Steelers-Titans preview and best bets, plus Mark Davis breaks silence on Raiders' firings and midseason awards

Steelers-Titans preview and best bets, plus Mark Davis breaks silence on Raiders' firings and midseason awards
Steelers-Titans preview and best bets, plus Mark Davis breaks silence on Raiders' firings and midseason awards

Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

As every knows, everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ... unless you get fired by the Raiders. The biggest news in the NFL -- JOSH MCDANIELS GETTING FIRED -- happened this week in Las Vegas, which I'm only mentioning because Sin City is going to be a big focus in today's newsletter. 

For one, we have Raiders owner Mark Davis explaining why he decided to fire McDaniels. Also, as of today, we are officially 101 DAYS AWAY from Super Bowl LVIII, which of course, is being played in Las Vegas. With the game on CBS, I'm extra excited about  the Super Bowl this year. The only person more excited than me is Cody Benjamin, who came up with 100 things to know about Super Bowl LVIII now that we're roughly 100 days away (you can check that out here). 

Speaking of the Super Bowl, we'll be taking a look at the teams that have the best chance of making it, plus we'll be making picks for tonight's game in Pittsburgh between the Titans and Steelers

As always, here's your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. Let's get to the rundown. 

1. Today's show: Two former NFL players hand out midseason awards
Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill (left) and QB Tua Tagovailoa  Getty Images

For today's episode of the "Pick Six NFL" podcast, we brought on two former NFL players to break down all of the latest NFL news: Brady Quinn and Leger Douzable

Host Will Brinson joined them during Thursday's show, and the three of them handed out some midseason awards. The first one they handed out was NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, which Quinn gave to Texans QB C.J. Stroud

"I think he's played at the highest level of any of the rookie quarterbacks so far," Quinn said. "I think it has to be C.J. Stroud."

Douzable also voted for the Texans quarterback, but he did throw in another name. 

"C.J. Stroud without a doubt," Douzable said. "I like what Puka Nacua has done [with the Rams]."

The Rams receiver has 61 catches this season, which is the NFL record for most receptions through a player's first eight games. 

The two guys also debated who should be the MVP at midseason. Douzable gave his midseason award to Tua Tagovailoa, while Quinn has Tyreek Hill as his midseason MVP. (In a fascinating twist, Hill was actually asked about the MVP race on Thursday, and he said he doesn't think he should win it because Tua is more deserving.) 

Although Quinn is voting for Hill as his midseason MVP, he doesn't think Hill will be taking home the award at the end of the season. According to Quinn, the actual winner of the MVP at the end of the season will be none other than Joe Burrow

"Joe Burrow was my preseason pick and I'm sticking by it," Quinn said.

If you want to hear Quinn and Douzable hand out their midseason awards, then be sure to click here so you can listen to today's episode. The two also talked about the coaching drama in Las Vegas, plus they made some predictions for tonight's game between the Titans and Steelers. If you prefer your podcasts in video form, you can " target="_blank"also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.

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

The second half of the NFL season kicks off tonight with a big game in Pittsburgh. For the Titans, Will Levis will be making the second start of his career after a historical debut on Sunday that saw him become just the third QB in NFL history to throw at least four TD passes in his first career start. Levis will be looking to jumpstart an offense that has been horrible on the road this year. Tennessee is the ONLY team in the AFC that hasn't won a road game yet -- the Titans are 0-3 -- and a big reason for that is because they're averaging just 11.3 point per game away from home. 

As for the Steelers, Kenny Pickett (ribs) is expected to start tonight after going through some injury issues earlier this week. With the Steelers sitting at 4-3 and the Titans at 3-4, this is a a huge game for both teams.  

