The Schein Nine

NFL fact or fiction: Eagles NFC's best team? Dolphins AFC's best team? Serious concerns for Bucs, Chiefs?

Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Tom Brady all lost on the same day for the first time ever. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield, Justin Fields and Marcus Mariota all won, despite combining for just 505 passing yards while fumbling four times and throwing three picks.

Just another wacky Sunday Funday in the ultimate reality show that is the NFL.

Now it's time to separate fact from fiction, Schein Nine style.

1) The Eagles are the best team in the NFC

This is a fact. Now, it doesn't mean I'm telling Eagles fans to immediately book hotel reservations for Arizona in February. Just prior to kickoff of the 2022 season, I picked the Packers to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVII, and I'm sticking with that. I also still like the strong roster around Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, even with the 49ers sitting at 1-2. But in this moment right now, if my colleague Dan Hanzus asked me to power rank the NFC squads, Philly would own the No. 1 spot.

Combine the Eagles' all-around talent with a friendly schedule, and what do you get? Not just an NFC East title, but a No. 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs. I know the season's still new; some readers will claim I'm being hyperbolic. But these 3-0 Eagles are for real.

Jalen Hurts has been nothing short of spectacular. I loved him entering this season -- that's a big reason why I forecasted the Eagles would take the NFC East -- but this stellar start has exceeded my expectations. In Sunday's easy 24-8 win at Washington, Hurts shredded the Commanders' secondary to the tune of 340 yards passing and three touchdowns. In Year 3, the former second-round pick's accuracy has truly improved, as evidenced by his 67.3 completion percentage thus far. It certainly doesn't hurt to have A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith at your disposal, as the dynamic receiving duo combined to catch 13 balls for 254 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Also doesn't hurt to have one of the game's best offensive lines setting the tone up front. On the other side of the ball, Philly just piled up a whopping nine sacks of old friend Carson Wentz -- this coming one game after the deep-and-talented secondary completely flummoxed Kirk Cousins and the Vikings.

Howie Roseman assembled a fantastic roster with real Super Bowl potential, and Nick Sirianni's looking pretty deft at the controls in Year 2.

2) The Dolphins are the best team in the AFC

Now this is fiction. It's still Buffalo for me, despite the Bills' narrow loss at Miami on Sunday. Buffalo remains my pick to win the East, get the No. 1 overall seed and hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Why? Well ...

On a day in which Buffalo (2-1) missed numerous defensive starters, the game still basically came down to Josh Allen being able to convert a would-be touchdown throw on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Unfortunately, the all-world passer turfed the ball, failing to hit an open Isaiah McKenzie. I guess Allen is human after all. Looking at the box score, though, it's still hard to fathom how Buffalo lost this game. Allen threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, and also ran eight times for a team-high 47 yards. The Bills outgained the Dolphins in total offense, 497-212, and held the ball for more than 42 game minutes. Buffalo ran 90 plays. Miami? 39. It's infuriating to lose a game with those kinds of numbers. Just ask Buffalo offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey.

All that said, Miami deserves major credit here. The Dolphins knocked off the Bills despite having injury issues of their own, including the brief sidelining of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Miami also overcame a buttpunt safety. (Just watch the video if you need clarity.) The Fins are 3-0. They are supremely well coached and have a ton of speed all over the field. This is a playoff team, just like I anticipated in the preseason.

3) The Buccaneers' only real concern is getting healthy

Um, I'm not quite sure about that, so it's fiction. I know Tampa Bay was missing Mike Evans (suspension), Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) in the 14-12 home loss to Aaron Rodgers' Packers. Those absences cannot be overlooked. But the interior portion of the offensive line is a mess, increasing pressure in the air game and sapping the Bucs' ground attack.

Also, Tom Brady -- yes, I know he's the G.O.A.T. -- hasn't exactly looked like himself to start the season. He kind of looks like, well, a 45-year-old quarterback. Though you'd never expect a 23rd-year veteran to take a delay of game on a crucial two-point conversion. That was as surprising as it was mind-numbing. The Buccaneers (2-1) have yet to score a first-half touchdown this season.

Next up: A home game against a Chiefs team smarting from a disappointing loss of their own. Speaking of which ...

4) The Chiefs have no real concerns

This is a fiction. The Chargers outplayed the Chiefs in Week 2, though Kansas City was able to eke out a home win. On the road in Week 3, the Chiefs couldn't overcome some growing shortcomings, losing 20-17 at Indianapolis.

With 315 total yards, Kansas City (2-1) had its lowest offensive output in a game since Week 13 of last season. With Harrison Butker sidelined by injury, fill-in kicker Matt Ammendola missed an extra point and a 34-yard field goal attempt. Early in the fourth quarter, Andy Reid opted for a fake field goal on fourth-and-11 -- as opposed to attempting a 42-yard kick -- and the desperate decision blew up in his face. Did I mention Kansas City opened the game with a muffed-punt turnover?

