Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I have some good news and some bad news today. The bad news is that tonight marks the final Thursday night game of the NFL season. That's bad news because I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my Thursdays from here on out. I will probably enter a boggle league, but I haven't fully decided.
The good news is that we now have more free time to talk about what the heck the Raiders are going to do at quarterback now that they've officially benched Derek Carr, which, by the way, makes me feel extremely old. The first game I ever covered for CBS Sports came back in September 2011 when Fresno State played Cal at Oracle Park in San Francisco, which was Carr's first college game. (Cal beat Carr's Fresno State team, 36-21.)
Eleven years later, Carr has now been benched, and we'll take a look at what's next for him in today's newsletter. Plus, we'll be previewing tonight's game and why there's a good chance it will turn into a Cowboys' blowout.
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.
1. Today's show: Brady Quinn breaks down the latest NFL news
If you're going to listen to just one episode of the Pick Six podcast every week, then you should definitely make sure that you're listening every Thursday, because that's when Brady Quinn joins the show. For today's episode, the former first-round pick chatted with Will Brinson about multiple topics, including the surprising benching of Derek Carr.
With Carr no longer the starter, it seems almost certain that the Raiders will be getting rid of him this offseason. And if that happens, they'll have two options: They have to trade or cut him. The problem for the Raiders is that Carr has $40.4 million that becomes guaranteed if he's still on the roster on Feb. 15, which means the Raiders will have to make a decision quickly. Carr is a valuable commodity, so Quinn thinks the Raiders will definitely end up trading him.
"There will be a trade partner," Quinn said. "Carr would probably be the top quarterback in the trade market -- unless the Packers make Aaron Rodgers available."
Quinn listed the Jets as a team that would be an interesting possibility. As for who might replace Carr, Quinn threw out one obvious name: Tom Brady.
"Tom Brady's set to become a free agent, there are already rumblings that he'd maybe want to leave Tampa Bay after this season," Quinn said. "Plus, there obviously was a previous desire to play there from Brady."
If you're wondering what Quinn is referring to, here's a quick refresher: The Raiders apparently had a deal in place to sign Brady during his 2020 free agency tour, but it didn't happen because Jon Gruden nixed it at the last second. (UFC president Dana White told this story in August and no one involved had denied it.)
If Brady were to sign with the Raiders, it would reunite him with Josh McDaniels, who was his offensive coordinator for 11 seasons in New England.
If you want to hear Quinn's full thoughts on Carr's benching and the Raiders' future at quarterback -- and everything else the two guys talked about on today's podcast -- then be sure to click here. Brinson and Quinn also talked about Nathaniel Hackett's firing and what team Sean Payton might end up coaching for next season.
2. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for Cowboys at Titans
There's a good chance tonight's game could turn into a blowout, and that's because the Titans have nothing to play for. Even if the Titans lose to Dallas, they'll still be playing for the AFC South title next week, which means they have no incentive to win this game. Mike Vrabel is definitely aware of that, which is why there's a good chance we won't see very many Titans starters tonight.
The Titans have already ruled out DL Jeffery Simmons, OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, S Amani Hooker, OLB Bud Dupree, LB Zach Cunningham, LB Dylan Cole, DB Josh Thompson. Meanwhile, RB Derrick Henry, CB Kristian Fulton OLB Denico Autry have been listed as doubtful, which means they likely won't be playing.
Also, the Titans are going to keep rookie QB Malik Willis on the bench this week in favor of Josh Dobbs. The former University of Tennessee QB, who's been on the Titans' roster for FEWER THAN 10 DAYS, will be getting the start tonight, according to NFL.com.
If you add all of that up, it means that more than 20% of the Titans' 53-man roster will likely be sitting out tonight. On the other hand, the Cowboys are healthy, and they need to win this game to have any shot at possibly overtaking Philadelphia for the NFC East title, which means it won't be surprising at all if tonight's game turns into a blowout.
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 Cowboys can win: The Titans are surrendering 279.6 passing yards per game this year, which is the second-worst number in the NFL, and that's when they're healthy. With multiple defensive starters expected to be sidelined for Tennessee, that number will likely be even worse tonight. Basically, Dak Prescott should be able to throw the ball up and down the field on the Titans, and if that happens, the Cowboys should coast to a win. If the Cowboys can score just 18 points, they'll almost certainly come out on top. (The Titans are 1-7 this season when their opponent scores 18 or more.)
- Why the Titans can win: We've seen some crazy upsets in the NFL this year, so we won't say the Titans don't have a chance in this game, but they're going to have to get extremely creative with their game plan if they want to win. The Cowboys are just 3-4 this year in games where they surrendered 130 or more rushing yards, which means if you can run on the Cowboys defense, you give yourself a fighting chance of beating them. If the Titans can run the ball at all, that will keep the Cowboys offense off the field and turn this into a low-scoring game, which is likely the only way Tennessee will be able to win.
You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here.
