The Schein Nine  

 

Bears, Colts, Saints among NFL's statement makers in Week 10

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Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. We're hitting the stretch run of the 2018 regular season. It's go time. Separation time. Statement time.

Here are the biggest statements from the 10th Sunday of this NFL campaign, Schein Nine style:

1) The Chicago Bears are making the playoffs


I loved every single element of Chicago's pasting of Detroit. Don't let the somewhat-misleading final score of 34-22 fool you -- that was a beatdown. And how the Bears executed it was noteworthy.

Mitchell Trubisky, who has experienced a true roller-coaster ride of a season, had to play better -- and he did. A healthy Allen Robinson (six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns) certainly helped, but Chicago's second-year signal-caller played with noticeable confidence and accuracy while completing 23 of his 30 passes for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns. It was his team, his show. And he didn't throw a pick. Inspiring stuff.

Chicago was wise to get Khalil Mack right and healthy for the second half, and the game-wrecking terror returned to the gridiron and led the assault of Matthew Stafford (who, by the way, has been sacked 16 times in the last two weeks).

Now 6-3, the Bears have a huge Sunday night game on tap, with the 5-3-1 Vikings visiting Chicago. It's time to raise the bar. The Bears should win. And they will. Matt Nagy's squad is hitting double-digit wins and making the playoffs.

2) The Indianapolis Colts are making a push


Last week, I called the Jaguars-Colts contest an elimination game, predicting Indianapolis would win and make a run. The former happened, as Indy forced a late turnover to hold on and beat the Jaguars, 29-26. And now the latter's happening, thanks to the return of one of the NFL's marquee players.

Andrew Luck has been Andrew Luck all year -- and it's awesome. On Sunday, the Colts QB logged a sixth straight game with at least three touchdown passes, the league's longest active streak. Think about the weight of that -- and it's not even the most encouraging stat from a Colts perspective. Luck hasn't been sacked a single time over the last four games. Jacksonville, formerly known as "Sacksonville," managed just two hits on Luck all afternoon. And that's the difference with these Colts: a real line. (Finally!) Left guard Quenton Nelson currently gets my vote for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Third-year center Ryan Kelly has also been a huge key.

Still wish Frank Reich would've played for the tie against Houston -- 4-4-1 would feel better than 4-5 in the moment -- but I believe in Indy rolling down the stretch. Check the schedule. It's doable.

Of course, the Colts do still have a pair of games left against the Titans, including next Sunday's showdown in Lucas Oil Stadium. And Tennessee has become a pain to play against, because ...

3) Mike Vrabel can coach


At 5-4, Tennessee sits between the Texans (6-3) and the Colts (4-5) in the AFC South standings. But the Titans just posted their most inspiring regular-season win in quite some time: a 34-10 shellacking of the Patriots.

Mike Vrabel gave it to his former coach, Bill Belichick, just like ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia did earlier this season. But Vrabel's success will stick. Other than the foolish decision to go for two in London against the Chargers, Vrabel's had a great debut season as head coach. His team is tough. His defense, allowing a league-low 16.8 points per game, is stout. Sunday marked the Patriots' worst loss since the infamous Week 4 defeat to the Chiefs back in 2014. That's all Vrabel. New England was held scoreless on its final nine drives of the game.

Vrabel has also injected Marcus Mariota with swagger, while Matt LaFleur has given the QB a strong system. Over the last two weeks, Mariota has completed 69.8 percent of his passes, piling up four touchdowns against zero picks. Corey Davis (seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown) is coming into his own in Year 2. Former Patriots running back Dion Lewis had his say, and it was splendid.

Something I couldn't have imagined saying a few months back: Can't wait for Titans-Colts this coming Sunday!

4) There's a different -- positive -- feel around these Los Angeles Chargers


Another Sunday, another Chargers win. Los Angeles dispatched with the lowly Raiders, 20-6. Exactly one year ago today, the Chargers lost an overtime game in Jacksonville. Since then, they've gone 13-3, with a six-game winning streak currently in tow.

