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Ranking the NFL’s top 10 defenses, plus Julio Jones landing spots and why Tim Tebow will stick with Jaguars

Well, kids, it’s come to this. Cody Benjamin here, and today is Friday, which means it’s my last day as the full-week fill-in for John Breech, your standard newsletter man. Hope you’ve all enjoyed these last few days as much as I have: No Andy Dalton gushing, a bit less hyperbole, and a reprieve from special teams news. In all seriousness, we’re all looking forward to Breech’s return. Now let’s take bets on how relaxed he’ll look during his first segment back on CBS Sports HQ.

This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let’s get to it. (And 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 2021 win projections, more Tim Tebow news, Julio Jones rumors and much more:

  1. Today’s show: Projecting win totals for Patriots, other AFC East teams


The draft, free agency and schedule release are all in the rear view. So we’re running through every NFL division to “reset” expectations for the 2021 season. Few divisions, meanwhile, are as intriguing as the AFC East, where the Jets and Patriots added new quarterbacks, the Dolphins are going all in on Tua Tagovailoa and the Bills are looking to take the next step as title contenders.

On Friday’s Pick Six NFL Podcast, Bryan DeArdo joined Will Brinson to preview and project win totals for all four teams. Some highlights:

  • The guys believe New York has already set up Zach Wilson better than it did Sam Darnold, with an improved supporting cast and coaching staff. But neither is ready to predict more than six wins for the Jets in 2021.
  • Brinson and DeArdo both love the Patriots as sleepers in the East. New England’s quietly got “really strong depth” reminiscent of its early 2000s teams, DeArdo says, and Brinson is a big believer in the “over” for their win total (9).
  • The Dolphins are the biggest mystery of the bunch. Brinson is “more bullish on Tua than the average person,” but he isn’t sold they’re ready for double-digit wins this year, saying the Pats are still more like the “1B” in this division.
  • As for the reigning division champion Bills? The guys are big believers in a repeat, emphatically forecasting the “over” on 10.5 wins.

Catch the entire episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Ranking the NFL’s top 10 defenses: Washington edges out Bucs, Browns

Which teams boast the stingiest defense going into 2021? Jared Dubin has your answer. He ranked the top 10 units entering the season. Here’s a look at his list, as well as some insight on the best of the bunch:

  1. Washington Football Team
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Baltimore Ravens
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Miami Dolphins
  7. Denver Broncos
  8. Los Angeles Rams
  9. New Orleans Saints
  10. Indianapolis Colts

Why Washington at No. 1? Did you know that Washington finished second in yards, fourth in points, and third in DVOA last season? Did you know that Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Da’Ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis are all back, and that Ioannidis is the oldest of the bunch at just 27 years old? They added rangy linebacker Jamin Davis in the draft, and underrated cornerback William Jackson III in free agency. Ron Rivera had these guys absolutely flying all over the field last season, and they’re even more talented this year than a year ago.

3. Insider notes: Count on Tim Tebow sticking with Jaguars through season
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Tim Tebow only officially returned to the NFL this week, confirming one of the most unusual comeback stories the league has ever seen. But NFL insider Jason La Canfora is convinced the former quarterback’s move to Jacksonville will not be short-lived. While everything suggests Tebow, now playing tight end after an eight-year absence from the NFL, is a long shot to make the Jags’ roster, La Canfora thinks that team brass is committed to the experiment through the season.

Unless he gets hurt, or decides to retire (again), Tebow Mania (or Tebow Fatigue) is on for the 2021 season. It’s real, it’s happening (again). And while it may be largely illegitimate, and while this latest attempt to indulge his football fantasies reeks of an obvious cash grab, don’t be fooled. This isn’t just about selling Tebow jerseys in the doldrums of May; it isn’t just about keeping the Jaguars in the news and trying to increase their brand during a down time in the football cycle; this isn’t just a short-term ploy. Meyer, like Tebow, his prized pupil, in his third or fourth reinvention himself, isn’t bringing Tebow in to be the 90th man on the roster for a few mere months just to whack his footballing prodigal son amid the annual purge of veterans around the NFL every September.

Meyer is doing this because Tebow is going to have some sort of ongoing function for this football team, based solely on their past together and due to Meyer’s college-tinged view of what his NFL coaching rebirth should look like … If there is room for Tebow among the 90 men on the roster now, especially for a rebuilding team with a suspect roster, you can be damn sure that there can still be room for him on a 53-man roster a few months from now.

4. Julio Jones trade rumors: Seven logical landing spots for Falcons star

The Falcons are reportedly hoping to move their No. 1 wide receiver in order to dig out of a financial hole. But which teams are most likely to land the star pass catcher, in the event Atlanta fields good offers? Jared Dubin has a list of seven favorites:

  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. New England Patriots
  5. Los Angeles Chargers
  6. Indianapolis Colts
  7. Tennessee Titans

The Ravens, Dubin argues, probably make the most sense from a football standpoint:

Despite using a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman, it would still be reasonable to consider wide receiver a need for Baltimore. Marquise Brown has not exactly proven himself as a No. 1 option on the perimeter, as he is more of a deep burner who can take the top off the coverage than someone you can count on in the quick game and/or over the middle. Bateman has more of the latter skill set, but acquiring Jones would open up the field for both of them, as well as Mark Andrews over the middle … They have just south of $10 million in cap space at the moment, so they can easily fit Jones on the books by restructuring deals and/or asking the Falcons to eat some of the salary as part of the deal.

5. Burning questions in the AFC and NFC West: Will Rodgers show up?
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We’re asking big questions of all 32 teams, separated by division, ahead of this season. On Friday, we tackled the AFC and NFC West. Naturally, one of the most pressing questions had to do with a certain quarterback: Is Aaron Rodgers coming to Mile High? Here’s Tyler Sullivan on the uncertainty in Denver:

This is the question that surrounds the AFC West: Is Aaron Rodgers joining the party? Once the reigning NFL MVP’s relationship with the Green Bay Packers started to deteriorate right before our eyes leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, it didn’t take long for the Denver Broncos to jump out as the rumored front-runner for his services. Yes, the club currently has Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater as possible options heading into next season, but if Rodgers is truly available and has Denver eyed, the franchise needs to move heaven and earth to make that possible.

Check out our full list of burning questions for the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders in the AFC West right here, as well as for the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West right here.

6. Rapid Fire Roundup: Julian Edelman hints at future, Eagles eyeing playoffs?

Want more NFL news? Good. Here are some other nuggets for you: