Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
After waiting 172 days, we finally got an NFL game on Thursday night and it was amazing. Sure, it was a little boring and somewhat sloppy and, yes, the electricity went out in the stadium at one point, but we still got to watch football, which is better than no football.
Coming up in today's newsletter, we'll be looking at the good, the bad and the ugly from the Browns' 21-16 win over the Jets, plus we'll be giving you an early preview of this weekend's Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
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. Let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Breaking down the Saints offseason and predicting how they'll do in 2023
It's time for another episode of our "All 32" series, and believe it or not, we have almost reached the end. Sure, I say that every other day, but this time, I actually mean it. There are only two teams left, and we'll be covering one of those two teams today: the New Orleans Saints.
To talk about how things are going in New Orleans, we brought on Jeff Nowak, who serves as a digital sports producer and Saints sideline reporter for Audacy along with the team's flagship radio station, WWL-AM in New Orleans.
Here are two topics special guest host Ryan Wilson covered today with Nowak:
- Will Michael Thomas actually be on the field this year? Thomas looked like he was going to be a star after setting the NFL single-season record for receptions in 2019 with 149, but since then, he's missed 40 of a possible 50 games over the past three seasons due to injury. If Thomas can stay healthy, he could be a huge weapon for Derek Carr. So can he stay healthy? "I think this year, the question is not, 'Can he get it done?' The question is, 'How many games can you expect from him?'" Nowak said. "If you get 12 to 14 games out of him, that is a major victory. I don't care how you get it done. ... The way this offense operates when he's on the field is significantly better." If Thomas is healthy and on the field, the Saints offense could surprise some people.
- Can the Saints win the NFC South? The Saints went 7-10 last year, but six of those losses were by just one score. They've now made a huge upgrade at QB with Derek Carr, and because of that, the oddsmakers have made them the favorite to win the NFC South. If Nowak was betting, he'd consider putting a little bit on the Falcons because of their value at +240 to win the division. "I could see the Falcons being trouble, but at the end of the day, I think the Saints win this division if they can get to nine wins, and they also have the benefit of having the easiest schedule I've ever seen," Nowak said. That being said, it sounds like he thinks the Saints are the safest bet. "If you're looking at the Saints and saying, 'Should I bet them at +120?' I think you have a pretty good chance, I don't think those odds are lying to you."
Nowak spent more than 30 minutes talking about the Saints, and if you want to hear everything he had to say, you can listen to today's show here. You can also watch today's show on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Hall of Fame Game: Recapping the Browns' win over the Jets
We won't dissect the entire game here -- because no one wants that -- but we will take a brief look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Cleveland's 21-16 win over the Jets. In a total surprise, the game started with Demarcus Ware singing the national anthem, which you can see here.
- Browns rookie QB has big game. There's no official MVP award handed out in this game, but if there had been, it probably would have gone to Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The Browns rookie quarterback played the entire second half and shined during his time on the field. Not only did he complete 8 of 11 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, but he also added 36 yards rushing. The fifth-round pick threw just one TD pass, but it came with just under 10 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter and ended up being the game-winner. The 22-yard throw to Austin Watkins Jr. put the Browns in the lead for good (you can see the TD pass here). DTR wasn't the only Browns rookie who had a big game, as third-round pick Cedric Tillman had two catches for 35 yards, which tied him for the team lead.
- The Browns steamrolled the Jets defense. The Browns offense didn't really have any issues moving the ball, and a big reason for that is because they were able to run the ball at will. The Browns had a total of four players rush for at least 34 yards on a night where they totaled 172 yards on 33 carries. (That's an average of 5.2 yards per carry if you're scoring at home.)
- Greg Zuerlein appears to be in midseason form. The Jets kicker had an absolutely huge game for New York, scoring 10 of the Jets' 16 points thanks to three field goals and an extra point. Two of Zuerlein's kicks came from long range with a 54-yard make in the first quarter and a 53-yarder in the second quarter. On the other hand, Cade York was NOT in midseason form. The Browns kicker missed a 49 yard field goal in the first quarter (you can see the miss here), and then after that, he almost missed his first extra point attempt.
- The game got delayed. Apparently, someone forgot to pay the electric bill at Tom Benson Stadium because the electricity went out at the end of the third quarter. With most of the lights out, the officials decided it was too dark to play. Fortunately, the lights came back on after about 15 minutes, allowing the two teams to finish the game. You can see how dark things got on the field at the HOF game here.
- The Jets offense struggled. One of the few bright spots for the Jets was Zach Wilson, who threw for 65 yards, including a 57-yarder in the first quarter that you can see here. (The long pass came on a play .) Unfortunately for the Jets, that pass ended up being almost all of the offense they produced on the night. The Jets only totaled 131 yards of offense outside of that throw. Even worse, the Jets were limited to just 50 yards of total offense in the second half, which is a big reason why they ended up blowing a 16-7 halftime lead.
For more takeaways from the game, be sure to click here.
3. Hall of Fame induction is Saturday: Here's what you need to know
If you're planning to watch the Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend, you better make sure you have nothing planned around noon on Saturday because that's when the ceremony starts. After years of holding the enshrinement ceremony in prime time, the Hall of Fame moved the ceremony to noon ET in 2022, and that's where it will be once again this year. (The ceremony will be televised by both ESPN and NFL Network.)
