Le'Veon Bell, Dak Prescott, Giants hatch hot takes -- what's legit?

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Another fantastic NFL Sunday is in the books. With three more Sundays left in the regular season, the drama is heating up. In a related story, the hot takes are flowing.

In this edition of Schein Nine, allow me to pass judgment on some of the opinions making the rounds. Are they legitimate statements or knee-jerk reactions?

1) Le'Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL.

My goodness, Bell has been out of this world during Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak. In victories over the Browns, Colts and Giants, he averaged 128 yards rushing and 47 receiving. Not too shabby, eh? Then on Sunday, he absolutely destroyed and embarrassed the Bills. In the Steelers' 27-20 road win, Bell carried the ball 38 times for 236 yards (a franchise record) and three touchdowns. Oh, and he added 62 receiving yards for good measure.

Major props to offensive coordinator Todd Haley for emphasizing the run and having the offense go through Bell. The 24-year-old back is a special player in his prime, and he's going to guide the Steelers to the playoffs.

But this is knee-jerk. In fact, for 2016, Bell's not even in the top three.

My top three running backs in the NFL this year are, without hesitation, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and DeMarco Murray. They have the stats and the domination and have done it all year long. Bell is incredible. But those three have sustained all year, and are still playing brilliant ball.

2) The Giants are the biggest threat to the Cowboys in the NFC.

Wow, what a win for New York. I was dead wrong on this game. I thought the Cowboys wouldn't lose again this year. And I thought the Giants would take a step backward with a tough remaining schedule and the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul on defense. Sunday night's 10-7 defensive stalemate was fantastic to watch.

Still, this is knee-jerk. Because it's the Packers who are Dallas' biggest NFC threat. Now, hear me out.

I'm on record saying the Cowboys are undoubtedly the No. 1 title contender in the NFL this season. They are built for a Super Bowl run. I still believe that, even after Sunday night.

But ...

I penned in this space last week that the Packers are going to win the NFC North. Yes, I know they remain two games behind Detroit, but Aaron Rodgers is going to win out. And I think the Lions will slip up in one of the next two daunting road assignments ( at Giants, at Cowboys on "Monday Night Football"), setting up a winner-take-all finale against Green Bay.

Rodgers carving up a Seattle defense sans Earl Thomas was an easy prediction. The guy is special. Always has been. It's not his fault the cupboard is bare and the run game is non-existent. If (when) Green Bay makes the playoffs, Rodgers inherently will be piping hot. And the defense, led by dynamic safety Morgan Burnett, will be making plays (see: picking off Russell Wilson five times on Sunday).

Seattle is obviously experienced and still strong -- a viable threat in the NFC. The Giants' offense struggled, albeit in a fantastic win Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Lions have to be concerned about Matthew Stafford's finger issue.

But can you imagine a streaking Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams going into Dallas with a shot against the Cowboys' defense and sky-high confidence?

I can.

3) Tony Romo should replace Dak Prescott.

The is the epitome of knee-jerk.

Dak struggled mightily Sunday night, completing just 17 of his 37 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions. But let's relax for a second. On the whole this season, Prescott's been amazing, as evidenced by his 20-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio and 102.7 passer rating. The Cowboys' are still 11-2 under his direction.

You don't even think about it. And you don't create a quarterback controversy. End of story.

4) Kirk Cousins has done enough to warrant a monster contract.

You like that? Oh, you like that.

This is absolutely legitimate.

Cousins led the Redskins to a crucial road win at Philadelphia on Sunday. And he did it in a gutty manner. His fourth-quarter pick-six turned the momentum in Philly's favor, and the Eagles eventually took the lead with less than five minutes remaining. Then Cousins led Washington on an eight-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The fifth-year QB jump-started the march with a perfect ball to Jamison Crowder that went for a 33-yard gain, and he sustained the drive with a fourth-and-1 completion Pierre Garcon.

On the season, Cousins' numbers are outstanding: 67.5 completion rate, 23-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio, 8.2 yards per attempt and a 100.3 passer rating. The feel is even better. Cousins was the reason Washington made the playoffs last year. He's the reason why I think the 7-5-1 Redskins will make the playoffs again this year -- and the reason they're a dark-horse Super Bowl contender, as I wrote a few weeks ago. Cousins is the reason why I think Washington is going to run the table over the next three weeks.

Jay Gruden and Cousins share the same vision for this offense, and Cousins is the perfect fit. In a league where you either have a franchise quarterback or you don't -- and Washington has been lacking in this area for much of the last few decades -- Kirk Cousins is worth every penny.

5) Miami's playoff dreams are dead without Ryan Tannehill.

They are on life support. It was initially feared that Tannehill tore his ACL in Sunday's win over the Cardinals, though Adam Gase said on Monday that the initial diagnosis is a sprained ACL/MCL. This is great news in the sense that the injury probably won't require surgery, but it's still unclear if Tannehill will be able to play again this season.

