The Schein Nine  

 

Fact or fiction: Ravens = NFL's best team? Dak Prescott 4 MVP?

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Eleven NFL Sundays are in the books. Every week, the impossible happens. New heroes emerge. Teams take the next step. Hearts are broken.

And of course, on Monday morning, the takes fly fast and furious in all avenues of life, from TV to Twitter to the water cooler.

With that in mind, let's round up some of the more prominent sentiments and separate fact from fiction, Schein Nine style!

1) The Baltimore Ravens are the best and most exciting team in the NFL.

I'm not crowning anyone. Not even close. But if I had to pen the Power Rankings, the Ravens would be at the top of the charts. So these are big facts.

Lamar Jackson is everything. He's majestic and simply dominant in every phase: great thrower, runner, leader and winner, with a likability that's off the charts. Jackson, RB Mark Ingram, TE Mark Andrews and offensive coordinator Greg Roman (my current pick for Assistant Coach of the Year) absolutely pasted the Texans in Baltimore's 41-7 win. This highly anticipated game was supposed to be a show, and the Ravens certainly did their part, racking up 491 yards of offense, including a whopping 263 on the ground. That kind of explosive offense is what makes this team so thrilling. But what puts Baltimore over the top, when you're talking about the league pecking order, is the revitalized defense.

Frankly, defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's unit was terrible in the opening stretch of this season. But, as safety Earl Thomas told me a few weeks ago, everything changed with the Seattle game. And everything changed with general manager Eric DeCosta's brilliant deal for cornerback Marcus Peters in October. The defense stymied the Patriots in Week 9 and suffocated the Texans on Sunday. John Harbaugh, who remains one of the very best coaches in the league, has this team surging with six straight wins, including victories over Seattle (8-2), New England (9-1) and Houston (6-4) in the past month. This is heady stuff.

The Patriots beat the Eagles on Sunday, but New England's offense hardly impressed. (And, as mentioned before, Baltimore has a convincing head-to-head win over the Pats.) Meanwhile, the 49ers won in pulsating fashion over Arizona, but the roster's quite banged up right now. The Saints won in Tampa, as Jameis Winston kept giving them the football. I still love the Packers and the Chiefs. The NFL postseason is going to be wild. But the Ravens are currently the best in the business.

2) Kyle Allen will NOT be the Carolina Panthers' Week 1 starter in 2020.

This is fiction. Yes, Allen was terrible in the 29-3 loss to Atlanta. There's no way to sugarcoat it -- four interceptions speak for themselves. It was the worst game Allen has played this season. On the surface, you could make an argument that the second-year pro's Week 8 effort against San Francisco (three picks, 28.9 passer rating) was worse, but that came on the road against one of the very best defenses in football. Sunday's debacle came in the comfy confines of Bank of America Stadium, against a defense that had been highly disappointing over the first nine weeks of the season. That was a definite setback, but Ron Rivera and the defense also deserve major blame.

I'm not going to overreact in the moment, though. I still believe Carolina will cut bait with the injured Cam Newton after this season, whether it's via trade or just straight releasing him. (Newton carries a $21 million cap hit in 2020, but just $2 million in dead cap money if he's cut.) Allen has shown promise in his first prolonged run as Carolina's starter, going 5-3 while flashing some intriguing arm talent. I predict Allen gets back on track down the stretch, and the Panthers roll with him as next year's starting QB.

3) Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn is making a legit case to keep his job.

Please. Fiction. Credit the Falcons for winning two straight road games, with a suddenly inspired defense piling up 11 sacks in the process. But criticize the Falcons for losing seven of their first eight games, managing a meager seven total sacks during that span. If anything, this domination against the Saints and Panthers hits home my firm believe that Atlanta's inept first half of this season was beyond unacceptable and a total waste of talent.

And when you factor in last season's 7-9 letdown and blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, it's over. It's been over.

4) Gardner Minshew should be the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting QB.

I like Minshew. I think he has "it." I think there's a realistic chance he is The Guy for the Jaguars next year, or at least is given a chance to compete with Nick Foles for the role. But for this year, it's fiction.

Nick Foles has played five quarters for the Jaguars. Sunday's performance (33 of 47 for 296 yards and two touchdowns against one pick in a 33-13 loss at Indy) wasn't great. It was also Foles' first start since busting his collarbone in Week 1. Let's take a breath. With Jacksonville's manageable schedule down the stretch, don't be surprised if Foles rallies the 4-6 Jags to a rollicking finish. It's kind of what he does.

