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, and you know what, let's count the Pro Bowl, because we're actually going to be talking about it today.
If you forgot that the Pro Bowl existed, don't worry, so did everyone else, but we now have a lot of details on what's going to go down next week for the game. Of course, we won't be spending too much time on the Pro Bowl today and that's because we have TWO CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES TO TALK ABOUT.
Both games on Sunday currently have a point spread of under three points and if things stay that way, it would mark just the third time ever that both conference championship games have a spread that small (The other two times it happened came in 1982 and 1997).
As the resident Bengals homer here at CBS Sports, I probably won't be able to sleep for the next two nights, so it's probably a good thing that there's no newsletter on Saturday or Sunday.
Anyway, we have a huge newsletter today, so let's get to the rundown.
Remember, if you're hanging out with family and/or friends this weekend, you should tell them all to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them.
1. Today's show: Best bets for the conference title games
For today's podcast, Will Brinson rounded up R.J. White and Pete Prisco so they could argue about who's going to win the conference title games on Sunday.
The three guys spent nearly 45 minutes going over the best bets for both games and we're going to cover three best bets from each person below. The twist here is that since there are only two games, they had to come up with some best bets that didn't just involve the point spreads. I usually don't trust Brinson to come up with anything on the fly, but I will this week because he actually beat both Prisco and R.J. with his picks last week.
Pete Prisco (1-2 last week in picks covered here, 34-25-1 on the season)
- Eagles (-2.5) to cover against the 49ers
- Bengals (+1) to cover against the Chiefs
- Bengals at Chiefs OVER 47.5 points
R.J. White (1-2 last week in picks covered here, 35-23-2 on the season)
- Eagles (-2.5) to cover against the 49ers
- 49ers point total UNDER 22.5 (-110)
- Joe Mixon OVER 24.5 receiving yards (-113)
Will Brinson (2-1 last week in picks covered here, 30-28-1 on the season)
- Bengals (+1) to cover against the Chiefs
- Robbie Gould OVER 1.5 field goals (-120)
- Ja'Marr Chase OVER 83.5 receiving yards (-120)
To hear what the rest of the best bets are for the two games being played on Sunday, you can check out the episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Panthers hire Frank Reich
After nearly three weeks of waiting, we finally have our first coaching hire of the offseason. The Panthers announced on Thursday that Frank Reich has been hired as the sixth head coach in franchise history.
Here's what you need to know about Reich:
- Reich gets a four-year deal. After giving Matt Rhule a six-year deal, it seems that David Tepper has learned his lesson. According to The Athletic, Reich will be getting a four-year deal (Terms of the deal haven't been reported yet). If Reich can successfully get the Panthers to the playoffs during the first few seasons, there's a good chance he'll be coaching the team for a long time.
- Panthers still need a QB. Reich's biggest issue during his time with the Colts was that he never found a franchise quarterback, and now, he's going to have that same problem in Carolina. One of the first things he's going to want to figure out in Carolina is the QB situation. The Panthers used three different starters in 2022 -- Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker -- but Mayfield is already gone and it won't be surprising if Darnold and Walker are both soon gone since they both have expiring contracts (Walker did spend some time on the Colts' practice squad while Reich was the coach in 2018, so it's possible the new coach could hold on to him since there's some familiarity there). The Panthers have another QB option in Matt Corral, who was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but Reich will likely look to bring in a veteran.
- Reich lands in a solid spot. Of all the open coaching jobs, this is probably the one I would have signed up for, because it gives you the best shot at immediate success. The Panthers have a strong defensive nucleus in place -- with players like Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn and Jeremy Chinn -- and if they can get their QB situation figured out, they could hold the upper hand in what is currently a very weak NFC South.
- Reich will get a shot at revenge on his old team. The new Panthers coach will get a chance to exact some revenge on his old team next season. Thanks to the way the scheduling formula works, we know that the Colts will be playing at Carolina next season. We won't know the time and date of the game until the schedule is released, but I'm guessing that date will be one that Reich circles on his calendar.
- Reich has history with the Panthers. Reich spent 13 seasons in the NFL as a player and he actually played for the Panthers during the team's expansion season in 1995. Not only did he start three games for Carolina, but he was actually under center to take the team's first offensive snap 28 years ago. He also threw the first TD pass in franchise history.
