What an incredible weekend in the NFL. And with two weeks to go in this wild 2017 season, we know some crucial things. I think ... No, I know.
Here are some irrefutable NFL truths spawning from a memorable Week 15, Schein Nine style.
1) Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T -- and he owns the Steelers.
The Rooney family had better check the deed. It's Tom Brady who owns Pittsburgh, as evidenced again by the Patriots' 27-24 win at Heinz Field on Sunday. Brady is 11-2 against the Steelers (including the playoffs) over his illustrious career, piling up 30 touchdown passes against just four interceptions in the process. We're talkin' about a 113.0 passer rating in this series, folks. Wow. It's breathtaking and flat-out legendary.
In a game filled with many twists, turns and controversies -- and we will get to those shortly -- let's not lose sight of the fact that Brady was brilliant down the stretch. On the Patriots' final drive, with New England trailing 24-19, the ageless quarterback just kept pumping the football to Rob Gronkowski, who was inexplicably left in single coverage. Brady kept throwing strikes and Gronk kept hauling them in. Eventually, Dion Lewis finished the job with an 8-yard plunge up the middle. Of course, on the ensuing two-point conversion, it was back to the killer combo of Brady-to-Gronk. The comeback win clinched New England's 14th AFC East title in the past 15 seasons, and put the 11-3 Pats in the driver's seat for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
That was Tom Brady in crunch time -- yet another example of why he is the greatest quarterback of all time.
2) In every other universe, Jesse James caught a game-winning TD.
Shortly after Brady's typical magic, the Steelers appeared to retake the lead with 28 seconds remaining. Then replay reared its ugly head.
I know what the rule says, but even NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron began his video explanation on the James play by saying, "Roethlisberger completes a pass to James." Tony Romo saw the replay a bevy of times before even considering that the ball hit the ground. It was a catch in my eyes, in my world -- and in everyone else's. And this was overturned from the call on the field! I don't think any fair-minded Patriots fan would've complained if the touchdown were held up.
I understand the rule. I don't understand the lack of logic. Everyone should know what a catch is. It shouldn't be this hard.
3) Ben Roethlisberger made a big, BIG, game-losing mistake.
This was so terrible. I know Ben told the press that he was prepared to spike the ball, but then Todd Haley told him not to at the last second. Who knows what really happened, but here's the truth: It can't happen. Time, score, down, distance, logic, sports, math all say this was the wrong move, and it resulted in New England winning the craziest finish of the season, with the pick coming moments after Brady's comeback drive, the 69-yard catch-and-run by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the James controversy.
Pittsburgh fans should be angry at what happened with James. But what happened a couple plays later was inexplicable.
4) The Steelers are still the favorites for the AFC's No. 2 seed.
They are, even with the sobering Antonio Brown injury news. At 11-3, the Steelers just need to win out to lock up a first-round bye. And here is what awaits them over the next two weeks: at 4-10 (and Deshaun Watson-free) Houston, vs. 0-14 Cleveland. So, yes, even with Mike Tomlin's well-documented horrors against inferior teams, Pittsburgh will hold on.
But can the Steelers win in Foxborough next month? Color me skeptical on that, even if Brown is healthy.
5) The Jags are going to the playoffs ... and nobody wants to play them.
Improving to 10-4 with a 45-7 dismantling of the Texans on Sunday, the Jaguars clinched a playoff berth. What an accomplishment for Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin. The new head coach and top executive instantly turned around Jacksonville, giving the franchise its first playoff appearance since 2007. It's all about toughness, attitude and defense. Marrone, Coughlin and new players like Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Leonard Fournette changed the culture in Duval County.
And I owe one of my favorite punching bags an apology. Blake Bortles has played superb -- and winning -- football of late, with passer ratings of 119.8, 123.7 and 143.8(!) over his last three games. Nobody is more surprised than me. The 25-year-old signal caller deserves so much credit.
6) We just saw a changing of the guard in the NFC West.
After Seattle edged past the Rams in L.A. back in Week 5, I expressed great skepticism at the notion that the Seahawks had restored their NFC West reign. I really thought the Rams would take the rematch. L.A. is a better team and it's been on display all year.
7) Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL.
Oh, yeah: I've said this before. Many, many times. He humbled the Seahawks, like he does to every team. Donald finished the game with one forced fumble, two tackles for loss, three sacks and four quarterback hits. The crazy thing? Not even those stats do Donald's effort justice. He straight up wrecked this game for Seattle.
8) The Titans are playing themselves out of the postseason.
I actually wasn't the least bit surprised Tennessee (8-6) lost on Sunday, because the Niners have a better coach and quarterback than the Titans. Mike Mularkey now holds a 35-52 career mark as an NFL head coach. And Marcus Mariota has stunningly regressed in Year 3, with his yards per game, yards per attempt and quarterback rating all at career lows. The guy owns a ghastly 12:14 touchdown-to-interception ratio at the moment. I'll take Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo over those two in a millisecond.
Now the Titans finish up with a pair of 10-4 opponents in the Rams and Jaguars. I expect Tennessee to lose out. Perusing schedules, I think the Ravens (8-6), Bills (8-6) and Chargers (7-7) will all reach at least nine wins. That'd put the Titans -- again, under my assumption that they lose out -- on the outside looking in. What a letdown that would be.
9) Jimmy Garoppolo is a franchise quarterback.
I don't want to hear about Kirk Cousins or a sexy college prospect or anyone else. San Francisco has its quarterback of the future right now. The jolt Jimmy G has given this team is incredible and pronounced. This team was 1-10 when it inserted Garoppolo into the starting lineup. Since then? The 49ers have won three straight, with the new QB averaging 336 passing yards per game to go along with a 94.6 passer rating.
Jimmy G's a star. He has it. And wait until John Lynch gets more talent around him ...