The Schein Nine  

 

NFL truths: Steelers gonna Steeler, Tom Brady > Father Time

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What a sensational slate of games, finishes and storylines in Week 3!

Let's be honest: The first two weeks of the 2017 NFL campaign left something to be desired, so we were due. But what a payoff!

After a wild Sunday chock-full of curveballs and drama, I was left with a series of takeaways that tickle the football brain ...

Here are nine truths that I still cannot believe are true:

1) The annual Mike Tomlin choke game is real.

Everyone who follows the Tomlin Steelers knows about the inexplicable letdowns. They're a routine feature of the team that started back in 2007 -- Tomlin's first year on the job -- when 7-2 Pittsburgh traveled to New Jersey to face the 1-8 Jets ... and lost in overtime. In 2009, the reigning champion Steelers started out 6-2 before suffering a five-game losing streak that included losses to the 2-7 Chiefs, 3-8 Raiders and 1-11 Browns. In 2012, Pittsburgh dropped games against the 2-8 Browns and 4-8 Chargers. Matt Cassel's Vikings beat the Steelers in 2013 -- and a few weeks later, Terrelle Pryor quarterbacked lowly Oakland past Pittsburgh. In 2014, the Browns stomped the Steelers, 31-10, and the 1-8 Jets also tasted victory over Pittsburgh.

Remember when the Ryan Mallett-led Ravens beat Pittsburgh in 2015? Or last fall, when Carson Wentz looked like Ben Roethlisberger in the rookie's third ever start, guiding the Eagles to a 34-3 beatdown of Tomlin's club?

So, yeah, there's a track record here -- and Sunday's game had all the makings of another egg-laying for Pittsburgh. It's something I warned about on the Friday edition of my CBS Sports Network show, "Time To Schein."

The loaded Steelers entered Sunday as heavy favorites (and survival-pool darlings). But the trap was set, with a Week 4 rivalry game against the Ravens looming on the horizon. And of course, as was true in many of the debacles listed above, Pittsburgh was on the road.

So, it really shouldn't have been much of a surprise to anyone when the 2-0 Steelers went into halftime trailing by double digits to the 0-2 Bears, eventually losing in overtime. Tomlin's defense gave up a whopping 220 rushing yards on Sunday. Honestly, outside of Antonio Brown (10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown), the Steelers were pretty much M.I.A.

Tomlin's team is not buttoned up. Again.

2) Tom Brady is 40.

It's unprecedented. Brady, who turned 40 in August, is playing like he's in the prime of his career. Since a disappointing, season-opening loss to the Chiefs, all Brady has done is complete 74.3 percent of his passes for 825 yards and eight touchdowns (against zero picks) in a pair of New England wins.

On Sunday, the greatest quarterback of all time led the Patriots to a thrilling come-from-behind win by repeatedly flummoxing a very talented Texans defense. Trailing 33-28 with 54 seconds remaining, the Pats faced a third-and-18 at their own 48-yard line. Brady promptly proceeded to hit Danny Amendola for a 27-yard gain and Brandin Cooks for a 25-yard touchdown. And ... ballgame.

The game-winning strike to Cooks -- Brady's fifth touchdown pass on the day -- was truly a thing of beauty. With Jadeveon Clowney right in his face, Brady delivered a perfect ball between defenders to Cooks, who toe-tapped for the score.

The surprising part? Well, none of this surprised anyone. That's Brady. Even at age 40. Just another classic, logic-defying comeback win.

3) The Buffalo Bills are in first place.

I absolutely loved the Sean McDermott hire, knowing he'd bring the kind of accountability that this team sorely needed. But I can't say I expected these returns this early. Beating a vastly superior Broncos bunch on Sunday was a pretty heady statement, showcasing the heart and professionalism of this outfit; it was the antithesis of what routinely happened in Buffalo under Rex Ryan. And this coming one month after the Bills traded away a couple of key players in Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby in order to wisely stockpile picks? Enjoy yourselves, Bills Mafia!

Now, let's be honest: The Bills' first-place status won't last long. New England, currently tied with Buffalo at the top, will separate. But I think Sunday's big win will prove to be a harbinger of things to come in the tough-minded McDermott era. Just wait until the Bills improve the roster with their bushel of draft picks.

4) The Los Angeles Rams are in first place.

