Happy New Year and welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
We're only two days into the year and I have to say, not much has changed compared to 2022: Carson Wentz is still bad, the Vikings still appear to be frauds, the Raiders blew another double-digit lead and Tom Brady is headed to the playoffs for the 97th straight season. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We've got a full newsletter today: We'll be taking a look at the playoff picture and making picks for tonight's AFC showdown between the Bills and Bengals, plus we'll be handing out grades and looking at some winners and losers.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. Getting your friends signed up is a great way to help them start 2023 off on the right foot.
1. Today's show: Week 17 winners and losers, plus full recap
It's Monday, which can only mean one thing: I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson that touched on everything you need to know about Week 17, and let me just say, it's probably for the best that you listen. We covered all 14 games from the weekend, which means we likely spent some time talking about your favorite team.
One thing we do every week is hand out our weekly winners and losers from Sunday's action. Here's a look at who made our list.
- Winner: Brian Daboll. The Giants looked like a hopeless team last season at 4-13, but it seems the only thing they needed to turn things around was a new -- and competent -- head coach. In his first year on the job, not only has Daboll engineered a brilliant turnaround, but he has the Giants headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
- Loser: Mike White. The Jets QB had a chance to help his team take a big step toward the playoffs, but instead, he wilted under the pressure. White threw two interceptions during the Jets' 23-6 loss to the Seahawks and based on his play (along with Zach Wilson's), it's pretty clear that the Jets are going to be back at square one with their QB situation heading into 2023.
- Winner: Aaron Rodgers. Four weeks ago, the Packers were sitting at 4-8 and there was talk that they should bench Rodgers in favor of Jordan Love. The Packers QB said he wanted to play until his team got eliminated from the playoff race, and well, guess what? They still haven't been eliminated. Thanks to four straight wins, the Packers are now just one victory away from clinching their fourth straight playoff berth.
- Loser: Sam Darnold. The Panthers had a chance to throw a wrench into the NFC South race with a win over the Buccaneers, but Darnold threw those chances away. The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but that lead slowly wilted away in part thanks to Darnold, who turned the ball over three times over the game's final three quarters. It already seemed likely that Darnold wouldn't be returning to Carolina in 2023, but this loss may have sealed his fate.
- Winner: Geno Smith. The Geno Smith revenge tour is officially complete. Before signing with Seattle, Smith had played for three NFL teams in his career (Jets, Giants, Chargers) and he got to face all three of them this season. Thanks to his 23-6 win over the Jets, not only did Smith go 3-0 in those games, but the Seahawks won those three games by an average of 15 points per game. The Seahawks would probably be undefeated right now if the entire season had been a revenge tour for Geno, who DOES NOT lose to his former teams.
- Loser: Carson Wentz. The Commanders decided to put their season in Wentz's hands on Sunday and not surprisingly, that decision totally backfired on them. Wentz threw three interceptions in a 24-10 loss to the Browns that ended up eliminating the Commanders from playoff contention. Wentz has started seven games this season and he's now thrown multiple interceptions in three of them.
Not only did we list our winners and losers, but we also recapped every game from Sunday. To listen to today's episode, be sure to click here. You can also watch the entire episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Week 17 grades: Buccaneers get an 'A' for winning NFC South, Raiders earn a 'B+' for wild OT loss
Every week I team up with six of my colleagues here at CBSSports.com to hand out grades, and this week, we gave Tom Brady and the Buccaneers an 'A' for their big win over the Panthers.
Here's a look at the grades from two notable games that were played Sunday:
Buccaneers 30-24 over Panthers (Click here for full recap)
- Panthers grade: D. The Panthers came out on fire in this game, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, but then things completely fell apart after that. Although Sam Darnold put up impressive numbers (341 yards, three touchdowns), he also turned the ball over three times and those turnovers led to 10 points for the Buccaneers. The Panthers defense, which held the Bucs to just three points earlier this season, had no answers for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who combined for 327 receiving yards. The Panthers came close to stealing the NFC South, but in the end, they just didn't have what it takes to beat Tom Brady in a big game.
- Buccaneers grade: A. The Panthers had Tampa Bay on the ropes in this game, but the problem for Carolina is that Tom Brady seems to thrive when he's on the ropes. With the NFC South title hanging in the balance, Brady went off, throwing for 432 yards and three touchdowns. All three scores went to Mike Evans, who had only caught three touchdown passes on the entire season before this week. Defensively, the Buccaneers weren't perfect, but they did come up with some huge plays, including a second half interception and a strip-sack with under three minutes left to play that essentially iced the game. The Buccaneers might not be a great team, but they do have Tom Brady, which means they could certainly be a threat in the playoffs.
