NFL insider notes: Why coach hirings could shift back to defense, Giants come to senses and more on carousel

Could this be the head coaching cycle where defensive coordinators prevail? Might the pendulum end up swinging back to side of the ball, at least a smidge?

It’s fair to at least ponder the possibility.

Yes, the game is all about scoring points and protecting quarterbacks and the rules tend to favor the offense. And NFL owners have displayed a growing propensity to hire from that side of the ball, looking for quarterback whisperers and play callers and favoring that profile above all others. But color me at least somewhat optimistic that perhaps some of these decision-makers will keep a more open mind when it comes to which attributes and specialties matter most when hiring a head coach.

We are still quite early in this process, obviously. And I’ve felt like a sucker at times in the past when some of the initial candidate lists represented a wider panorama of potential hires. I won’t fully believe that preferences are changing and searches are more merit-based until I see it with my own eyes, but there is reason to believe maybe this cycle will be different than many in recent history.

There seem to be a higher number of genuinely sought after defensive coaches, and more men on that side of the ball getting the chance to interview for multiple jobs. As it should be. The coupling of an experienced, defensive minded head coach and an innovative offensive coordinator has always made the most sense to me when it comes to managing the entirety of a football team, and maybe that will carry the day in some of these instances.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was always shaping up to be one of the most in-demand coaches on this market, reaching a Super Bowl as head coach in Atlanta and getting a ton of attention for turning around the fortunes of America’s Team. Dallas is always in the limelight and Quinn’s work was noted quickly and abundantly, and if you told me he was the next head coach of the Broncos or Vikings or Dolphins, well, I wouldn’t blink in the least.

Winning eight of his final nine games wasn’t enough for Brian Flores to keep his job in Miami, but it was enough to get the attention of other front offices, and he will get an audience with several owners, too. Chicago has always been a defensive kind of town, and former Bear Leslie Frazier would be a great fit there. Todd Bowles may well be the next coach in Tampa should Bruce Arians step aside, and I could also see him in Minnesota, where he was the runner-up to Mike Zimmer eight years ago. Or Las Vegas, if that opens up. Vance Joseph, who had a brief tenure as Broncos head coach, has done a great job with the defense in Arizona and would likely be better as the head man the second time around.

The times might be a changing, at least a smidge. Because the way these

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Prisco’s NFL picks for wild-card round: Bills roll over Patriots in AFC East rubber match, 49ers upset Cowboys

Like some of the NFL teams did with their players, I rested last week. That awful showing you saw with my picks came from my backup. It wasn’t me. Blame the backup. He was terrible. I was getting ready for the postseason.

OK. It was me. I played, and I got abused. LOOOOOOSER.

That certainly is not the week I wanted heading into the playoffs. I went 7-9 ATS, 8-8 straight up and 2-4 with my Best Bets as part of the Pick Six Podcast. That brings my season records to 144-125-3 ATS, 168-103-1 straight up and 59-54 with my Best Bets.

I do like the Super Wild Card Weekend games this week, so I am getting back on track.

My backup did a terrible job last week when I sat out, so I am ready to go.

Bring on the playoffs.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

Latest Odds:

Cincinnati Bengals
-5.5

The Raiders got into the playoffs by beating the Chargers on Sunday night, while the Bengals are coming off a loss where they rested most of their top players. That’s an edge to the Bengals. Cincinnati has an explosive offense, but the Raiders counter with a wicked pass rush. This will be decided by how well the Bengals can protect Joe Burrow. I think they do it well enough to win the game, but it will be close. The Bengals win their first playoff game since the 1990 season.

Pick: Bengals 27, Raiders 24

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Latest Odds:

Buffalo Bills
-4.5

This is the third game featuring these two this season, with each winning on the other’s field. New England won the first meeting in a wind storm in early December, while the Bills dominated the Pats at their place in late December. The weather is expected to be cold, but not that windy. That means Josh Allen can have success throwing the football. The Patriots haven’t been the same team on the road, especially quarterback Mac Jones. Look for the Bills to take away the run and dare him to beat them. He won’t. The Bills will be moving on.

Pick: Bills 30, Patriots 17

Which NFL picks can you make with confidence, and which Super Bowl contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model on a 136-97 run on NFL picks.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-8.5

The Bucs beat the Eagles, 28-22, in Week 6 on a Thursday night. The Eagles were struggling at the time, especially running the football. But it was after that game that their run game took off when they made a commitment to it, resulting in them leading the league in rushing. That will be the key here, but the Bucs are good against the run. Tampa Bay did give up 109 rushing yards per game in the last three, well over their season

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NFL Week 18 Power Rankings: Titans will be tough out, especially with Derrick Henry returning; Cowboys plummet

In mid-November, the Tennessee Titans were 8-2 and were the top seed in the AFC. They looked to be on their way to earning that spot, despite having lost running back Derrick Henry in late October.

