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.
A quick note, yes, I did miss last week due to preparation for final exams. If you’d like to see the article I was able to write last week, you can see it here.
WOW. You know what? Yeah, I’m going to let my fandom show here. This is a statement win for the Browns over a truly good team in the form of Tennessee, much needed after that shaky victory in Jacksonville. They might have growing pains, but the Browns are absolutely trending in the right direction. If that first half shows you anything, it’s that Cleveland is for real, and once they start consistently putting it together, they could very well be unstoppable in the AFC (if not for the Chiefs).
Verdict: 9/10, Check Up
This segment will be updated after the Ravens play the Cowboys on Tuesday night.
Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Up
So directly after they almost drop a game to the Ravens, the Steelers finally slip up one too many times at the hands of Washington. Everybody dies, Pittsburgh. It’s okay. It happens to all of us. This game is a combination of multiple things. Injuries, a frankly great Washington defense, and perhaps the most damning for the Steelers: the drops. Somebody get the Pittsburgh receivers on the JUGS machine. They need it.
Verdict: 9.25/10, Check Up
The Bengals are free falling. They really miss Joe Burrow, and yeah, of course they do. Ryan Finley is not the answer at quarterback, and Joe Burrow is. This team is going to have a high pick once again this year, and they sorely need either offensive line help or a big-hitter at linebacker. Either way, I’m not sure the Bengals have a winnable game through the rest of the season. Not great, but they’re just playing for draft position at this point anyway.
Verdict: 2/10, Check Down
New England Patriots
Right on cue, here come the New England Patriots. As soon as the NFL thought they were finally dead, as soon as things looked too dire, Bill Belichick kicks his team into gear. A gutsy win over the Cardinals, followed directly by a 45-0 demolition of the Los Angeles Chargers, and here the Pats sit at 6-6. I’m so confident they’ll keep it rolling this week, that I’m locking it in. The Pats will beat the Rams this week.
Verdict: 10/10, Check Up (LOCK)
The Dolphins being 8-4 after starting 1-3 this season is truly something to behold. Despite the growing pains and rookie mistakes, I like how Tua looks out there. They have a tough schedule, but Miami looks primed to make a playoff run. If not, then they should definitely be in the postseason by next year. This is how you rebuild a team. Take notes, NFL.
Verdict: 7.75/10, Check Up
The Bills are 9-3, at the top of the AFC East, and look to be in prime position to win the division, and maybe even a playoff game. They control their own destiny, with a game against the second-place Dolphins to be played as the season finale, but they have a major challenge before that. Next week, the Bills will see the ever-so-lethal Steelers defense in prime time. Not to mention, the Steelers are bound to be soothingly angry after losing their first game this week. This one could be tough, but for now, the Bills are riding high.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
New York Jets
I’m still not filling out this part of the column until the Jets win a game, but…come on. Seriously?
But I have to put something here.
So… story time? This week I kept telling the BroSports staff, “you know, I just have a feeling about the Jags this week, I think they might pull the upset over Minnesota.” And you know what, it didn’t happen, but I was close! They ended up only losing in overtime. And I’m not saying I’m some kind of soothsayer or whatever, but hey, if you need the lottery numbers for tonight, you know who to call, and maybe they’ll at least be kind of, sort of accurate.
Verdict: 0/10, Check Down
The Colts got smacked by Tennessee just a week ago, but recovered nicely with a close win over the rival Texans in week thirteen. At 8-4, the Colts are now tied with Titans for the lead in the AFC South (although technically, Tennessee has the tiebreaker). The Colts have a downright gargantuan game ahead of them against the Raiders. These two teams sit in the 7 and 8 spots in the AFC, and this could go a long way towards deciding who backs their way in, and who gets the playoff door slammed in their face.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
The Texans were a blown snap away against the Colts. This team simply refuses to give Deshaun Watson a chance to deliver them from evil. As a devout Deshaun Watson fan, the Texans being this bad, and potentially ruining his career down the line, makes me awfully sad. Hopefully they can get a team around him, because man, Watson is just so good. They should’ve never even been in this game, but they made it oh, so close.
Verdict: 3.74/10, Check Down
Another two weeks, another two steps closer to Justin Fields. The Jaguars came so close to wins in both of their last two contests, but for the greater good of a franchise quarterback, Mike Glennon just couldn’t bring himself to win either of those games. Talk about a team player. With the schedule they have coming up, I don’t foresee the Jags winning again this year. I think they’ve finally locked themselves into Justin Fields, or maybe even Trevor Lawrence, if the Jets play their cards very, very wrong.
Verdict: 0.5/10, Check Down
Instead of giving themselves a cushion over the rest of the AFC South, the Titans rocked Indianapolis in week twelve to put a game between them, and promptly gave it right back after getting their lunch eaten by the Browns. The Titans do still lead the AFC South, but it’s only on a tiebreaker. Thankfully, their upcoming schedule looks more favorable than Indy’s, but the AFC South divisional race should definitely be a photo finish.
Verdict: 7/10, Check Back Next Week
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs just keep rolling. Instead of a Super Bowl hangover, Andy Reid has this team in prime position to take home field advantage in the AFC, and maybe even repeat as champions. Kansas City almost fell asleep at the wheel this week against the Broncos, but woke up right before the truck hit them head-on. KC’s schedule sets up nicely for the end of the season, and they should be more motivated than ever to get that number-one seed, now that Pittsburgh has a loss.
Verdict: 9.75/10, Check Up
The Broncos had it so bad in week twelve that they started a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback. Not great. But with Drew Lock back in the fold in week thirteen, they actually held their own against the defending champs, even if Kansas City did pull away in the fourth quarter. I like Denver to beat the Panthers this week, although I think it’ll be about a field goal game. And to be honest? That might be Denver’s last winnable game for the end of the year.
Verdict: 1.75/10, Check Down
Los Angeles Chargers
I’m just going to leave this here.
No wonder this team lost 45-0. That is pitiful coaching.
Verdict: 3.75/10, Check Down
Las Vegas Raiders
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. The Raiders should not have even had a chance to win this game, and Jon Gruden should send Gregg Williams a festive holiday card this season for (maybe purposefully) blowing that game. That being said, I like the silver and black against the Colts this week. They need it.
Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Up