My good buddy Jared Dubin put together CBS Sports' deep-dive preview for this game, and here's how he sees things playing out: 

Why the Titans can win: The obvious way for the Titans to win is to get Derrick Henry going, but the Steelers will likely focus on stopping Henry, which means Levis might have to carry the Titans to a win. The good news for Tennessee is that it could be possible for Levis to have a big game. During his debut Sunday, all four of Levis' TD passes went for more than 16 yards, which is notable, because the Steelers have been the worst team in the NFL at stopping big pass plays. The Steelers have given up 28 completions this season of 16 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL. If Levis can connect on a few deep balls, that will force the Steelers defense to respect his arm, and if that happens, it could open things up for Henry to have a big game and for the Titans to steal a win.   Why the Steelers can win: During his time in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin has been absolutely dominant against rookie quarterbacks. He knows how to use his defense to confuse them, which is a big reason why he's gone 23-5 against rookie starters. If the defense shuts down Will Levis, that will take pressure off of Kenny Pickett and the offense. Speaking of the offense, the Steelers will almost certainly win if Pickett has a big game, and it's at least possible. The Titans secondary hasn't been great this season, and now that they've traded away Kevin Byard, it's gotten worse. If the Steelers are smart, they'll test Tennessee's secondary early and often. 

You can get a full preview of the game from Dubin by clicking here.

If you're thinking about betting on the game, here's one prop I like: 

ONE PROP I LIKE: Chris Boswell OVER 6.5 points (-105). When the Titans are playing, it's almost always a smart bet to assume that the opposing kicker is going to go over 6.5 points. Through seven games, opposing kickers are averaging 10.3 POINTS PER GAME against the Titans. More specifically, the opposing kicker has scored NINE points or more in six of those seven games, so going over 6.5 almost feels like a lock. 

My prime-time prop record is 10-7 this year. 

Finally, if you're wondering who we're picking, here's who we have tonight:

Jared's pick: Steelers 17-14 over Titans
My pick: Steelers 20-17 over Titans

You can see who all of our experts are taking over on our CBSSports.com picks page

3. Raiders owner Mark Davis reveals why he fired Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler
Ex-Raiders HC Josh McDaniels (left) and current owner Mark Davis Getty Images

Halloween night got crazy for the Las Vegas Raiders, and that's mostly because Mark Davis decided to fire his head coach and general manager in an announcement that came out at 10 p.m. PT on Tuesday (1 a.m. ET Wednesday). Davis didn't have much to say about the firings right after they happened, but he did eventually speak to multiple reporters Wednesday night. 

Here's a look at what the Raiders owner had to say: 

Raiders were going in the 'wrong direction.' For Davis, the decision to fire McDaniels and Ziegler essentially came down to one thing: He didn't like the direction the team was headed. "It just seemed we were going in the wrong direction," Davis told ESPN. "So, with the trade deadline, I just felt it was time to make a change, time to make a move." Davis was not impressed with the offense. The Raiders offense ranked 29th in the league in points scored and dead last in rushing yards per game. It had been struggling for most of the season and Davis definitely noticed, "It just didn't seem like it was jelling," Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And as you watched it, it just seemed like it was very important that we made a change." With McDaniels out, the Raiders have already made some wholesale changes on the offense. For one, they also fired offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. Also, Jimmy Garoppolo will be headed to the bench this week with Aidan O'Connell set to start against the GiantsDavis seems to be hoping for a spark. Firing a coach in the middle of the season is always a risk, but it can pay off. Sometimes, teams will play better after a firing, and that's what Davis is hoping to get here. "What I thought was, 'Let's try to figure out a way to fix this and see what we can do.' We still have a shot." The explanation for giving the interim job to Antonio Pierce. The Raiders interim coach has almost zero NFL coaching experience. He had never even been on an NFL coaching staff until last year, although he does have nine years of playing experience. Davis thinks Pierce is the perfect guy for the job. "I got the feeling he was the right guy at the right time," Davis said. "Someone who can lead and create and have the respect of the team. After talking to him, I was very confident he was the right choice."

Pierce spent five of his nine seasons with the Giants, and coincidentally, that's the team he'll be facing in his NFL coaching debut on Sunday. The Raiders play the Giants and Jets over the next two weeks, which are certainly winnable games, which means Pierce has a chance to quickly make a name for himself in Vegas.    

