September 28, 2022

Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

Since it’s Thursday, that means there’s a game tonight, and let me be the first to say: If you love train-wreck football, then you’re going to love tonight’s game between the Browns and Steelers. 

Actually, I’ll be honest, I can’t promise it’s going to be a train-wreck, but if these two teams give us anything remotely close to what we saw in Week 2, it’s definitely going to be a train-wreck. The Browns blew a 30-17 lead to the Jets in the final two minutes, and the Steelers offense was nonexistent in a 17-14 loss to the Patriots. There’s a saying in football that “offense sells tickets,” and if that’s the case, then there might not be any fans at any Steelers games for the rest of the season. 

Anyway, we’ll be covering tonight’s game extensively in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll also look at how many teams in NFL history have rebounded to make the Super Bowl after starting 0-2.    

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. Alright, let’s get to the rundown. 

1. Today’s show: Brady Quinn breaks down the latest NFL news

Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada
Getty Images

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 Ryan Wilson about a multitude of topics, including what it was like to replace Gus Johnson in Fox’s college football booth last weekend. (Johnson was under the weather, so Brady was called upon to work the second half of Oklahoma’s blowout win over Nebraska.) 

The two guys also talked about a topic that applies to tonight’s game: Should the Steelers stick with Mitchell Trubisky? The offense has been nothing short of horrible through two weeks, which raises the question about whether the Steelers should bench Trubisky and go with Kenny Pickett moving forward

From Brady’s point of view, the Steelers’ problems have more to do with their offensive coordinator (Matt Canada) than their quarterback. 

“This, to me, has more to do with Matt Canada than it does with Mitchell Trubisky,” Quinn said. “I don’t know if he’s trying to cover up for the fact that they don’t feel like they’re in a good spot with their offensive line, or maybe he doesn’t feel like Mitch can take that much because it’s his first year in the system. Only people in that room know, but it is troubling to watch how much talent they have at wide receiver and not be able to utilize that more in their game plans.”

The Steelers have scored just two offensive touchdowns through two games. 

If you want to hear everything Quinn had to say on today’s podcast, then be sure to click here. If you want to see his handsome face, then you can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.

2. Thursday night preview: Prepping you for Steelers at Browns

Before we get to the game preview, I’m going to start here by reminding you that there’s only one way to watch the game tonight: If you want to see the Browns play the Steelers, you’ll have to subscribe to Amazon Prime. You can actually get a free 30-day subscription to prime right now by going to this link. That will allow you to watch the next five Thursday games before you have to decide whether you actually want to pay for Prime. (Note: The game WILL be airing on TV in the home markets of each team, so if you live in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, then you’ll be able to watch on a local TV station.)

Anyway, back to the preview. 

My good buddy Jared Dubin put together CBSSports.com’s deep-dive preview for this game. Here’s how he sees the game playing out:

  • Why the Steelers can win: The Steelers offense has been pretty bad through two weeks, which means if they’re going to win, the unit is going to have to improve. The good news for the Steelers is that they’re playing a Browns team that gives up more explosive plays than almost anyone. The Browns defense has allowed the second-most completions in the NFL on throws that travel 20 yards or more in the air. With Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers have the weapons to take advantage of this. The only question is whether their quarterback is good enough to get those guys the ball. Mitchell Trubisky has NOT been good enough so far, but if he’s willing to air it out tonight, the Steelers will have a chance to win.  
  • Why the Browns can win: If there’s one thing the Browns do well, it’s run the ball. And if they’re able to run the ball tonight, there’s a good chance they’re going to win. The Browns have a nearly unstoppable combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in their backfield, which is a big reason why Cleveland is so successful on the ground. Through two weeks, the Browns are averaging 200.5 rush yards per game, which leads the NFL. They’re also averaging a ridiculous 5.3 yards per carry as a team, which ranks fourth in the NFL. The good news for the Browns is that they’ll be facing a Steelers defense that is surrendering 128.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranks in the bottom half of the NFL. INJURIES: Jadeveon Clowney has been ruled out. 

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).