49ers 37-34 in OT over Raiders (Click here for full recap)
- 49ers grade: B. The 49ers have been so dominant over the past two months that they haven't really been tested, but they got a serious test on Sunday and they passed it ... but just barely. The 49ers offense bailed out a defense that had one of its worst games of the season. The offensive fireworks came courtesy of Christian McCaffrey (193 total yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers receiver finished with 101 yards and the wild part is that 81 of those came in the fourth quarter. Brock Purdy also proved that he can lead a comeback as he trailed by double digits for the first time since taking over the starting job. Although it wasn't a banner night for the defense, the unit did come up with some big plays, including Tashaun Gipson's OT interception that set up Robbie Gould's game-winning kick. The 49ers got a major scare, but they showed that they're resilient and that should come in handy come playoff time.
- Raiders grade: B+. Josh McDaniels made the bold decision to bench Derek Carr this week and he now looks like a genius after what Jarrett Stidham did to the NFL's top-ranked defense. A big reason the Raiders were able to take this game to overtime was thanks to Stidham, who threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn't perfect -- he threw two interceptions -- but he did help the Raiders pile up 500 yards of offense against a 49ers defense that was surrendering the fewest yards per game heading into Week 17. Davante Adams (153 receiving yards, two touchdowns) made several highlight-reel catches, including a 45-yarder with under two minutes left that helped the Raiders force OT (you can see the play here). No one knows if the benching of Carr will work out in the long run, but McDaniels might have just proved that the Raiders will be better off going forward with a QB who understands how to run his offense.
As for the other 24 grades we handed out over the weekend, you can check those out by clicking here.
3. NFL playoff picture heading into Monday night
With the NFL season coming down to the home stretch, now seems like a good time to take an extensive look at the playoff picture heading into tonight's game between the Bengals and Bills, which will have huge playoff ramifications.
Here's a look at the top seven teams from each conference (any team with an asterisk next to its name has clinched a playoff spot)
1. Chiefs (13-3)*
2. Bills (12-3)*
3. Bengals (11-4)*
4. Jaguars (8-8)
5. Chargers (10-6)*
6. Ravens (10-6)*
7. Patriots (8-8)
First teams out (in order): Dolphins (8-8), Steelers (8-8)
Still in the AFC South race: Titans (7-9)
Tonight's game will have some major implications on the AFC playoff picture. If the Bills win, they'll shoot up to the No. 1 spot in the conference and will be in a position to clinch the No. 1 overall seed against the Patriots in Week 18. If the Bengals win, they'll clinch the AFC North, which will guarantee them at least one home game in the playoffs. With a win, the Bengals would also stay alive for the No. 1 overall seed. For Cincinnati to get that, it would need to beat the Ravens in Week 18 and have the Chiefs lose to the Raiders.
If the Bengals lose to Buffalo, then the AFC North title will be on the line in Week 18 when the Bengals play the Ravens. The other division up for grabs is the AFC South. That will be decided on Saturday night with the Titans playing the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
As for the final wild-card spot, the Patriots are the only team that controls its fate: They'll get in if they can beat the Bills in Week 18. If you want to see every possible clinching scenario for the teams that are still alive, be sure to click here.
1. Eagles (13-3)*
2. 49ers (12-4)*
3. Vikings (12-4)*
4. Buccaneers (8-8)*
5. Cowboys (12-4)*
6. Giants (9-6-1)*
7. Seahawks (8-8)
First teams out (in order): Lions (8-8), Packers (8-8)
The Buccaneers and Giants both clinched a playoff spot by winning in Week 17, which means that six of the NFC's seven spots are now filled. When it comes to the final playoff spot, the scenarios are pretty simple:
- Green Bay: If the Packers beat the Lions in Week 18, then Green Bay is in.
- Seattle: The Seahawks can get in if they beat the Rams AND the Packers lose to the Lions.
- Detroit: The Lions can get in if they beat the Packers AND the Seahawks lose to the Rams.
The other race in the NFC is for the top seed, which is now in play thanks to the Eagles' two-game losing streak. If the Eagles beat the Giants in Week 18, then Philadelphia will get the top seed. If Philly loses though, then the 49ers or Cowboys could steal the top seed. The 49ers need a win over Arizona plus an Eagles loss. For the Cowboys, they'd need a win over Washington PLUS losses by both San Francisco and Philadelphia to get the top seed.
If your favorite team is currently out of the playoff race, then you probably don't care about the playoff picture, and if you're in that camp we have something else for you: A mock draft! You can check out Ryan Wilson's latest one by clicking here.
4. 12 crazy facts from Week 17
Every Sunday night I get an email from our research department here at CBS Sports, and every Sunday that email always includes some amazingly wild facts about the games that were just played.
With that in mind, here are 12 crazy facts about Week 17:
- Mahomes become double member of 5K club. After throwing for 328 yards against the Broncos, Patrick Mahomes now has 5,048 for the season, marking the second time in his career that he's hit 5,000 yards. Mahomes is now just one of three quarterbacks in NFL history -- along with Drew Brees and Tom Brady -- who have thrown for 5,000 yards or more multiple times.