The Hall of Fame's Class of 2023 consists of nine people, including eight players and one coach. Here's the order of induction for the ceremony, along with the name of the person who will be presenting each new Hall of Famer:
- LB Zach Thomas (Jimmy Johnson)
- CB Ken Riley (Barbara Riley)
- LB Demarcus Ware (Jerry Jones)
- DL Joe Klecko (Marty Lyons)
- LB Chuck Howley (Bob Lilly)
- CB Darrelle Revis (Diana Askew)
- Coach Don Coryell (Dan Fouts)
- DB Ronde Barber (Tiki Barber)
- OT Joe Thomas (Annie Thomas)
Of the nine inductees, two of them made it on the first ballot (Revis and Thomas) while Howley waited more than 40 years before hearing his name called for induction.
If you want to read more about this year's Hall of Fame class,.
4. Biggest question each AFC team is facing
Every team in the NFL has a few questions they need to answer before the start of the season. After looking at the biggest questions in the NFC yesterday, we're flipping over to the AFC today.
Jordan Dajani went through the AFC and came up with one question each team needs to answer before the start of the season.
- Ravens: What will the offense look like under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken? "Virtually everyone is expecting more passing with Monken, and the arrivals of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers further support this hypothesis. At the same time, Lamar Jackson and the run game have been important to the Ravens' recent success. Since 2018 -- Lamar's rookie year -- the Ravens haven't finished outside the top three in rushing offense. If Monken finds that right mix of run and pass, the Ravens could be one of the best teams in the NFL. "
- Steelers: Where do they rank in the AFC North? "There are multiple reasons to be excited about the Steelers in 2023, but the biggest challenge they face may be the division they reside in. The AFC North could be the toughest division in the NFL. The Ravens have a new offense headlined by Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr., Joe Burrow and the Bengals are obvious contenders, and then Deshaun Watson could return to star form with the Browns."
- Chiefs: Who will step up at wide receiver? "Their leading wide receiver from last year (JuJu Smith-Schuster) is now with the Patriots, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is more of a deep threat than a well-rounded No. 1, Kadarius Toney has been injury prone and Skyy Moore caught just 22 passes in his rookie season. As for some of the new guys, Richie James was an underrated pickup, it's fair to be excited about rookie Rashee Rice, and then Justyn Ross is putting out highlights in training camp for the second straight year. Which one of these players is going to take JuJu Smith-Schuster's place?"
For a look at all 16 questions in the AFC, be.
5. Players we're excited to watch during the preseason
With the start of the preseason now upon us, we thought today would be a good time to take a look at all the players we're excited to watch during the preseason.
This monstrous list, which includes 14 players, comes from Josh Edwards. (We'll be listing five of his players below, and then you can.)
- Colts QB Anthony Richardson. "Richardson is potentially the most intriguing rookie QB, and that's mostly because the league has never seen an athletic profile like his at the quarterback position. At 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and had a vertical leap of 40.5 inches at the NFL Combine. ... Richardson will have the luxury of working with first-year head coach Shane Steichen, who has worked with young quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts."
- Dolphins RB Devon Achane. "Achane ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds at the NFL Combine. He was a collegiate champion in both the 60-meter and 100-meter dashes. It came as little surprise when the Texas A&M product landed in a place that appreciates functional speed as much as anywhere: Miami. Head coach Mike McDaniel is creative, and it will be interesting to see what he does with Achane."
- Texans WR John Metchie III. "The former Alabama WR has made his return to the football field after a leukemia diagnosis cost him his rookie season. It will be good see Metchie back on the field pursuing his dream. Metchie will have a great chance to get targets in an offense now directed by rookie C.J. Stroud."
- Broncos TE Greg Dulcich. "Sean Payton likes using those athletic, seam-busting tight ends -- he had Jimmy Graham in New Orleans for a good chunk of time -- and Dulcich fits the mold."
- Bengals OT Jonah Williams. "Williams requested a trade this offseason after the surprising signing of Orlando Brown Jr. As time passed, Williams swallowed his pride and embraced reality: right tackle is his path to playing time in 2023. ... If Williams is able to provide stability at right tackle, Cincinnati could have its best offensive line in years."
Once again, you can check out.
6. Extra points: Bears get busy in free agency with two veteran signings
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.
- Bears sign Yannick Ngakoue. The Bears beefed up their pass-rush Thursday night by signing Ngakoue to a one-year deal . The 28-year-old has been amazingly consistent throughout his career, racking up at least eight sacks in each of his seven NFL seasons. Despite his success, Ngakoue has been a career journeyman, with the Bears marking the sixth team he'll have played for since his rookie year in 2017.
- Bears also add a tight end. The Bears also added some help on the offensive side of the ball by signing Marcedes Lewis to a one-year, $2 million deal, CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson has reported. Lewis is headed into his 18th NFL season, which is the most ever for a tight end.
- Cam Jordan gets two-year extension from Saints. The eight-time Pro Bowler is almost certainly going to be ending his career in New Orleans. Jordan agreed to that will keep him with the Saints through the 2025 season when he'll be 36. Jordan has 115.5 sacks over the course of his career, which is the second-most of any active player and the 23rd most all-time. (With 22 sacks over the next three years, Jordan could reach the top 10 on the all-time sack list.)
- Geno Smith won't be charged for 2022 DUI arrest. After 18 months of having this legal situation hanging over his head, Smith finally got some closure in his DUI case. The Seahawks QB, who had a BAC of .038 (well below the legal limit of .08), will not be facing any charges, according to ESPN.
- Lions sell out season tickets for first time in Ford Field history. Apparently, everyone in Detroit is buying into what the Lions are selling this year. The team announced Thursday that its season ticket allotment for the 2023 season . Ford Field opened in 2002, and this marks the first time in the history of the stadium that the Lions have sold out their season tickets.