards and two scores. Of course, Big Ben also played a big part in the win by providing a key early TD with a second-quarter pass to Diontae Johnson. Not only did the Steelers send Big Ben out with a win, but they kept their faint playoff hopes alive while also guaranteeing that Mike Tomlin's record 15-year streak of consecutive seasons without a losing mark will continue.
- Browns offense continues to struggle. The Browns defense played well enough to win, but the same definitely can't be said for an offense that got destroyed by the Steelers. Baker Mayfield had an ugly game, but it wasn't completely his fault and that's because he got zero protection from his offensive line on a night where he got sacked nine times. Even when he did get protection, though, he wasn't great, completing just 42.1% of his passes for 185 yards. The Browns coaching staff wasn't much better than Mayfield. With Cleveland going against a Steelers defense that's vulnerable against the run, feeding Nick Chubb would have made sense, but he inexplicably saw just 12 carries despite averaging 4.8 yards per rush.
- Big Ben's goodbye. Although Roethlisberger still hasn't officially announced that he's retiring, it became pretty clear after the game that this was almost certainly his final game at Heinz Field. Not only did he bring his family out on the field after the game, but he did a victory lap around the stadium where he high-fived many of the thousands of fans who stuck around late after the game to see him. If this was his final game, he likely did enough in Pittsburgh to end up in Canton. During his 18 years with the team, he won two Super Bowls, played in five AFC title games and NEVER had a single losing season. For more on his final game, be sure to click here.
- Steelers' playoff hopes are still alive. With the win, the Steelers have a shot at the playoffs, but a few things have to happen: They have to beat Baltimore on Sunday, and the Colts have to lose the Jaguars. If those two things happen, the Steelers will be headed to the playoffs as long as the Chargers-Raiders game doesn't end in a tie.
Although we didn't recap the game, you can listen to our early picks for Week 18 by clicking here.
2. Prisco's Power Rankings heading into Week 18
If the Cowboys really are America's team, then America is going to be hating Pete Prisco today and that's because of what he did to the Cowboys in his latest power rankings: Not only did they fall out of the top five, but they almost fell out of the top 10. With the Cowboys out of the top five, that opened the door for a new team to join the upper echelon this week: the Bills.
With that in mind, here's a look at Prisco's top-five teams heading into Week 18:
I won't spoil the rest of the Power Rankings here, but I will give you a few nuggets. Here's what has changed since last week:
- The biggest jump this week went to the Saints, who moved up five spots thanks to their win over the Panthers. Although I didn't find the win overly impressive, Prisco apparently did because he moved them up from 22nd to 17th.
- The biggest jump in the AFC went to the Raiders, who made the move from 15th up to 12th after beating the Colts on Sunday. Fittingly, Prisco now has the Raiders ranked one spot ahead of the Colts.
- As I mentioned at the top, the biggest overall tumble in the rankings went to the Cowboys. After watching Dallas lose to the Cardinals, Prisco dropped them SEVEN spots, from third all the way down to 10th.
- In the AFC, the biggest drop went to the Dolphins, who fell five spots from 17th down to 22nd following their 34-3 loss to the Titans. The Dolphins are now the lowest-ranked team that has a record of .500 or better.
- In news that probably won't come as a surprise to anyone, the Jaguars are dead last for the fifth straight week. Just when you think their losses can't get any uglier, they do. Their 50-10 loss to New England on Sunday was definitely their ugliest loss of the season.
If you want to know where your favorite team ended up in Prisco's Week 18 Power Rankings, be sure to click here. If you want to argue with Prisco over his rankings, you can do that on Twitter by clicking here. I argue with him all the time about everything.
3. Breech's Week 18 picks
It's Tuesday, and that can only mean one thing: It's time for my weekly picks.
My New Year's resolution for 2022 was to get all my picks right this year and it almost happened in Week 17. Not only did I go 14-2, but I correctly predicted that the Bengals would upset the Chiefs and I even got the exact score of that game right (34-31). I know what you're thinking, and yes, I should retire now and end on a high note, but I'm not going to do that.
With that in mind, here are three of my picks for Week 18. And just so everyone knows, I hate picking games during the final week of the NFL season because you never have any idea who will be benching their starters and who will be keeping them on the field.
- Kansas City (-9.5) at Denver: If there's one game this week that I'd be willing to bet blindly without knowing the point spread, it's Broncos-Chiefs. For one, the Chiefs have to win if they want to have any chance of getting the top seed in the AFC. Also, Patrick Mahomes has never lost to the Broncos and this is one team Andy Reid absolutely dominates. Not only have the Chiefs won 12 in a row against the Broncos, but they're 10-2 against the spread in those games, so I'll definitely take Kansas City here. PICK: Chiefs 27-17 over Broncos.
- New England (-6.5) at Miami: The Dolphins got destroyed on Sunday and that's because they finally played a good team. They've struggled against good teams: The Dolphins are just 2-6 this season when playing a team that currently has a winning record. One of those wins did come against the Patriots, but that was in Mac Jones' first career start, and obviously, Mac Jones is much better since then. Also, Miami's offense struggles against good defenses and the Patriots defense might be better than the Titans defense that just held the Dolphins to three points. The Patriots need to win to have any shot at the AFC East title, and even though New England has lost three of their past four at Miami, I think they roll here. PICK: Patriots 24-10 over Dolphins.