- Mahomes owns the Broncos. With Kansas City's 27-24 win over Denver, Patrick Mahomes is now 11-0 in his career against the Broncos, which is tied for the most wins against one team without a loss. The only other QB to hit that mark was Andrew Luck, who went 11-0 in his career against the Titans.
- Brady's big day. Not only did Tom Brady throw three touchdown passes in the Bucs' win over Carolina, but he also had a rushing TD, marking the ninth time in his career that he's totaled three passing touchdowns and one rushing TD in a game, which is tied with Drew Brees for the most in NFL history.
- Record-setting streak for a running back. Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon has now caught a TD pass in five straight games, which is the longest streak for a running back in more than 70 years. The last running back to have a streak that long was Bill Dudley back in 1947.
- Sack daddy. The Eagles recorded six sacks against the Saints on Sunday, which means they now have at least six sacks in five straight games, which is an NFL record. They also have four players this season who have recored at least 10 sacks, making them the first team since sacks became an official stat to have four players reach double-digit sacks in the same season.
- Interception machine. Aidan Hutchinson recorded the his third interception of the season during Detroit's win over the Bears. That number is tied for the most by any defensive lineman in a season in the Super Bowl era. Also, Hutchinson is the only player in the entire NFL this year who has at least 5.0 sacks and three interceptions.
- Fields day. Justin Fields rushed for 105 yards during the first quarter against the Lions, which is the most that any QB has rushed for in a single quarter since 1975, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Hurts now has 1,143 rushing yards on the season, which is the second-most in NFL history for a QB, trailing only Lamar Jackson's 1,206 in 2019. Fields can break Jackson's record with at least 64 yards against the Vikings in Week 18.
- Rough losing streak. The Bears lost their ninth straight game on Sunday, which is notable, because that's the longest losing streak the team has ever experienced in its 102-year history.
- Mike Evans joins 1K club again. With 207 yards against the Panthers, Mike Evans now has 1,124 yards on the season, marking the ninth straight season that he's hit the 1,000-yard mark. That's tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history, trailing only Jerry Rice, who did it 11 straight times.
- Brock Purdy on the verge of history. With two TD passes against the Raiders, Brock Purdy now has at least one TD pass in five straight games, which is tied for the second-longest streak for any rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The only rookie who had a longer streak was Justin Herbert, who threw at least one TD pass in seven straight games in 2020.
- Packers pull off a rarity. The Packers got a kick return touchdown (Keisean Nixon) and a pick-six (Darnell Savage) against the Vikings, marking the first time since 1967 that the Packers got a kick return TD and interception return TD in the same game.
- Austin Ekeler on verge of NFL record. With five catches against the Rams, Ekeler now has 103 this year, which is the third-highest single-season total in NFL history for a running back. Christian McCaffrey holds the two highest totals with 116 in 2019 and 107 in 2018. Ekeler has a very real chance to jump to No. 2 on the list and an outside shot to break McCaffrey's record.
- Block party. One of the few highlights for the Vikings on Sunday came when Josh Metellus blocked a Packers' punt. That means Metellus has now blocked a punt in consecutive weeks, making him the first player since 1995 to pull off that feat.
- Defense wins championships. During the Patriots' 23-21 win over the Dolphins, Kyle Dugger came up with a huge pick-six in the second half. That Patriots now have four straight games with a defensive score, which makes them the first team since the 2002 Buccaneers to pull off that feat. The Buccaneers did it in Weeks 2 thru 5 that season and then went on to win the Super Bowl.
- Super hangover. The Rams' loss to the Chargers dropped them to 5-11 on the season, which means they now hold the record for the most losses ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. The previous record was held by the Broncos, who went 6-10 in 1999, one season after winning Super Bowl XXXIII.
If you see any other fun facts, feel free to tweet them at me.
5. Monday preview: Prepping you for Bills at Bengals
The NFL has saved the best for last. The final Monday night game of the season will be happening tonight and it's an unprecedented showdown for a Monday game this late in the season. The 23 combined wins for both teams are tied for the most ever in a Monday game. The only other game to hit that mark came in 1997 when the 12-2 49ers played 11-3 Broncos (Denver lost that game but went on to win the Super Bowl that year).
One thing to keep in mind tonight is that the game won't be kicking off until 8:30 p.m. ET, which is 15 minutes later than normal (If you want to know why that's happening, you can read the details here).
