Just like we predicted, the Bears, Steelers, and Chiefs are all 3-0.
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Or something like that.
We hand out our weekly SCHEINERS, SCHEIN 9 style.
1. Bye-ing in?
Four fascinating teams hit their bye in Week 4. We take the temperature …
Chiefs — I cannot get enough of this 3-0 story. And save me the complaints that Kansas City is overrated. You are what you are and the Chiefs are superbly coached and super confident. The Chiefs defense was horrible last year. They solely added Eric Berry via the draft. Yet they are vastly improved because of Todd Haley appointing Romeo Crennel. Derrick Johnson and Glenn Dorsey are playing the best they’ve played in their careers.
Did you see the trick play where Thomas Jones lined up under center, handed off to Dexter McCluster, who gave it to quarterback Matt Cassel (originally lined up wide), who gunned it down field to Dwayne Bowe for a touchdown? That’s innovation. That’s amazing. That’s Charlie Weis.
McCluster, a Scott Pioli draft-day gem, is a speedy cat who presents a matchup nightmare for the opposition. Somebody named Tony Moeaki is making plays in the passing attack. Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones, wisely brought in to provide leadership and jolt the run game, have become a two-headed monster running the ball.
I picked the Chiefs at 7-9, and nine or 10 wins wouldn’t surprise me and shouldn’t surprise you. Arrowhead has become a legit home field again. This team has character and supreme coaching. They step up in class after the bye with road games at the Colts and Texans. But then KC is home to the Jags and Bills before winnable road games in Oakland and Denver. Dare to dream, Kansas City.
Cowboys — The Cowboys deserve a ton of credit for stopping the bleeding and perhaps saving Wade Phillips’ job with a thunderous win against the Texans. But I still don’t think the ‘Boys are good enough or consistent enough to make a run. Kyle Kosier is going to miss time. The offensive line remains a mess. And do you really trust Phillips to navigate though a tough schedule?
Bucs — Tampa is 2-1 and playing with a ton of confidence. Josh Freeman played great in the first two weeks, showing leadership and heart playing well through pain. Barrett Ruud and the defense were playing well until the Steelers game. I acknowledge that the Bucs are playing better and are better coached than I thought. But look at the upcoming dates at Cincy and hosting the Saints. After a home date with the Rams, the Bucs are in Arizona and in Atlanta. Tampa could get to six wins, or double my preseason projection, but you cannot even think about the playoffs.
Vikings — The Vikings are who I thought they were. I predicted 7-9 preseason, thinking they would head into the bye week at 1-2, beating the inferior Lions while losing to the Saints and Dolphins. Adrian Peterson carried the Vikes to their only win of the first quarter on Sunday. The first two weeks were marred by Brett Favre turnovers, miscommunication with receivers, and coaching flubs from Brad Childress.
The Vikings have the Jets in New York on a Monday night after the bye. Then it’s the Cowboys at home, then at Green Bay and at New England. I see 2-5 at best. And that’s before a stretch against the Cards, at the Bears, Green Bay, and in Washington.
2. Pop and Sizzle
I never thought the Steelers would be 3-0 sans Big Ben. Mike Tomlin has been pretty candid that Charlie Batch was literally his fourth choice at quarterback and an afterthought because of his health. So of course you have Batch looking brilliant beating the previously undefeated Bucs.
Rashard Mendenhall looks great. The Pittsburgh defense looks, well, epic. The special teams unit is vastly improved.
Big Ben drama, quarterback issues, injured offensive linemen, no Santonio Holmes, and a fragile state after collapsing last season and losing to the likes of Cleveland and Oakland now seem like a bad dream.
I never thought 3-0 was possible. But after surviving this stretch — regardless of what happens Sunday against the Ravens — we recognize the upside for the Steelers as playing in the Super Bowl.
3. Can’t make it up
So it’s all Jimmy Raye’s fault in San Francisco? How do you fire an offensive coordinator in the month of September? How do you change it up on Alex Smith yet again? It goes back to my theory on San Fran; Mike Singletary is totally overmatched and not a head coach. And let’s remember something important. Singletary hand-picked Jimmy Raye! The communication between the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, and quarterback coach was putrid. And they need a legit general manager to provide strong direction.
Now I’m not trying to suggest that Raye was great at his job. He wouldn’t have been my original choice to run the offense. This situation goes back to planning and a bigger picture with the Niners. And this is why I never thought San Fran was a playoff team. Instead, they are 0-3 and a disaster.
