Tom Cruise demanded it. Jack Nicholson said he couldn't handle it.
THE TRUTH. Sometimes it's stranger than fiction, sometimes it hurts. But the truth must be told!
Six Sundays into the 2022 NFL season, I feel like Jack. In this parity-driven league, certain developments still raise eyebrows. But I have to trust my eyes. I must provide the truth. You want me on that wall! You NEED me on that wall!!
So here are some early truths you must handle, Schein Nine style.
1) Josh Allen > Patrick Mahomes
This has become a real thing over Allen's past dozen football games, including the playoffs. The pendulum swung in this direction in the middle of last December, with No. 17 carrying the Bills on his back.
Allen since Week 15 of last season: 10-2 QB record, 34:8 TD-to-INT ratio, 105.7 passer rating; 6.3 yards per carry, 51.9 rushing yards per game, four rushing touchdowns.
Don't get me wrong: I love Mahomes. Good luck finding a quarterback with a more impressive résumé through his first four years as an NFL starter. Shoot, the league could've renamed the AFC Championship Game as The Patrick Mahomes Invitational. Good thing they didn't, though -- because there's a new conference sheriff in town.
Allen began this season as the MVP favorite. He's only furthered the cause since. His latest feat of MVP strength: Storming Arrowhead Stadium, outdueling Mahomes and giving the Bills (5-1) a major leg up in the race for the coveted No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Buffalo trailed 20-17 in hostile territory with just under six minutes remaining on Sunday. Then Allen led the Bills on a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive, spectacularly hurdling a would-be tackler for a first down before delivering a precision laser to Dawson Knox for the go-ahead touchdown. Mahomes' response? A game-sealing pick on the second snap of Kansas City's ensuing possession, dropping the Chiefs to 4-2.
Josh Allen is the best quarterback in the NFL. The numbers support it. The eye test confirms it. And we'll all be able to enjoy the show into February, with Allen leading to the Bills to their first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.
2) The Giants and Jets are legit
The Bills aren't the only New York-area team sitting pretty ...
The Giants are 5-1! Comeback wins over the Packers and Ravens in consecutive weeks? Wow. Nothing fluky about that -- it's time to believe. Back in March, I wrote the following sentence in this space: Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll taking over as the Giants' new general manager and head coach, respectively, is the best news this franchise has had in a decade. And this is why. These Giants play hard. They are prepared. They max out as a roster. And take a glance at the schedule, with remaining games against the 2-4 Jaguars, the 1-3-1 Texans, the 1-4 Lions and a pair vs. the 2-4 Commanders. The G-Men, even with talent flaws, should hit double-digit wins for the first time since 2016, three head coaches ago.
The Jets -- who've ridden a three-game win streak to 4-2 -- are for real, too. I was dead wrong on my projection for this team. It's a major credit to general manager Joe Douglas, whose draft picks over the last two years shine on a weekly basis. Sauce Gardner is a stud cornerback in Year 1. Rookie RB Breece Hall is a home run waiting to happen. Second-year pro Alijah Vera-Tucker is a versatile weapon on the offensive line. And of course, second-year head coach Robert Saleh has put it together brilliantly. Good thing he kept those receipts in September.
3) The Packers have real problems
The Jets smoked the Packers, 27-10. In Lambeau. Just think about that for a second. And with the way Green Bay's offense is playing, there's no time to R-E-L-A-X.
Back-to-back reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers has been off all season. He misses Davante Adams. Obviously. But the offensive issues are widespread. The O-line has been poor, with David Bakhtiari still getting back in the swing of things after basically missing the entire 2021 season due to a torn ACL and Elgton Jenkins not looking like himself following his own ACL tear. The receivers have been subpar, which makes sense, because they are. The play-calling has been goofy, with gross underutilization of running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. While the defense has been better than the offense, the unit has still been a letdown, ranking middle of the pack in points allowed.
Just before this season kicked off, I predicted Green Bay would represent in the NFC in Super Bowl LVII. That looks comically wrong at the moment, as the Packers (3-3) haven't even felt like a serviceable team thus far. They're lucky to be .500.
4) The Patriots have a real QB controversy
If you are Bill Belichick, Bailey Zappe has to make you happy. Two starts, two wins. Not to mention, he played well in relief during his first regular-season action at Green Bay back in Week 4. All told, the fourth-round rookie has completed 72.9 percent of his passes with a 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a sparkling 111.4 passer rating. Blowing out Myles Garrett and Co. 38-15 on Sunday in Cleveland was certainly impressive, with the kid passing for 309 yards and two touchdowns (against zero interceptions) as the Pats rallied to 3-3 on the season.
