Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

There are only three games left in the NFL season, which makes me very sad, but two of them are on CBS, which makes me very happy. 

CBS was a popular place to be over the weekend. The TV rating for the Chiefs’ win over the Bills on Sunday was the HIGHEST EVER for a divisional playoff game in NFL history. The game had an average audience of 50.393 million, which makes it the first divisional game ever to crack the 50 million mark. It also means that 50 million people have now seen Jason Kelce shirtless. 

The Chiefs won on Sunday, but will they win again this week? Great question and I’ll be answering it today. I’ll be unveiling my conference title picks in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll be taking a look at how serious the 49ers were about acquiring Tom Brady before the season. 

As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. All right, let’s get to the rundown. 

1. Today’s show: Early bets for the conference title games

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With the divisional round of the playoffs officially in the books, we decided to get an early jump on the conference title games by revealing some of our best bets for the two games that will be played on Sunday. 

During today’s episode, Katie Mox was joined by Emory Hunt and Alex Selesnick, our gambling gurus from SportsLine. 

The crew covered several of their favorite early bets and we’re going to look at a couple of those below. 

Hunt: Ravens (-3.5) to cover against Chiefs. Hunt doesn’t think the Chiefs’ defense is athletic enough to slow down Baltimore’s high-powered offense. “The Ravens are going to spread these guys out and attack these guys and force them to play in space. This is a bad matchup for Kansas City’s defense, which has actually been solid all season. … The [point] spread here should be closer to a touchdown.”Selesnick: Lions (+6.5) to cover against 49ers. Selesnick isn’t sure if the Lions will pull off the upset, but he loves them to cover the spread. “The Lions allowed the fewest yards to opposing running backs this season. They are very adept at stopping the run. I think they’re going to have a good chance to neutralize a bit of what San Francisco does on the ground, especially if there’s no Deebo Samuel. Right now, I also trust Jared Goff more than I do Brock Purdy.”

If you want to hear the rest of the props and early best bets for the AFC and NFC title games, you can do that by listening to the show here. You can also watch today’s show on YouTube by clicking here. 

2. Titans set to hire Brian Callahan: Five things to know

Less than two week after firing Mike Vrabel, it appears that the Tennessee Titans have found his replacement. CBS Sports lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones reported on Monday night that the Titans are planning to give the job to Brian Callahan.

Here’s everything you need to know about the hiring: 

Titans seemed to have their eyes set on Callahan. After dumping Vrabel on Jan. 9, Callahan was one of the first candidates to get interviewed and that came on Jan. 12. Callahan was also one of the first candidates to get a second interview with the Titans. Callahan became a hot candidate this offseason with the Falcons and Panthers also looking to get a second interview with him this week, but the Titans shut that down by making him an offer on Monday night that he couldn’t refuse. This hiring is good news for Will Levis. Although Callahan didn’t call the plays in Cincinnati, he does have a solid track record when it comes to working with quarterbacks. Over the course of his 14-season coaching career, Callahan has worked with Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and Joe Burrow. He’s also gone to three Super Bowls as an assistant coach — two with the Broncos, one with the Bengals — and he even earned a ring in Super Bowl 50 when Denver beat Carolina. He comes with Peyton Manning’s endorsement. Callahan spent the first six seasons of his coaching career in Denver, which included four seasons with Peyton Manning. The Hall of Fame QB is a huge fan of Callahan, and here’s what he had to say about him in 2022: “He’s got fire in him, and at the same time, Cally is in control. It’s the perfect mix. He’s got a great demeanor for a quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator or head coach in my opinion.” After leaving Denver in 2015, he worked as the QB coach for the Lions (2016-17) and Raiders (2018) before taking the offensive coordinator job in Cincinnati, where he’s been for the past five seasons. He has NFL bloodlines. Callahan is the son of Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan, so it won’t be surprising if those two end up reuniting in Tennessee. Callahan has also worked under several highly successful NFL coaches, including three who he went to the Super Bowl with (John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Zac Taylor). He also spent a year with the Raiders on Jon Gruden’s coaching staff. Callahan is one of the youngest coaches in the NFL. The Titans new coach won’t be turning 40 until June 10, which makes him one of five coaches in the NFL who are currently still in their 30s. Only Jerod Mayo (37), Sean McVay (37), Shane Steichen (38) and Kevin O’Connell (38) are younger than Callahan. 

For our full story on Callahan’s hiring, be sure to click here. Will Brinson and I also recorded a podcast about the hiring and you can watch that on YouTube here. 

If you want to stay up to date on the five remaining coaching searches going on around the league, including the latest interviews and the hottest candidates, be sure to check out our coaching tracker here. 

In other hiring news, the Panthers filled their general manager spot by promoting Dan Morgan, who had served as the team’s assistant general manager for the past three seasons. Morgan got his NFL start working in the Seahawks’ front office during a period where they went to two straight Super Bowls, which included one win. 

3. Breech’s conference title game picks

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It’s everyone’s favorite day of the week, which is the day where I give out my picks. After rolling through the playoffs, I’ve fallen apart in the playoffs, going 5-5 through the first two weeks of the postseason. The only upside here is that since I’m .500 so far, we can probably just go ahead and assume that streak will continue with me going 1-1 this week. You just have to figure out which game I’m going to get right.   

With that in mind, here are my picks for the AFC and NFC championship games. 