  • ONE PROP TYLER LIKES: Kareem Hunt OVER 9.5 rushing attempts (-157): “Hunt has seen double-digit carries in both games this season and is option 1B in this offense to Nick Chubb, so he’ll still see plenty of work out of the backfield against a mediocre Steelers run defense.” NOTE: Hunt also saw double-digit carries in five of Cleveland’s first six games last season before getting injured. 
  • ONE PROP I LIKE: Chris Boswell OVER 1.5 field goals (+108): Since I hit my kicker prop last Thursday (Dustin Hopkins OVER 2.5 extra points), I thought it only made sense to go back to the kicker props for this game. Half the reason I love this prop is because of the value. I’d bet it at +100 and it’s at +108 (Bet $100 to profit $108). Boswell has gone OVER 1.5 field goal in each of Pittsburgh’s two games this season and dating back to last year, he’s gone OVER 1.5 in four straight games and nine of his last 12. 

You can check out Sullivan’s full gambling preview by clicking here. Finally, if you’re wondering who we’re picking, here’s who we have tonight: 

Dubin’s pick: Browns 20-13 over Steelers
Sullivan’s pick: Browns 23-17 over Steelers
My pick: Steelers 16-13 over Browns

Over on our CBSSports.com picks page, five of our seven experts are picking the Steelers to pull off the upset. 

3. Looking at Jimmy Garoppolo’s unique contract and how he could earn millions in bonus money

Jimmy Garoppolo
Getty Images

With Trey Lance officially done for the year, that means Jimmy Garoppolo will be taking over as the 49ers starting quarterback for the rest of the season. When Garoppolo agreed to restructure his contract with the 49ers in late August, he accepted a deal that only paid him $6.5 million in guaranteed money. However, the contract was also loaded with incentives that he could earn if he became the starting QB, which is now happening.

So how much can Garoppolo earn on top of his $6.5 million? Let’s check it out (via NFL.com):

  • He gets paid just for being on the active roster. Every week that Garoppolo is on the active roster — he doesn’t even have to start — he’ll get roughly $29,000 in bonus money. For the entire season, Garoppolo can earn up to $500,000 in per game roster bonuses. Expected to be earned: $500,000. 
  • Perks of being the starter. For every game in which Garoppolo takes at least 25% of the snaps at quarterback, he’ll get a bonus of $250,000. That means he made $250,000 in Week 2. If he stays healthy, he’ll be getting a $250,000 bonus in each of his next 15 game checks. Expected to be earned: $4 million. 
  • Winning pays off. On top of the $250,000, Garoppolo will also get $100,000 if the 49ers WIN any game where he plays at least 25% of the snaps. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll say the 49ers win 10 games. Expected to be earned: $1 million. 

In a nutshell: If Garoppolo plays 25% of the snaps in a game and the 49ers win, he’ll be earning $379,000 in bonus money each week that happens. 

Over the course of the regular season, that’s $5.5 million that Garoppolo can earn on top of his $6.5 million salary (That $5.5 million could become $6.1 million if he doesn’t lose a single game). Garoppolo can also earn another $3 million for various playoff incentives. (He gets $500,000 for taking 50% of the snaps in any playoff game plus $500,000 if he wins the NFC title game plus $1 million if he takes 50% of the snaps in the Super Bowl). 

Basically, Garoppolo is going to have a lot of extra incentive to win games this year.

4. Rookie rankings heading into Week 3

If you read this newsletter regularly, then you know we love to rank things here. And if you don’t read it regularly, I have some news for you: We love to rank things here, and today, we have rookie rankings. 

CBSSports.com’s Josh Edwards ranks the NFL’s top rookies every week, and here’s how things stand as we get ready to kick off Week 3 tonight.

Top rookies heading into Week 3:

  • 1. Falcons WR Drake London. “London’s target share through two games has been off the charts, and his play warrants it. London had eight catches for 86 yards and a TD in a loss to the Rams.”
  • 2. Jets WR Garrett Wilson. “The rookie scored his first two career touchdowns, including the game-winner against the Browns.”
  • 3. Chargers OL Zion Johnson. “There were a few plays where Johnson would overset and allow an inside counter, but he was fantastic working within structure. There is no shame losing a rep to Kansas City’s Chris Jones because he gets everybody at one point or another.”
  • 4. Commanders WR Jahan Dotson. “Foot quickness and strong hands were on display Sunday against the Lions. Dotson does a great job of creating space, and opportunities should be there all season long as timing with Carson Wentz improves. Dotson had four catches for 59 yards and a TD against the Lions.”
  • 5. Jaguars OLB Travon Walker. “Walker did not record any sacks Sunday against Indy, but he came very close on three separate occasions, winning with power and bend at the high side of his rush. The No. 1 overall selection continues to be consistent as a run defender as well.”