Mahomes and Reid will win plenty games in the coming months because they are legends at their craft. But this Chiefs team looks worse than last year's edition. Kansas City has more question marks than we're all used to.

5) The Jags can win the AFC South

Fact! Here's a fun tidbit from the good folks at NFL Research: After Sunday's 38-10 beatdown of the injury-riddled Chargers, the Jaguars (2-1) hold sole possession of first place in the division through Week 3 for the first time since 2004. Shoot, this was Jacksonville's first road win since midway through December of 2019.

Doug Pederson has changed everything for the Jags. Trevor Lawrence is playing like the young stud we all expected he'd be, as evidenced by his 69.4 percent completion rate, 6:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and sparkling 103.1 passer rating. The widely mocked free-agent expenditures on Christian Kirk and Zay Jones have worked out swimmingly through three games, with the two wideouts combining to catch 37 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns. James Robinson, who tore his Achilles nine months ago, continues to defy conventional wisdom, logging his first 100-yard game of the season on Sunday. And Mike Caldwell's defense is flying around, having allowed just 10 points over the last eight quarters.

The division is weak. Why not Jacksonville?!

6) Lamar Jackson is the runaway MVP favorite

I'm not there yet. Even though Josh Allen lost, he still posted some more prolific numbers. And Jalen Hurts is making quite the statement to open this season. So it's fiction. But still: We must, as always, stress the genius of Jackson.

Sunday against Bill Belichick's Patriots defense, Lamar threw four touchdown passes while rushing for 107 yards and another score in a 37-26 win. This was his 12th career 100-yard rushing game -- two more than any other quarterback in NFL history. He's the first quarterback to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games TWICE in his career. And in the first three weeks of the season, Jackson has put up better numbers than he posted during his unanimous MVP campaign:

  • First three weeks of 2019: 63.0 completion percentage, 1,035 passing + rushing yards, 8 passing + rushing touchdowns, 113.9 passer rating.
  • First three weeks of 2022: 63.6 completion percentage, 992 passing + rushing yards, 12 passing + rushing touchdowns, 119.0 passer rating.

Jackson is undoubtedly right in the thick of the MVP race. He's a sensational star for the 2-1 Ravens. Guiding Sunday's bounceback after the collapse against Miami -- which certainly wasn't Lamar's fault -- was inspiring. He's special. And SO worthy of a megabucks extension.

7) Brandon Staley handled Justin Herbert just fine

NO! FICTION!

Herbert has fractured rib cartilage! He was a legit game-time decision. So, when the Chargers (1-2) entered the fourth quarter facing a 31-10 deficit, I figured we'd be in for some Chase Daniel snaps. But no: Herbert played the entire game. Why?

"He wanted to be out there with his teammates," Staley said Sunday. "He felt good, and he wanted to finish the game."

No. I can't allow that rationale. You are the coach! Save your franchise quarterback from himself! Don't let him make a painful and problematic injury worse! Wow, that was bad.

8) The Broncos are back!

How about no? This is fiction. In a game where both offenses were flat-out offensive, Russell Wilson stunningly made a couple plays (and I want to stress that: a couple plays) on Sunday night to give the Broncos an 11-10 win. Denver (2-1) was outgained by San Francisco, 267-261, but the Broncos won the turnover battle, 3-0. Wilson's final numbers -- 20-of-33 for 184 yards without a touchdown pass or interception; six rushes for 17 yards -- were nothing to write home about, especially for such a well-compensated signal-caller.

The Broncos' offense still looked pretty dreadful. Jimmy Garoppolo just looked worse. He even ran out of the back of the end zone, pulling the ol' Orlovsky for a safety! This slopfest was more about San Francisco's ineptitude than Denver's triumph.

9) The Raiders are cooked!

Well, there is no team more disappointing after three weeks than the 0-3 Raiders. My preseason take that the Las Vegas would nab the top AFC wild-card slot isn't looking too hot, eh?

You don't want to bury a team before the calendar has even turned to October, but how exactly does Las Vegas get on a run? Derek Carr wasn't aided by his receivers at all in the 24-22 loss at Tennessee. The Titans weren't all that impressive on Sunday, and yet the Raiders never led. Unacceptable.

Vegas has serious issues on the offensive line and in the run game. The defense looks like the same sieve we've become accustomed to with this team. The schedule is ultra-difficult. The conference is impossible. Josh McDaniels has done a poor job to start his Raiders career, and he's now 1-10 in his last 11 games as a head coach. I cannot believe we are here, and of course this team can get better, but wow, these Raiders are underachieving in every phase.

So, taking all of that into account, I have to say ... Fact.

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