The Check-down Check-up (2021): Week Three

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

The Browns got a bit more than they bargained for from the Houston Texans, but still came out with a decisive win. With that being said, I can’t help but dock them points. The Texans can play, for sure, and they’re way better than anyone thought they’d be, but at the same time, Cleveland’s defensive unit looks pitiful right now. Andrew Berry spent far too much money on this defense for it to look so bad. Maybe the coaching is the problem?

Verdict: 8/10, Check Up

Baltimore Ravens

Oh, this one’s easy. Last week, the Ravens lost a game they absolutely should have won. This week, they won a game they absolutely should have lost. It all checks out as the AFC North is deadlocked at 1-1 going into week three. And this week they get the Detroit Lions? I’ll chalk this one up as a win for Baltimore, but I’m not quite sure I want to lock it in.

Verdict: 8.75/10, Check Up

Pittsburgh Steelers

So naturally, I praise this Steelers defense last week, and then they go out and get downright shredded by Derek Carr and the Raiders. Now, Carr is playing extremely well so far this season, but still, Pittsburgh’s defensive unit has all the tools to keep the Vegas offense from exploding all over Heinz Field. Not to mention, this offensive line has me very worried, with Big Ben being pressured on over 30% of his drop backs. I like the Steelers to win this week, but that performance has me uncertain.

Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Cincinnati Bengals

As I predicted last week, the Bengals couldn’t outlast the Bears and picked up their first loss of the season in a close contest. But what I didn’t account for is how scary-bad Joe Burrow looked at points during this game. Three straight pass attempts being intercepted is frankly unacceptable for any No. 1 pick, and after Burrow’s injury last year, I’m worried he might be seeing ghosts. Unfortunately for the Bengals, they’ve got Pittsburgh’s defense to worry about in week three.

Verdict: 4.25/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC East

New England Patriots

Mac Jones is a perfect game manager for this Patriots team. And when going up against a team like the Jets, a game manager might be all you need to completely blow them out of the water. Bill Belichick still terrorizes nearly every rookie quarterback he comes across, and Zach Wilson was no different. This week three matchup with New Orleans is a total toss-up, as we’ve seen two completely different Saints teams in the first two weeks of the season. That being said, with the consistency of the Patriots so far this year, I think I like New England to at least keep it close.

Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins got whipped in this one, and now Tua might be out for quite some time. With the Raiders on the horizon, and Jacoby Brissett possibly starting at quarterback, I don’t see things getting any better. Maybe Brian Flores can pull them out of this miniature nose dive, but I’m not sure I love Miami’s chances in this one.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Buffalo Bills

It might not have been the most efficient game from Josh Allen, but the Bills did exactly what they needed to do against the Dolphins in week two. Show up, trounce them 35-0, get some pep back in your step, build some confidence, maybe catch some of the Miami nightlife on the way out, and leave. Great game by the Bills, again, even if Allen wasn’t at his best.

Verdict: 8.5/10, Check Up

New York Jets

Last week, I predicted Zach Wilson would struggle against the Patriots.

Yikes.

Verdict: 0.5/10, Check Down

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

Okay, whatever, the Colts lost. It’s the Rams, they were pretty much supposed to lose this one.

Did you all see this play? If you haven’t, let me treat you to one of the weirdest plays in NFL history.

The chances of this play happening are wonderfully low, and we may never see something like it again.

Anyway, the Colts have a very interesting week three matchup with a Tennessee squad who has looked very Jekyll and Hyde this season. I don’t know who to pick, but on account of them being at home, I think the Titans probably pull it out.

Verdict: 2.75/10, Check Down

Houston Texans

Alright Houston, I see you. Tyrod Taylor went shot for shot with Baker Mayfield in the first half, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t able to play in the second half, as he was really cooking up something special. Maybe not an upset, but the game certainly would have been closer than 31-21. Either way, Houston, you’ve earned my respect. I’m sure it means a lot to you. I don’t see you getting past the Panthers on a short week, but in a primetime game like that, anything can happen.

Verdict: 4.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence is currently ranked as the least efficient quarterback in football. Cool. Great job, Urban.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

Tennessee Titans

The Titans nearly ended a game with a walk-off safety this week (and they probably should have), which would have been so perfect for the way Seattle Seahawks games tend to go. But, as so many football analysts have already stated, this Titans team is one that will live and die by their superstars. I sure would like to see a more diverse offense than the one Tennessee employed in overtime of this game against Seattle, but it clearly worked. Going forward, the Titans should be able to rip off a few wins as they have the Jets and Jags coming up in October.

Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

Much like the Ravens, this one’s easy. Last week, the Chiefs won a game they probably should have lost. This week, they lost a game they absolutely should have won. The Chiefs can beat anybody at any given time, and this week, Clyde Edwards-Helaire just got caught with his pants down. But the fact remains that Kansas City is third in the AFC West right now, and they should be in for a real heavyweight fight against the Chargers this week. I’ll absolutely take a pissed-off Chiefs team in that one.

Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Up

Denver Broncos

Denver and Houston both earned my respect this week, as the Broncos starting 2-0 was something I totally didn’t see coming. Sure, the teams they beat are both 0-2 right now, but they have yet another winnable game coming up in week three. A 3-0 Broncos team hosting the Ravens would make for a downright insane crowd, and I like them to beat the Jets this week. I’m pretty close to locking it in, but I’m sure I can find a more sure-fire win this week. I don’t have total faith in these Broncos just yet.

Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Chargers

This is such a Chargers loss that it’s not even funny. Justin Herbert is a stud, and I love how Brandon Staley is coaching this team, but it doesn’t matter because Greg Zuerlein suddenly learned how to kick a football again. Time and time again in this one, LA shot themselves in the foot on possible scoring plays, and it ended with them, quite frankly, getting what they deserved after those penalties. Just like every other team who plays the Chiefs, Herbert and the Chargers will need essentially a perfect game this week. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to what Brandon Staley has cooking for this one.

Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Up

Las Vegas Raiders

This Vegas team is just flat-out fun to watch. They’ve got Derek Carr playing like an MVP right now, a few breakout players on defense, and honestly, football is just better when the Raiders are good. Is this a September mirage like it often is with the Raiders? Could be. But right now, I don’t care. I like them to beat the Dolphins this week, especially if Tua doesn’t play. Keep the ball rolling, Chucky.

Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Up

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