Edwards actually ranked a total of 15 rookies, and if you want to check out his entire list, be sure to click here

5. Can an 0-2 team make the Super Bowl? NFL history says it’s unlikely

Tom Brady (left) and Bill Belichick after winning Super Bowl XXXVI
Getty Images

In yesterday’s newsletter, we took a look at which 0-2 teams have the best chance to get back on track this season. (You can check out that story here.) Today, we’re taking that question one step further by trying to figure out if any of the NFL’s five 0-2 teams have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. 

One of our writers (Bryan DeArdo) decided to take a look back in NFL history to see how many teams have followed up an 0-2 start by making it all the way to the Super Bowl. As you might expect, the answer is not many. In the Super Bowl era, there have only been FOUR teams that have ever made it to the Super Bowl after starting 0-2. 

Here’s a quick look at those teams: 

1993 Cowboys
Final record: 12-4
What happened? Emmitt Smith decided to hold out in 1993, which caused him to miss the first two games of the season. After watching his team start 0-2, Jerry Jones eventually caved and made Smith the highest-paid running back in the NFL. With Smith in the backfield, the Cowboys went on to win the Super Bowl. 

1996 Patriots
Final record: 11-5
What happened? In their first two games, the Patriots turned the ball over way too often and had zero offense. After turning the ball over six times and being held under 300 yards in the first two weeks, the Patriots offense seemed to figure things out. Over the final 14 weeks of the season, the Patriots finished with 300 yards or more of offense in 13 of their 16 games. Including the playoffs, the Patriots went 11-1 when putting up 300 yards or more of offense that year. However, they lost, 35-21, to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

2001 Patriots
Final record: 11-5
What happened? Drew Bledsoe got injured in Week 2, which forced the Patriots to start some guy named Tom Brady at quarterback. The rest is history. 

2007 Giants
Final record: 10-6
What happened? The Giants had no defense through the first two weeks. After surrendering 45 points in Week 1 and 35 points in Week 2, something apparently clicked in New York, because the Giants defense became impenetrable after that. From Week 2 through the Super Bowl, the Giants only surrendered an average of 18.7 points per game, and that included a Super Bowl performance where they gave up just 14 points in a stunning win over the previously undefeated Patriots. 

That’s it, that’s the entire list. Of the five 0-2 teams this year — Bengals, Titans, Raiders, Panthers, Falcons — I’d say the Bengals have the most in common with teams on this list. They have a star quarterback, which is what three of these four teams had. Not to mention, their offense has gotten off to a slow start, which is what happened with the Cowboys and 1996 Patriots. 

 If you want to know more about those four teams, be sure to click here so you can read DeArdo’s story

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Patriots and Raiders pull off trade

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. 

  • Patriots send offensive lineman to Las Vegas. With the Raiders in need of some depth on the offensive line, Josh McDaniels called up his buddy Bill Belichick and made a trade Wednesday. In the deal, the Raiders will receive Justin Herron along with a 2024 seventh-round pick, while the Patriots will receiver a 2024 sixth-round pick. For details on the trade, be sure to click here
  • Rams sign former first-rounder. The Rams added some depth on the defensive line by signing Takkarist McKinley on Wednesday. McKinley, who was the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, spent four seasons with the team that drafted him (Atlanta) before moving on. McKinley spent the 2021 season with the Browns and was on the Titans’ practice squad this year before the Rams signed him. 
  • Kenny Golladay not happy about his playing time. The Giants receiver was only on the field for two offensive snaps in Week 2, which is something that isn’t sitting well with him. “I didn’t like the decision whatsoever,” Golladay said, via SNY. He also noted that he should be playing. Golladay is an expensive person to keep on the bench — he signed a four-year, $72 million in 2021 — so if he’s not playing, there’s probably a good reason for it. 
  • Cowboys expect Michael Gallup to play Monday. No one knows if Golladay will see any action Monday night, but one receiver who will likely be on the field is Gallup. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy revealed today that he expects Gallup to make his regular season debut this week against the Giants. Gallup tore his ACL in January and missed the first two weeks of the season as he continued to rehab. 
  • Bruce Arians gets warning letter from NFL. The former Buccaneers coach was on the sideline during Tampa Bay’s Week 2 win over New Orleans, and apparently, the NFL didn’t like what it saw from him during the fight that broke out between the two teams in the second half. (Arians appeared to be yelling at a few Saints players.) The NFL sent Arians a letter to let him know that if this happens again, he’ll be punished. 

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