The Check-down Check-up (2020): 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? Let’s find out.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns

No Chubb? No problem, apparently. The Cleveland Browns just proved that you can, in fact, win a shootout game by running the football down your opponent’s throat. The Cowboys mounting a comeback was met by a 50-yard rushing touchdown from Odell Beckham Jr., his third score of the game. If Cleveland keeps up a rushing attack like this, I’m not sure Indianapolis will be able to keep up with them next Sunday.

Verdict: Check Up, 8.25/10

Baltimore Ravens

Way to get back on the winning track, Baltimore. The Ravens handling their business against Washington is exactly what was supposed to happen. Lamar Jackson did Lamar Jackson things, and even Robert Griffin III got some action near the end. There’s not a lot to say about this one, but looking forward, things should be pretty easy. Cincy and Philly in back to back weeks? This team should be 5-1 by their bye week.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers and Titans couldn’t play this week because of positive COVID-19 tests in Tennessee, so I don’t think it’s fair to do anything else but hold their verdict over from last week. Besides, the Steelers get the Eagles next week, who haven’t exactly been a formidable opponent this year.

Verdict: Check Up, 8/10

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals got their first win of the Joe Burrow era this week, against a Jaguars team that is looking worse by the week. Still, a win is a win, and Burrow himself had a nice outing with exactly 300 yards and a 69.4% completion rating. However, the Bengals have the Ravens next week, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a young quarterback who is quite frankly getting thrown to the wolves.

Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC East

New England Patriots

The Patriots were supposed to have a real test of strength this week against the defending champion Chiefs. Instead, they were forced to start Brian Hoyer after Cam Newton caught the coronavirus earlier this week. Hoyer was benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham midway through the game, who didn’t exactly show out for the Pats. Even so, I don’t think it’s fair to do anything but hold on my verdict from last week.

Verdict: 8/10, Check Up

Miami Dolphins

Miami, I commend you. Despite the loss, you kept things close against the Seahawks and their resident MVP candidate Russell Wilson. Moral victories don’t exist, but things like this certainly do raise my confidence meter, especially against such a good team. Seeing the 49ers in San Francisco next week, is probably going to be tough.

Verdict: 4.5/10 Check Back Next Week

Buffalo Bills

The Bills, in short, look like the real deal. Undefeated, Josh Allen is looking nice (despite the one or two stupid mistakes he makes per week), and Sean McDermott is a fantastic coach. Seeing the Titans next week could make for a very fun matchup, as this Bills defense gets to go up against Derrick Henry and friends in Nashville. If that game even gets played, that is.

Verdict: 8.75/10, Check Up

New York Jets

At the time of writing, the Jets vs Broncos game has just now gone final, and the Jets have moved to 0-4. New York just lost to a fourth-string quarterback in his first start, working with a roster that has a laundry list of injuries. This team is dreadful, and it starts at the top with head coach Adam Gase. If the Jets even let Gase back on the team plane tonight, I’ll be surprised. But if Gase isn’t gone by the time this column releases on Tuesday? I’ll be floored.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts handed Chicago their first loss this week, and looked pretty good doing it. It wasn’t anything special, but Philip Rivers seems to have minimized big mistakes over the past couple of weeks. I’m curious to see if this offense can keep up, though, as they run into a red-hot Browns team next week. The Colts cannot let Cleveland impose their will in the ground game. If they do, this one is over before it begins.

Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Houston Texans

Bill O’Brien, you are a plague on this team. Never have I seen a team with such a talented young quarterback (and a talented roster as a whole) fall flat on its face, consistently, over the first quarter of the season. You should be ashamed of yourself over how you’ve coached this team. Now go to your room and think about what you’ve down. I don’t even have confidence that your team can beat Jacksonville anymore.

Verdict: 3/10, Check Down

Update: As I am writing this column, the Texans have fired Bill O’Brien. I now have mild confidence that they will beat Jacksonville under new head coach, Romeo Crennel. Therefore, I’m issuing an updated verdict.

Updated Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week

Jacksonville Jaguars

This team is floundering. The Jaguars organization is a sinking ship that, every week, around 4:00 PM EST on Sunday, gets a new hole blasted into its side. How much longer can the Jags keep doing this? Are they still living off the goodwill from 2017? Doug Marrone has been there since 2017, and Dave Caldwell since 2013. These two have got to go, and losing to Bill O’Brien and the 0-4 Texans of all people should help owner Shad Khan get the hint.

Verdict: 2.5/10, Check Down

Tennessee Titans

The Steelers and Titans couldn’t play this week because of positive COVID-19 tests in Tennessee, so I don’t think it’s fair to do anything else but hold their verdict over from last week. Seeing the Bills next week (if it happens) should make for a very interesting test of just how good the Titans actually are, since their opponents’ combined record is now 3-9.

Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

Harrison Butker missed another extra point this week, but outside of that, the Chiefs looked pretty dominant against a short-handed Patriots team. The Pats hung around like they always do, no matter who their personnel is, but the Chiefs took the fourth quarter to put the game away and leave little doubt. The champs are rolling, and they should be able to handle Las Vegas next Sunday.

Verdict: 9.25/10

Denver Broncos

The Broncos beat the Jets this past Thursday, and quite honestly, they should’ve gotten their coach fired. But, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen at all. Now, the Broncos have to see Cam Newton and the Patriots in Foxborough. Denver going up against a team that isn’t completely inept could lead to an ugly one next Sunday. Still, the Broncos should get points for recording a win with Brett Rypien.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Chargers

I hesitate to call rookie quarterback Justin Herbert the real deal just yet, but I’m certainly leaning that way. Even if it hasn’t resulted in wins so far, Herbert and the Chargers have played close games against both the Chiefs and the new-look Buccaneers. Not to mention, Herbert himself has played very well through three starts. Seeing his hard work result in a win against the Saints next Monday night could really raise some eyebrows.

Verdict: 5.25/10, Check Back Next Week

Las Vegas Raiders

Like I said in last week’s edition of the Check-down Check-up, I want to believe in the Raiders. But every week, they make it harder for me to do so. I believed the Raiders might actually win this week against the undefeated Bills, but the fourth quarter saw them fall two scores behind Josh Allen and Co. Now, they have to go face the Chiefs. It’s hard to say anything except “yikes.”

Verdict: Check Down, 4/10

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