Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

I’m not sure how it happened, but there are only three games left in the NFL season. Well, unless you count the Pro Bowl, but I’m not going to count the Pro Bowl because it’s not even a game anymore. 

The next time you hear from me will be on Monday, and by the time that happens, we’ll know who’s playing in SUPER BOWL XLVIII. Before we get there, though, we have two games this weekend, and we’ll be breaking those games down thoroughly in today’s newsletter. We’ll also be taking a look at the finalists for both MVP and Coach of the Year, along with all the other awards that will be handed out in the coming weeks. 

As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. Actually, you don’t even have to tell all of your friends; just tell one friend and I’ll be happy. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. Let’s get to the rundown. 

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

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey
Getty Images

If you’re a regular listener of the “Pick Six NFL” podcast or a regular reader of this newsletter, then you know what we do on Fridays: We make picks. And then, just when you think there’s no way we’ll make any more picks, we make more picks. 

For today’s show, host Katie Mox was joined by Will Brinson along with R.J. White and Alex “PropStarz” Selelnick — two of our gambling gurus over at SportsLine — and the four of them offered some of their best bets for the conference title games that will be happening Sunday.  

The crew spent an entire hour handing out picks, and we’re going to go over a few of their best bets here. Since there are only two games, their picks were all over the place: They bet on props, they bet on team totals and yes, they also bet on the point spread in each game like they normally do. 

Will Brinson (2-1 in picks we shared here last week, 29-30-1 on the season)

R.J. White (2-1 in picks we shared here last week, 25-32-3 on the season)

49ers team total OVER 29.5 pointsJustice Hill OVER 48.5 rushing plus receiving yards (-115)Chiefs team total UNDER 20.5 points (-115)

Katie Mox (0-3 in picks we shared here last week, 27-26 on the season)

Ravens (-3.5) to cover against ChiefsLions UNDER 21.5 total pointsGeorge Kittle OVER 4.5 receptions

As for PropStarz, he handed out a few of his favorite props for the weekend, because when your nickname is PropStarz, that’s what the people expect. 

Chiefs at Ravens: Isiah Pacheco OVER 63.5 rushing yardsLions at 49ers: Jared Goff UNDER 260.5 passing yardsLions at 49ers: Jahmyr Gibbs OVER 73.5 rushing plus receiving yards

PropStarz went 3-0 with his picks last week and is now 34-22 on the season. (PropStarz started the season 2-7, but he’s been on an absolute tear since Week 4, going 32-15). We also have a few more prop plays that you can check out over on SportsLine. 

To hear what the rest of the best bets are for the divisional round — and there are quite a few — be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast. You can also watch the episode on YouTube here.

2. Falcons pass on Bill Belichick: Five things to know about Atlanta’s hiring of Raheem Morris

After interviewing 15 candidates over 17 days, the Falcons have finally made a coaching hire. In a surprise move, the Falcons decided to bring on Raheem Morris. The Rams defensive coordinator became a frontrunner for the job Tuesday after blowing away the Falcons’ brass during a second interview that was held at the home of team owner Arthur Blank, according to CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. 

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

The Falcons were already familiar with Morris. One thing that might have helped Morris is that he was already familiar with the organization. Before becoming the Rams defensive coordinator in 2021, Morris spent six seasons with the Falcons, which included a 2020 season where he served as the team’s interim coach. Basically, the team already thought highly of Morris from his previous stint, so when he blew them away in his second interview, it became an easy decision.  Falcons had one of the craziest coaching searches everBefore making their hire Wednesday, the Falcons interviewed a total of 15 candidates: Morris; Bill Belichick; Mike Vrabel; Jim Harbaugh; Brian Callahan; Antonio Pierce; Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero; Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn; Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson; Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik; Bills offensive coordinator Joe Brady; fired Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson; Ravens assistant head coach Anthony Weaver; Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald; and 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Four of the 15 ended up getting a second interview, including Belichick, Evero, Slowik and Morris. It was an all-encompassing search that the Falcons will definitely feel the sting of if they get this one wrong. Falcons try something new. The Falcons have made five coaching hires under Blank and all five were first-time head coaches, but that will change with Morris. Not only did he get some interim experience with the Falcons in 2020, but he was also the coach of the Buccaneers for three seasons (2009-11). Morris, who was hired by the Bucs as a 33-year-old, went 17-31 in his three seasons, which included a 10-6 record in 2010. Belichick left out in the cold. For most of last week, this looked like it was going to be Belichick’s job to lose, but it appears the sides couldn’t agree on what the balance of power would be in Atlanta if Belichick was hired. With the Falcons job off the table, there’s a very good chance that Belichick may have to sit out the 2024 season. We took at a look at what his options are this year, which you can check that out here. Sean McVay coaching tree is loaded. Morris is coming from Los Angeles, where he spent three years as the Rams defensive coordinator under Sean McVay, including a 2021 season where L.A. won the Super Bowl. With Morris’ hiring, Sean McVay has now seen FIVE of his former assistants get head coaching jobs over the past four years: Morris, Matt LaFleur (Packers), Zac Taylor (Bengals), Brandon Staley (Chargers) and Kevin O’Connell (Vikings). That’s a solid track record for a coach who’s only 38 years old. 

