Week 6 provided another series of twists and turns in the NFL, with the league's last two unbeaten teams suffering defeat. In related news, the takes are flying across the football world.
So, which emerging narratives have legs? What's real and what's really suspect?
Let's play another round of TRUE OR FALSE, Schein Nine style.
1) The Patriots have hit rock bottom
The Patriots produced not one but two glaring snapshots of futility in Sunday's loss to the Raiders:
- Mac Jones' gruesome interception deep in Las Vegas territory in the second quarter, when New England had a chance to cut into a 10-3 deficit.
- DeVante Parker's drop of a beautifully thrown ball with less than two minutes left that would have put the Pats close to field-goal range while down two points.
The defeat sealed the first 1-5 start in Bill Belichick's 29 years as a head coach. Jones is playing terrible football -- over the past three games, he has zero touchdown passes and seven turnovers. In Mac's defense, though, the offensive line is dreadful, with Pro Football Focus grading New England's run blocking at 24th and pass blocking at 30th. Honestly, the Pats have looked anemic in nearly every phase of the game. The offense has little juice at the skill positions. The defense is likely to be without injured sack leader Matthew Judon (4.0) until at least Week 14 and stud rookie CB Christian Gonzalez for the rest of the season. Though the Pats rank 10th in yards allowed, they give up 25.3 points per game, tied for 24th in the NFL. Meanwhile, New England's scoring 12 points per game, ranking 31st in the league (barely above the Giants).
And yet, despite all of that, I think the above claim is false, which speaks volumes about just how much worse things can get. After all, look at the next two opponents: the 4-2 Bills and 5-1 Dolphins. How many more wins do you see on this schedule? These are tough times in Foxborough -- and they're only going to get tougher.
2) The Cowboys are BACK
Like it or not, this is true. Prior to Monday night, the Cowboys' victories had come against the Giants, Jets and Patriots, three flawed teams that have five wins between them so far this season. Meanwhile, Dallas had been upset by the Cardinals and trounced by the 49ers. The 'Boys needed to beat a talented Chargers squad -- and on a weird and wild edition of Monday Night Football, that's exactly what they did.
Dak Prescott was strong, throwing for 272 yards and one score and rushing for 40 yards and another TD -- while committing zero turnovers. His connection with CeeDee Lamb (seven catches on seven targets for 117 yards) was sparkling. After totaling 64 scrimmage yards in each of his past two games, Tony Pollard topped 100 for the third time this season, 60 of which came on a monster catch-and-run to open the fourth quarter. And Micah Parsons' first sack since Week 3 was impeccably timed, a pulsating takedown of Justin Herbert with under two minutes left that helped seal the three-point win. With the spotlight shining as it always does on Dallas, the Cowboys came through with a total team and coaching effort that kept them from falling to .500.
3) Brock Purdy is turning into a pumpkin
This is SO false. Yes, Brock Purdy lost for the first time ever as a regular-season starter, a stunning result against the P.J. Walker-led Browns. No, Purdy didn't play well, completing just 44.4 percent of his passes for 125 yards and one TD against one pick. But we can't forget that San Francisco lost Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel to injury. Not to mention, the weather conditions certainly weren't at their finest in Cleveland, with Purdy clearly struggling to grip a wet ball at times. The Browns' defense, meanwhile, was absolutely sensational -- what a brilliant coaching job by coordinator Jim Schwartz. Those who actually watched the game know Cleveland deserves credit for holding San Francisco to 17 points and 215 yards, or roughly half the Niners' average output (33.4 points and 402.6 yards per game) entering Week 6.
Despite those obstacles, Purdy still drove his team down to the Browns' 23-yard line in the fourth quarter, where a successful 41-yard field goal would have given San Francisco a 20-19 lead with just a few ticks left. It's not Purdy's fault rookie Jake Moody's kick sailed wide right.
You can call Purdy's performance poor. You can praise Cleveland's defense. Whatever you do, though, jump off the Purdy bandwagon at your own risk. Even after Sunday's stinker, he owns the NFL's best TD-to-INT ratio (10:1) and second-best passer rating (111.9). The quarterback remains a stud, and the Niners remain the best team in the NFL.
4) The Lions are legit contenders
The 2023 Lions are tough. They have dealt with adversity, succeeding despite injuries to several key players on both sides of the ball, including Brian Branch, Jahmyr Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and, against Tampa on Sunday, David Montgomery. They can win any style of fight. Jared Goff is a stud quarterback -- yes, with Goff boasting the NFL's third-best passer rating at 105.1, it's time to admit this truth, too -- and he's surrounded by a robust supporting cast on offense. Coach Dan Campbell is 13-3 in his last 16 regular-season games, with a 7-1 record on the road in that span. Ben Johnson is a game-changing offensive coordinator, and Aaron Glenn runs a rock-solid defense.
