It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday! And there’s more football this weekend! Before you know it, the real games will be upon us. Isn’t this great? It helps that we’ve got plenty of big news and roster battles to carry us through preseason. With that in mind, let’s get right to business.
This is the Pick Six Newsletter. I, Cody Benjamin, will serve as your guide, as John Breech wraps up
some much-deserved time away his annual week-long retreat to prepare for the Bengals’ season. (Also, please do yourself a favor and make sure you’re signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don’t want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)
We’ve got a weekend preview, inside reports from Chargers and 49ers camp, quarterback news and more:
- Today’s show: Odds, predictions for Week 1 preseason games
Thursday night saw four teams in action, but the fuller slate of Week 1 preseason matchups arrives this weekend, with three games on Friday, 10 on Saturday and a finale on Sunday. Ryan Wilson joined Will Brinson on Friday’s “Pick Six NFL Podcast” to run through the entire schedule, offering previews, predictions and even some betting advice. Some highlights:
- Cowboys at Cardinals (Friday, 10 p.m. ET) could prove important for Dallas’ quarterback situation, where Dak Prescott is still recovering from a shoulder injury and the team needs to identify a clear backup.
- Bills at Lions (Friday, 7 p.m. ET) might reveal a true pecking order for Detroit’s remade wide receiver corps. Brinson thinks tight end T.J. Hockenson could be in for a monster 2021 season if no one stands out at WR.
- Dolphins at Bears (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET): Wilson thinks this matchup has somewhat of a college-football feel with Justin Fields and Tua Tagovailoa set to go head to head as young QBs. Will Tua carry a strong camp onto the field? We’ll find out.
Catch the entire Week 1 preseason preview (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.
2. Insider notes: Garoppolo is clear front-runner as 49ers’ QB
Senior reporter Jonathan Jones is busy on the West Coast, reporting directly from the Chargers, Rams and 49ers training camps. His latest from California: Brandon Staley and Co. are putting a lot of focus on staying healthy in 2021, while Jimmy Garoppolo looks firmly entrenched as San Francisco’s Opening Day QB:
The quarterback competition in the Bay everyone apparently wants to take place just simply isn’t. Jimmy Garoppolo is having a fantastic camp. He was the sharper of the two quarterbacks Thursday when I was watching. There’s no identifiable reason why he won’t be the Week 1 starter when the Niners face the Lions … We’ve seen the tweets from local scribes detailing just how great (Trey) Lance looks combined with (Kyle) Shanahan’s persistent downplaying of Lance’s obviously great play. It gave the appearance of sandbagging while also protecting Garoppolo’s feelings. After spending a day here and talking with players and sources on and off the record, I feel confident that’s not the case. Lance still has plenty to learn, and Garoppolo is their best option at quarterback right now.
3. Mac Jones flashes in Patriots’ preseason debut
Don’t look now, but New England might have found a true Tom Brady successor. OK, maybe that’s premature, but the Patriots’ first-round rookie got extended action in the team’s Thursday night preseason opener against Washington. Pitted against one of the NFL’s top defenses, Jones more than looked the part with a 10-play scoring drive to start, as well as some pretty touch passes. His final numbers (13-19, 87 yards) were pedestrian, but he flashed both poise and efficiency, prompting speculation about his chances of opening the regular season as the starter. If you’re asking this writer, it’s only a matter of a time.
4. Steelers roundup: Bold predictions, Big Ben news, Schobert trade
Plenty of people are down on the Steelers, who won the AFC North in 2020 but are probably overshadowed by both the Ravens and Browns. But Pittsburgh is making news ahead of the regular season! Amid a 24-16 win over the Eagles in their preseason debut, the Steelers finalized a trade for Jaguars linebacker and former Pro Bowler Joe Schobert. They also announced that Ben Roethlisberger, who sat out the team’s first two preseason games, will start the third exhibition in preparation for a make-or-break 2021.
Resident Steelers expert Bryan DeArdo likes what he’s seeing from Steel City, and his three bold predictions for the 2021 Steelers confirm as much:
- Najee Harris breaks team rookie records held by Franco Harris and Le’Veon Bell
- The Steelers boast the NFL’s top-scoring defense
- Pittsburgh wins its first playoff game since 2016
5. Urban Meyer says Jaguars QB job is still up for grabs
Remember when the Jags’ new coach said earlier this offseason that No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence wasn’t ready for the starting QB job? Maybe he wasn’t joking. Addressing the team’s “competition” there, Meyer indicated to reporters that former starter Gardner Minshew, currently listed as a co-starter on the Jags’ unofficial depth chart, is still in contention for QB1 duties in Week 1. Either he’s trying especially hard to inspire Lawrence, he’s trying to drum up trade interest in Minshew, or he’s dead serious. Only time will tell, but for now, Meyer refuses to crown his handpicked future face of the franchise.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Injury updates, preseason news and notes
Hungry for even more NFL news? Good. Here are a couple more things to chew on: