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NFL divisional playoff picks, plus Jets hire their new coach and Falcons appear to have found their guy

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The New York Jets were so bad in 2020 that I actually forgot they existed at one point. I think I just assumed that the team decided to disband after they started the season 0-13. As it turns out though, not only do the Jets still exist, but they also have a new coach.

Just after 10 p.m. ET last night, the Jets announced the hiring of Robert Saleh. The Jets probably still need to figure out when to announce coaching hires — like, maybe not at 10 p.m. — but you can’t fix everything at once, so I’m not going to complain because I actually like this hire. 

The Jets and Falcons were both trying to steal the spotlight away from the NFL playoffs, but I won’t be fooled. We’re going full-steam ahead in today’s newsletter with plenty of playoff talk. With that in mind, let’s get to the rundown. As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link

1. Today’s Show: Best bets for the divisional round

 

With the playoffs upon us, we decided to get crazy and switch up the format for our weekly “best bets” podcast that comes out every Friday. There will still be best bets this week, but it will be coming with a twist: Will Brinson and his three guests — R.J. White, Kenny White and Pete Prisco — were all given a hypothetical $100 so they could place bets on the four games in the divisional round. 

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We did the same thing last week, so next to each guy’s name you’ll be able to see how they did with their $100 in the wild-card round. The imaginary wild-card money is now in their imaginary bank account and they are now using a fresh $100 to bet on the divisional round games. 

Anyway, here are some of the bets the guys decided to place with their hypothetical money: 

Will Brinson (Started with $100, ended with $85.91 — lost $14.09 in wild-card round)
$20 on Ravens (+2.5) to cover against the Bills
$10 on Cam Akers OVER 69.5 rush yards
$10 on Ravens-Saints money line parlay ($10 bet wins $25.74)

Pete Prisco (Started with $100, ended with $114.55 — made $14.55 profit in wild-card round)
$30 on Chiefs (-10) to cover against the Browns
$20 on Browns at Chiefs OVER 57 points
$20 on Buccaneers at Saints UNDER 52 points

R.J. White (Started with $100, ended with $133 — made $33 profit in wild-card round)
$10 on Rams scoring UNDER 18 points (+100 odds)
$12 on J.K. Dobbins OVER 57.5 rush yards (-120)
$20 on Browns (+10) to cover against the Chiefs

Kenny White (Started with $100, ended with $38.18 — lost $61.82 in wild-card round)
$20 on Rams at Packers OVER 45.5 points
$20 on Browns at Chiefs OVER 57 points
$20 on Buccaneers (+3) to cover against the Saints

If you want to know how each guy spent their entire $100 allotment in the divisional round, be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast. Next Friday, I’ll let you know how each guy did. 

2. Jets hire 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh

It’s a good thing that New York is known as “The City That Never Sleeps” because anyone who did fall asleep last night may have missed the announcement that the Jets have found their new head coach. The Jets announced the hiring of Robert Saleh at 10:20 p.m. ET, which is definitely not a normal time to announce a coaching hire, but this is the Jets we’re talking about, so no one should be surprised. 

Saleh was one of the hottest names on the coaching market this offseason. Before agreeing to a deal with the Jets, he interviewed or had an interview scheduled with six of the seven teams looking for a head coach (Only the Texans didn’t ask to talk to Saleh, which makes sense, because the Texans have no idea what they’re doing right now). Saleh’s defense was a big reason why the 49ers made the Super Bowl in 2019 and the Jets are hoping that his success in San Francisco will translate to New York.

Here’s a quick look at the hiring: 

  • The former 49ers defensive coordinator has apparently already decided on one hire. According to ESPN.com, Saleh is going to bring 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him to New York. LaFleur is the brother of Packers coach Matt LaFleur. 
  • This isn’t going to be an easy for fix for Saleh: For one, not only does he have to turn around a team that went 2-14, but he’s only going to have a couple of months to decide whether he wants to keep Sam Darnold. The guess here is that the Jets end up dealing Darnold away so Saleh can start with a clean slate. 
  • The upside to the job is that the Jets could quickly fill most of their holes this offseason. Not only do they have two first-round picks (2nd and 23rd overall), but they also have more than $70 million in cap space going into the offseason, which is the second-most in the NFL, according to Over the Cap

This isn’t going to be an easy fix, but Saleh seems like the right man for the job. 

3. Falcons offer coaching job to Titans‘ offensive coordinator

The Jets aren’t the only team that’s going to have a new coach. The Falcons also might soon have a new coach, but that’s only if Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith actually accepts the job. Remember back in high school when you’d ask someone to prom and then you’d have to wait for them to answer you? Well, that’s where the Falcons are right now with Smith.

The Falcons made an offer to Smith early Friday morning and as of 1 p.m. ET, he had yet to accept, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing. My guess here is that Smith will eventually accept after hammering out a few final key details in his contract. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this, he might have already accepted the job. 

Smith is coming from Tennessee, where he ran one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL. Hiring an offensive coordinator definitely makes sense for the Falcons and that’s because their offense has been a borderline disaster ever since Kyle Shanahan left following the 2016 season. What they need is a smart offensive mind who will be sticking around for the long haul and that’s what they’ll be getting in Smith. 

In Tennessee, Smith was in charge of an offense that tied for the second most total yards in the NFL this year while also ranking fourth overall in points scored. Smith used Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill to near perfection and the Falcons will be hoping that he can bring that same magic to Atlanta. 

Unfortunately for the Falcons, Smith won’t be bringing Henry or Tannehill with him. If Smith does take the job, one of the first things he’ll have to do is to decide whether or not to keep Matt Ryan. After salvaging Tannehill’s career, I have to think that Smith would want to keep Ryan around so he could try and turn him back into the player who won MVP in 2016. 