But then things went bad. They lost three of four games, including a bad home loss to the Houston Texans and a blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots. Things looked bleak as their playoff hopes were being jeopardized and the No. 1 seed seemed like a real long shot.

Fast forward to today. The Titans are currently the top seed in the AFC and need only to beat the Texans this week in Houston to claim that and get the first-round playoff bye. If they do get the extra week, there is a great chance they could have Henry back for the playoffs. (He returned to practice Wednesday.)

The Titans regrouped the past two weeks to beat the San Francisco 49ers at home and the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday. Their toughness was on display in both games, which we’ve come to expect from this team.

They’ve taken on the mentality of coach Mike Vrabel, who just might be the Coach of the Year. They will play tough, physical defense and pound the football. They’ve navigated through the Henry injury, several others on the offensive line and their receiving group has been in and out all year. They’ve played so many players this year you can hardly keep track.

There are still doubts as to whether the Titans can pass the football well enough in the playoffs to win it all. Ryan Tannehill can be streaky, but if the run game works he is more than capable of leading them to a Super Bowl.

The Titans are sixth in my Power Rankings this week in large part because I give both the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills an edge because of their quarterbacks. But it’s hard to discount what the Titans have done in getting back to the top seed.

Two weeks ago, they looked like they were dominated early against the 49ers, but an end-zone interception prevented San Francisco from going up 14-0. The Titans bounced back after that with their characteristic toughness to win it.

The question now is whether that toughness — which put them on the threshold of the Super Bowl in 2019, only to lose in the AFC Championship Game — can carry them to a title this year. If Henry comes back, it’s entirely possible.

When you see the resilience of this group, it’s hard to doubt them. The Titans will maul you and try and turn any game into a fight, which is their way and will make them a tough out come playoff time. 

Biggest Movers

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Rcrd


1


Packers

They’ve locked up the top seed behind Aaron Rodgers, who is likely winning the MVP. It’s time Matt LaFleur gets his due for outstanding coaching. 13-3-0

2
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NFL Week 17 injuries: Jaire Alexander, D’Andre Swift return; Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields limited on Wednesday

Week 17 in the NFL is right around the corner, but we’ll have to wait a little longer than we’ve grown accustomed to with no Thursday game on the docket. The bulk of the action will go down on Sunday with the Browns and Steelers wrapping things up on Monday night. While we only have two weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture is still pretty open, especially in the AFC with only the Chiefs currently owning a ticket into the postseason. 

Naturally, injuries will play a big part in how the playoffs ultimately come into form, so the statuses of various players leading into Week 17 will be of critical importance. As teams hit the practice field for the first time on Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the initial injury reports to see which way some of those playmakers are trending heading into the rest of the week. 

All NFL odds come via Caesars Sportsbook. 

The Falcons were without cornerback Fabian Moreau on Wednesday as he is dealing with an injury to his ribs. Moreau was the only player listed on the injury report, but the team is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak as several players have been added to the reserve list, including Jonathan Bullard, Jaylinn Hawkins, Hayden Hurst, and practice-squad player Willie Beavers.

Buffalo conducted a walkthrough practice on Wednesday but did hold out defensive tackle Vernon Butler (illness) and safety Jaquan Johnson (illness). Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and defensive tackle Ed Oliver were the only players limited due to injury, while others were given veteran rest days. Meanwhile, the Bills were able to activate several players from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, including receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis. 

New York had several notable players missing from practice to begin the week, including running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kadarius Toney (shoulder). However, the team did conduct a walkthrough, so participation is a projection of what it would have been had they gone full speed. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) and kicker Graham Gano (illness) were also among those sidelined.

Justin Fields (ankle) was a limited participant on Wednesday. Fellow quarterback Andy Dalton (groin) was a full participant. Bears coach Matt Nagy said that how Fields progresses this week will determine his status for Sunday’s game. 

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) was the only Kansas City player who missed practice due to an injury on Wednesday. Edwards-Helaire is reportedly considered week-to-week after sustaining the injury during last Sunday’s blowout win over the Steelers. 

Cincinnati was without just two players on Wednesday — cornerback Jalen Davis (ankle) and defensive end Cam Sample (hamstring). Quarterback Joe Burrow (right finger) along with defensive end Khalid Kareem (concussion) and linebacker Logan Wilson (shoulder) were also listed on the injury report but were full

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NFL Week 16 picks, odds: Rodgers makes MVP statement on Christmas, Patriots hand Bills another bitter defeat

Week 15 is up there in terms of the most insanely bizarre NFL weeks I’ve ever seen. Obviously having two games Monday and two games Tuesday is a good start to that, 

The Texans scored 30 points in a cakewalk victory, the Lions beat the Cardinals and Tom Brady scored zero points in a home, prime-time loss. It was a weird week all around, fittingly coming in the longest week in NFL history. 

