The Schein Nine

NFL fact or fiction: Is Dallas king of the NFC? Packers = donezo?

Week 10 was the best chapter of this NFL season thus far. Sunday's slate of games was thrilling from start to finish. And predictably, in the immediate aftermath, opinions are bubbling up from all corners of the football-watching world. With that in mind, it's time to separate fact from fiction, Schein Nine style.

Here are nine common sentiments being bandied about by Monday morning quarterbacks across America, along with my judgment on their validity:

1) The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Dallas

This is a fact. This is a different Cowboys team, one that has earned every ounce of its gaudy 8-1 record. Damn right, this team is for real -- I've been writing as much just about every Monday for the past couple of months.

And the Cowboys' genius and greatness was on full display Sunday in Dallas' insanely entertaining 35-30 win at Pittsburgh -- the new leader in the clubhouse for NFL Game of the Year.

Ezekiel Elliott was absolutely brilliant with 209 total yards and three touchdowns on 23 touches, finishing off the Steelers with his pulsating, game-winning 32-yard TD run. This coming after Ben Roethlisberger had put Pittsburgh ahead with a fake-spike touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. (Like I said: What. A. Game.) Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense had 42 seconds to work with following Big Ben's trickery. And Dallas' dynamic rookie duo -- as well as the best offensive line in the NFL, bar none -- adroitly lifted the 'Boys to an incredible win.

I ranked Elliott, who looks like a shoo-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Pro status, third in the MVP pecking order at the halfway point in the season. He's a legit candidate, even as a rookie.

And after the game, Jerry Jones acknowledged what many of us have been saying for quite some time: Prescott's no longer just keeping Tony Romo's seat warm. While I love Romo -- and the four-time Pro Bowler is in line to be active for Week 11 -- you don't mess with success and replace Prescott, who won another monster game on the road after overcoming early adversity. Prescott has the savvy, arm, athleticism, touch, leadership and rapport with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to be entrenched.

Now, Seattle (6-2-1) will be a factor in the NFC. What a win for the Seahawks on Sunday night, knocking off the mighty Patriots in Foxborough -- on a short week, to boot. For the second consecutive week, Russell Wilson looked absolutely brilliant, notching a season-high 348 passing yards and three touchdown throws -- all of them to Doug Baldwin, who hadn't scored since Week 3. And the Seahawks' defense proved clutch down the stretch (see: Kam Chancellorforcing a fumble in the fourth quarter and then adeptly defending Rob Gronkowski to finish off a game-winning goal-line stand.)

Still, I expect Dallas to get home-field. And frankly, the Cowboys are better than the Seahawks.

2) Mike Tomlin should continue to go for two

Total fiction. This approach is utter nonsense. Jason Garrett very easily could have handed Tomlin a game ball for the Cowboys' win.

It's always easy to pile on after a loss -- but it's also accurate in this instance. Tomlin went for two all game long -- and the Steelers went 0 for 4. It was foolish and counterproductive from the start.

Please don't hit me with the Steelers' past success rate on two-point conversations. Don't tell me it is working. Pittsburgh is a 4-5 football team. This was overly egotistical coaching and it cost Pittsburgh on Sunday.

All in all, a bad look for Mike Tomlin.

3) The Green Bay Packers are finished

They can't run. They can't play defense. And they responded to Aaron Rodgers' open venting last week about an unacceptable "lack of juice" by offering up the most grotesque performance of their season.

Green Bay was simply pushed around by the physical Titans in a jarring 47-25 loss that dropped them below .500. Marcus Mariota shredded the Packers with four touchdowns through the air, while DeMarco Murray averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per carry on the ground. Offensively, Green Bay gave away the football three times, while Tennessee played turnover-free football.

The Packers, who have lost three straight and four of five, look stunningly dreadful. And I place the blame on general manager Ted Thompson, who didn't stock the cupboard with depth and talent, relying way too much on Rodgers' individual brilliance.

Yes, the Packers are awful right now. But not finished. It's fiction.

Minnesota predictably lost its fourth straight game in Washington. The Lions, who had a bye in Week 10, are in first place, thanks to the ultra-clutch play of Matthew Stafford. But Detroit is hardly a great or complete team. And the Bears are 2-7.

The Packers are on life support, but the underwhelming makeup of this year's NFC North gives them a chance.

