The Schein Nine  

 

Dallas Cowboys make statement; Pittsburgh Steelers disappoint

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Monday is the time for reaction -- and overreaction -- across the NFL.

But there are always many sides to each story.

Let's examine some of the most significant results and ask "Who does this say more about?" in a "Football Monday" installment of the Schein Nine.

1) Dallas Cowboys 30, Seattle Seahawks 23

After the schedule was released back in April, I penned a Schein Nine explaining why Seattle wouldn't repeat. In our preseason analyst picks, I had the Seahawks making the postseason -- but via the wild card.

So, no, I'm not surprised Seattle, at 3-2, doesn't look as crisp or dominant as it did a year ago.

But beating the Seahawks in their house -- in front of the raucous 12s -- is a gigantic deal. Yes, this is all about crediting Dallas.

Tony Romo was incredibly clutch in the fourth quarter -- again. Sorry to spoil a foolish narrative, but Romo is actually fantastic when it matters. The fourth-quarter pitch-and-catch with Terrance Williams -- on third-and-20, no less -- was epic. And Romo made it happen under pressure.

Romo racked up 250 passing yards and two touchdowns (against zero interceptions) through the air against the vaunted "Legion of Boom." Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray continued to pound the opposition with his sixth straight 100-yard effort to start the season (tying Jim Brown's NFL record). The fourth-year back scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the final period.

The Cowboys continue to do what they do, using a talented offensive line (featuring three first-round picks from the last four drafts) to establish tone and tempo and offensive balance, which greatly helps Romo. On the other side of the ball, Rod Marinelli has completely transformed the Dallas D from historically horrendous in 2013 to viable this fall. By the end of Sunday, the Cowboys were tied for seventh in scoring defense.

I thought Jason Garrett and the 'Boys would flat-out fail this year. The joke's on me.

The Cowboys' formula in Seattle, their recipe all year, is one that dominant playoff teams employ. I never thought I'd write that about this team in 2014.

Dallas played its game and Seattle couldn't stop it. That's a tremendous statement.

2) Philadelphia Eagles 27, New York Giants 0

Philadelphia looked like the team we saw in the second half of last season.

Although Foles threw a pair of interceptions, as colleague Chris Wesseling said, the Eagles quarterback "clearly outplayed the opposing quarterback for the first time this season." His prettiest throw of the night? A perfectly lofted scoring strike to Zach Ertz, who made a sensational diving grab on the play. And most importantly for Chip Kelly's high-octane offense: LeSean McCoy is back from the dead! Last season's rushing king posted his first 100-yard effort of 2014, scampering for 149 yards on 22 carries (a robust 6.8 yards a pop).

Defensively, Bill Davis' unit crashed Eli Manning's party, manhandling the Giants offensive line throughout the evening.

I figured the Eagles would win because they are superior to the Giants. That's what this game was about, but we needed to see it. And we finally did, with the Eagles resembling the high-flying offensive squad -- flanked by an opportunistic defense -- from a year ago.

Sunday night was all about Philly showing it is worthy of that 5-1 mark.

The Giants entered this game as overachievers on an impressive roll, but I never bought into Big Blue as a playoff team -- and those hopes are dashed with the sobering news that Victor Cruz tore his right patellar tendon and is out for the year.

3) Cleveland Browns 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Funny, I'm not getting angry tweets from the great readers who occupy Steelers Nation, like I did when I predicted -- multiple times this offseason, including way back in April -- that Pittsburgh would finish below Cleveland in the AFC North standings.

Cleveland bludgeoned Pittsburgh for a very simple reason: The Browns are better. They have the better defense. And even without Josh Gordon, they have more talent overall. Cleveland is well-coached under Mike Pettine. The Browns are plucky; they run the ball with authority. And while I was right about Cleveland as a team, I was wrong about Brian Hoyer as a quarterback. He has been much better than I anticipated. Cleveland is a legit wild-card contender.

This particular result, though, says more about Pittsburgh's ineptitude.

I'll write it again: Pittsburgh is void of the requisite talent to be considered a good team, let alone a contender. This team has no identity. The Steelers are fundamentally unsound.

4) Baltimore Ravens 48, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Is Joe Flacco "elite" or are the Bucs that wretched? Tampa is that bad.