- San Francisco (+5.5) at L.A. Rams: The 49ers have beaten the Rams five straight times and normally, that would be enough to convince me to pick San Francisco. But I just don't trust their QB situation right now. For this game, they're either going to have to start someone with an injured thumb (Jimmy Garoppolo) or a QB who has only made two career starts (Trey Lance). We saw what Jimmy did with his injured thumb against the Titans and it wasn't pretty: He started throwing passes to the other team. As for Lance, we saw flashes of how good he can be Sunday, but that was against the Texans. The Rams are much better than the Texans. PICK: Rams 26-23 over 49ers.
4. One thing we learned about each team in Week 17
Now that all 16 games from Week 17 have been played, CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin decided to wade through the aftermath to figure out what we learned about each team.
Here's a look at what we learned about five teams:
- Bengals: No one can cover Ja'Marr Chase. "Of course, that's not totally true, but try holding him without a huge play for more than a couple series, let alone games. Cincy is going to the playoffs in large part because Joe Burrow keeps chucking it to him."
- Browns: Kevin Stefanski has a lot of things to figure out this offseason. "His entire offense folded against Pittsburgh on Monday night, and his continued inexplicable commitment to winning with Baker Mayfield's arm ensured a 2021 sweep at the hands of the Steelers."
- Cowboys: Something still seems off with their offense. "Yes, they made it close against Arizona, but besides the Washington rout, the Cowboys have been sluggish on offense for a while now. And now Michael Gallup is done. The playoffs could bring trouble."
- Colts: Carson Wentz has to be better. "Most of the year, Indy has stayed afloat by letting Wentz play second fiddle to Jonathan Taylor. But what happens when Taylor isn't dominating? No. 11 must clean up the key throws if this team is going to be a contender."
- Eagles: Jalen Hurts is starting to look like the QB of the future. "It's been a year of big highs and lows for the young man, but he's never lost his cool, and he was at his steadiest during the Eagles' important win over Washington to help clinch a playoff berth."
If you want to see the one thing we learned about every other team, you can check out Cody's entire story by clicking here.
5. Washington set to announce new name in less than a month
The Washington Football Team might not be the Washington Football Team much longer. The organization announced Tuesday that it will be revealing its new name on Feb. 2, 2022. When you're trying to start fresh, I'm not sure Groundhog Day is the best way to go for a big announcement, especially since that movie is about someone stuck living the same day over and over, which is probably kind of how Washington fans feel right now.
Here's what we know so far:
- Two names have already been eliminated. Although some fans were hoping that RedWolves might make the cut, the team won't be going that route. Washington has already announced that it won't be switching to either Wolves or RedWolves due to trademark issues.
- Here are some names the team was looking at earlier this year. The team has been surveying fans over the past 12 months, and a few of the popular names in those surveys ended up being Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Defenders, Redhawks, Commanders, and of course, Washington Football Team.
- The name might have already leaked. Although the announcement won't be coming until Feb. 2, there is some indication that the new name might have already leaked. That's because as of this writing, if you go to WashingtonAdmirals.com, the link redirects you to the Washington Football Team website. While Admirals might not end up being the name, it won't be surprising if they go that route. For one, it fits the theme of the area with the Naval Academy just 30 miles away. Also, it's a name that's not being used in any of the four major pro sports.
No matter what, we'll officially be find out the new name Feb. 2, which is the Wednesday following the conference championship games.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
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.
- Cowboys lose Michael Gallup for the season. The receiver tore his ACL against the Cardinals on Sunday, which means he's done for the year. The loss of Gallup means that Dallas will be going into the postseason with one less offensive weapon.
- Raiders starter arrested for DUI. Rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs, who has started seven games for the Raiders this season, was arrested for DUI following an incident early Monday morning in Las Vegas. For more details on that situation, be sure to click here.
- Buccaneers haven't yet released Antonio Brown. Although Bruce Arians said Sunday that Brown is no longer a Buc, the team hasn't officially released him yet. As of noon ET on Tuesday, he was still on the roster and that's apparently because the Buccaneers are trying to figure out how to handle his release.
- Titans' Bud Dupree wanted for questioning by police. Authorities in Nashville have reached out to Dupree in hopes of questioning him about a fight that recently took place at a local Walgreens. It's not clear if Dupree was directly involved, but according to police, the fight started because an employee at the store decided to start filming Dupree. For more on this situation, be sure to click here.
- Jaguars fans to dress up like clowns for season finale. Jags fans are so upset with the team's ownership that they're planning to mock Shad Khan on Sunday by dressing up like clowns. If Khan can get the team name changed to the Jacksonville Clowns before Sunday, then it will be just like the team has a lot of passionate fans, but I don't think he's going to be able to do that.
- Eagles hit with COVID outbreak, will likely rest starters. The Eagles added multiple players to the COVID list on Monday, including defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, tight end Dallas Goedert, center Jason Kelce, running back Jordan Howard, running back Boston Scott, tight end Jack Stoll, guard Nate Herbig, linebacker Genard Avery, safety Marcus Epps, cornerback Avonte Maddox, linebacker Alex Singleton and safety Rodney McLeod. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had already been mulling whether he should bench his starters in Week 18, and with that many guys on the COVID list, it seems even more likely that he's going to go that route. With a playoff spot already clinched, the Eagles game against the Cowboys doesn't really mean anything for Philadelphia.