And they are legit at 2-1, fresh off a thrilling 41-39 win at San Francisco on the national stage of "Thursday Night Football." It's amazing what you can do with a real coach (as opposed to Jeff Fisher). Sean McVay is a 31-year-old wunderkind, a great offensive mind. Under McVay, Jared Goff suddenly looks like a legit quarterback. Todd Gurley is back to being a top back after Fisher turned him into a pumpkin in 2016. Sammy Watkins, acquired in the Bills trade mentioned just above, looks like the cat from Clemson. And Andrew Whitworth is everything at left tackle -- really, really smart free-agent pickup by Les Snead. Plus, Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the sport -- and he has one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history (Wade Phillips).

The Rams are one of the early surprises of the 2017 campaign, and given the current state of the NFC West, there's no reason to believe this L.A. story will fade. David Johnson is hurt in Arizona. San Francisco is 0-3. And while the 1-2 Seahawks ooze talent on defense, their offensive line and run game are a complete mess.

I love watching these Rams play football. And while Seattle remains the favorite for the division crown (for now), Los Angeles must be taken seriously as a legit playoff contender.

5) The Jets have more wins than the Giants.

I really thought 0-16 was possible for Gang Green. And shame on the Miami Dolphins for getting blown out in New Jersey. That can't happen. But yeah, the 2017 Jets won a football game! And they're currently the only New York team with a notch in the win column.

Losing on a 61-yard field goal is rough. Falling to 0-3 with two tough road games (at Tampa Bay and Denver) in the next three weeks is even worse. The Giants' woes are the residue of a horrendous plan to neglect the offensive line and backfield this past offseason. General manager Jerry Reese's shortcomings here derailed the season before it started. And to end September with a worse record than the seemingly "on the clock" Jets, well, that's an embarrassing fact of life for the G-Men in 2017.

6) The call in Detroit was right. And wrong.

Lions fans have to be sick after a soul-crushing defeat to the Falcons. In a matchup of undefeated teams, Detroit stayed in the game throughout and appeared to score the game-winning touchdown with under 10 seconds remaining ... But no. The call was overturned and -- given the mandatory 10-second clock runoff -- the game was over. You lose, Detroit.

Now, technically, the reversal was right -- Golden Tate did appear to be short of the end zone. But if it was called correctly on the field, the clock runoff wouldn't have transpired, and the Lions theoretically could've gotten another play off from the one-inch line.

It's just a tough, tough way to go out. Seems like the Lions have this sort of thing happen to them far too often. Mentally, as an Associated Press MVP voter, I'm going to count this as another epic, fourth-quarter comeback by Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately, it doesn't count in the win column for Detroit.

7) The Los Angeles Chargers are winless.

This surprises me greatly. I thought the Bolts could be a surprise team in the NFL this year. Looks like I might've had the wrong L.A. outfit ...

Maybe the silver lining for the 0-3 Chargers following Sunday's 24-10 home loss vs. Kansas City is that, this time, they didn't lose at the gun on a failed kick attempt?

Man ... It's Anthony Lynn meets Mike McCoy meets Norv Turner meets Marty Schottenheimer.

8) Case Keenum has as many TD passes and wins as Jameis Winston.

Yeah, I didn't see this one coming at all. With Sam Bradford sidelined by a knee injury, I figured the Bucs would take care of business on the road. Not so much.

Minnesota rolled to a 34-17 win. Keenum was fantastic in relief, throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. His connection with Stefon Diggs (eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns) was sublime.

Mike Zimmer is a strong coach. But for Winston and the Bucs to live up to my playoff expectations, these are the types of games (and injuries) you have to take advantage of.

9) Jacksonville is 37 points better than Baltimore.

44-7?!?!?! Really?!?!?!

I figured the Jags would put up a fight across the pond -- with Leonard Fournette and Calais Campbell spearheading a blue-collar effort -- but wow! Was that Blake Bortles under center for Jacksonville ... or Joe Montana? When did Marcedes Lewis become Tony Gonzalez?

OK, it's just one game, but still -- this was a wild outcome.

Maybe I should've paid closer attention to Joe Flacco on Wednesday, when he was on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," and said he wasn't back to 100 percent yet. Apparently so! Completing eight of 18 passes for 28 yards with two picks? Getting benched for Ryan Mallett? Hopefully, for Flacco and the Ravens, what happens in London stays in London.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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