4) The AFC West will get three teams in the playoffs

Lock it in: fact.

I still can't believe how the Broncos won on a blocked extra-point! (In a year with some questionable officiating, I totally agreed with the refs not overturning Will Parks' 84-yard scoring return. There just wasn't conclusive visual evidence to change the call on the field.)

Meanwhile, Kansas City was down 17-0 late in the second quarter but clawed back against the Panthers and "Titanic" (don't call me "Riverboat") Ron Rivera to win, 20-17. Marcus Peters stripped the ball away from Kelvin Benjamin to set up the game-winning field goal.

Now, the Chiefs and Raiders (who had a bye) are 7-2, while Denver is 7-3. All three are going to the playoffs.

5) Ryan Tannehill has found it

Oh, he deserves so much credit for turning it around after a horrendous start. In the first five games of the season, the Dolphins QB posted a TD-to-INT ratio of 6:7 and took 17 sacks. Consequently, Miami went 1-4. But over the last four games -- all Dolphins wins -- Tannehill has thrown four touchdowns against zero interceptions and taken just three sacks.

Still, this is fiction.

You can't eradicate the uninspiring start -- or the past four years. Tannehill has evened out his play and was very effective Sunday at San Diego (completing 17 of 24 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns) in a big win for Miami. But I still wonder about Tannehill's overall skills. What does he do well consistently?

6) Sunday was a big step back for the Atlanta Falcons

I think Sunday's result in Philadelphia was more of a positive for the Eagles than a negative for the Falcons. So that subhead is fiction.

Julio Jones had uncharacteristic drops. The Eagles smartly ran the ball to limit Atlanta's possessions and ease the pressure on Carson Wentz. The Falcons played a tight and competitive game on the road. While it clearly wasn't Matt Ryan's finest performance, I don't believe this is Atlanta reverting to 2015 form. Sunday was a day and a blip. Not a trend.

7) The Houston Texans are going to win the AFC South

Tennessee's absolute destruction of Green Bay was noteworthy. Indianapolis, which had a bye in Week 10, isn't dead at 4-5.

Yet, to me, this is a fact.

Houston improved to 6-3 (and 3-0 against division opponents) with a road win on Sunday. Yes, it came at Jacksonville, and the Jaguars, if you look closely enough, have postage stamps on their foreheads. (This team has mailed it in.) But in a season filled with injury and inept quarterback play -- 72 Million Dollar Man Brock Osweiler couldn't even crack the century mark in passing yards Sunday (really) -- Bill O'Brien and the Texans showed they can do enough to win.

Houston remains the cream of the crap that is the AFC South.

8) The New England Patriots are still the Super Bowl favorites

Sunday night wasn't the prettiest performance of the year for the Patriots. In fact, the New England defense looked downright confused and dreadful at times. And Seattle deserves so much credit for winning on the road.

But this is a fact.

Tom Brady tossed his first pick of the season, but don't let that cloud things. He's playing brilliant ball. And the Patriots ooze so much talent around him on offense. Also, New England's defense -- despite various issues -- remains one of the stingiest units in the NFL when it comes to points allowed.

The Pats boast the best quarterback and head coach in NFL history.

In 2016, it's the Patriots ... and everyone else. Yes, even after Sunday night's home defeat.

9) The Cleveland Browns are quite simply the worst

It's kind of odd: Cleveland is getting a pass for this fact. Are the fans just numb to the annual losing? Is it because LeBron finally delivered a championship to Cleveland, and then the Indians laudably overachieved and made it to Game 7 of the World Series?

The Browns are winless and hopeless. They won't be favored in any game the rest of the year, and I will pick against them 16 times this year. (Yes, I anticipate they'll be joining Detroit in the infamous 0-16 Club.)

Blame prior regimes. Blame (most especially, of late) owner Jimmy Haslam for rotating in all of these unqualified people leading up to this point. Blame the homeless man who told Haslam to draft Johnny Manziel.

And make sure you fault the current brass, specifically Paul DePodesta, whose famous "Moneyball" approach had the quarterback-starved Browns pass on franchise QB Carson Wentz to stockpile more picks.

I'm surprised there isn't more anger. Maybe it's because this is more of a simple (and accepted?) fact than an opinion.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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