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

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

Cleveland’s defense gave Justin Fields a very warm welcome into the NFL to the tune of nine total sacks, with 4.5 of them coming from Myles Garrett alone. I predict that they’ll have a much tougher time getting to Kirk Cousins in week four, but as a whole, I like their chances in this one. I’ll take the Browns in a close game in Kevin Stefanski’s homecoming in Minnesota.

Verdict: 8.75/10, Check Up

Baltimore Ravens

I’m gonna try to keep this one short and sweet, even if I do have questions about why this game was so close.

Justin Tucker is the greatest kicker to ever live.

Verdict: 8.75/10, Check Up

Pittsburgh Steelers

I should’ve gone with my gut. I said last week that the Steelers’ performance in week two had me nervous for this game, and I should have listened. Ben Roethlisberger looked every bit of 39 years old, the defense seemed far more porous than it should have been, and overall, Pittsburgh just looked sloppy. I’m certainly not liking Pittsburgh’s chances against the Packers this week.

Verdict: 4.25/10, Check Back Next Week

Cincinnati Bengals

On the other side of the coin are the Cincinnati Bengals, who looked tremendous in week three. The Bengals consistently put Joe Burrow in a position to win during this game, as evident by his three touchdowns on over 77% completion. Cincinnati has taken themselves to 2-1 this season, and I expect their winning ways to continue as they take on the hapless Jaguars on a short week.

Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC East

New England Patriots

I wasn’t expecting the Patriots to win this game by any means, but I am a bit surprised that they failed to keep it within single digits. Mac Jones threw nearly 60 passes for the Pats in week three, which is not a winning formula for a team led by Mac Jones. New England will see an old friend on Monday Night Football this week, and in the first ever battle between Brady and Belichick, I think Brady wins out.

Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Miami Dolphins

I know that they took it to overtime against the Raiders, but right now, it feels like Miami is in a tailspin. Their quarterback is hurt, they’re quickly spiraling out of the AFC East standings, their pets’ heads are falling off, the whole nine yards. But that being said, if there’s any team that could gift-wrap them a win right now, it’s the Indianapolis Colts. I like the Dolphins in this one, even without their starting quarterback at the wheel.

Verdict: 5.25/10, Check Back Next Week

Buffalo Bills

Since their humiliating week one loss at home to the Steelers (which, by the way, looks worse and worse every week), Buffalo has more than recovered and now seem to be on a war path through the NFL. The Bills are going to destroy the Houston Texans this week. Book it.

Verdict: 10/10, Check Up (LOCK)

New York Jets

I can’t even crack a joke for you guys anymore, this team is just terrible.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

This team is heading in all the wrong directions, all at once, and with Miami on the way, it’s not going to get any better. The Colts might be the “sneaky terrible” team I predicted Minnesota would be at the start of the year, considering that outside of the Rams game, they’ve hardly shown signs of life this season. I don’t see a win on this schedule until week six when they face the Texans.

Verdict: 1.5/10, Check Down

Houston Texans

This Houston team has some fighters on it, and they’re surprisingly fun to watch with David Culley at the helm. All that being said, they just aren’t very good, and that lack of talent showed in their Thursday night showcase against the Panthers this past week. Quite frankly, I don’t see them standing a chance against the Bills or Patriots either. The Texans are fun, but they have a long season ahead of them.

Verdict: 3.75/10, Check Down

Jacksonville Jaguars

Hey, I mean, at leas you had a 109-yard touchdown, right? That was pretty cool.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

Tennessee Titans

I can’t get a read on this team right now. They’ve had such a weird, up and down type of season, and even though they looked great against the Colts, it’s still the Colts, who look like one of the NFL’s worst teams this year. Not to mention, the Titans have the Jets and the Jaguars coming up next, so we might as well go ahead and move them to 4-1. We won’t know much about this team until at least week six when they face the Bills. What are you, Tennessee?

Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

This one made me shoot my eyebrows up. I know the Chargers are really good, but like, alright, what’s going on here? No one expected the Chiefs to be 1-2, and at this point, they very well could be 0-3 on the year if Cleveland’s punter holds onto the ball and punts it away. Luckily, the Chiefs see the Eagles this week, who have been looking worse and worse as the season has gone on. But I have to admit, I’m a bit worried about Kansas City.

Verdict: 8.25/10, Check Up

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are 3-0, with a combined opponent record of 0-9. It’s the NFL and all, so it’s still impressive to be 3-0 no matter who you’ve played. If the Broncos want to prove themselves as more than just pretenders, they’ll take down the Ravens in week four. For the good of the league, I’d love to see them do it. I love chaos.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

Los Angeles Chargers

This is a downright huge win for the Chargers, considering they didn’t even play mistake-free football. In fact, LA played far from their best game and still found a way to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead. Herbert and the Chargers look like they’ve officially arrived, but as they host the Raiders this week, I just get this feeling that Vegas being 3-0 isn’t a mirage like it has been in the past. This one should be close.

Verdict: 8.25/10, Check Up

Las Vegas Raiders

I think it’s high time I give the Raiders the respect they deserve. Las Vegas has been playing fantastic football through three weeks, with a defense that no one expected to be one of the best units in the league. Derek Carr looks like the MVP frontrunner right now, and rightfully so. I’m picking the Raiders to beat the Chargers this week, not because they’re the better hand, but because I’m not sure anyone is playing better football right now.

Verdict: 9/10, Check Up

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