4. Ranking the 11 teams that have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl 

Since we're roughly 100 days from Super Bowl LVIII, now seems like a good time to take a look at who might be playing in that game, which is why we asked Tyler Sullivan to make a list of the teams that are in the best position to make a Super Bowl run this year. 

Let's check out the top-five teams on his list: 

1. Eagles (7-1). "Philadelphia sits with the best record in the NFL at 7-1 entering Week 9 and, if the season ended today, would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye. And while their record is stellar, the Eagles still haven't played their best football to this point, so there's room for this team to get even better." 2. Dolphins (6-2). "The Dolphins have the most explosive offense in the NFL at the moment with Tyreek Hill on pace for 2,000 receiving yards and Tua Tagovailoa sitting as an MVP favorite. They're also poised to get rookie running back De'Von Achane back in the coming weeks, bolstering their backfield to make the offense even more dangerous." 3. Chiefs (6-2). "Andy Reid's team already has a sizable lead in the AFC West as every other division rival is under .500, so there is no true threat of them falling out of that position. And if they can keep plugging away wins to hang onto the No. 1 seed, Arrowhead Stadium is about as tough of a venue as there is for an opposing team." 4. Lions (6-2). "The offense ranks second in the league in total yards per game (390.6) and could be even better down the stretch with the emergence of rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs along with the looming return of David Montgomery. Defensively, they can pressure the quarterback and are tremendous at getting off the field, ranking third in the league on third down (32.5% conversion rate). That ability to get opposing offenses off the field in a hurry and grind out games on the ground is a great recipe for postseason success." 5. Jaguars (6-2). "One of the biggest questions around this team is on the offensive side of the ball. In the red zone, the Jaguars rank 23rd in efficiency, which will need to improve to go on a legit run. ... If Trevor Lawrence and the offense can use their Week 9 bye to get on the right track, they could be a sleeper in the AFC."

Sullivan actually has 11 teams on his list of Super Bowl contenders and you can check who made the cut here.  

5. Three NFL trades that needed to happen at the deadline: Derrick Henry to Ravens tops the list
Titans RB Derrick Henry USATSI

Now that we've had 48 hours to digest everything that happened during the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, we thought it would be a good time to unveil our list of trades that SHOULD have happened, but didn't. This list was put together by Joel Corry, who knows a thing or two about trades, because he's a former NFL agent. 

Three trades that should have happened: 

Derrick Henry to the Ravens

Ravens get: Derrick Henry Titans get: RB Gus Edwards and 2024 conditional fourth-round pick (third round if Ravens advance to AFC Championship Game or Henry rushes for at least 1,300 yards) Corry's breakdown: "It's unlikely Henry fits into Tennessee's plans beyond this season considering he has an expiring contract and will be 30 in January. In Baltimore, though, Henry would have added a different dimension to the rushing attack for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations."

Mike Gesicki to the Bengals

Bengals get: Mike Gesicki Patriots get: 2024 fifth-round pick Corry's breakdown: "It would have been uncharacteristic for the Bengals to make a move at the trade deadline. An upgrade at tight end could have been justified because Irv Smith, Jr. isn't having much of an impact. ... The Patriots probably should have been sellers before the trading period ended given their 2-6 record."

Hunter Renfrow to the Saints

Saints get: Hunter Renfrow Raiders get: 2024 sixth-round pick Corry's breakdown: "The Raiders and Saints were close on a trade, according to NFL Media. The holdup was reportedly how much of Renfrow's remaining 2023 salary the Raiders were going to eat in the deal. Given that Renfrow has been virtually non-existent this season and a likely salary cap casualty in the offseason, the Raiders should have been willing convert a significant portion of Renfrow's money to signing bonus pre-trade."

Corry wrote a thorough explanation on why each of these trades should have gone down, and if you want to read everything he had to say, be sure to click here

6. Extra points: Packers sound unsure if Jordan Love is their QB of the future

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. 

Packers

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