- Hiring of Reich condemned by Steve Wilks' legal team. The hiring of Reich is coming with some controversy. Reich was chosen over Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks, who led the Panthers to a 6-6 record over their final 12 games. Wilks is currently a part of the Brian Flores lawsuit that's alleging racial discrimination by the NFL and several teams. After Reich was hired, Wilks' legal team released a statement, "We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into Playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the Head Coach position by David Tepper. There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days." Based on the wording of the statement, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Panthers added to a lawsuit that already includes the NFL, Cardinals, Texans, Titans, Broncos, Giants and Dolphins. For more details on the legal situation, you can click here.
One other finalist for the job was Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and it's not surprising at all that the Panthers decided to hire an offensive-minded coach. For one, the QB situation is their biggest issue right now and the quickest way to fix that is with an offensive-minded coach. Also, the Panthers had NEVER hired an offensive-minded head coach in franchise history before Reich, so obviously, it seems the team wanted to try something different with this hiring.
3. NFL playoff picks: We're predicting a Bengals-Eagles Super Bowl
After going 7-1 with our collective picks over the past two weeks in this section, I have dragged Pete Prisco, Jordan Dajani and Tyler Sullivan back to make more picks this week.
Here's how things are going to work: I'm going to give you one pick from each guy and if you like the pick that we're sharing here, then you can click through to read their other pick. If you don't like their pick, you can click through and hate-read their other pick.
- Pete Prisco -- Bengals (+1) 27-24 over Chiefs. From Prisco: "The Bengals have beaten the Chiefs three straight times, including the AFC Championship Game last January and a regular-season game this season. Joe Burrow seems to relish the big moments. I expect him to play well here, while Patrick Mahomes' limited mobility will be in play. That matters, and it's why the Bengals will be going to their second straight Super Bowl." To see Prisco's pick for the NFC title game, be sure to click here.
- Tyler Sullivan -- Eagles (-2.5) 24-20 over 49ers. From Sullivan: "The 49ers offense leads the NFL in motion rate, yards after the catch, and attempts inside the numbers. The Eagles defense ranks top 10 in the league against all of those categories. So, what San Fran typically does best offensively, Philly can shut down. And what the Niners can't defend is what the Eagles do and do well. Those mismatches should be the game-breakers here." To see Sullivan's pick for the AFC title game, be sure to click here.
- Jordan Dajani -- Bengals 28-26 over Chiefs. From Dajani: "Joe Burrow is averaging 327.3 passing yards per game against the Chiefs, and has accounted for nine total touchdowns compared to just one turnover. His 121 passer rating vs. Kansas City is Burrow's career best vs. any NFL opponent he's faced at least twice. Throw in the fact that Mahomes isn't 100 percent, and I don't know how I can bet against Burrow and the Bengals." To see Dajani's pick for the NFC title game, be sure to click here.
- John Breech -- Eagles (-2.5) 23-20 over 49ers. Only four rookie quarterbacks have ever made a start in a conference title game and all four times, things got ugly for those rookies, who went a combined 0-4 with nine interceptions compared to just four touchdown passes. Brock Purdy has been nothing short of amazing so far, but I feel like this is going to be the game where the clock finally strikes midnight and he turns back into a pumpkin. To see my pick for the AFC title game, be sure to click here.
4. Looking at the biggest mismatches in the conference championship games
With the point spread so close in both title games this week, that would suggest that no one really has any idea who's going to win either game. With the teams so evenly matched, Jeff Kerr decided to take a look at the biggest mismatches in each game that could end up deciding the outcome.
Here's two mismatches he found for each game
49ERS AT EAGLES
- Brock Purdy vs. the Eagles pass rush. "Purdy hasn't faced a pass rush as dominant as the Eagles this season, who were the only team in the NFL with a sack rate over 10% (11.7%) and was second in pressure rate (38.4%). The 70 sacks in the regular season were tied for the third-most in a season in NFL history (75 sacks in regular season and postseason are the third-most). Purdy struggled against pressure in the divisional round victory over the Cowboys, going just 3 of 11 for 14 yards and a 39.6 passer rating (2.2 yards per attempt). When Purdy faced a top-five defense in pressure rate last week, it didn't go well. It's hard to see him improving when facing a similar situation this week against a Eagles defense that averages 5.1 sacks per game over their last nine games, and unlike last week, he'll have to play on the road."