If you're thinking about betting on the game, Jordan Dajani put together a full gambling preview (odds via Caesars Sportsbook). You can check out Jordan'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 JORDAN LIKES: Dak Prescott OVER 235.5 passing yards (-123): "I get that we are looking at a potential blowout, but 235.5 passing yards for Prescott still seems low. He's crossed this line in seven of 10 games played this season, and tonight, he'll be facing a Titans defense that has surrendered the second-most passing yards in the NFL this year."
- ONE PROP I LIKE: CeeDee Lamb OVER 5.5 receptions (-103): The Cowboys have played seven games since Week 10, and in those seven games, Lamb has averaged seven receptions per game, which would put him well over this number. He's also topped 5.5 receptions in each of the past two weeks, and as we mentioned in our Dak prop, the Cowboys are facing one of the NFL's worst passing defenses, which should open the door for Lamb to have a big night.
Finally, if you're wondering who we're picking, here's who we have tonight in a game where the Cowboys are currently 12.5-point road favorites, which is the largest number the Cowboys have been favored by in a road game since 1995:
Dubin's pick: Cowboys 30-10 over Titans
Dajani's pick: Cowboys 30-14 over Titans
My pick: Cowboys 31-13 over Titans
If you want to know who our NFL experts are taking, be sure to head over to our CBSSports.com picks page by clicking here.
3. NFL MVP Watch: Jalen Hurts falls hard after missing Week 16 due to injury
With just two weeks left to play in the regular season, the race for MVP could end up going down to the wire, at least if our MVP poll here at CBS Sports is any indication.
To figure out who has the upper-hand right now, we rounded up 10 CBSSports.com writers and had them vote on who they think will win the MVP. Under the new voting rules this year, the 50 media members who vote on the award will each get to name up to five players on their ballot, so that's exactly how we handled the voting with our ballots.
Two weeks ago, Jalen Hurts was at the top of our poll. One week ago, he was tied with Patrick Mahomes at the top. But after sitting out a week due to a shoulder injury, Hurts has now dropped down to third.
Here's a look at our top-five MVP candidates, along with their point total in the vote. (A player got five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.)
1. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (46)
2. Bengals QB Joe Burrow (35)
3. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (25)
4. Bills QB Josh Allen (22)
5. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson (18)
The reason Hurts fell is that he was only named on seven of our 10 ballots after being named on all 10 last week.
Overall, a total of eight players received at least one vote, including two wide receivers, which I'm only noting because a receiver has never won the award. If you want to see a full list of every player who got at least one vote, then be sure to click here.
4. Derek Carr gets benched: Looking at possible landing spots for the Raiders QB
No active NFL quarterback had started more consecutive games with his current team than Derek Carr, but that streak will be coming to an end this week after the Raiders shockingly decided to bench Carr for the rest of the season in favor of Jarrett Stidham. The Raiders backup QB spent the first three seasons of his career (2019-2021) in New England, where he was with Josh McDaniels, so he has some familiarity with the Raiders coach.
On Carr's end, he had thrown for 3,522 yards and 24 touchdowns through 15 games this season, which added to his total as the franchise's all-time leader in both passing yards (35,222) and touchdowns (217).
Here's what you need to know about the situation:
- Things have gotten so ugly between Carr and the Raiders that both sides agreed it would be best if Carr doesn't show up for any team-related activity for the rest of the season, according to NFL.com. This means he won't be at practice and he won't be at either of the Raiders' final two games.
- The move to bench Carr was almost certainly a financial decision. If Carr played and got injured at any point over the next two weeks, the Raiders would have been forced to pay him at least $40.4 million over the next two years since that money is guaranteed for injury. (His salary of $32.9 million would have become guaranteed for 2023 along with $7.5 million of his salary for 2024.)
- Before the benching, Carr had started 91 consecutive games for the Raiders, which was the longest active streak for a QB with one team. The only other QB who was even close to matching him was Josh Allen, who has 70 consecutive starts with the Bills.
- With Carr being benched, it seems like it's almost a lock that the Raiders will move on from him this offseason. The 31-year-old has a no-trade clause, but he could presumably waive that clause if the Raiders send him to a location that he approves of. If a trade can't be worked out, the Raiders could also cut him, but no matter what they do, they'll have to make a quick decision. Under the terms of Carr's contract, his $32.9 million salary for 2023 will become fully guaranteed on Feb. 15 if he's still on the roster.
With Carr likely on his way out of Las Vegas, Cody Benjamin decided to put together a list of landing spots that might make sense for the veteran QB. Here's what he came up with:
- Buccaneers. "Tom Brady seems bound to be elsewhere in 2023, either via retirement or free agency, so the Bucs are going to need a QB."
- Commanders. "They'll have plenty of financial flexibility if/when they cut or trade Carson Wentz, and assuming Rivera sticks around with his staff, Carr has ties to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio."
- Jets. "The Jets have hung in the AFC playoff picture this year almost entirely in spite of their QB play, with Zach Wilson now on the bench indefinitely. The roster is pretty much ready to go on every other front, which is why Carr himself would likely also relish the opportunity to swap colors in the conference."
