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The Schein Nine

TRUE OR FALSE: Cowboys NFL's best team? Bengals in real trouble? Patriots cooked? Josh Allen BACK?

In Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season ...

All of that is true -- undeniably so -- but not every narrative currently flowing through the NFL world is that cut and dried.

So, with takes flying across all 32 league outposts, it's time for a game of TRUE OR FALSE, Schein Nine style.

1) Cowboys = NFL's best team today

I'm obsessed with the Cowboys, who just made quite a mark on the New York/New Jersey area. The 'Boys deserved all of the praise they received for lambasting the Giants at MetLife Stadium, 40-0. Seven days later, they manhandled the visiting Jets at Jerry World, 30-10. Unsurprisingly, Dallas' +60 point differential leads the league by a considerable margin.

Mike McCarthy has done a fantastic job juggling his dual roles as offensive play-caller and head coach. This team comes out ready to rock on both sides of the ball. In prior years -- heck, basically since the Jimmy Johnson days -- Dallas routinely messed around to start a season, playing down to the level of inferior competition. But on Sunday, McCarthy's charges played brilliant, disciplined, hardnosed, team-oriented football in every single phase. Dan Quinn's defense is amazing, suffocating opposing quarterbacks with relentless pressure and tiny throwing windows. Dak Prescott was brilliant against Gang Green, connecting with CeeDee Lamb 11 times (on 13 targets) for 143 yards, while also spreading the ball around to a bevy of backs and tight ends.

But despite all of that, I have to say the statement above is false -- just barely.

To me, it's still the 49ers by a hair. Reminder: Back in the preseason, I picked the Niners to win Super Bowl LVIII and Kyle Shanahan to earn Coach of the Year honors. That team has done nothing to sway my bullishness. In the opener, San Francisco hit the road and promptly handed Pittsburgh its worst home loss (31-7) of the Mike Tomlin era. The Niners then beat the rival Rams in Los Angeles, with Sean McVay's team fresh off destroying the Seahawks in Seattle. While the second win wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as the first, the 49ers should've won by double digits, as Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey dazzled.

So, yeah, I still have San Francisco as the league's best team, followed closely by Dallas. And if you are in your mid-40s, like me, everything suddenly feels right in the football world.

2) Micah Parsons = NFL's best player today

This is unvarnished truth. Micah Parsons looks like Lawrence Taylor 2.0 to start this season. He nearly drove the Jets' Duane Brown into retirement on Sunday, as the 38-year-old left tackle had no answer for his 24-year-old adversary's explosive pass-rushing arsenal. In fairness to Brown, who does? Parsons stuffed the stat sheet this past weekend with two sacks, four quarterback hits, a pass defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a partridge in a pear tree. This on the heels of looking like LT against the Giants in Dallas' season-opening statement.

Now, my preseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, is doing just fine with four sacks and nine QB hits on the season. Not to mention, the Steelers star just scored the first touchdown of his career in Monday night's win over the Browns. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson is doing what Justin Jefferson does: Cooking corners and leading the league in receiving yards (309). Unfortunately, his team is 0-2.

But still, Parsons is operating on a different level at the moment. Just ask the good folks over at PFF, who have Micah as their highest-graded player in 2023.

3) Chargers in big trouble

This is true. And it's a monster deal for a third-year coach whose seat must be heating up.

The Chargers have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, but I have serious reservations with Brandon Staley. Los Angeles' head man barked at a reporter who asked if the team's 0-2 start is a hangover from last season's historic playoff choke job. It all relates, at least to me. It's poor coaching, it's a losing culture and -- most damningly for Staley -- it's horrendous defense.

Staley was supposed to be a defensive guru, but the Chargers have yet to finish higher than 20th in scoring D or total D. Two weeks into this season, Los Angeles' defense has given up the third-most points and the most yards. In Week 1, Tua Tagovailoa stormed SoFi and eviscerated the Bolts' secondary with 466 yards passing in the Dolphins' shootout win. This past weekend, the Chargers traveled to Tennessee, built a double-digit lead ... and then came apart. Staley's defense yielded a bounce-back performance for Ryan Tannehill while simultaneously allowing Derrick Henry and Co. to do their normal work on the ground. The result: a 27-24 overtime win for the Titans.

The offense isn't blameless here. Justin Herbert's a spectacular talent at the quarterback position, but he's not exactly an established killer in crunch time. Per NFL Research, the Chargers are 21-10 in games with Herbert where they've led at any point in the fourth quarter. Herbert's 10 losses there lead the league since 2020. That said ...

According to the Associated Press, the Chargers are the first team in NFL history to start 0-2 despite having 50-plus points and zero turnovers. Let that sink in.

4) Bears in big trouble

After providing some thrills with a 1,143-yard rushing season in 2022, Justin Fields was supposed to enjoy a true breakout season in 2023. Following an offseason of free-agent spending, marquee-trade making and solid drafting in Chicago, the Fields-led Bears appeared poised to make some serious noise.

Not exactly.

The Bears posted the worst record in the NFL in 2022, yet somehow they look even worse in 2023, having dropped each of their first two games by double digits. Fields looks lost -- and he's getting little help from a purportedly upgraded offensive line. Matt Eberflus' defense has been shredded by Jordan Love and Baker Mayfield. With Chicago traveling to Kansas City this week, the game sure looks like an ideal get-right assignment for Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Co.

