Week 13 definitely didn't disappoint on the drama side of things. Consequently, the takes are flowing.
Here are my top ones that won't change in the final quarter of the regular season, Schein Nine style:
1) Mike McCarthy was/is a heckuva coach.
Mike McCarthy had a fantastic run with the Green Bay Packers. He deserves to have his name go up in the ring of honor at Lambeau Field. I feel terrible that former general manager Ted Thompson never gave McCarthy requisite talent. Still, McCarthy had a poor season in the big chair. Coaching decisions negatively impacted the Seattle loss. The 2018 Packers have grossly underachieved. But McCarthy is going to be a highly desired coaching candidate immediately.
All can be -- and is -- true.
Mike McCarthy went 125-77-2 coaching Green Bay. Since McCarthy was hired in 2006, the Packers have the best winning percentage in the NFC. He would be a fantastic coach for the Browns (who already fired Hue Jackson) or Jets (who could be poised to move on from Todd Bowles). McCarthy would be fantastic for rookie signal-callers Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold. McCarthy is so detail-oriented and a great play-caller and offensive guru. Those two teams, among many others, would be lucky to have him -- and they'd win.
The writing for this was on the wall in Green Bay, with the Packers going 11-16-1 over the last two seasons (and 4-7-1 in 2018). Sometimes you max out your impact on a team, and there's nowhere to go but down. It happened. The arrow was pointing the wrong way in Titletown. But don't let this cloud the run. Or the Seattle debacle from four seasons ago. Packers fans rightly remember the meltdown on Championship Sunday back in January of 2015, and they should. Green Bay should've gone to Super Bowl XLIX and nabbed another Lombardi Trophy. But, as I've long argued, Thompson was the reason why McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers didn't win more. Rodgers is the most talented quarterback in NFL history. He was never surrounded with the right pieces. Thompson's reluctance to bring in free agents -- and his spotty draft hauls -- doomed Rodgers and McCarthy. Green Bay rarely had playoff talent, let alone a Super Bowl squad. Still, McCarthy and Rodgers consistently got the Pack to the playoffs.
Sometimes change can benefit everyone involved. And here's hoping Packer Backers have rightful perspective on a positive run. The Green Bay job is one of the best in sports. Aaron Rodgers is still the Michael Jordan of the NFL. And the good news is, Ted Thompson is no longer employed as the general manager.
2) The Chargers are indeed better than the Steelers.
That needs to be stressed on the heels of the Chargers storming back on Sunday night, erasing a 16-point deficit and edging the Steelers 33-30 at Heinz Field. Don't let the wild-and-wacky nature of this game impact you. Yes, the Chargers scored touchdowns on a blatant (but missed) false start and a batted ball in the end zone. Yes, the Steelers jumped offsides three times on what was ultimately the game-winning field goal. But the ultra-talented and well-coached Chargers turned it on in the second half. Future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers was fantastic (26-of-36 for 299 yards and two touchdowns against zero picks) and led L.A. on the game-winning drive. He was sensational, as he has been all year. And in his third game of the season, Joey Bosa delivered his third sack -- a key fourth-quarter play setting up Desmond King's 73-yard punt return that allowed the Bolts to tie the game (with the ensuing two-point conversion).
3) The Texans will end the regular season on a 13-game winning streak.
I said it before the Week 11 game against the Redskins on the CBS Sports Network airwaves, and I'm staying with it: Houston, which began the season at 0-3, will enter the playoffs at 13-3.
And Houston has everything you are looking for in a Super Bowl team. A quarterback who makes plays. A star receiver. A solid run game. A fantastic pass rush. This group is super confident -- and it's the most well-rounded team in the AFC. Don't let past playoff memories of Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates blind you from the spectacular upside of these red-hot Texans.
4) Patrick Mahomes is the MVP.
