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.
Welcome back, Nick Chubb. Cleveland’s offense looks completely different with Chubb on the field, and an offensive line that dominant would help out any running game. But I said last week, this game got a lot closer than it needed to be. Deshaun Watson has too much of the ‘”it” factor to go down so easily. That being said, I like the Browns against the Eagles this week as long as they keep that high-impact rushing attack going.
Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Back Next Week
Well, that was weird. The Ravens completely fell flat against an inferior opponent under the lights on Sunday night. Even with the wild weather, the Patriots should have rolled over and died at the hands of Baltimore. Maybe it’s true, and Lamar Jackson really does have the “yips” in big games. Probably not, but every time this happens, all it does is lend more credence to that theory.
Verdict: 8.25/10, Check Up
Another divisional game against Cincinnati, another dominating performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers. This Pittsburgh defense is nothing short of suffocating, and they truly made Joe Burrow look like a confused rookie out there. Now, they get to meet up with a floundering Jags team in week ten. Come on, Pittsburgh. Don’t play down to your competition again.
Verdict: 10/10, Check Up
This was the first game since his first career start where I would say Joe Burrow didn’t look great. While he was still able to move the ball against a stout Pittsburgh defense, the Steelers majorly cut into his production. That being said, I still don’t think the Bengals are that bad. In fact, I like them to win this week against Washington.
Verdict: 6.25/10, Check Back Next Week
New England Patriots
The Pats got back on track, partially because I believe Bill Belichick is some sort of weather-controlling wizard. Not only did the rain seem to get worse throughout the game, but it cleared up as soon as the Patriots walked away with a victory. I’m onto you, Bill. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing. Anyways, despite their win over the MVP, I think Deshaun Watson is about to carve up New England.
Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week
Tua and the Dolphins kept my lock intact this week, and at 6-3, they are right in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Locked up with the Ravens, Colts, Browns, Titans, and Raiders for a wild card spot, I actually think the Dolphins could snatch a playoff birth this year. They haven’t lost in over a month, and going into a game against the Broncos, I don’t expect them to start now.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
This was a heartbreaker that will live on in the memories of Bills fans for years. There is simply nothing more to say. Buffalo needs this bye week, as time to heal. I can’t say this wasn’t at least a little bit hilariously funny though.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
New York Jets
Can the Jets lose to the bye week? I’ll fill out this part of the column when they win a game.
Verdict: 0/10, Check Down
Indianapolis needed that game so badly to keep up in the playoff race, and they came out in force to grab it from Tennessee. Unfortunately, the Colts have to see the Packers this week, and I’m not sure they’ll be able to keep up with that offense quite so easily. I like what the Colts have on paper, but the Packers have been overpowering offensively this season.
Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week
Despite a miraculous third down play by Watson to keep hope alive against the Browns, the rest of the Texans rolled over in Cleveland. Houston, especially defensively, looked lifeless in the fourth quarter of this one. That could just be a bad team letting a better team impose their will, but it’s still not a vote of confidence. Please don’t waste Deshaun Watson’s career, Houston. This is a special talent you have on your hands.
Verdict: 4/10, Check Down
Another week, another step closer to Justin Fields. That said, this is exactly where the Jaguars want to be right now. Show potential throughout the game, just to make sure you’re going in the right direction, but never, ever win those games. The Jags are tanking like total pros right now.
Verdict: 2.5/10, Check Down (You get style points for tanking so well, though).
The Titans are now tied with five other teams in the AFC wild card race, and tied for the lead in the AFC South. This one could have been a statement win for Tennessee and put them up big in the division, but it was never meant to be. Mike Vrabel needs to help this team regroup, and a showing against the Ravens could be just what they need, after they picked them apart in the playoffs last year.
Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week
Kansas City Chiefs
Coming off a bye week, there’s not much to say here. Another loss to the Raiders could throw a huge wrench into the AFC playoff picture and the AFC West, but I think the Chiefs will come out angry. The last month or so has been weird for the defending champions, but a huge divisional win would get them right back to their dominant selves.
Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Up
Well, I took the Raiders this past week. I also said it would be a close game, though, and I was way off there. Despite their injuries, this Denver team is bad. This is a team that is missing their top wide receiver and top defender, and it is showing in the worst ways right now. The Broncos can’t stop anyone, let alone a playoff team like Las Vegas.
Verdict: 3.5/10, Check Down
Los Angeles Chargers
At least the Chargers never really had hope in this one. Or, rather, they never had a lead that they would inevitably give away in the final seconds of a close game. The Chargers became the victim of my lock last week, but they’ll be on the other end of it this week. I am locking it in, because even the Chargers couldn’t blow a lead to the Jets. Right?
Verdict: 10/10, Check Up (LOCK)
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are really, really good. Jon Gruden has got this team rolling, and rain, snow, sleet, or hail, the silver and black are going to get it done. Unfortunately, I don’t see them keeping this type of mojo going against the Super Bowl champions. I would love to see them prove me wrong, mostly because it would be funny if they just had Kansas City’s number, but I’m not sure they can.
Verdict: 8.75/10, Check Up