For our full story on Morris’ hiring, be sure to click here. Also, we’ve handed out grades for every coaching hire so far, and if you want to check those out, be sure to go here. (Spoiler alert: the Falcons got a B- for their hiring of Morris.)

If you want to stay up to date on the two remaining coaching searches (Seattle and Washington), including the latest interviews and the hottest candidates, be sure to check out our coaching tracker here. 

3. NFL reveals finalists for major awards from MVP to Coach of the Year

Lions head coach Dan Campbell 
USATSI

The NFL won’t be handing out any of its annual awards until Feb. 8, but we do know who the finalists for those awards are and that’s because the league announced them Thursday. The awards are handed out by the Associated Press, and all of them are voted on before the playoffs started, so the voters were only able to take the regular season into account. 

Let’s take a look at the finalists in three categories: 

MVP 

Breech’s prediction: Jackson. For the first time in forever, this award feel pretty wide open, but the guess here is that it goes to Jackson. He was the most electrifying player all season and came up huge in the biggest games, like the Ravens’ dominant wins over the 49ers and Dolphins. 

Offensive Player of the Year

Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)Lamar Jackson (Ravens)CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys)Christian McCaffrey (49ers)Dak Prescott (Cowboys)

Breech’s prediction: McCaffrey. Over the past six years, the NFL MVP has only won this award once, so since I’m picking Lamar for MVP, I don’t think he’ll double-up here. Instead, I think this will go to McCaffrey. Not only did he lead the NFL in rushing in 2023, but he also topped 2,000 yards from scrimmage, which makes him a solid candidate. 

Coach of the Year

Breech’s prediction: Stefanski. My personal vote would have gone to Ryans, but I think the voters will give it to Stefanski, who is also definitely deserving. The Browns started FIVE different quarterbacks this year and dealt with a boatload of injuries, yet Stefanski still led them to an 11-6 record and a playoff berth.

For a full list of all the finalists in each category, be sure to click here. The awards will all he handed out during the NFL Honors Show, which will air on Feb. 8 on CBS. 

4. AFC and NFC title game picks from your four favorite writers

I hope you’re ready for some more picks, because we have even more of them coming at you right now. This batch will be coming from NFL senior writer Pete Prisco along with Jordan Dajani, Tyler Sullivan and myself. 

After crushing during the wild card round with a 5-0 record against the spread, we suffered a total meltdown last week by going just 1-3, which means we’re now 54-41-3 ATS with our picks that have been featured in the newsletter. 

Anyway, you know the drill here: I’m going to give you one pick from each guy and then direct you to the rest of their picks. That way, if you like their pick, you’ll be able to read the rest of them, but if they pick against your favorite team, you can ignore the rest of their picks and move on. 

Pete Prisco: Chiefs (+3.5) 28-26 over Ravens. From Prisco: “Look for both quarterbacks to play well, but I think the postseason experience for Patrick Mahomes will shine through. Look for the Chiefs to advance to another Super Bowl as Mahomes has some late-game magic to win it.” To see Prisco’s pick for the NFC title game, be sure to click here.Tyler Sullivan: 49ers (-7.5) 30-20 over Lions. From Sullivan: “I have confidence in Kyle Shanahan finding a way to torch this Lions secondary that already saw Matthew Stafford throw for 367 yards and Baker Mayfield throw for 349 yards in the playoffs. Purdy had an NFL-record 9.6 yards per attempt this season and the Lions ranked 31st in the league in that category. Even if the Niners don’t have Deebo Samuel (shoulder) for this game, the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle should be enough to gash the Lions defense.” To see Sullivan’s pick for the AFC title game, be sure to click here.Jordan Dajani: 49ers 31-24 over Lions (+7.5). From Dajani: “The 49ers have the talent necessary on both sides of the ball to win the Super Bowl, and they also have the motivation. I think getting kicked in the teeth by the Ravens in a 33-19 loss on Christmas was good for the 49ers. They won’t take anything for granted while Detroit’s magical run comes to the end of the road.”John Breech: Ravens 23-20 over Chiefs (+3.5). From me: “Pete is picking the Chiefs and I’m picking the Ravens, which means one of us is going to whiff on this game and I’m hoping it’s him. I really don’t want to pick against Patrick Mahomes, but the Ravens defense is so good this year that I can’t pick against Baltimore. The Ravens defense gave up the fewest points during the regular season, forced the most turnovers and recorded the most sacks. That’s enough to convince me to pick them.” To see my pick for the NFC title game, be sure to click here. 

