The Schein Nine  

 

Jason Garrett = Dallas' biggest problem? Todd Gurley for MVP?

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Just how wild was the seventh Sunday of the 2018 campaign? Well, Justin Tucker missed an extra point. And not just any extra point -- one that essentially would've sent a game into overtime. The guy nails all 222 PATs in his seven-year career before missing that one?! Now you understand his (instant-meme) reaction.

But yeah, fresh off another stimulating slate of games, the takes are flying left and right. Let's separate fact from fiction, Schein Nine style!

FACT OR FICTION ...

1) It's all Blake Bortles' fault in Jacksonville.

Nobody has been more critical of Blake Bortles -- from the day he was drafted third overall -- than me. And in the midst of the Jacksonville Jaguars' third straight loss, Bortles was rightfully benched. Because he's bad at the forward pass. (Kind of crippling for a passer.) And now he can't even hold onto the ball. (See: two fumbles on Sunday.) Since the start of 2014, Bortles has logged 26 multiple-turnover games. It's unfathomable -- and not surprisingly, the most such games by an NFL player in this time frame.

But still, even with all that said, the statement above is fiction. Jacksonville's recent swoon isn't a one-man job.

To be honest, I blame the people who employ Bortles, first and foremost, for the Jaguars' problems at the quarterback position. Who didn't see this coming when the Jags inexplicably handed No. 5 a three-year extension this past offseason? Of course Jacksonville should've drafted Lamar Jackson or signed a better backup. Of course the Jags should've gone after Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor. (Maybe they still can.) But Bortles' ineptitude isn't the only problem. Leonard Fournette's nagging hamstring injury has killed this offense -- and inherently, overworked the defense. NFL Network's Michael Silver said last week's trade for Carlos Hyde "stemmed from mounting frustration inside the building -- and particularly among coaches -- about Fournette's prolonged absence." No shock there: Jacksonville hasn't scored a single first-half point since Week 4!

Meanwhile, the Jaguars' defense, which I called the best in the NFL just over a month ago, has fallen apart. During this three-game slide, Jacksonville has allowed 30 points per outing. Over the previous 20 games, the Jags allowed just 16.2. What's wrong? Well, don't ask the normally loquacious Jalen Ramsey.

"You're killing me, man. If I had the recipe, if I knew what was going on, we would all be sharing it with each other," Ramsey said postgame. "We wouldn't continue taking Ls, but I don't know. We taking Ls and we gotta figure out. I don't know what's going on."

It's beyond insane that a title-caliber team decided to run it back with everything riding on Bortles under center, but there's more to this team's stunningly abrupt fall. Remember when the Jags were a quarter away from the Super Bowl nine months ago? Remember when they cruised past the Patriots one month ago?

2) Jason Garrett is the Cowboys' biggest problem.

It's a fact, Jack.

Yes, Dak Prescott's staggering lack of awareness on his own goal-line -- leading to a gargantuan strip-sack touchdown for the Redskins -- was dreadful. And yes, the long snapper cannot move the ball on a 47-yard field goal. The call was right; a 5-yard penalty was justified. And yes, of course the ensuing 52-yard kick that doinked the upright would've been good from 47. But the most insulting aspect of this game for Cowboys faithful came in between those developments.

With the Redskins holding a 20-17 lead and trying to kill off the clock, Alex Smith made the baffling decision to run out of bounds, thus allowing the Cowboys to save their final timeout and get the ball back with over a minute remaining. A gift to Dallas -- a gift that Garrett wasted with extreme conservatism. Per usual.

Just two weeks after Garrett opted for an overtime punt on fourth-and-1 in plus territory -- leading to a Texans win and a Jerry Jones second-guessing -- the Cowboys coach again turtled in crunch time.

With 52 seconds left, Dallas had the ball at the Redskins' 46-yard line with one timeout remaining. So, how did the 'Boys attack this situation? Two short passes over the middle and a 2-yard draw by Ezekiel Elliott before the ill-fated deep field goal attempt. Wait, what? This was disastrous game management. At the very least, when it got to first-and-10 at the Washington 31 -- with the timeout still in hand -- Dallas should've taken a shot. Tony Romo plainly laid out why it was the no-brainer move from the CBS booth! But no: Garrett went conservative and was flat-out wrong. Again.

Vintage Garrett, dropping the Cowboys to 3-4. And now Dallas is in panic mode, sending a first-round pick(!) to Oakland for Amari Cooper.

3) The Panthers are the second-best team in the NFC.

When the Eagles capped off a 17-play, 94-yard drive with a touchdown to go up 17-0 with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Panthers appeared dead, on the verge of a second straight loss to drop down to .500. Instead, they showed incredible guts and talent on the road, scoring the game's final 21 points to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia. Congrats to Carolina on the biggest comeback win in franchise history. It was a stunner. It was freakin' awesome.

