The Check-down Check-up (2020): Week Seven

Another week of NFL football in the books, another edition of the Check-down Check-up to grade teams with. As a reminder, anything under four is a check down, anything above seven is a check up, and anything between those fours and sevens is a “check back next week.” So, who’s coming up? Who’s on their way down? Which team am I locking in with total confidence this week? Let’s find out.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns

This game was a roller coaster of emotions and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. The Browns are so banged up that it isn’t even funny anymore, but Baker Mayfield just showed fans why the Browns took him first overall. I’m not sure I love the Browns’ chances against Vegas this week, but if Baker plays like he did this past week, they’ll be pretty tough to beat.

Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Up

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore’s bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. The Ravens get an extra week to rest up and prepare for the Steelers coming to town in week eight. The Ravens are rolling, and can wreak havoc on anybody not named Patrick Mahomes. Whether or not Ben Roethlisberger joins that list remains to be seen, but I have to go with the Steelers in a tight one. But, as always, we will see.

Verdict: 9.25/10, Check Up

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers just keep on rolling. After their demolition of the Browns last week, the Steelers showed similar destructive tendencies on defense against Tennessee in week seven. The Titans crept back into the game, but a missed field goal with just seconds left made sure the door was slammed shut. As the league’s lone unbeaten, the Steelers have a huge test this week against the Ravens.

Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Up

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow is the real deal. Despite head coach Zac Taylor doing his best to get Burrow murdered behind Cincy’s putrid offensive line, the top overall pick just keeps fighting. Burrow had the Bengals in this game to the end, but the defense needs improvement badly. This team needs Micah Parsons in the draft in the worst way, and I predict their defense will come up short again in week eight against Derrick Henry and the Titans.

Verdict: 4/10, Check Down

AFC East

New England Patriots

The Patriots are 2-4? Unbelievable, honestly. Cam Newton just is not getting it done for the Pats right now, and Jarrett Stidham isn’t much better. Unless the Patriots show something and fast, I think the world finally has its answer. It was Tom Brady, not Bill Belichick. Prove me wrong, Bill.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Miami Dolphins

As announced during Miami’s bye week, it is officially Tua Time in south Florida. The Dolphins have won three out of their last four, their only loss coming to the Seahawks. I understand that this was the plan for Brian Flores all along, but something about removing Ryan Fitzpatrick right now doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe Flores knows something I don’t, though, and Tua might play lights out against the Rams in his first start.

Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Buffalo Bills

How the Bills let the Jets jump out to a 10-0 lead on them, I will never know. But eventually, Josh Allen and friends got the memo that the Jets are probably going 0-16 this year, and hit the gas. Now, the Bills have to face their nemesis in the form of the Patriots, who don’t look to be what they once were. I like the Bills here, especially if the Pats keep Jarrett Stidham on the field.

Verdict: 8/10, Check Up

New York Jets

Another week, another loss. I’ll fill out this part of the column when they win a game.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

I don’t love the back half of Indy’s schedule. The Ravens, the Steelers, the Packers, and the Titans twice, the Colts could be running into a buzzsaw here. Of course, they do get to see the Lions this week and then finish against Jacksonville, so I expect them to stay afloat in the AFC playoff race. Against the Lions this week, I expect the Colts to return to form, even if Detroit has found themselves winning recently.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

Houston Texans

The Texans are coming apart at the seams. Getting destroyed by an angry Packers team in week seven, rumors of a JJ Watt mega-deal, and seemingly no hope for the rest of the season. I still love Deshaun Watson and I believe in him, but I’m not sure I believe in him enough to save this season. This team gets the Jaguars coming off of their bye week, and they really, really need a game like that.

Verdict: Check Down, 4/10

Jacksonville Jaguars

I actually thought the Jaguars were going to break my lock for a second there. Jacksonville kept pace with Herbert and the Chargers for a while, and I commend them for that, but much like Houston (albeit on a grander scale), this is a lost season. Gardner Minshew is not the guy for this team, and the Jaguars will likely land a prospect like Justin Fields in the draft. But for the immediate future, I have very little belief in this team.

Verdict: 0.75/10, Check Down

Tennessee Titans

After getting completely dominated by the Steelers in the first half, Tennessee refused to fold, and that’s nice to see. They still lead the AFC South, and now they get to see Cincinnati’s awful rushing defense. I think Derrick Henry could really put himself in the Offensive Player of the Year conversation with a huge game against the Bengals here, and the Titans bounce back.

Verdict: 8.25/10, Check Up

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are very much back on track now after dismantling the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium. The defending champions, were it not for that tiebreaker they lost to the Raiders, would have a vice grip on the AFC West right now. Le’Veon Bell has ample time to get worked into the system, and the Chiefs see the Jets this week. This is the second-largest point spread ever, opening at -21.5, and I expect the Chiefs to cover.

Verdict: 9.75/10, Check Up

Denver Broncos

On the other end of that, the Broncos got absolutely decimated last week after field goal-ing the Patriots to death in week six. This team is worse than I had originally thought, and how they got to 2-4 is beyond me. The Broncos have also been totally destroyed by injury, but now they have to see the Chargers who are probably feeling pretty great after Justin Herbert’s first win.

Verdict: 4.25/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Chargers

My lock stayed intact this week as the Chargers did eventually pull away from Jacksonville. Justin Herbert has “it,” and making plays all game long finally led to a win for the Bolts. Now the rookie has to go prove it, again, against a bad Broncos team. Would I dare pick a team as my lock two weeks in a row? No. That would be boring. But I am confident in the Chargers.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders got systematically ripped apart in week seven at the hands of Tom Brady. However, I think that game says a lot more about the Buccaneers than it does the Raiders. I still believe in Derek Carr and friends, and I like their chances in an important game against the Browns this week. The one catch? If Baker Mayfield slings it like he did in week seven, the Raiders could find themselves in an early hole in a battle of bad defenses.

Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week

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