My good buddy Jared Dubin wrote our deep-dive preview for this game here at CBSSports.com, and here's how he sees the game playing out:
- Why the Bills can win: With these two teams so evenly matched, the Bills' ability to run the ball might actually be the one thing that ends up making a difference in this game. The Bills are on a six-game winning streak and over the course of that streak, Josh Allen is averaging just 216 passing yards per game, but their offense has been rolling along thanks to a rushing attack that's averaging 162.2 yards per game. If the Bills get near that number, that could mean trouble for a Bengals team that's 3-3 this year when surrendering 105 yards or more on the ground (They're 8-1 when giving up less than 105 yards).
- Why the Bengals can win: This game is likely going to come down to whether the Bengals can protect Joe Burrow. The reason that could be an issue this week is because right tackle La'el Collins is out for the season, which means Hakeem Adeniji will be stepping in to make his first start of the season. The Bengals are 0-3 this year in games where Burrow has been sacked five or more times, so if Adeniji struggles, that could be a problem for Cincinnati. However, if Burrow has time to throw, it won't be surprising to see him dice up the Bills secondary and if that happens, then the Bengals should win.
You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here.
If you're thinking about betting on the game, Tyler Sullivan put together a full gambling preview (odds via Caesars Sportsbook). You can check out Sullivan's full gambling preview by clicking here, but if you don't feel like clicking over, here's one prop from both of us for tonight's game.
- ONE PROP TYLER LIKES: Josh Allen scores at least one touchdown (+190): "My favorite prop for Allen in this matchup is his anytime touchdown prop at +190. He's rushed for a TD in three of his last five games and is Buffalo's main weapon on the ground when they enter the red zone. The Bills will likely need Allen to use his legs in this matchup as they are facing a tough Cincy secondary that's allowing a league-low 60.2 completion percentage entering this game and just 206.7 passing yards per game at home."
- ONE PROP I LIKE: Evan McPherson OVER 1.5 field goals (+108): The Bengals kicker has struggled with his accuracy this year, but despite that, the Bengals are still giving him plenty of chances to make kicks. McPherson has received at least two field goal attempts in five of Cincinnati's past six games and it won't be surprising if that trend continues tonight. Also, the Bills have the best red zone defense in the NFL -- they're only surrendering a TD on 44.4% of trips that their opponents make inside Buffalo's 20 -- which means it won't be surprising if McPherson gets to attempt a few easy field goals if the Bengals get stopped in the red zone.
Finally, if you're wondering who we're picking, here's who we have tonight in a game where the Bills are currently a 1.5-point road favorite:
Dubin's pick: Bills 24-21 over Bengals
Sullivan's pick: Bengals 27-24 over Bills
My pick: Bengals 27-24 over Bills
Just for the record, I made my pick before Sullivan, so he obviously copied off of my final score.
Over on our CBSSports.com picks page, our experts are surprisingly pro-Bengals with six out of eight of them picking Cincinnati to win.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Titans-Jaguars flexed to Saturday night for Week 18
It's been a busy weekend 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.
- NFL reveals Saturday games for Week 18. With the AFC South title on the line, there had been some speculation that the NFL might flex Titans-Jaguars to Sunday night in Week 18, but instead, the league has decided to put it on Saturday night. The game will kick off at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC. The other game on Saturday will be Chiefs at Raiders, which will kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC. For a full look at the Saturday night schedule, be sure to click here.
- Jalen Hurts expected to return this week. According to NFL.com, Hurts is expected to return to the field this week for the Eagles' pivotal Week 18 showdown with the Giants. If the Eagles win in Week 18, they'll clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC, but if they lose, there's a chance that they could slip all the way down to the five-seed.
- Teddy Bridgewater apparently has a broken finger on this throwing hand. The Dolphins QB injured his hand on Sunday and according to Pro Football Talk, Bridgewater suffered a broken finger on his throwing hand. If Bridgewater can't go, that means the Dolphins will be down to Skylar Thompson for this week's game against the Jets. Miami has to win in Week 18 to have any shot at the postseason.
- Trey Lance undergoes another surgery. After rehabbing his broken ankle for the past few months, it seems that the 49ers QB has suffered a setback. The 49ers revealed over the weekend that Lance had to undergo a second surgery recently to remove some hardware that was causing irritation in his surgically repaired ankle. With Brock Purdy playing so well, Lance's future will be an interesting topic in San Francisco this offseason.
- Broncos have reached out to Jim Harbaugh. With Michigan being eliminated from the College Football Playoff over the weekend, Harbaugh now has some free time and it appears he might spend some of that free time talking to NFL teams. Harbaugh said last year that he was done with the NFL, but that might not be the case. The Broncos have already reached out and there could be more teams that contact Harbaugh over the next few weeks.
- NFL players will be voting on their own All-Pro team. The NFL's All-Pro team is usually voted on by members of the media, but starting this year, the NFLPA will be voting on its own All-Pro team. Under rules of the voting, players will be allowed to vote for other players who play their position and for players who they line up against (so a receiver could vote for a receiver or a corner). The NFLPA's All-Pro team is expected to be revealed on Jan. 11.