- Texans. "Consider them dark-horse favorites, not because their lineup screams playoff material, which should matter to Carr at this point in his career, but because of the family connection: Derek's brother, David, was the franchise's first draft pick and QB, and Derek has said publicly he wished the Texans had drafted him coming out of Fresno State."
- Titans. "Is Carr clearly better than Ryan Tannehill? Maybe not. But he is younger and, at least as of this year, more durable. Perhaps most importantly, he'd be less expensive. As a bonus, Carr has an established connection with offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who spent three years with him on the Raiders."
To check out Cody's full story on Derek Carr, be sure to click here.
5. Four NFL records that could get broken over the next two weeks
With just two weeks to go in the season, it's become pretty clear that we could see some major NFL records this year. With that in mind, CBSSports.com's Jeff Kerry decided to round up all the biggest records that could go down over the next two weeks.
Most passing yards
Current record: Peyton Manning (5,477 yards in 2013)
Who could break it: Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs QB has an outside shot of topping Manning's record. Mahomes is averaging 314 passing yards per game this year, but he'll need to hit nearly 380 yards per game over the final two weeks to break the record. The Chiefs play the Broncos this week before closing their season with the Raiders.
Completions in a season
Current record: Tom Brady (485 in 2021)
Who could break it: Brady. The Buccaneers QB currently leads the NFL in completions this year with 443, and if he wants to break his own record, all he has to do is complete a total of 43 passes over the final two weeks, which means completing an average of just 21.5 passes per game.
Receiving yards in a season
Current record: Calvin Johnson (1,964 in 2012)
Who could break it: Justin Jefferson. The Vikings receiver is currently averaging 117.1 yards per game, and if he hits that average over the final two weeks, he'll end the season with 1,990 yards, which would break Megatron's record. Jefferson is averaging 159.7 yards per game over the past three weeks, so it feels like this record might go down.
Average yards per punt
Current record: Sammy Baugh (51.4 in 1940)
Who could break it: Ryan Stonehouse. We weren't going to list a punting record here, but this one has stood for 82 years, so it seems kind of notable if it ends up going down this year. Stonehouse, the Titans rookie punter, is currently on pace to smash the record with an average of 53.4 yards per punt. Stonehouse is averaging 5.5 punts per game this season, so if he gets 11 more punts on the year, all he would have to do is average 36.5 yards per punt over the final two weeks to break the record. This basically means that unless he has an epic meltdown, Stonehouse is definitely going to break this long-standing record.
For a look at a few more records that could get broken this season, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Russell Wilson reacts to firing of Nathaniel Hackett
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.
- Russell Wilson reacts to the firing of his coach. The Broncos QB seemed to take some of the blame for Nathaniel Hackett's firing when he was asked about it Wednesday "The reality is I wish I could have played better for him," Wilson said, via ESPN. "I wish I could have played at the standard, the level that I've always played at, know how to play at." Wilson's struggles were a big reason why the Broncos were bad this year and a big reason why Hackett no longer has a job.
- Jalen Hurts has a chance to play this week. After missing last week's game with a shoulder injury, it seems there's a chance that Hurts could return for this week's game against New Orleans. "We'll continue to see how he progresses throughout the week. Does he have a chance? Of course he does because his body just knows how to heal," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Wednesday, via PFT. "He's a freak. We'll just see what happens as the week progresses." As optimistic as Siranni sounds, it won't be surprising if Hurts sits for another week since it doesn't make sense to rush him back. If he's not 100%, plays Sunday and aggravates his injury, that would be a crushing blow to the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes.
- Jaguars will play their starters. We mentioned at the top that the Titans will likely be resting most of their starters tonight so that they're 100% healthy for the Week 18 AFC South showdown between Tennessee and Jacksonville. As it turns out, the Jags will not be doing the same thing. During his press conference this week, Doug Pederson made it sound like he plans to play everyone Sunday against the Texans, "There is never a meaningless game," Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson said at Monday's press conference. "Never, ever, ever, ever. We play to win every game and the only way I rest players is if they're hurt and can't go."
- Laremy Tunsil wants to be highest-paid left tackle. The highest-paid left tackle in the NFL is currently Trent Williams, who's pulling in an average of $23 million per year. With just one year left on this deal after 2022, Laremy Tunsil will be looking to get an extension this offseason. When that happens, he'll be aiming to top Williams' number. "Always want to reset the market. Perfect opportunity to reset the market," Tunsil said, via ESPN. "Everything is lining up as far as my contract to how I'm playing. Everything lining up perfectly."
- Colt McCoy likely to start for Cardinals. After missing Arizona's last game with a concussion, Colt McCoy is expected to be back on the field for the Cardinals' Week 17 game against the Falcons, according to coach Kliff Kingsbury.
- Cardinals had no idea J.J. Watt was going to retire. In what can only be described as a weird situation, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted that he had no idea J.J. Watt was going to announce his retirement. "We had no idea that was coming," Kingsbury said Wednesday. You'd think Watt would have given the team a heads up, but apparently, for whatever reason, he decided not to do that.