4. Amateur Hour
Let’s revisit. Eli Manning throws a pick deep in Tennessee territory with his left hand! Ahmad Bradshaw fumbles at the Titans 6. Bradshaw gets called for a chop block in the end zone giving Tennessee 2 points. The Giants get called for a delay of game penalty on a field goal attempt, pushing it back to 44 yards, where Lawrence Tynes misses. Kareem McKenzie, in reckless fashion, gets called for two unnecessary roughness penalties and gets benched. David Diehl gets called for a killer penalty. Antrel Rolle, who questioned his teammates and coaches last week, got benched for throwing a punch.
The Giants looked totally undisciplined and unfocused. That’s on Tom Coughlin.
5. Backseat Coaching
Trailing Green Bay 10-7, with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, Lovie Smith made three huge mistakes.
He wasted his final challenge on a play that never had a chance over being ruled a touchdown.
Smith went for it instead of kicking a field goal. You have to put the points on the board down three in the third quarter.
And then the Bears threw the ball on 4th and 1.
6. My guys
Leon Washington — He is one of my favorite players in the league. And Washington worked so hard to get back after a gruesome injury curtailed his 2009 season with the Jets. Traded draft weekend to Seattle, Washington vowed to be 100 percent. He showed San Diego he most certainly is by returning two kicks for touchdowns. Talking to him Monday, Leon couldn’t stop raving about the crowd support in Seattle. The comeback is complete. I couldn’t be happier for him.
Tony Romo — Sunday counted as a rather big game for the Cowboys. So we can put that under the heading of “Tony Romo played great in a big spot.”
Anquan Boldin — It’s more than the three touchdowns. It’s the impact on the offense and the entire team. That’s what the Ravens have been missing. That’s why the Ravens brass is so savvy.
Jay Cutler — The Bears are 3-0 and the quarterback is having fun, playing with a ton of confidence. And talking to Cutler on Sirius NFL Radio on Friday, he gave Mike Martz a ton of credit for both.
Mark Sanchez — Going on the road and beating the Dolphins and Mike Nolan’s defense is a major accomplishment. Sanchez played with great poise and was incredibly accurate all game, and engineered a beautiful final scoring drive. Sanchez tossed three touchdowns, zero picks, and looked great on third down.
7. My goats
Green Bay Packers — The special teams play on Monday night was horrible. The penalties were embarrassing. Why did my guy Mike McCarthy use a challenge after the James Jones pick? This was hardly a clinic. You needed that time out and you wasted it with a challenge. And I would’ve let Chicago score at the end to give Aaron Rodgers a chance. Robbie Gould is not Sebastian Janikowski. He was going to make the kick. You had to give your quarterback a chance.
Sebastian Janikowski — I wake up and thank the Lord for not making me a Raiders fan. Really, how does one live and die with this team? Janikowski misses from 32 yards away at the gun with the game on the line? Of course he does.
Garrett Hartley — The Saints are too good to have Hartley missed from 29 yards out in overtime. No surprise they are looking at other kickers.
Stefan Logan — Up 7-0 against Minnesota, you cannot turn it over on special teams and put Brett Favre in position to tie the game, which he instantly did. Logan’s fumble zapped some legit momentum Detroit stunningly established early in Minnesota.
Houston pass defense — The Texans have played Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. But they are giving up chunks of yards at an alarming rate and I thought this would be their weakness this season. Kareem Jackson looks lost.
8. Your turn
The tweet of the week comes from @Shue_Box
@AdamSchein Bills were looking to go big and TRADE Trent Edwards. But then they checked down and decided to just release him, fitting.
Funny line. But this is a sad state of affairs in lovely Western New York. How do you go from starter to waiver wire in thre weeks? It shows a lack of a plan. It shows the Bills needed Jimmy Clausen. Edwards was a dark horse MVP candidate for the first-place Bills in 2008 before he got concussed in Arizona. Sad ending.
9. Three nuggets of wisdom
1. The Bengals beat the Panthers because of their defense. But have you noticed how terrible Carson Palmer has been to start the season, completing only 56 percent of his passes. I’ve always been a Palmer supporter, but the Bengals offense must run through Ced Benson.
2. Excellent win for the Falcons in New Orleans. Mike Smith’s team is supremely coached in every phase. I don’t think Smith gets enough credit for being a great coach.
3. Mike Vick dominated the Jaguars. And the Eagles defense was fantastic. This was a bigger development than Vick zinging the ball around. In the zany NFC East, are the Eagles the favorites? I didn’t like the change to Vick but you can make the case. We will find out Sunday when the Skins come to town.