I am a Mac Jones fan. But the results are the results. New England's offense over the past two weeks has looked completely different -- and much better -- than it did when Jones was under center in September. That's just a fact. I'm not saying Mac can't reclaim his job, but rather that it's not as cut-and-dried as some seem to think. Or it shouldn't be. Riding the Zappe wave feels logical to me.
5) No repeat: The Rams are pretenders
The reigning Super Bowl champs aren't even playoff-quality right now. Sure, they beat Carolina on Sunday to snap a two-game losing streak and get back to .500, but it was hardly impressive. The Rams trailed the P.J. Walker-led Panthers at halftime, and didn't pull away until halfway through the fourth quarter.
Sean McVay is done with RB Cam Akers. The injury-riddled O-line just took another health hit. Matthew Stafford's had a poor start to the 2022 campaign, owning a league-high eight picks. The Rams are 3-3 and just don't look like they're anywhere near the championship track.
6) No joke: The Falcons are contenders
My guy Arthur Smith is a total stud on the sideline. He's a grinder and a guru. It's relatively wild that these Falcons, given the state of the roster entering this season, are in a tie with the Buccaneers atop the NFC South at 3-3. But Smith gets his team ready to win each and every week, blending incredible preparation with a power style and clutch play. Frankly, the Falcons should've beaten the Saints in Week 1 and could've handed the Bucs an L in Week 5, if not for that infuriating roughing the passer call on Grady Jarrett.
I know San Francisco has injuries, but if the Falcons can beat the 49ers by two touchdowns, they can beat anyone in the NFC. Atlanta is squarely in the playoff race. Take a bow, Art.
7) Tom Brady is a problem
Not THE problem. Not even THE top problem on offense. That'd be the offensive line, which is suffering from attrition, injuries and just plain old ineptitude. Brady knows it:
But Brady is also a problem.
This man's the G.O.A.T. No arguing that. But his age-45 season is not going as planned for the 3-3 Buccaneers. Don't tell me about the 8:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Watch the games and you know that TB12 just hasn't played all that well. Saying otherwise would be spin.
Maybe we should've seen this coming, after a 40-day retirement in spring and an 11-day vacation from training camp. The offense, which finished second in points and yards in 2021, currently ranks 20th in the former and 22nd in the latter. After attending Patriots owner Robert Kraft's wedding on Friday night -- an invitation Bill Belichick declined in order to concentrate on game prep -- Brady traveled alone to Pittsburgh and got beat by Kenny Pickett/Mitchell Trubisky. WOOF.
Maybe Brady's finally slowing down. Perhaps Father Time is putting the G.O.A.T. out to pasture. That still reads weird. It feels weird. But if you watch the games, you know it's the hard truth.
8) Cooper Rush is Cinderella at midnight
Hopefully, Sunday night's 26-17 loss at Philadelphia puts an end to any talk of a quarterback controversy in Dallas. After going without a single turnover in his first five games of the season, Rush threw a pair of bad second-quarter interceptions -- allowing the Eagles to jump out to a 20-0 lead -- and then essentially ended the game with a fourth-quarter pick.
Dak Prescott is a great quarterback. He gives the Cowboys (4-2) a chance to beat Philly down the road. The 6-0 Eagles are the best and most well-rounded team in the NFC. Rush deserves great praise for keeping the Cowboys' season afloat. But in order to win a next-level game, you need a next-level quarterback. That's Dak, whenever he's ready to return from injury. Rush just cannot be trusted in big spots.
9) DeAndre Hopkins can't fix the Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury is supposed to be an offensive guru. The Cardinals just paid Kyler Murray gobs of cash. But these two couldn't do anything against a Seattle defense devoid of talent on Sunday, allowing the Seahawks to prevail, 19-9.
Hopkins, who's set to make his 2022 debut on Thursday vs. New Orleans after missing the first six weeks of the season due to suspension, is a major talent. No one doubts that. But Arizona's offensive issues run far, far deeper than anything that can be fixed by the return of a shiny WR toy. Especially considering the Cards might have just lost the offseason's marquee WR addition, Hollywood Brown, for a substantial period of time. And no, I don't think trading for Robbie Anderson is going to fix everything.
With the Cardinals alone in the NFC West basement at 2-4, the Kyler contract and Kliff extension have to feel burdensome. Those are tough truths to handle.