For more playoff picks, you can check out our CBS Sports picks page here. 

5. Bold predictions for the conference title games

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid
Getty Images

Every Friday this season, Garrett Podell has given us five bold predictions for the upcoming weekend of games , and this week is no different.  

Let’s see what Garrett has in store for us for the AFC and NFC title games: 

1. John Harbaugh becomes first former Andy Reid assistant to beat Reid in the playoffs. “Andy Reid is a perfect 5-0 against former assistants in the postseason, which is notable, because Ravens head coach John Harbaugh served as Reid’s special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles for eight seasons from 1999-2006 and another in 2007 as his defensive backs coach. Something has to give Sunday, and that will be Reid’s streak. Why? First-team All-Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson’s hot streak will continue as the Chiefs will struggle against his dual-threat skillset.”

2. Aidan Hutchinson erupts for three sacks. “Hutchinson has eight sacks in his past four games (including playoffs) after having just 6.5 sacks in his first 15 games of 2023. His 118 quarterback pressures this season are the most in the NFL, including postseason play. Although he is facing a quarterback in Brock Purdy who has only been sacked three times since Week 14, the prediction here is that Hutchinson matches that total by himself Sunday.”

3. Christian McCaffrey becomes first running back to hit 100 rushing yards against the Lions this season. “Detroit’s defense ranked top three in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed (88.8 rushing yards per game) and yards per carry allowed (3.7) in 2023, and it didn’t surrender more than 70 yards to any running back all season. The prediction here is that McCaffrey breaks through for more than 100 yards and a TD run of over 30 yards like he did against the Packers in the divisional round.”

Garrett actually has five bold predictions for Sunday, and if you want to see all five along with his explanation for each prediction, you can check those out here. 

6. Extra points: NFC and AFC title game news and notes

Here’s a small roundup of some of our latest stories about the AFC and NFC championship games, along with some other news:

Deebo Samual back at practice. One of the biggest questions surrounding the NFC title game is whether Samuel is going to play. After missing practice Wednesday, he was a limited participant Thursday, which is good news for the 49ers. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play, but it means there’s a definite chance he could be on the field. For the latest on Samuel’s shoulder injury, be sure to head here.  Ravens activate Mark Andrews from IR. After missing more than two months due to an ankle injury, Andrews is expected to play Sunday against the Chiefs. Andrews hasn’t played since Nov. 16 (Week 11). The return of Andrews is huge for the Ravens offense, Despite missing seven games this season, the tight end still finished as the third-leading receiver on the team. AFC Championship preview. If you want a full preview of Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Chiefs, we have that right here. Jared Dubin went over all the keys to the game, and he sees the Chiefs winning, 20-17. NFC Championship preview. We also have an NFC Championship preview and you can check that out here. Cody Benjamin went through all the pivotal matchups and after breaking those down, he thinks this is a game the 49ers are going to win, 27-14. X-Factors in the AFC title game. If you’re wondering which players could come up big in the AFC title game this weekend, Jeff Kerr made a list of guys who could be possible X-factors, which you can check that out here. Ravens receiver Zay Flowers is highly ranked on Kerr’s list.  X-Factors in the NFC title game. Since we have a list of players who could be an X-factor in the AFC title game, we obviously also had to make a list of the NFC title game. Garrett Podell took care of that, and you can see his full list here. One key player who’s on the list is Deebo Samuel. The 49ers are 0-2 this season when he doesn’t play, so just having him on the field will help. 
Patriots receiver charged in illegal betting scheme. It seems that Kayshon Boutte was a huge gambler while he was in college. The former LSU receiver has been charged with a felony count of computer fraud and a misdemeanor count of gambling while being under the age of 21. Both charges stem from his time at LSU. Boutte is charged with making almost 9,000 wagers during his time at LSU, with many of those coming while he was still under the legal gambling age of 21. You can read more about Boutte’s situation here.  
Super Bowl will have strict gambling policy. Speaking of gambling, don’t look for there to be any gambling-related controversies at the Super Bowl. The NFL has set some strict rules for the two teams playing in the game: They won’t be allowed to gamble AT ALL while they’re in Vegas. You can read more about the policy here. Packers eyeing fired head coach for defensive coordinator. The Packers currently have an opening at defensive coordinator, and they’re planning on interviewing Brandon Staley for the job, according to The Athletic. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Packers end up giving him the job. 

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