Hopefully everyone can have a winning and happy Christmas, and in the spirit of Christmas miracles, I’m going to write up fewer of these picks and toss some scores for meaningless games at the bottom. 

My ATS record against the spread this year is just awful, but 9-5 last week is strong. A strong close to the season can salvage this year ATS so let’s get hot over the holidays. 

All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

NFL Week 16 Picks

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: 
NFL Network | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App

Latest Odds:

Tennessee Titans
+3.5

Week 15 featured plenty of underdogs barking loudly, so I’m a little hesitant to jump onto a road favorite on a short week. But the 49ers are starting to cook. Deebo Samuel appears to be the catalyst for this run game, with his presence in the backfield wrecking havoc on opposing defenses. Kyle Shanahan’s playcalling has been outstanding and the Niners appear to have a pretty good stable of backs capable of producing on a weekly basis — with Elijah Mitchell out, Jeff Wilson stepped up nicely against the Falcons. Tennessee has been good against the run this season but the 49ers should be able to stretch them horizontally. The one thing I’d be wary of if you’re backing Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. here is the return of A.J. Brown and/or Julio Jones. The latter isn’t concerning based on his recent performance but a quasi-revenge matchup against Kyle Shanahan would at least be worth watching. 

The pick: 49ers 28, Titans 21
Props, Best Bets: 49ers -3.5

Which NFL picks can you make with confidence, and which Super Bowl contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model on a 133-96 roll on NFL picks.

Saturday (Christmas), 4:30 p.m. ET
TV:
Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App

Latest Odds:

Green Bay Packers
-7.5

The Browns should get a wave of replacements back from the COVID list heading into Saturday’s Christmas game in Green Bay and they’re catching a full touchdown here. Extremely intriguing! But then I start to think about watching Aaron Rodgers on his ‘Eff You Tour,’ at home, in front of a huge crowd on Christmas against a defense that has looked good but got banged up Monday against the Raiders and is playing on a short week. Rodgers held on against the Ravens in the late window on Sunday,

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NFL Week 16 injuries: Mike Evans out; Darren Waller doubtful; Adam Thielen questionable

The NFL is attempting to manage copious amounts of positive COVID-19 tests, and several contenders are dealing with injuries as well. Bumps and bruises are beginning to mount, as all 32 teams are playing through pain. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of those contenders trying to weather a rash of injuries, as they lost Chris Godwin for the season, placed Leonard Fournette on injured reserve and will be without star wideout Mike Evans this week as well.

Below, we will break down the final injury reports for all 30 NFL teams set to kick off this weekend. Remember, we have a Christmas double-header, so four teams will be playing on Saturday. If you have a question about who’s in and who’s out in Week 16, we have you covered. 

All NFL odds come via Caesars Sportsbook. 

The Browns are hurting defensively, and may be without their best player. Garrett is questionable with his groin injury and did not practice all week, while Johnson has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury. The Browns did activate Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry, so they’ve got that going for them.

For the Packers, Bakhtiari is not yet ready to make his 2021 debut. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on the other hand passed concussion protocol and is ready to roll. Green Bay also gets back defensive lineman Kenny Clark, who was on the COVID list last week. 

The Colts will be without Sendejo and Kelly on Christmas. Sendejo is still dealing with a concussion while Kelly is attending to a personal matter. 

For the Cardinals, the storyline is Conner, who did not practice at all this week and is listed as questionable. Thankfully, Arizona returned Chase Edmonds to the lineup earlier this month. Moore is another player to keep an eye on as well. The versatile rookie didn’t practice all week either. 

The Giants placed Daniel Jones on injured reserve earlier in the week, which means Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon will be starting the rest of the way. Potentially getting Toney back on the field should be helpful, especially with Sterling Shepard now done for the year. 

All Eagles except those on the reserve/COVID-19 list are healthy enough to play, including left tackle Jordan Mailata and running back Miles Sanders, who did not practice Friday. 

The Jags put Josh Allen and Laviska Shenault Jr. (among others) on the reserve/COVID-19 list, so they’ll be out for this game. Linder is an important piece of the offensive line, and if he can’t go it would obviously have an effect on offensive performance.

The Jets will likely be without their top three wide receivers, with both Corey Davis and Elijah Moore already on injured reserve. They’ll also be without head coach Robert Saleh, guards Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Alijah Vera-Tucker, and five defensive starters due to protocols. 

Coach Dan Campbell said it’s highly unlikely that Jared Goff will be able to suit up for this game, so it’ll be Tim Boyle under center for

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