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Fearless forecasts for 2021 NFL season, plus Bruce Arians could hold back Tom Brady this summer after surgery

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Cody Benjamin here, filling in for John Breech to bring you today’s latest from around the NFL, as long as you’re not too busy debating Pete Prisco over his Top 100 Players of 2021 list.

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 award predictions, updates on Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, and much more:

  1. Today’s show: Debating the top 25 NFL players under 25

Justin Herbert
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One day, not too long ago, one of my NFL editors, Kevin Steimle (best known as a perpetually disappointed Giants fan on Twitter), approached me with one of the most important tasks of the offseason: Rank the top 25 NFL players under the age of 25. OK, maybe it wasn’t that important, but when you’re combing through dozens and dozens of big names around the league, there’s at least a little pressure to correctly identify the best of the best. On Wednesday, Will Brinson was kind enough to have me on the Pick Six NFL Podcast to break down the process and run through the list, all the way to No. 1.

Some highlights of the discussion:

  • The biggest snub of the Top 25 Under 25? Brinson believes that honor belongs to Jets OT Mekhi Becton, saying he would’ve dumped Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Eagles RB Miles Sanders or Bears LB Roquan Smith to include the big man.
  • The toughest position group to pull from? Wide receiver. Five different WRs made the list (Justin Jefferson, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, D.J. Moore, Chase Claypool), but CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Jerry Jeudy and Gabriel Davis were all candidates who just missed.
  • Why Justin Herbert over Kyler Murray in the top 10? Both Brinson and I agreed Herbert’s one of the surest bets to be a long-term franchise QB, arguing he might even deserve to go ahead of Lamar Jackson if there were an actual draft of under-25 players.

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

2. Predicting 2021 award winners, trade targets

We’ve still got a ways to go before Week 1 kicks off, but that’s not stopping insider Jason La Canfora from pulling out his crystal ball. In an annual rundown of fearless forecasts, he’s unveiled early predictions for major award winners, trade candidates and more. Here’s an overview of some of his bold projections:

3. Predicting every Seahawks game of 2021Russell Wilson
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The Seahawks might be the most vulnerable of 2020’s eight division winners around the NFL. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be good in 2021. Just ask Patrik Walker, who predicted every single game on their expanded 17-game schedule. Here’s a look at some of the key games on Walker’s forecast, as well as his final record prediction for Seattle:

  • Week 5 vs. Rams: This isn’t the same Rams team that dismissed them from the playoffs, which is the good news. The bad news is they’re presumably better with Matthew Stafford at the helm and some offseason tweaks, but home cooking will save the Seahawks in Week 5. Seahawks win 31-28.
  • Week 10 at Packers: To Aaron Rodgers or to not Aaron Rodgers? That is the question. As it stands, the Packers’ answer is to keep the future first-ballot Hall of Famer around and hope he honors his contract. Should he do so, this game will be an SAT for both clubs, and should go down to the wire despite the Seahawks having two weeks to prepare for it. And in a close game between two NFC contenders, it’s usually home field that tilts the scale. Seahawks lose 27-21.
  • Week 18 vs. 49ers: Losing to the 49ers (back in Week 4) would dent the Seahawks’ armor early and leave many wondering where the NFC West shakes out in the end. Also, Seattle has no idea if Jimmy Garoppolo will start this game, or rookie third overall pick Trey Lance, adding extra spice to each matchup. The two teams split the 2021 series. Seahawks win 40-28.

Final record prediction: 12-5

4. Ben Roethlisberger wants to be a Steeler for life

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed Roethlisberger’s career, but these comments are notable considering Big Ben could very well be entering his final year in Pittsburgh: “I’m black and gold through and through,” the quarterback told reporters this week. “I want to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else.” 

Roethlisberger admitted he was all for the pay cut he took this offseason, but the fact he needed to do so is exactly why his commitment to staying with the Steelers is so interesting: There could soon be a time, perhaps during or immediately after the 2021 season, when the Steelers no longer want him to stay. Roethlisberger added that he’s preparing for this season “like I do every season, like it’s my last,” and he probably means it, because retirement seems more likely than a move elsewhere in 2022.

5. Bruce Arians may hold Tom Brady back after knee surgeryTom Brady
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No one, of course, actually holds TB12 back unless Brady himself permits it. Or at least that’s how things seem to go with the legendary QB. But the Buccaneers coach told ESPN this week that he may very well err on the side of caution as Tampa Bay kicks offseason preparations into a higher gear. Brady, remember, underwent a clean-out knee surgery earlier this year, and while his recovery is reportedly going well, Arians is already envisioning a more limited role for the reigning Super Bowl MVP this summer.

“I don’t know how much I’ll let him do … with guys chasing him around,” Arians said. “We’ll see. We’ll see what the doctors say. He may be doing a lot of coaching.”

Brady, on the other hand? He just dropped an Instagram video showing himself throwing and running at full force, without any kind of knee brace, complete with a note that we’re now less than 100 days until kickoff. Best wishes, Bruce.

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Adam Vinatieri’s Packers stiff-arm, Rodgers drama

Want more NFL news? Good. Here are some other nuggets to snack on: