The Schein Nine  

 

Dak Prescott vs. Tony Romo a debate? Vikings the team to beat?

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Wow. What a debate!

No, not that debate.

The NFL.

This league provides us with endless fodder to bicker over. And Week 5's Sunday action confirmed some truths ... while leaving other hot-button topics up for discussion.

In this edition of the Schein Nine, we examine the pressing issues of the day, and decide whether they are open to debate or not.

1) The Dallas Cowboys are for real.

There is no debate. This team is legit. And I tried to explain that a week ago. Perhaps now, after Dallas' pasting of Cincinnati, you believe me.

Rookie revelation Dak Prescott is 4-1 and notched two more touchdowns (one running, one throwing) on Sunday. Oh, and did I mention he's yet to throw an interception? That's remarkable: 155 passes and zero picks -- unsurprisingly, an NFL record to start a career.

Of course, Prescott isn't the only first-year stud in Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott is an absolute force. He exposed Cincy's defense, scooting for 134 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. His speed, power, and vision are incredible, and this is why I loved Dallas taking him fourth overall in April. Through five weeks of action, he's comfortably leading the NFL in rushing yards. Talk about an instant return on investment ...

The Bengals have talent, but this wasn't a sporting event on Sunday: Dallas crushed them, leading 28-0 through three quarters of play. The Cowboys' offensive line is the best in the NFL. The defense is opportunistic and tough. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were non-factors.

The Cowboys are indeed for real. I don't know how you can spin what they are doing any other way.

2) A healthy Tony Romo gets his job back.

I love Romo. I have argued for years that he is elite and misunderstood and never gets anywhere near the credit he deserves due to the chaos and areas of deficiency surrounding him.

But this is seriously up for debate.

First of all, can you trust Romo ever being fully healthy -- or anywhere close to that -- again? The guy has dealt with so many injuries over the past half-decade. It's hard to imagine him ever regaining his true form.

Romo was supposed to be healthy this season. Following March surgery on his left clavicle, we heard all about how he was ahead of schedule in the offseason and training camp. Talking to Dallas COO Stephen Jones on my SiriusXM Radio show right after the 2016 NFL Draft, Romo's health seemed to be an afterthought. Then, in the third week of the preseason, Cliff Avril hit Romo on a rather innocent hit ... and the quarterback crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain, having broken a bone in his already-surgically-repaired back. A horrible broken record playing right before our eyes.

Prescott was thrust into the starting job -- and boy, has he flourished. See: 69 percent completion rate and 101.5 passer rating. And he's done it, for the most part, without Dez Bryant. Meanwhile, the Cowboys sit atop the NFC East, having won their last four games.

We are still a ways off on this one, as Romo remains in the rehab stage. Still, while I respect Romo more than most, can I trust him to stay healthy, given all of the recent ailments he has encountered? He's no spring chicken at 36. This team is rolling behind the rookie. Cowboys players obviously are watching this closely -- and they'll know if the wrong decision is made.

3) The Miami Dolphins need a new quarterback.

Adam Gase continues to be defiant in his defense of Ryan Tannehill, even after a home loss to Tennessee (a team that won't be confused with the '72 Dolphins anytime soon) in which fans were booing the quarterback and chanting for his replacement, Matt Moore.

Adam Gase is wrong.

There is no debate. Of course the Dolphins need a new quarterback.

Think about it: What does Ryan Tannehill do well?

Some quarterbacks have the arm. Some possess the touch or elite athleticism. Some bring the savvy and smarts and leadership. Others are clutch.

What exactly does Ryan Tannehill do well?

Hiring Gase made sense, since he's the quarterback whisperer who aided Jay Cutler and Tim Tebow. Maybe he needs to stop whispering and start shouting. After throwing two more picks (and zero touchdowns) on Sunday, Tannehill's TD-to-INT ratio is under water at 6:7.

It's Year 5 for Tannehill. He doesn't have it. And it looks like Gase is the last to know.

4) Mike McCoy should be the first head coach to lose his job.

Sadly for Mike, there's no debate here.

Another week, another blown second-half lead, another agonizing defeat.

San Diego is a soul-crushing 1-4, having held fourth-quarter leads in three of those four losses. In Sunday's defeat, the heartbreak came when the Bolts lined up for a game-tying field goal with just over two minutes remaining ... and dropped the snap. With inept special teams and horrible defense, the Chargers continue to waste Philip Rivers' Hall of Fame career.

