In the wake of every NFL Sunday, takes fly across this football-crazy country, from sea to shining sea. And the seventh Sunday of the 2019 season -- a day that saw more road teams win than lose, a day that featured a number of surprising blowouts and a day that produced some monster individual performances -- certainly provoked strong sentiments, both positive and negative.
So, this feels like a perfect time to dust off a semi-regular segment in Schein Nine programming: FACT OR FICTION?
1) The Green Bay Packers are the best team in the NFC.
This is indeed factual. And that's no disrespect to the conference's last remaining undefeated team, the 6-0 San Francisco 49ers. I appreciate these Niners and love that the great Kyle Shanahan gave his dad, Mike, the game ball after he went into Washington and beat the Redskins 9-0 in a weather-waylaid contest. Yes, the Niners have played the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL entering Monday night's contest, but you can only play the games on your slate, all of which San Fran has won. And how about Sean Payton's Saints, who have now prevailed in five straight games without the injured Drew Brees? Simply remarkable.
Rodgers has been playing well all season, despite how his fantasy owners felt about the 35-year-old QB over his first six games. It was all building to a vintage performance from the two-time MVP -- and on Sunday, we got it. In Green Bay's 42-24 win over the Raiders, Rodgers completed 80.6 percent of his passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns, while also running for an additional score. And for the first time in the storied history of the Packers franchise, Green Bay's quarterback finished a game with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Did I mention Rodgers accomplished this withoutDavante Adams, working with hobbled and no-name wideouts? Sunday's showing by No. 12 was, as my on-the-scene colleague Jeffri Chadiha put it, a frightening statement to the rest of the NFL.
The Packers have a great defense that currently ranks ninth in points allowed. They're clearly starting to come into their own offensively. And most importantly, you don't hear any more foolish chatter about Rodgers' relationship with first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. Green Bay was my preseason pick to represent the amazing NFC in Super Bowl LIV, and seven Sundays into the season, I have no reason to think otherwise.
2) The Chicago Bears cannot succeed with Mitch Trubisky.
This is an absolute fact. And the fact is, I predicted the Saints, even without Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, would march into Chicago and win this game because they have the better coach and the better quarterback. Trubisky was terrible yet again in Chicago's 36-25 loss, a game that wasn't even as close as the final score might indicate. The third-year quarterback consistently misses makeable throws. Forget about comparing Mitch to 2017 draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, both of whom were selected after Trubisky. Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback on the field Sunday. And honestly, Chase Daniel looks like the best Bears gunslinger at the moment.
For good measure, Bears coach Matt Nagy and Trubisky completely botched the game management at the end of the second quarter. Nagy's play-calling leaves a lot to be desired -- and I thought this last year, when he was named Coach of the Year.
3) The Philadelphia Eagles have major problems.
This is fiction. Yes, they need help at corner. But Sunday night's 37-10 result was more about the tried-and-true formula of the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott was excellent behind a healthy offensive line. Zeke makes Dak Prescott, but the quarterback definitely rocked steady in his own right. Dallas' pass rush was excellent, flummoxing Carson Wentz, who had no help from his targets in the passing attack.
Philly is an unacceptable 3-4. But the story on Sunday night was Dallas. And this is what should be expected of these loaded 'Boys every single week. At the end of the day, though, the Eagles are still just one game out of first place.
4) The Indianapolis Colts had the biggest win of the weekend.
I love what Indy did to the Texans. That's a big-time win. But I wasn't surprised, so the above statement's fiction.
Baltimore's defense has been maligned much of this season. Sunday, though, the unit stifled a red-hot Russell Wilson. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta made a really smart trade getting Marcus Peters from the Rams in a classic change-of-scenery move, and the ballhawking cornerback immediately provided a 67-yard pick-six. Lamar Jackson outplayed Wilson and made a statement on the MVP race.
The Ravens entered the game in control of the AFC North, but I wasn't quite a believer. Sunday changed that for me. And with a great coaching staff and general manager, Baltimore's heading in the right direction as we move toward the second half of the season.
5) The NFC West is the best division in football.
An obvious fact. San Fran is for real, with a sensational defense leading the way. Seattle is still strong, despite Sunday's setback against the Ravens. The Rams needed a get-right game, and everyone gets right against these defunct Falcons. Not to mention, I loved L.A.'s aggressive trade for Jalen Ramsey. Lastly, don't look now, but Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals have won three straight! Great effort and win by Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, Chase Edmonds and Murray.
I trust the totality of the teams in the West over that of the NFC North.
6) Kirk Cousins is BACK.
Was I impressed by his performance (24 of 34, 337 yards, four TDs, 0 INTs) in a big 42-30 win at Detroit? Obviously. Is he back? Well, I am going to need to see a little more. Honestly, what does Cousins being back even mean? So I'll say fiction, for now.
Now, as everyone knows, Cousins has a knack for coming up small in prime-time games. And there's a rather large one for him this Thursday against the Redskins, who refused to truly make him their guy. Cousins deserves so much credit for what he's done over the past three weeks, but I need to see it for a little longer -- and see if his heartbeat is racing on "Thursday Night Football."
7) Sunday was a bad day for the Buffalo Bills.
Oh, stop. Total fiction. I don't care that the ebb and flow of Buffalo's win over the winless Dolphins was more competitive than everyone anticipated, with the Bills actually trailing at the start of the fourth quarter. Josh Allen played winning football. Sean McDermott's defense is among the elite units in the league. Buffalo took care of business. The Bills are going to live up to my hype and make the playoffs.
8) Pat Shurmur is overmatched.
The Giants were inexplicably as flat as a pancake at home, despite having nine days to prepare for this winnable game against the Cardinals. While Big Blue has a series of problems right now, they begin with a head coach who has yet to show us he knows what he's doing in the big chair. Shurmur, who owns a career head-coaching record of 17-39, just has no in-game feel. How much trust do you have in Shurmur fostering rookie QB Daniel Jones' growth?
9) The Los Angeles Chargers are the biggest disappointment in the NFL.
Only the Chargers can lose the way they did -- with the most mind-numbing end-of-game sequence of the year -- in Sunday's 23-20 defeat at Tennessee. The Bolts lead the league in moments where you think they won ... only to lose. They reinvent ways to lose. Always. And I thought they would be strong this year, even with all the injuries.
Yet, I still have to call that statement fiction, because the NFL's biggest disappointment is 1-6 Atlanta. The Falcons have no clue. No pulse. No life. They rank 31st in scoring defense -- and despite all the talent on offense, they rank just 19th in scoring. How is Dan Quinn still employed? Really.