- Jalen Hurts vs. 49es pass defense on deep throws. "The Eagles pass offense has a golden opportunity to put up massive numbers if the offensive line can protect Hurts, who has been the best deep-ball quarterback in the league. Hurts is the only quarterback to complete 50% of his passes on throws of 25-plus air yards this season (including playoffs), throwing for 798 yards with 10 touchdowns to just one interception (125.0 rating). He leads the NFL in touchdown passes and passer rating on throws traveling 25-plus air yards. This is a problem for the 49ers defense -- which struggles covering the deep ball -- ranking 25th or worse in completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio, and passer rating on throws 25-plus yards downfield."
BENGALS AT CHIEFS
- Ja'Marr Chase vs. the Chiefs secondary. "Chase has had the Chiefs' number over the three meetings they've faced off. He's had 417 receiving yards in his three matchups against Kansas City, the most by any player in a three-game span against the Chiefs since Lance Alworth from 1965 through 1966. When Joe Burrow targets Chase against the Chiefs, the Bengals quarterback is 24 of 29 for 417 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 144.0 passer rating (14.4 yards per attempt). In the second half of those games, Chase has 14 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns (17.4 yards per catch). The Chiefs secondary has had trouble defending Chase over the three meetings and if they don't figure out how to stop him Sunday, it could lead to a long day."
- Bengals vs. Chiefs in fourth quarter. "The Chiefs have lost the past three matchups to the Bengals, all by a total of nine points and the biggest problem for K.C. seems to be the fourth quarter. The Chiefs have been outscored 26-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime of the three matchups, showcasing a major difference between the quarterback play late in games. Joe Burrow has completed 80% of his passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns to one interception in those games (110.7 passer rating) while Patrick Mahomes has completed 71.4% of his passes for 111 yards with no touchdowns to one interception (63.8 rating). If the Chiefs have a fourth-quarter lead in this matchup, they'll be battling their own demons to see if they preserve the lead this time."
You can check out all of the mismatches that Kerr found by clicking here.
We also wrote about who has the edge at each position in each game. For a look at 49ers-Eagles, be sure to click here. If you want to see who has the edge in Bengals-Chiefs, be sure to click here.
5. Pro Bowl details revealed: NFL shows off field that will be used for 2023 skills competitions
With the Pro Bowl just nine days away, I was starting to think that the NFL maybe had forgotten that it was holding a Pro Bowl this year, but apparently, that's not the case. The Pro Bowl is being totally revamped for 2023 and the NFL has finally released the details on what those changes are going to look like.
There will be several days of skills competitions leading up to the actual Pro Bowl and here's what kind of games the Pro Bowl players will be partaking in (All descriptions from the NFL):
- Dodgeball (Feb. 2): A multi-round tournament of classic dodgeball featuring four teams of five players that begins with the offenses and defenses from both conferences squaring off and culminates in an AFC vs. NFC showdown. In the first match, the AFC offense will face the AFC defense to determine the AFC winner. In the second game, the NFC offense squares off with the NFC defense to determine the NFC winner. In the finales, the AFC winner and NFC winner meet to determine which conference will earn three points.
- Lightning Round (Feb. 2): New this year, each conference will select 16 players to compete in a three-part elimination challenge that will leave one player left at the end to earn three points for his conference. In the first event, "Lightning Round – Splash Catch," teammate pairings from each conference will toss water balloons back and forth from increasing distances. Each tandem that completes all of their tosses advances to the second phase. In part two, "Lightning Round – High Stakes," advancing players will attempt to catch punts from a JUGS machine to earn a place representing their conference in the final round of the competition. In the final part of the challenge, "Lightning Round -- Thrill of the Spill," the remaining players from each conference will aim at targets attached to a bucket hanging above the head of an opposing conference's coach. The first team to dump the bucket on the opposing coach wins and earns three points for his conference.
- Best Catch (Feb. 5): On Sunday, the top vote-getters from each conference will compete head to head, as they perform in front of panel of celebrity judges. The pass-catcher who accumulates the highest score from the judges will be determined the winner.