McCoy rightly entered the season on the hot seat. When the host Chargers get trucked by an angry Broncos team on "Thursday Night Football" -- and the home fans (who don't even know if their team will be there next year) understandably get restless -- pressure on McCoy will reach a fever pitch.

5) The Minnesota Vikings are the most complete team in the NFL.

And then there was one.

Minnesota is 5-0, the last remaining undefeated in the league, and it's incredible. The Vikings' defense is outstanding, yielding an NFL-low 12.6 points per game. Mike Zimmer is the favorite for Coach of the Year. Sam Bradford has been stunningly superb in his first four games as a Viking.

Having said that, this remains up for debate.

I still don't fully trust the run game or the offensive line -- and consequently, the ability for Minnesota to keep Bradford healthy. While you can sell me on the Vikes making a Super Bowl run, I still think Green Bay (with Aaron Rodgers) remains the team to beat in the NFC North. Yes, I know the Vikings beat the Packers in Minnesota. Let's see what happens in late December when the two teams face off at Lambeau.

Furthermore, the Patriots and Broncos have to be right in the current conversation for most well-rounded team.

All that said ... Bravo, Vikings. You're undoubtedly in the thick of the title conversation. And given what this team has dealt with injury-wise, that's nothing short of astounding.

6) The Atlanta Falcons are the team to beat in the NFC South.

I'm sure last year's second-half meltdown still gives many pause on this front. But watching the Falcons' offense explode, watching Sunday's statement win in Denver, there is no debate in my mind.

Matt Ryan is having an MVP-type season. Kyle Shanahan is the assistant coach of the year -- he's done an outstanding job balancing the offense. The 1-2 backfield punch of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Atlanta beat the Broncos with Julio Jones logging two catches. That's a good thing!

And we've actually seen signs of progress from the maligned Falcons defense. Six sacks on Sunday, including 3.5 from Vic Beasley? Yeah, that'll do.

Atlanta is 4-1 in a division where everyone else is below .500. The Panthers are struggling with a poor offensive line and a complete lack of viable cover men. The Buccaneers have not looked like the breakthrough bunch many predicted, with Jameis Winston giving away the football at a prodigious rate. And the Saints are dreadful.

So, yes, the Falcons have emerged as favorites. But I'm not crowing them. I have way too much respect for Cam Newton. Let's see how Atlanta deals with early prosperity this time around.

7) Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever.

I've written this many times on NFL.com, so I'm not overreacting to his sizzling 2016 debut (the beginning of Brady's second revenge tour). His four rings and six Super Bowl appearances speak for themselves. So do the wins and numbers and domination over the past 15 years.

But it was pretty cool to see Brady come back from suspension and immediately remind you that he's the G.O.A.T., with 406 yards passing and three touchdowns in a blowout win on the road.

Tom Brady is the best. No debate.

8) The Oakland Raiders are a playoff team.

Check out the landscape of the AFC. Look at the records. Look at the quarterback play. Look at the coaching. It's a tough place to play.

But then watch Derek Carr and Amari Cooper work. See the Raiders deal with adversity and win close games. Watch Oakland execute. Check out Jack Del Rio getting aggressive on fourth downs.

I've been saying it for months and I will say it again: The Raiders are making the playoffs.

There is a debate because of the competitive nature of the conference and the fact that the Raiders aren't blowing teams away. But don't get it twisted: It's happening.

9) Jay Cutler's run as the Chicago Bears' quarterback is over.

Oh, heck yeah.

The Bears lost on Sunday to drop to 1-4. They have no depth and resemble an expansion team in a lot of areas. It's clear the 2017 quarterback isn't on the roster.

But at least Chicago had a pulse in the defeat at Indy. You don't always see that with the Bears when Cutler is under center. Brian Hoyer completed 76.7 percent of his passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns -- without throwing a single interception. In fact, he hasn't thrown a pick yet, with six touchdown passes and a 108.5 passer rating.

When Cutler returns from a thumb injury, he should stay glued to the bench. Keep Hoyer on the field. He's not the long-term answer, but at least he'll battle on a weekly basis.

Looking forward beyond this (lost) season, it's time for a Bears change at the game's most important position. Frankly, it's time for many changes in Chicago.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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