(3) Kansas City at (1) Baltimore, 3 p.m. ET (CBS) — LINE: Ravens, -3.5. Between now and Sunday, you’re going to be reading a lot about Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, but I’m starting to feel like this game is going to come down to defense. Not only did the Ravens give up the fewest points in the NFL this year (16.5 per game), but they also led the league in sacks with 60. The crazy thing is that the Chiefs ranked right behind them in both categories. I hope the old adage that “defense wins championships” is actually true, because with the quarterbacks canceling each other out, I’ve decided to take the better defense in this one. THE PICK: Ravens 23-20 over Chiefs
(3) Detroit at (1) San Francisco, 6:30 p.m. ET (Fox) — LINE: 49ers, -6.5. I feel like this game is going to go one of two ways: Either the 49ers are going to destroy the Lions and win by double digits or Detroit is going to get to its first Super Bowl by stealing the win in a close game. The Lions feel like a team of destiny and I can’t pick against destiny. THE PICK: Lions 27-24 over 49ers 

To get my full take on both games, be sure to check out my conference title game picks by clicking here.

4. Niners wanted Tom Brady to be their QB in 2023 

If Kyle Shanahan had gotten his way going into the 2023 season, then Tom Brady would have been the 49ers’ starting QB this year. That almost seems impossible to believe, but Brock Purdy confirmed the story during a recent interview with ESPN. 

Shanahan talked with Purdy early in the offseason about a possible QB change for 2023. With Purdy injuring his elbow last January in the NFC title game, the 49ers had a shaky QB situation going into the 2023 offseason. Shanahan’s solution was to bring in Brady and he sat Purdy down to let him know he was going to try and bring the seven-time Super Bowl winner to San Francisco. Purdy’s reaction to the Brady news? Purdy wasn’t completely against it, but only because it was Brady. “I remember him saying, ‘If we can get Tom Brady, we’re going to try to get him,'” Purdy said of a conversation he had with Shanahan. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s the GOAT. I get it.'”It’s not clear if Brady ever even considered the offer. Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1 and when it happened, he seemed pretty set on staying retired. However, he did note that he thought about unretiring in May, although that could have been a joke, because he shared that information on New Year’s Eve, it’s possible he was referring to his opportunity. Brady and the 49ers might not be on the best of terms. According to multiple reports, Brady actually wanted to play for the 49ers IN 2020, but that didn’t happen because Shanahan didn’t want him. After Shanahan heard about Brady’s interest heading into 2020 free agency, he approached his offensive assistants and they watched every throw Brady made during his final season with the Patriots in 2019. In the end, the coaching staff didn’t feel like Brady would be much of an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo, so they never reached out. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Brady still felt jilted by that decision, which might have played a part in his decision to not play for the 49ers in 2023. 

If you want to read more about the 49ers attempt to land Brady, you can check out the full story here. 

5. Ranking the teams most likely to draft a QB in the first round

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With only four teams left in the playoffs, that means it’s the offseason for the other 28 teams, so we’re going to start doing some offseason stuff around here. And today, we’re going to start that by ranking the teams most likely to draft a quarterback in the first round this year. 

Josh Edwards handled the ranking and here’s what he came up with:

1. Commanders (Second overall pick). “The team benched its starting quarterback, Sam Howell, late in the season. The franchise will also have a first-year head coach, a first-year general manager and a second-year ownership group that has no commitment to Howell or any other quarterback on the roster. Also, Washington has the second overall selection, which means there’s no doubt surrounding their pick: There will be a QB there.” 

2. Bears (First overall pick). “Chicago has former first round pick Justin Fields at quarterback so they could theoretically run it back with him next season. … but the firing of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy indicates that the team is leaning toward moving on from Fields and drafting a quarterback. Otherwise, why would you bring in a new voice and likely a new system in the fourth year of a quarterback’s rookie contract?”

3. Patriots (Third overall pick). “The idea of another season under the guidance of former first-round selection Mac Jones is likely not appealing to first-year head coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo should be looking to remove all ties to the Bill Belichick era rather than trying to recreate it and fail in the way so many others have over the years.”

4. Vikings (11th overall). “Kirk Cousins is coming off a significant injury at 35 years old. He is expected to hit free agency and is in a position to cash in for potentially the final time in his career. If he and the franchise that has employed him for the past six seasons are unable to come to terms, then Minnesota will be in the market for a quarterback.”

Josh ranked a total of eight teams, and you can see his full list here.  

6. Extra points: Deebo Samuel doesn’t have fracture in his shoulder

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. 

Deebo Samuel injury update. The 49ers receiver was injured on Saturday against the Packers and the good news is that he didn’t fracture his shoulder. The bad news is that the team still doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play against the Lions this week. “It wasn’t broken, so that was a really good sign,” Kyle Shanahan said on Monday. “It’s still hurting too much for us to have any idea on how it’s going to heal up this week.” The 49ers are 0-2 this season when Samuel doesn’t play. Jaguars find a defensive coordinator. The Jags filled their defensive coordinator job this week by hiring Ryan Nielsen. The 44-year-old was the Falcons’ defensive coordinator last season and although he did a pretty good job, he was free to leave after Arthur Smith was fired as head coach. In Jacksonville, Nielsen is replacing Mike Caldwell, who was fired at the end of the season.  
Brian Johnson out as Eagles offensive coordinator. The Eagles might be keeping Nick Sirianni, but they’ve decided to dump everyone else on the coaching staff. The team isn’t planning to bring back offensive coordinator Brian Johnson (full story here). The decision means that Johnson and defensive coordinator Sean Desai are both being let go. Speaking of the DC job, the Eagles will be interviewing Ron Rivera this week, according to multiple reports. Chargers interview Dawn Aponte for open GM job. The Chargers interviewed Aponte this week, which is notable, because if she gets the job, she’d become just the second female GM in NFL history. Aponte is currently the NFL’s chief football administrative officer. The first and only time an NFL team hired a female GM came in 1983 when the Eagles hired Susan Tose Spencer. 

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