5) Dak Prescott deserves to be in the MVP discussion.

This is a fact. I'm not saying he is the MVP, but Prescott is putting up incredible numbers and dominating games. He needs to at least be in the conversation.

I have long said that Ezekiel Elliott makes Prescott, even when the quarterback edged out his running back for Offensive Rookie of the Year back in 2016. But Dak has leapfrogged Zeke as the best and most dominant player on these 2019 Cowboys. Prescott just threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns (against zero picks) in Dallas' 35-27 win in Detroit, and it was all needed on a day where the Cowboys' defense didn't come to play against a Lions offense fielding a backup quarterback and a hodgepodge of unremarkable running backs.

Dak has thrown three touchdown passes in three straight games, racking up 841 passing yards in the past two weeks. There's an upper tier for MVP that is led by Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson. I had Deshaun Watson in that group before the weekend. Christian McCaffrey's team lost and Dalvin Cook took a step back. Prescott, Aaron Rodgers and maybe even Kirk Cousins can be in the top five when this wild wheel for the league's top honor stops spinning.

Dak Prescott is currently on pace to hit 5,154 passing yards. That would get him into some illustrious company in the 5,000-yard club.

6) The Minnesota Vikings can beat anyone in the NFC.

How about that Vikings' comeback for the ages? Hyperbole? Heck no! Not when you consider that, over the last five seasons, teams are now 1-99 (regular season and postseason) when trailing by 20 or more at the half. Minnesota is that 1, after inexplicably entering the break down 20-0 to the Broncos at home before battling all the way back to win 27-23. The comeback was majestic. But still, this is fiction.

I think the 49ers, Packers and Saints are all better, all more consistent and dominant. And I think Seattle can beat the Vikings, too. With Green Bay leading the NFC North, we could be looking at a Minnesota-Dallas matchup on Wild Card Weekend. I know the Vikings just beat the Cowboys in Dallas two Sundays ago, but I still cannot believe the Dallas coaching staff took the ball out of Prescott's hands at winning time. I'd pick the 'Boys in a rematch.

7) The Buffalo Bills will hit the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Oh, it's a fact. It was a fact when I named Sean McDermott's squad my Cinderella team back in April. After being rightly maligned following the Bills' 19-16 loss at Cleveland in Week 10, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called a great game in Buffalo's 37-20 win in Miami. The sizzling Josh Allen-John Brown connection served as the offensive engine, hooking up nine times for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

While the Bills have yet to record a marquee win this season, they've gotten to 7-3 by just taking care of business. This is a solid, well-coached team with a great culture and a talented young quarterback. These Bills beat the teams they are supposed to beat. That will continue for the remainder of the regular season. Take that, haters.

8) The Oakland Raiders will hit the playoffs in their farewell season.

I don't want to hear that Sunday's 17-10 win was "too close" against the lowly Bengals. Raiders fans know better than anyone that, at least in recent history, this was a game the franchise typically loses. Oakland showed it can handle success and prosperity. And the Raiders will beat the Jets this coming Sunday to improve to 7-4. Oakland will finish with 10 or 11 wins. You can mark that down. It's fact.

Derek Carr has been terrific behind that great offensive line. Josh Jacobs has changed everything as a rookie running back. And how about fourth-round steal Maxx Crosby's four-sack effort on Sunday? Mike Mayock should take a bow for this draft class.

9) With the Chicago Bears losing five of six, it's all Mitch Trubisky's fault.

There's no way around it: Trubisky's in the midst of a nightmare Year 3. I obviously hope his hip's OK, though I must admit that I shared the dubiousness of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth when they were handed the note about this hip ailment in the postgame. Was Mitch really pulled for injury? Or inability? On Monday morning, Nagy continued to elaborate on Trubisky's hip pointer being the reason he was benched. Whatever the case, Mitch has been terrible all season and simply cannot be the starter in 2020. The Bears have to know it. GM Ryan Pace is to blame for the pick and process. That said, Matt Nagy's in-game coaching is seriously lacking. Where is David Montgomery? A third-and-1 option to short side of field? Amateur hour. And I had major issues with Nagy's game management even when the Bears were winning last year.

Nagy turned a blocked kick in the playoffs into a "Woe is me!" self-fulfilling prophecy. I was stunned when Tarik Cohen broke the story on my SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio show over the summer that Nagy couldn't stop showing the team clips of the ill-fated kick! So, blame Mitch for everything if you'd like. But there's plenty of blame to go around. I say the above sentiment is fiction.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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