But the initial statement's still fiction.

Yes, the Saints survived on Justin Tucker's stunning miss. (I still cannot believe it.) And yes, New Orleans has now won two games on missed kicks at the end. (Remember that Browns debacle in Week 2?) But the Ravens are a really solid team, having a better season than Philly. You could make the case Baltimore has the best defense in the NFL. So that's still a great win for Drew Brees and Co.

The 7-0 Rams are clearly the best team in the NFL. (The only question at this point is, where will they hold the parade in L.A.?) But the 5-1 Saints are literally and figuratively ahead of Carolina. And that will remain the case.

4) The Chargers are the most likely team to disrupt a KC-NE AFC title game.

Absolute fact. The Chargers were my AFC Super Bowl pick in the preseason, and they are off to a great 5-2 start, having just beaten the Titans in London without Melvin Gordon.

Philip Rivers is a top-tier league MVP candidate, with 17 touchdown passes through the first seven games of the season (tied for his career best). The passing attack is on fire, with Tyrell Williams (four catches for 118 yards and a touchdown on Sunday) and Mike Williams exploding opposite the great Keenan Allen. It's the first time both Williamses have caught Rivers touchdown passes in the same game. Defensively, Melvin Ingram just enjoyed one of his best games of the season, while Joey Bosa hasn't even played a down yet due to injury. He could be back after this week's bye. And Derwin James is proving what everyone anticipated: He was an absolute steal at No. 17 in the draft.

Anthony Lynn is the right coach for this team. And everyone in the AFC should be on notice. The Bolts are complete. They are great, with their only losses to the 7-0 Rams and 6-1 Chiefs. And the Chargers haven't even played their best ball yet.

5) Mike Vrabel was right to go for two.

FICTION!!!!!

So, the Chargers did get a little help from Tennessee's first-year head coach in that London game. The play call was inexplicably wretched, no doubt, but the true head-scratcher was Vrabel opting for a two-point conversion in the first place. The Titans are far from an offensive juggernaut. They had momentum in the game. Keep playing football. The Chargers have a knack, historically, for losing games like Sunday's tight affair.

I like aggressive coaching, but that was just foolish.

6) Todd Gurley is the early MVP favorite.

He's special. On pace for a second consecutive Offensive Player of the Year. But right now, Gurley's No. 2 in the MVP race, behind my guy Patty Mahomes. Thus, fiction.

On Sunday, Gurley joined Jim Brown and Priest Holmes as the only running backs in NFL history to log 14 touchdowns in their team's first seven games. And look at the statistical pace he's on, compared to the average NFL season for a running back who has won MVP (per NFL Research):

Gurley's current pace: 400 touches, 1,661 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns, 2,320 scrimmage yards, 29 scrimmage touchdowns.

Average RB MVP season: 338 touches, 1,595 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, 1,897 scrimmage yards, 17 scrimmage touchdowns.

But the Chiefs are 6-1. And the 23-year-old Mahomes is playing the most important and difficult position in sports with unbelievable aplomb. He boasts a 22:5 TD-to-INT ratio with a league-high 2,223 yards passing -- and we're not even at midseason! I can hit you with more nuggets of domination to prove he's the current league MVP. Or you can simply watch the games and just know it.

7) The Lions finally have their running back.

Oh it's a fact. And thus, don't sleep on the Lions.

Kerryon Johnson is everything for Matthew Stafford and 3-3 Detroit right now. The rookie absolutely gashed Miami, with 158 yards on 19 carries. So, in Week 3, he was the first Lions back to eclipse 100 yards rushing since NFL Network's Reggie Bush pulled off the feat back in 2013. And on Sunday, he became the first Detroit RB to hit 150 since Jahvid Best in 2011!

The Lions are right in the thick of things in this wacky NFC and ultra-competitive NFC North. I advise you not to count out Detroit.

8) Adam Thielen is the best receiver in the NFL in 2018.

Show some respect. This is a fact.

Thielen recorded his seventh straight 100-yard receiving game. That's the longest streak to start a season in NFL history. Forget about where he went to school (Minnesota State) or how he entered the league (as an undrafted free agent in 2013). Don't let any preconceived notions steer you astray. I understand the talent out there in the NFL at this position right now. But if you're actually watching the games this season, this isn't up for debate.

9) The Bengals should be canceled.

Well, if Marv and Andy were a comedy act in prime time, that would've happened years ago. And their lackluster record in prime time speaks for itself.

But call this fiction.

Sunday night was a predictable shellacking, courtesy of the hyper-explosive Chiefs. But at the moment, the Bengals are actually still a playoff team. Seriously.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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