- Gridiron Gauntlet (Feb. 5): A side-by-side relay race showcasing strength, speed and agility, six players from each conference will compete to see who finishes first and wins three points for his team. The four-part gauntlet -- each segment 40 yards in length -- includes a series of breakaway walls, a section of climbing over walls and under tables, a tire run and a blocking sled carrying a legend coach across the finish line.
- Kick Tac Toe (Feb. 5): Each team's kicker, punter and long snapper compete in a giant Tic-Tac-Toe competition to showcase their respective skills. The first team to complete a connecting line of three squares or hit five squares total will be declared the winner and earn three points for his conference.
I will personally be clearing my schedule so I can watch "Kick Tac Toe" and I highly suggest you do the same. The winning conference in each competition will earn three points and the conference with the most points at the end of Pro Bowl week will be declared the winner.
Each of these skills competitions will be played on a special field and if you want to see what the NFL's completely redesigned field is going to look like for the Pro Bowl, be sure to click here. Also, Cody Benjamin talked to the guy who helped come up with these skills competitions and if you'd like to read that interview, you can check it out here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Cowboys keeping at least one coordinator, but maybe not both
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, and that roundup involves a lot of coordinator firings.
- Cowboys keeping their defensive coordinator. Although the Cowboys cut ties with six assistants on Thursday, there is one coach who definitely won't be leaving and that's Dan Quinn. After interviewing for three different head coaching jobs, the Cowboys defensive coordinator announced that he's taking himself out of the running for those jobs and staying in Dallas.
- Cowboys might not be keeping their offensive coordinator. Although Dan Quinn is sticking around, there's no guarantee that Kellen Moore will be on the coaching staff in 2023. Mike McCarthy was asked about Moore's future on Thursday and he didn't guarantee that his offensive coordinator would return, "Kellen Moore, just like the rest of the coaches, will be evaluated," McCarthy said. For more on this situation, be sure to click here.
- Rams hire a new offensive coordinator. After getting dumped by the Jets in mid-January, Mike LaFleur has already found a new job. CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson has reported that LaFleur has been hired as the Rams' new offensive coordinator. Liam Coen was the team's OC last year, but he left to take the same job at the University of Kentucky. This will be the second LaFleur brother to serve as McVay's OC. Back in 2017, Matt LaFleur was the Rams' offensive coordinator for one season.
- Mahomes gives update on ankle. The Chiefs QB says his ankle feels good, but he's not sure how it will feel when he starts scrambling around Sunday, "We'll see during the game," Mahomes said, via ESPN.com. "You can't fully do exactly what it's going to be like in those moments in the game. All I can do is prepare myself the best way possible and then when we get in the game you hope adrenaline takes over and you can make those throws when you need to." If Mahomes' mobility is limited, that would definitely be an advantage for the Bengals.
- One owner hates the idea of neutral-site conference title games. If the NFL wants to start holding neutral-site conference title games, the owners will have to vote it through, and right now, there's at least one owner who's adamantly against it. Pittsburgh's Art Rooney II said on Thursday that he "hates the idea" of a neutral-site conference title game.
- Jets will be looking to sign a veteran QB. Don't be surprised if the Jets make a splash at QB this offseason. Coach Robert Saleh has made it clear that landing a veteran is one of the team's top priorities. Saleh said he had a conversation with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about what the Jets should do at QB. "The quarterback position was the No. 1 concern and rightfully so," Saleh said, via SNY. "It was simple. We're committed to finding a veteran, we didn't get into names ... it was talked about, though, that we do plan on bringing in a veteran quarterback."
- Sean Payton interviews with Cardinals, denies rift with Broncos' ownership. The former Saints coach interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday as he continues to decide whether he wants to coach this year. Payton also shot down a report that suggested he didn't want to coach the Broncos because he thought he might have a rift with someone in the ownership group. As we mentioned yesterday, going back to Fox for another year is definitely still an option for the 59-year-old.
In other coaching news, the Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will be getting a second interview with the Colts on Saturday, according to NFL.com. We're not going to list every coaching interview here, because it would triple the length of the newsletter, but if you want the latest updates on every coach and GM interview being held this offseason, then be sure to click here so you can follow along in our tracker.