What a weekend in the NFL.
With so many intriguing developments materializing, strong reactions -- and overreactions -- are flying like hotcakes.
Allow me to make sense of the madness and explain which statements are knee-jerk and which ones are legit, Schein Nine style:
1) The Bengals are just as good -- if not better -- with AJ McCarron at QB.
McCarron most certainly rocked steady for Cincinnati in Sunday's 24-14 win at San Francisco. This should not be a surprise to anyone. McCarron played in a whole bunch of massive college games at Alabama. And Hue Jackson is a superb offensive coordinator -- you knew he'd have McCarron ready to roll, doing everything he could to put the second-year QB in a position to succeed. I loved McCarron's reference to Tom Brady in the wake of Andy Dalton's injury. That's the ultimate story of what can happen when a backup replaces a starter. And the comment showed some moxie from McCarron. He wasn't comparing himself to Brady, just comparing the situations. And he got off to a solid start in his first NFL start.
Still, even though I am a longtime Andy Dalton skeptic (based upon his past playoff and prime-time follies), this is knee-jerk. Dalton was having a very strong season.
The Bengals were playing the lowly Niners on Sunday, and, as I wrote last week, I expected them to win. The playoffs would be a different beast for McCarron. In fact, that's true of the very next game on the schedule: "Monday Night Football" in Denver. Let's see how that goes before making any more grand pronouncements.
2) The Broncos are in danger of losing the AFC West crown.
Now, it would be nice if Vernon Davis could catch a cold. And in a similar vein, Demaryius Thomas has had a very disappointing year. I don't think he's actually getting enough heat for all of his drops. Denver rightly paid the three-time Pro Bowler handsomely this past offseason, and while he's posted another 1,000-yard campaign, it's his miscues that have stood out the most to me.
3) Kirk Cousins is the Redskins' franchise quarterback.
It hasn't been a perfect season for Cousins -- see: the home loss to Dallas earlier this month -- but he has been a really good quarterback and a really good leader for Washington. He's an ideal fit in Jay Gruden's offense. And he brings the franchise needed stability, ability and likability at the quarterback position. For Washington, he is exactly what is needed. Thus, this is completely legit. And I write this expecting Washington to lose against Philly this coming weekend. Either way, when it comes to Cousins, yes, I like that.
4) Russell Wilson is elite.
This is legit -- the antithesis of knee-jerk. Back in August on my CBS Sports Network show, "Time To Schein," I listed my top nine quarterbacks for 2015. Wilson easily made the cut. In fact, he was fifth. And he's certainly lived up to the billing down the stretch. Over the last five games, Wilson's been on a sizzling hot streak. The combined numbers: 19 touchdown passes against zero interceptions -- the most touchdown passes without a pick in a five-game span in NFL history -- with a 74.3 completion percentage and 143.6 passer rating. Factor in Jimmy Graham's injury, as well as the health woes at running back, and this run is nothing short of amazing.
5) The Panthers should rest their starters.
Oh, heck no. This is knee-jerk. The Panthers don't feel the pressure of going undefeated. There is really no intensity around it. Remember the fevered pitch of the Pats' chase? That just hasn't been the case with Carolina's perfect run -- not even close. The Panthers have been amazing, but they're hardly the consensus title pick. Many folks still consider them inferior to some teams in their own conference (like Arizona and Seattle). Heck, the Golden State Warriors' streak got far more attention and coverage. Is anyone comparing this year's Panthers to the 2007 Pats or Don Shula's Dolphins? (Everyone is considering Steph Curry's Warriors against Michael Jordan's 72-10 Bulls.)
And all of this is beautiful for Ron Rivera and Co.
Carolina is the only team on this kind of winning streak that can play the "chip on my shoulder" card. The Panthers thrive on it. On Sunday against the Giants -- just like in prior games vs. the Seahawksand Saints, among others -- they found a way to win in the fourth quarter. There's no pressure. Just consistent, dominant play, led by Cam Newton, who continues to be flat-out brilliant in an MVP season.
Rivera has changed his coaching style with his Riverboat persona. That's the temperament of this team: Go for it. Go for perfection. Go for history. It's what fuels this bunch. Being undefeated doesn't make the Panthers tight -- it makes them want to back it up and demand respect.
6) Odell Beckham Jr. should've been ejected from the game on Sunday.
This is fact. In the third quarter of a chippy game, Beckham took a blind-side cheap shot directly at Josh Norman's helmet. It was bush-league and brutal.
Plain and simple: Norman got in Beckham's head. The wide receiver committed four penalties, including three personal fouls. Beckham's actions were awful, childish and, quite frankly, dangerous. He should've been thrown out. Tom Coughlin should've benched him. And now, he must be disciplined severely. On Monday morning, NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport reported that league officials are considering a suspension. No surprise there. (UPDATE: The NFL has indeed suspended Beckham for one game.)
7) Jay Cutler's gotta go.
If you get rid of Cutler, you get back on the quarterback wheel o' death. Can you do better? I wouldn't spin the wheel.
8) The 49ers should admit their mistake and fire Jim Tomsula.
This is legit, but I'm also not naive here. Tomsula wouldn't get interviewed by another team to be the head coach. He should've never been hired by San Francisco in the first place. His best trait was location, like a house on the real-estate market. The longtime Niners assistant was there and would play nice in the sandbox with upper management. Adam Gase should've been the choice, and he was very much in play.
I'd say the Niners need to make a move here, but who knows what to expect from this team's brass?
9) The Bills should admit their mistake and fire Rex Ryan.
Also legit. First guess. I've said it many, many times: Rex Ryan is not a good head coach. The long-suffering Bills fans and the Pegulas got duped by the shtick. It's rather sad. More empty promises, more penalties, and a defense that has completely fallen apart and regressed under the watchful eye of a purported "defensive genius."
And to think, the other option was to hire Hue Jackson and retain Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator. But Rex equaled buzz. I feel for the Bills Mafia. They deserve so much better.