4. NFL divisional playoff picks

In case you haven’t noticed, we love to make picks here at CBS Sports. As a matter of fact, I even love to make picks about who’s going to have the best picks each week. Two guys who almost always do a good job with their picks are Jonathan Jones and Tom Fornelli. Even though they’ve been good with their picks this year, they’ve both made a New Year’s resolution to be EVEN BETTER in 2021. Of course, if they’re like me, that doesn’t actually mean anything, because I haven’t kept a resolution since 2007. 

With that in mind, let’s check out one pick from each guy for the divisional round: 

  • Jones: Buccaneers (+3) at Saints. Apparently, the third time is going to be the charm for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Although the Bucs have already lost to the Saints twice this year, Jones doesn’t see it happening again. In a battle of the two oldest quarterbacks in the NFL, Jones is going with the league’s oldest player (Brady). Jones’ pick: Buccaneers over Saints (Buccaneers money line: +150) . 
  • Fornelli: Browns at Chiefs (-10). The Chiefs are coming off a bye, which is notable here, because Patrick Mahomes has never lost a game coming off bye in his career (6-0). As long as the Chiefs don’t start the game off by snapping the ball over Mahomes’ head, Fornelli thinks Kansas City is going to win big. Fornelli’s pick: Chiefs 34-17 (Chiefs cover). 

For a look at Fornelli’s divisional round “Best Bets,” be sure to click here. If you’re looking for the rest of Jones’ playoff picks, be sure to click here. One other thing, if you like this newsletter, I should have you know that Fornelli also writes a newsletter and it’s just as fun. It’s the CBS Sports HQ PM edition newsletter and you can subscribe to it by clicking here.  

5. Rams at Packers: NFL’s No.  1 offense. vs. No. 1 defense

 

The Rams quarterback carousel finally came to a stop on Thursday when coach Sean McVay announced that Jared Goff is going to be the team’s starter this weekend in Green Bay. Of course, I’m not sure that even matters, because no one is going to be paying attention to that side of the ball due to the showdown that’s coming: It’s the Packers top-ranked offense against the Rams top-ranked defense. 

This game will mark just the eighth playoff game since 1990 that the highest-scoring offense in the NFL will play the defense that gave up the fewest points. Right now, the team with a better defense holds a small 4-3 advantage in the series history. The last time the top offense and defense played each came in Super Bowl LI when the Falcons (top offense) lost 34-28 in overtime to the Patriots (top defense). I’m sure you remember that game, it’s the one where the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead. I bet Arthur Smith won’t blow any 28-3 leads. The Falcons should hire him. 

The Rams might be a seven-point underdog here, but that doesn’t mean you should count them out. They actually match up well with the Packers offense. The biggest battle on the field is likely going to happen between Jalen Ramsey and Davante Adams and the matchup might actually favor Ramsey. 

Here’s a quick look at the receivers he’s shut down this year

Stefon Diggs: One catch for four yards.
Terry McLaurin: ZERO catches.
Allen Robinson: One catch for 42.
DK Metcalf: ZERO catches.
Mike Evans: Four for 40.
DeAndre Hopkins: Three for 20.
DK Metcalf: One for 11.
DeAndre Hopkins: Two for 28. 
DK Metcalf (playoffs): Three for 33. 

The numbers above are what the receivers put up while being covered by Ramsey, so it’s not necessarily their total for the game (For instance, Metcalf had five catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the wild-card round, but only three of those receptions came against Ramsey). If Ramsey can slow down Adams and force Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball somewhere else, that could put the Rams in line to pull off a huge upset. 

6. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers could make playoff history

If Tampa Bay can win just two more playoffs games, the Buccaneers will pull off a feat that no other team in NFL history has ever done: The Bucs will get to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. 

The Super Bowl has existed for 54 years and in that time, no team has ever gotten to play the game in their home stadium. Including the Buccaneers, there have only been nine instances in NFL history where a team made the playoffs in a season where their stadium was hosting the Super Bowl. 

Of the host teams that made the postseason — the Dolphins (1970, ’78, ’94, ’98), Buccaneers (2000), Cardinals (2014), Texans (2016), and Vikings (2017) — only one of them has even made it past the divisional round and that’s the Vikings, who beat the Saints to advance to the NFC title game in 2017, where they would lose to the Eagles. Not including the Buccaneers, Super Bowl-hosting teams have gone 1-4 in the divisional round and 3-8 overall in the playoffs. 

If the Buccaneers do beat the Saints, they’ll have to beat either the Rams or Packers in the NFC title game to make history. In a pandemic year where no one wants to travel or stay in a hotel, playing a Super Bowl at home would be a nice advantage.

The Buccaneers will either make history this year or join a long list of Super Bowl-hosting teams that fell short in the playoffs.   

7. The Kicker!

If you see your favorite team line up for a field goal of 50 yards or more in the divisional round, you better cross your fingers and pray, because that ball is going to need all the help it can get to go through the uprights. Kickers have been an absolute disaster from long range in the divisional round over the past 10 years, hitting just 40% of their kicks. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, kickers combined to go 0-for-4, which means there hasn’t been a field goal of more than 50 yards in the divisional round since the 2017 postseason. 

With frigid weather expected in both Buffalo and Green Bay, Saturday’s two playoff games could turn into a kicking disaster. 

If you have weekend plans, hopefully those don’t turn into a disaster. Have a fun weekend and remember, if you want to hang out on Saturday or Sunday night, the Pick Six Podcast will be going live on YouTube, Twitch and Periscope during the fourth quarter of the Ravens-Bills game and the Buccaneers-Saints game.  If you feel like checking us out or joining, you can click here for the link


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