Detroit is 5-1 for the first time since 2011. Right now, I think the Lions are the second-best team in the NFC (behind only the 49ers), with a viable chance to make a real Super Bowl run. I love watching this team thrive -- and the long-suffering fan base deserves to enjoy it.
5) C.J. Stroud is separating in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race
Oh, heck yeah: TRUE. It's a solid field, too. Rams WR Puka Nacua burst out of the gates with a record-setting first month, while Dolphins RB De'Von Achane ran wild before a knee injury landed him on IR. And of course, Falcons RB Bijan Robinson provides weekly highlights. But through six weeks of action, nobody's been more impressive than Texans QB C.J. Stroud.
Remember all the second-guessing of Stroud throughout the pre-draft process? Remember the S2 Cognition test?! Yeah, apparently that's not the be all, end all, eh? I had a good laugh about that with first-year Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," earlier this month. Stroud, who's averaging 276.7 passing yards per game while owning a sparkling 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio, is an absolute stud. He's super bright, protects the football and still rips it into tight throwing windows. The 22-year-old deftly distributes the pigskin and just wins games, as evidenced by the 2023 Texans (3-3) already equaling the win total of the 2022 Texans (3-13-1). The culture has changed in Houston. I love this coach and quarterback, and the way Houston showed toughness in every phase to beat the Saints on Sunday.
You get extra credit in awards season when you're a winning quarterback, and that's C.J. Stroud.
6) The Rams will make the playoffs
This is true. I love the way Matthew Stafford is playing. Cooper Kupp is back and dominant as ever, suddenly giving Stafford a wealth of WR riches when you also factor in rookie sensation Puka Nacua and third-year breakout Tutu Atwell. Kyren Williams stabilized the running attack, though now he's dealing with a sprained ankle, so the Rams might need to re-jigger their approach. No worries: Sean McVay is obviously a tremendous coach -- and not the only one on this sideline. Raheem Morris has Los Angeles' defense playing much better than many anticipated, with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Donald predictably leading the way.
I dig this team. After a painful, injury-riddled Super Bowl hangover in 2022, the Rams are competing at a high level again in 2023. L.A. currently sits in the No. 7 seed, and that's not a fluke. These Rams are on a path back to the postseason.
7) The Eagles should be concerned
Philadelphia just suffered its first loss. The Eagles remain alone atop the NFC East at 5-1. And yet, given the high standard set by the reigning NFC champions, I believe that statement is true.
Even before Sunday's defeat to the Jets, I was already worried about Jalen Hurts looking off with a new offensive coordinator (Brian Johnson, who received the reins after Shane Steichen took the head-coaching job in Indianapolis). And then the quarterback went out and tossed three interceptions, including a mind-numbing pick late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were clinging to a two-point lead. Honestly, that was also a terrible job by Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, allowing the ball to be thrown on third-and-9, despite the time and score. Run the ball, bleed the clock and if you don't get first down, punt and force Zach Wilson to put together a legit drive. Just bad process.
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter against an offensively challenged Jets team ... and then didn't score another point, ultimately losing 20-14. A brutal defeat. Did I mention Lane Johnson is banged up? So is Jalen Carter. And this Sunday night brings a date with the hyper-explosive Dolphins. Nothing is dire in Philly, but there are indeed concerns.
8) The Falcons should make a QB change
No, that's false. Now, second-year pro Desmond Ridder was indeed terrible in a very winnable game against the Commanders. Three picks, a killer delay of game in the low red zone -- just a hot mess of a performance in the quarterback's first ever home loss (in college or the NFL).
But in my conversation with Arthur Smith last Friday on SiriusXM Radio, the Falcons coach made it abundantly clear that even mentioning Taylor Heinicke or a potential quarterback change would be counterproductive to a young team and a young quarterback. Smith believes in Ridder. And I believe in Smith.
9) The Bengals are BACK
Joe Burrow sizzled in the first half. I'm not worried about the offense hitting the wall after the break. The most important thing: Burrow looked healthy; he looked back. And Lou Anarumo's defense picked up the slack in the second half, providing takeaways and inspired stands.
After a rough start to the season, Cincinnati hits the bye at 3-3. This break will allow Burrow to get even healthier before the schedule really toughens up (SEE: at San Francisco and vs. Buffalo immediately following this week off). While all four AFC North squads remain squarely in the playoff race, I still believe a healthy Burrow makes Cincy the team to beat.