I don't want to be redundant. I've been harping on this point for many, many weeks now, providing nuggets of domination and A+ grades on the eye test. But for good measure, let's update. In his first year as an NFL starter, Mahomes now has seven games with four-plus touchdown passes. Think about that. Drew Brees has three such games to his name in 2018. Aaron Rodgers has one in the last two seasons combined. Tom Brady has two since 2017.
There are great candidates for the NFL's highest individual honor in 2018. As an Associated Press voter, Mahomes is my guy. And he should be yours, too.
5) The Cowboys are winning the NFC East.
Dallas' defense is amazing. I've been arguing all season that the Cowboys boast a top-two defensive unit in the league. That said, I never expected the ebb and flow of the win we saw in JerryWorld last Thursday, when the 'Boys absolutely stifled Sean Payton's offense in an eye-opening 13-10 result. Brees was rocked and rattled. I've never seen that before -- at least to that degree. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are young stars at linebacker. And the offense rightly goes through Ezekiel Elliott, an all-around terror for opposing defensive coordinators.
With a great run game and defense, Dallas (7-5) will take the division and be a tough out in January. Imagine concretely believing that just a month ago, when Jason Garrett's club was sitting at 3-5, having just lost by 14 points at home to the Titans.
6) The Ravens are Lamar Jackson's team.
Sunday represented the dynamic rookie's first ever road start -- and he passed the test by delivering a double-digit win in Atlanta. Jackson has 265 rushing yards in his first three starts -- an NFL record for a quarterback since the merger. In a related story, Baltimore has outrushed its opponents 716-149 over the past three weeks. In their first nine games of the season, the Ravens totaled 834 rushing yards. The Ravens have now scored in 18 straight quarters, which is a franchise record.
Jackson has it. The team feeds off his smarts and speed and energy and play-making ability. Flacco should not play another down for Baltimore. The Ravens own the second wild-card spot in the AFC playoff picture. Jackson gives them the best chance to hold onto it and hit the postseason for the first time since 2014.
7) The Bengals need a new coach.
How does Marvin Lewis still hold this job? The Bengals (5-7) are on their way to a third straight sub-.500 campaign, especially with a remaining schedule that includes road games against the Chargers and Steelers. In his 16 years at the helm of Mike Brown's team, Lewis has guided Cincinnati to the playoffs seven times, failing to win a single postseason game. That 0-7 mark is glaring. And while the Bengals seemed to have one of the most talented rosters in football just a few years back, the roster has atrophied, as evidenced by Cincy's six losses in its past seven outings.
Lewis is like Freddy or Jason from the horror flicks. You think they are dead, but somehow, some way, they come back to torment you. But with this once-promising Bengals team (which, back in early October, was 4-1) totally coming apart over the last couple months, it's finally time. It's been time. For years. But this feels different. I think ...
8) The Bills have their quarterback.
Is it too early to pick Buffalo to make the playoffs next year after they address the offensive line and receiving corps in the coming offseason?
Unlike many, I loved Josh Allen throughout the draft process. And you're seeing why, as he continues to compete despite being flanked by overmatched offensive talent. Yes, the Bills (4-8) lost in Miami on Sunday, but don't blame Allen. The rookie QB completed 18 of his 33 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns AND he rushed for 135 yards on just nine carries. OK, he threw two picks, but one came on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half.
Allen oozes talent. It's his team. His show. And Sean McDermott is a really solid coach. These two -- and the Bills, in general -- have a bright future.
9) The Seahawks are making the playoffs.
And it's remarkable, considering this was clearly supposed to be a transitional (rebuilding) season for Pete Carroll's team. Seattle's 7-5 and currently holds the No. 5 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks could end up at 10-6, given their remaining schedule: vs. MIN, at SF, vs. KC, vs. AZ. I've got them beating the Vikings at home next Monday night. Heck, 9-7 might get Seattle into the postseason. Who else do you trust in the NFC wild-card field? And remember: The Seahawks have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the rapidly fading Panthers.
Seattle has a star quarterback and a great coach. The O-line, run game and defense have outkicked all of my expectations entering the season. The 'Hawks are beyond legit and definitely playoff-caliber.