Another fantastic NFL Sunday is in the books. With three more Sundays left in the regular season, the drama is heating up. In a related story, the hot takes are flowing.
In this edition of Schein Nine, allow me to pass judgment on some of the opinions making the rounds. Are they legitimate statements or knee-jerk reactions?
1) Le'Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL.
My goodness, Bell has been out of this world during Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak. In victories over the Browns, Coltsand Giants, he averaged 128 yards rushing and 47 receiving. Not too shabby, eh? Then on Sunday, he absolutely destroyed and embarrassed the Bills. In the Steelers' 27-20 road win, Bell carried the ball 38 times for 236 yards (a franchise record) and three touchdowns. Oh, and he added 62 receiving yards for good measure.
Major props to offensive coordinator Todd Haley for emphasizing the run and having the offense go through Bell. The 24-year-old back is a special player in his prime, and he's going to guide the Steelers to the playoffs.
But this is knee-jerk. In fact, for 2016, Bell's not even in the top three.
2) The Giants are the biggest threat to the Cowboys in the NFC.
Wow, what a win for New York. I was dead wrong on this game. I thought the Cowboys wouldn't lose again this year. And I thought the Giants would take a step backward with a tough remaining schedule and the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul on defense. Sunday night's 10-7 defensive stalemate was fantastic to watch.
Still, this is knee-jerk. Because it's the Packers who are Dallas' biggest NFC threat. Now, hear me out.
I'm on record saying the Cowboys are undoubtedly the No. 1 title contender in the NFL this season. They are built for a Super Bowl run. I still believe that, even after Sunday night.
Rodgers carving up a Seattle defense sans Earl Thomas was an easy prediction. The guy is special. Always has been. It's not his fault the cupboard is bare and the run game is non-existent. If (when) Green Bay makes the playoffs, Rodgers inherently will be piping hot. And the defense, led by dynamic safety Morgan Burnett, will be making plays (see: picking off Russell Wilsonfive times on Sunday).
3) Tony Romo should replace Dak Prescott.
The is the epitome of knee-jerk.
Dak struggled mightily Sunday night, completing just 17 of his 37 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions. But let's relax for a second. On the whole this season, Prescott's been amazing, as evidenced by his 20-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio and 102.7 passer rating. The Cowboys' are still 11-2 under his direction.
You don't even think about it. And you don't create a quarterback controversy. End of story.
4) Kirk Cousins has done enough to warrant a monster contract.
You like that? Oh, you like that.
This is absolutely legitimate.
Cousins led the Redskins to a crucial road win at Philadelphia on Sunday. And he did it in a gutty manner. His fourth-quarter pick-six turned the momentum in Philly's favor, and the Eagles eventually took the lead with less than five minutes remaining. Then Cousins led Washington on an eight-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The fifth-year QB jump-started the march with a perfect ball to Jamison Crowder that went for a 33-yard gain, and he sustained the drive with a fourth-and-1 completion Pierre Garcon.
On the season, Cousins' numbers are outstanding: 67.5 completion rate, 23-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio, 8.2 yards per attempt and a 100.3 passer rating. The feel is even better. Cousins was the reason Washington made the playoffs last year. He's the reason why I think the 7-5-1 Redskins will make the playoffs again this year -- and the reason they're a dark-horse Super Bowl contender, as I wrote a few weeks ago. Cousins is the reason why I think Washington is going to run the table over the next three weeks.
Jay Gruden and Cousins share the same vision for this offense, and Cousins is the perfect fit. In a league where you either have a franchise quarterback or you don't -- and Washington has been lacking in this area for much of the last few decades -- Kirk Cousins is worth every penny.
5) Miami's playoff dreams are dead without Ryan Tannehill.
They are on life support. It was initially feared that Tannehill tore his ACL in Sunday's win over the Cardinals, though Adam Gase said on Monday that the initial diagnosis is a sprained ACL/MCL. This is great news in the sense that the injury probably won't require surgery, but it's still unclear if Tannehill will be able to play again this season.
Still, Miami isn't dead. Not yet. Even with the major drop-off to Matt Moore (MATT MOORE!!), this is knee-jerk.
The good news about winning games is the league doesn't make you give them back, even if they come at a cost. And Miami beat Arizona to get to 8-5. The scheduling gods have the Dolphinsfacing the lowly Jets and the Bills (albeit both on the road) before a tough season finale against New England. Thus, Miami can still get to 10 wins.
Now with Matt Moore (MATT MOORE!!) set to fill in for Tannehill, possibly for the rest of the season, there's a realistic chance Miami slips up against an aforementioned cupcake. And allow me to make one thing clear: I am not picking Miami to make the playoffs. But Gase has done a really good job this year. And Miami survived the Cardinals on Sunday. So there's a chance.
6) The Falcons are going to win the NFC South.
This is legit.
It certainly doesn't hurt Atlanta that the defense is showing signs of life, at least in the form of a few young playmakers. How about the way Vic Beasley has stepped up this year? Tied for the NFL lead with 13.5 sacks? Very impressive. And rookie safety Keanu Neal has been an impact player, too. Defense isn't going to carry this Falcons team -- See: No. 28 ranking in both yards and points allowed -- but the unit can complement Atlanta's explosive offese if it continues to force turnovers and get to the opposing quarterback.
The Falcons can't slip up with the Bucs on a roll. Tampa Bay has taken five straight and will end up with 10 wins. The Bucs are gonna lose this coming Sunday night in Dallas, but then I see them finishing off season sweeps of the Saints and Panthers. Jameis Winston has been incredibly tough. And Gerald McCoy, who is getting my vote for first-team All-Pro, continues to spearhead a defense that is hitting its stride at the right time. The Bucs' D has now smashed Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees in consecutive weeks. That's playoff impressive.
Still, I like Ryan and Co. to give Atlanta its first division title -- and first playoff appearance -- since 2012.
7) Derek Carr lost the MVP on Thursday night.
Are you nuts? Take a deep breath. With three games remaining, Carr is still my choice for the league's top individual honor. That take defines knee-jerk reaction.
But it doesn't eradicate a season of brilliance.
Matthew Stafford has thrown four interceptions this season against the expansion-grade Bears. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the first loss to the Giants. Matt Ryan threw a pair of picks that were returned for scores in a one-point loss to Kansas City. Tom Brady has been sensational, but -- while I believe the Deflategate punishment should've never happened -- he was suspended and missed four games. Brady's team went 3-1 without him.
Every candidate has a wart or two.
If Carr struggles down the stretch, he won't get my vote. But as of now, he absolutely will. Carr's earned it, carrying the 10-3 Raiders back to NFL relevancy.
8) Matt Barkley has shown enough to be the 2017 Bears' starting QB.
Truth be told, Barkley had a great opportunity to beat the Lions, but he couldn't beat Jeff Triplette and his crew. There was a bevy of questionable calls, especially on the Bear's final drive. Barkley did everything right, again. But he received no help, again.
That said, this is knee-jerk.
The Barkley-led Bears had chances to beat the Lions and Titans. The quarterback made big-time throws, only to be doomed by an insane volume of drops and referee gaffes. Barkley has out-kicked expectations and done so without the services of Alshon Jeffery (who's been suspended). Should Chicago bring him back as a back-up? I think he's earned that. Give him the keys to the car? Absolutely not.
At the end of the day, he's gone 1-2 this season, with a 54.6 percent completion rate and a 4:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Let's not completely lose track of reality here.
9) Bryce Petty has shown enough to be the 2017 Jets' starting QB.
I laughed as I typed that. Knee-jerk!