Still, Miami isn't dead. Not yet. Even with the major drop-off to Matt Moore (MATT MOORE!!), this is knee-jerk.

The good news about winning games is the league doesn't make you give them back, even if they come at a cost. And Miami beat Arizona to get to 8-5. The scheduling gods have the Dolphins facing the lowly Jets and the Bills (albeit both on the road) before a tough season finale against New England. Thus, Miami can still get to 10 wins.

The 8-5 Broncos, fresh off a loss to the Titans, finish with these three games: vs. New England, at Kansas City, vs. Oakland. There isn't a gimme game remaining. Advantage: Dolphins. Miami could really use a Ravens loss in New England on Monday night, too.

Now with Matt Moore (MATT MOORE!!) set to fill in for Tannehill, possibly for the rest of the season, there's a realistic chance Miami slips up against an aforementioned cupcake. And allow me to make one thing clear: I am not picking Miami to make the playoffs. But Gase has done a really good job this year. And Miami survived the Cardinals on Sunday. So there's a chance.

6) The Falcons are going to win the NFC South.

This is legit.

Atlanta pasted the Jeff Fisher-cursed Rams on Sunday. I expect my guy Matt Ryan to beat the 49ers, Panthers and Saints and cruise into the playoffs with a division title in hand.

It certainly doesn't hurt Atlanta that the defense is showing signs of life, at least in the form of a few young playmakers. How about the way Vic Beasley has stepped up this year? Tied for the NFL lead with 13.5 sacks? Very impressive. And rookie safety Keanu Neal has been an impact player, too. Defense isn't going to carry this Falcons team -- See: No. 28 ranking in both yards and points allowed -- but the unit can complement Atlanta's explosive offese if it continues to force turnovers and get to the opposing quarterback.

The Falcons can't slip up with the Bucs on a roll. Tampa Bay has taken five straight and will end up with 10 wins. The Bucs are gonna lose this coming Sunday night in Dallas, but then I see them finishing off season sweeps of the Saints and Panthers. Jameis Winston has been incredibly tough. And Gerald McCoy, who is getting my vote for first-team All-Pro, continues to spearhead a defense that is hitting its stride at the right time. The Bucs' D has now smashed Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees in consecutive weeks. That's playoff impressive.

Still, I like Ryan and Co. to give Atlanta its first division title -- and first playoff appearance -- since 2012.

7) Derek Carr lost the MVP on Thursday night.

Are you nuts? Take a deep breath. With three games remaining, Carr is still my choice for the league's top individual honor. That take defines knee-jerk reaction.

Look, Carr played his worst game of the season at an inopportune time. There's no disputing that. Yes, it was a short week. Yes, Carr was injured. Yes, Amari Cooper ran an odd route on a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter.

But it doesn't eradicate a season of brilliance.

Matthew Stafford has thrown four interceptions this season against the expansion-grade Bears. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the first loss to the Giants. Matt Ryan threw a pair of picks that were returned for scores in a one-point loss to Kansas City. Tom Brady has been sensational, but -- while I believe the Deflategate punishment should've never happened -- he was suspended and missed four games. Brady's team went 3-1 without him.

Every candidate has a wart or two.

Derek Carr lost a road division game to the 10-3 Chiefs. Breathe, people.

If Carr struggles down the stretch, he won't get my vote. But as of now, he absolutely will. Carr's earned it, carrying the 10-3 Raiders back to NFL relevancy.

8) Matt Barkley has shown enough to be the 2017 Bears' starting QB.

Truth be told, Barkley had a great opportunity to beat the Lions, but he couldn't beat Jeff Triplette and his crew. There was a bevy of questionable calls, especially on the Bear's final drive. Barkley did everything right, again. But he received no help, again.

That said, this is knee-jerk.

The Barkley-led Bears had chances to beat the Lions and Titans. The quarterback made big-time throws, only to be doomed by an insane volume of drops and referee gaffes. Barkley has out-kicked expectations and done so without the services of Alshon Jeffery (who's been suspended). Should Chicago bring him back as a back-up? I think he's earned that. Give him the keys to the car? Absolutely not.

At the end of the day, he's gone 1-2 this season, with a 54.6 percent completion rate and a 4:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Let's not completely lose track of reality here.

9) Bryce Petty has shown enough to be the 2017 Jets' starting QB.

I laughed as I typed that. Knee-jerk!

Look, Sunday's overtime triumph in San Francisco was nice for the Jets, who went down 14-0 early -- on the heels of the Indy dumpster fire on "Monday Night Football" -- only to come back and prevail. It shows that Gang Green still has a (slight) pulse.

But the Jets' 2017 starting quarterback isn't on the roster. And I don't think Petty has come close to showing enough to even validate a spot as a backup in this league. His best attribute is that he isn't Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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