Happy Wednesday, everyone. We're just four days away from learning which teams will square off in Super Bowl LVII. Word is that John Breech demanded to take this day off so he could stitch an "LVII" patch onto his Joe Burrow jersey, but we're still waiting for confirmation on that. In the meantime, you've got me, Cody Benjamin, to deliver all the latest from around the NFL.
This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)
We've got Championship Weekend predictions, coaching interview updates, and much more:
1. Today's show: Bold predictions for AFC, NFC Championship
Ryan Wilson and John Breech joined Will Brinson on Wednesday's "Pick Six NFL" podcast to forecast both the AFC and NFC Championship Games with bold predictions. Some highlights:
- Brinson believes Deebo Samuel will lead all wideouts, including A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, in receiving yards. But he's unsure on the actual contest: "My heart is screaming Niners, Niners, Niners. My head is screaming Eagles, Eagles, Eagles, because they don't have a rookie quarterback. But both teams are so stout on both sides of the ball."
- Sully foresees the NFC title game as a low-scoring affair, predicting that San Francisco won't top 17 points in Philly.
- Wilson is all over Cincinnati in the second straight Bengals-Chiefs AFC Championship, projecting Joe Burrow and Co. will win by at least seven points while absorbing no more than two sacks against a Kansas City pass rush led by Chris Jones.
Catch the full episode (and subscribe for daily NFL talk) right here.
2. Prisco's picks: Bengals, Eagles advance to Super Bowl
Pete Prisco has stayed in the green making playoff predictions. Now he's back with projections for each of the conference championships. Here's a sampling of his analysis:
- Eagles 30, 49ers 21: The Eagles had another big rushing day against the Giants, which is the basis of their offense. Jalen Hurts can throw it, but they have to be able to run it here. That's why their top-rated offensive line is key. They have to get push in the run game and keep Nick Bosa and gang off Hurts when they do throw. The 49ers linebackers can run and cover, which is a must against the Eagles offense. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are special. They will have to be in this one. But I look for Hurts to outplay Brock Purdy and lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
- Bengals 27, Chiefs 24: The Chiefs can get after the QB after registering 55 sacks this season, which will put a premium on running the ball and protection for the Bengals, who could have some of those offensive linemen back. But 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.
3. How the four remaining contenders got to this point
Curious how the Bengals, Chiefs, Eagles and 49ers advanced to the AFC and NFC Championship Games? We've got you covered. Below, you'll find links to guides for each of the remaining teams -- each one containing key offseason moves, crucial in-season turning points, and full-schedule results to recap their respective roads to the AFC and NFC title games.
- How the Bengals got here (Bryan DeArdo)
- How the Chiefs got here (Tyler Sullivan)
- How the Eagles got here (Cody Benjamin)
- How the 49ers got here (Tyler Sullivan)
4. Interview tracker: Colts like Evero, Payton meeting with Cardinals
Not a single head coach vacancy has yet been filled in the 2023 hiring cycle, but that doesn't mean teams aren't busy meeting with candidates. A number of clubs are well into their second round of interviews, with big names like Sean Payton still touring around. Stay updated with our running tracker of head coach and general manager inquiries, which includes a look at these hot targets who have already drawn second meetings with interested teams:
- Cowboys DC Dan Quinn (Cardinals)
- Broncos DC Ejiro Evero (Colts, Texans)
- Giants OC Mike Kafka (Texans)
5. Packers expected to consider Aaron Rodgers trade to AFC
Aaron Rodgers is admittedly undecided about his NFL future. The four-time MVP could retire or return to the Packers for a 19th season. But Green Bay is expected to at least consider dealing Rodgers this offseason, ESPN reported this week, and exclusively with AFC destinations in mind. Jordan Love, Rodgers' heir apparent, is getting "closer and closer" to taking over under center, Adam Schefter suggested, and it's possible the Packers are ready to turn the page in an effort to rebuild.
If Rodgers and the Packers ultimately decide to part ways, there are no shortage of AFC teams that make sense as suitors. Our latest rundown of logical landing spots is headlined by the Jets, Raiders, Titans and Patriots. New York and Las Vegas have essentially already broadcast their plans to explore the QB market, while Tennessee could part ways with Ryan Tannehill and the Patriots are in the middle of overhauling their offensive staff.
6. Awards predictions: Mahomes MVP, Shanahan Coach of the Year
On Wednesday, the NFL announced finalists for eight of its major 2022 awards, including MVP. You can find a full list of the finalists right here, as well as predictions and snubs for every award right here. Why are we tabbing Patrick Mahomes for the top honor, despite the QB entering the AFC title game on a bad ankle?
Justin Jefferson cemented his status as the game's best pass catcher, but he went quiet one too many times for an overachieving team with an early playoff exit. We'd personally vouch for Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts here; the former has been the NFL's smoothest clutch quarterback, and Hurts broke out as an unflappable dual threat. But Mahomes already has the MVP resume, he stayed on the field all year, and he made post-Tyreek Hill offense look easy, coasting to NFL-best production (5,250 yards, 41 TDs, 12 INTs) at the position.