Philip Rivers is still playing at a Hall of Fame level; the 36-year-old is squarely in the mix for MVP. The talent around him is amazing. Melvin Gordon is a bona fide star, riding a five-game hot streak of epic proportions. The Bolts are in quite a groove, with a pair of home games on tap against the Broncos (3-6) and the Cardinals (2-7). 9-2 beckons. And here's the scary part for the rest of the AFC:

Joey Bosa has yet to even play a snap this season.

5) The AFC goes through Kansas City


With the Patriots' loss in Nashville, the Chiefs, who took care of business against Arizona, are now two games up on New England in the race for the No. 1 seed. At 9-1, K.C. has created separation from the Chargers (7-2) and Steelers (6-2-1), as well. This is huge, heading into next Monday's juicy Chiefs-Rams bout in Mexico City. Big-time Game of the Year potential there.

Patty Mahomes continued to show why he's the leading MVP candidate, recording his fourth straight passer rating of 120-plus on Sunday. Sammy Watkins had to sit out Sunday's game with a foot issue. No matter. Tyreek Hill was unstoppable in the passing attack, catching seven balls for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Shoot, the Chiefs are even starting to play a little defense with Justin Houston back in the lineup.

Andy Reid's group is currently the class of the AFC.

6) The New Orleans Saints didn't fall into the trap


Coming off of a statement win over the Rams, and with games coming up against the defending champion Eagles and rival Falcons, New Orleans faced a potential trap game Sunday in Cincinnati. But the Saints didn't just beat the Bengals; they stole their soul. 51-14! And it wasn't even that close.

Sean Payton is a Hall of Fame coach. The Saints are so great and so tough. That's Payton. And how about Drew Brees, posting another near-perfect game: 22 of 25 for 265 yards and three touchdowns, with a rushing score for good measure? This offense is unstoppable.

7) The Dallas Cowboys are alive in a jumbled NFC East


I thought Dallas would keep it close vs. the Eagles on Sunday night, but I didn't expect one of the most competitive, intense and fun-to-watch games of the year. After moments of futility and indecision early, Dak Prescott was clutch and great in the second half. Ezekiel Elliott was a force of nature. And Dallas' defense showed off its talent, with opportunistic plays by Leighton Vander Esch and Jeff Heath.

The Cowboys' 27-20 win in Philly put a hold on all the chatter about the organization needing a cleansing. Now, I think Dallas still does need a makeover, but the Cowboys are suddenly right in the thick of a muddled division race. The Redskins are out in front at 6-3, but Washington has been depleted by injuries. The Eagles should win this division, but they're tied with Dallas at 4-5, with the Cowboys currently holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas has 10-win talent, despite not always playing like it. On the plus side: It might not even take 10 wins to own this division.

8) 'Dangerous' Baker Mayfield can deliver the goods


After guiding the Browns to a 28-16 win over Atlanta, Cleveland's rookie signal-caller told the assembled press that he had awoken that morning "feeling dangerous." It's this kind of swagger -- and efforts like Sunday's, in which Mayfield completed all but three of his passes while posting three touchdowns and a 151.2 passer rating -- that make the Cleveland head-coaching job quite attractive.

And Mayfield isn't the only exciting youngster on this roster -- far from it. In fact, fellow rookie Nick Chubb gashed Atlanta to the tune of 176 rushing yards, authoring the longest touchdown run in franchise history with his 92-yard scamper in the third quarter.

9) Sean McDermott still has the Buffalo Bills' attention


Matt Barkley under center? No problem. Buffalo humbled/embarrassed/smoked the Jets in New York, 41-10. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Jets don't plan on firing Todd Bowles during the season, but let's be honest: He's done. The Bowles era of Jets football is on borrowed time, with the unofficial dagger coming in a 31-point home loss to a lowly division rival on its fourth starting quarterback.

It's a shame that McDermott botched the QB situation for much of this season, particularly when he kept turning to Nathan Peterman, who shouldn't even be in this league. Beyond that bizarre blind spot, McDermott can flat-out coach, especially when it comes to defense. And Buffalo's effort on Sunday was telling. Despite being well under .500 (3-7), these Bills are still competing every Sunday.

Now, fix the line and get some receivers in the offseason. Give the raw-but-talented Josh Allen a chance.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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