The Bears are in real trouble -- it's undeniably true. If Luke Getsy and the offensive staff can't figure out how to get better play from Fields, Chicago might have to get back on the wheel of quarterbacks. What a depressing thought for a franchise in perpetual purgatory at the game's most important position.

5) Bengals in big trouble

Even with Cincinnati playing in the best division in football, this one is false -- at least for now. What could make that statement true? Joe Burrow's calf tweak ultimately being a serious issue. We don't have much information on that front, with head coach Zac Taylor lacking much information when asked about Burrow's potential availability for this week. But if Burrow's OK, this team is loaded, battle-tested and experienced at playing catch-up.

Yes, the Bengals are 0-2. It's almost tradition under Taylor, whose Cincy teams have started out 0-2 in four of his five seasons at the helm. After last year's 0-2 start, the Bengals won 14 of their next 16 games to hit Championship Sunday -- and fell just short of punching a ticket to the Super Bowl. Frankly, I thought Sunday's 27-24 loss to Baltimore was more of a testament to the Ravens than an indictment on the Bengals. Lamar Jackson was great in that game, and John Harbaugh's team is always so tough.

Going forward, it's not hard to imagine Cincinnati making a run in its next four games before the Week 7 bye:

With that in mind, "big trouble" feels like a big stretch, given the immense talent on this roster. But admittedly, it's all about Burrow's health.

6) Patriots COOKED

Call me rash, but I think it's true. New England is 0-2 for the first time since 2001. Tom Brady, of course, made his first start in Week 3 of that season, and the rest is history. But don't count on that kind of miracle saving the 2023 season.

Sure, the Patriots' losses came against the talented Eagles and Dolphins, but both losses came in the comfy confines of Gillette Stadium. Now New England hits the road in three of its next four games.

Yes, the defense has looked good, but Mac Jones has thrown the most passes in the NFL. That is not a recipe for success. The third-year quarterback has hardly dazzled -- and in fairness to Mac, he doesn't have the requisite cats around him to constantly air it out. Now Bill O'Brien's offense faces three straight imposing defenses, with games against the rival Jets, Cowboys and Saints on tap. Is a 1-4 record likely? Wishful thinking?

It's still weird to say with Bill Belichick's team, but I just don't see many wins on the remaining schedule. The Patriots are the third-best team in the AFC East -- at best -- and you don't want to know where I place them in the loaded conference pecking order.

7) Jets should stick with Zach Wilson

No way. Completely false. Do people forget that Zach Wilson was benched in favor of journeyman Mike White last season? Remember how much the Jets rallied around White? That was telling. We've seen what Wilson is -- and saw it again in Sunday's three-pick performance. If Zach Wilson's the answer, I want to know the question.

In the wake of Aaron Rodgers' injury, this is a Super Bowl-caliber roster with one gigantic hole. Wilson's not ready to fill it. Who could be?

Maybe if the Vikings fall to 0-3 in Sunday's showdown with the similarly desperate Chargers, they will consider dealing impending free agent Kirk Cousins. Another impending free agent to watch: Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill -- especially given that the Titans have selected Day 2 quarterbacks in each of the past two drafts.

8) Josh Allen's rebound was Raider-fueled

Please. This is false. Allen was terrible -- by his own admission -- in the Week 1 loss to the Jets. But he bounced back in a major way in the Week 2 blowout of the Raiders, completing 83.8 percent of his passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. The most important stat, though: ZERO TURNOVERS. Per NFL Research, Buffalo is 22-4 in games where Allen doesn't have any turnovers. When Allen takes care of the football, the Bills win football games. It's just that simple. It also helps when Buffalo gives him the support of a run game, with James Cook converting 17 carries into 123 yards on Sunday.

Just because Buffalo beat Las Vegas by four touchdowns, that doesn't make the Raiders a terrible team. It makes the Raiders a team that ran into a buzzsaw. The Bills were rearing to go after the Week 1 turnover-fest, and Allen deftly led them to the winner's circle. For whatever reason, the haters pile on when Allen loses. But he also doesn't get the proper credit when he wins. He's terrific and so are the Bills.

9) NFC South will boast two playoff teams

Oh, heck yeah -- this is true! And it's not an overreaction after Week 2. This was my preseason call, with the Saints as the division champs and the Falcons as the NFC's No. 6 seed.

Atlanta just roared back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to nip Green Bay and improve to 2-0. Arthur Smith's run game is elite. Bijan Robinson is special. Desmond Ridder is efficient. Drake London is the truth. And this Atlanta defense stoned Jordan Love when it mattered most, as the Packers QB didn't throw for a single yard in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Atlanta's offseason overhaul has definitely taken -- the value of adding safety Jessie Bates and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, in particular, cannot be overstated.

The 2-0 Saints are for real and will indeed win the division. Their defense is exceptional, per usual. New QB Derek Carr already has superb chemistry with Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and big-play specialist Rashid Shaheed. Carr has been his usual clutch self in the fourth quarter of both wins.

And yes, I know the Buccaneers are also 2-0, but I'm not remotely there with that team yet.

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