Obviously, Flacco deserves credit for tossing five touchdown passes in the game's first 16 minutes. And I still believe that Baltimore wins the AFC North. But this game was 28-0 after the first quarter, 38-0 at the half. This is the second time in a month that Tampa has been totally humiliated in the first 30 minutes of play. (Remember that Thursday night debacle in Atlanta?)

The Bucs have been horrendous under Lovie Smith. Their confidence has been zapped. In addition to the pair of blowout losses, Tampa has also lost games -- at home -- to teams quarterbacked by Derek Anderson and Austin Davis.

Wonder what Greg Schiano is thinking right about now.

5) Carolina Panthers 37, Cincinnati Bengals 37 (OT)

The Bengals followed up their embarrassment in Week 5 against the Patriots by blowing countless opportunities to bury Carolina and ended up tying in excruciating fashion. Mike Nugent missed a 36-yard field goal in the game's final play. Of course he did.

Marvin Lewis didn't dazzle with his clock management on Sunday. In a related story, the sky is blue.

As I've stated before, I simply don't trust the Lewis/Andy Dalton combination. This tandem remains on target for the annual first-round playoff exit.

This tie was about Cincy's inability to finish.

6) San Diego Chargers 31, Oakland Raiders 28

I penned a column last week detailing why I believe San Diego is a legit Super Bowl contender, hitting on the stellar coach/QB duo, the playmaking defense and the Bolts' ability to deal with adversity/injuries. Even after a close game against an inferior team, I still believe every word of that piece.

This surprisingly competitive game was about Derek Carr.

Oakland is a flat-out mess -- a franchise in need of a reboot. But the Raiders have a talented quarterback of the future in Carr. He tossed four touchdown passes against San Diego, showing off his arm and touch.

7) Denver Broncos 31, New York Jets 17

COWBOYS AT BEARS
Thursday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m. ET
Watch on NFL Network.
Pregame show starts at 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network.


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OK, so we know what Denver is: a bona fide title contender. The question here pertains to the Jets and the Jets alone: Is the fifth straight loss -- and lost season -- more about Geno Smith or everything else?

Yes, Smith put the finishing touch on this loss with a late pick six. But if you think this defeat to Denver -- or this season of ineptitude -- is about Geno, then you have missed it all.

The Jets' skill-position players are subpar. The cornerback position is embarrassing -- and with an apparent season-ending injury to Dee Milliner, matters are about to get worse. Rex Ryan and John Idzik have both been poor at their jobs; Rex should've been dismissed with Mike Tannenbaum two Januarys ago.

Sure, Geno has struggled, but what's the alternative? Michael Vick should've been released last week after he admitted that he hadn't been prepared to play in the Week 5 loss. Isn't that his job as a backup QB -- to be ready? Was he the only person in America who didn't think he could play against San Diego?

The Jets are a mess.

8) Green Bay Packers 27, Miami Dolphins 24

Who was the Packers' Week 6 MVP: Aaron Rodgers ... or Joe Philbin?

You had to know Rodgers was going to lead a comeback on the road in Miami. That's what he does. That's who he is. Add in a Dan Marino-esque fake spike for good measure in that scintillating two-minute drill.

But the Packers should give the game ball to the Dolphins' coach.

With Green Bay out of timeouts, Philbin called a timeout after Rodgers was sacked at midfield. Rodgers actually fumbled on the play, but the ball was recovered by Green Bay. Superman was a bit hurried, but Philbin gave him a breather. It was wild.

Then, with the Packers at the Miami 4-yard line with six seconds left, Philbin called timeout, thus allowing the Packers more time to ponder the game's decisive play. Believe it or not, Rodgers hit Andrew Quarless for the game-winning score.

Packers fans owe Philbin a Christmas card.

9) Indianapolis Colts 33, Houston Texans 28

Andrew Luck is the best young quarterback in the game. Andrew Luck is a top-five QB this year. Andrew Luck is a legit MVP candidate. Thus, Indy is a true contender in the AFC.

But this game was about the Texans not having a quarterback.

Houston will compete all year long because Bill O'Brien is a superb coach and has abruptly changed the culture in Houston. Arian Foster is back to form. J.J. Watt is a freak and the clear front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year. But Thursday was a microcosm of what the Texans' season will be.

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This team will fall a dollar short -- and finish 8-8 -- because it doesn't have a legit NFL quarterback.

Sure, it wasn't all on Ryan Fitzpatrick last Thursday. Andre Johnson's fumble in the fourth quarter really was a back-breaker.

But you need a quarterback to make plays in this league. Houston simply has a place holder.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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