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.
Oof. Cleveland got punched in the mouth in this one. 6-2 sure does sound a lot better than 5-3, but on the bright side, the Browns finally have a chance to get healthy here and maybe rip off a serious win streak after the bye week. Wyatt Teller, Nick Chubb, and Austin Hooper are being sorely missed right now, and the hope is that at least two out of those three will be back against the Texans in week ten.
Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week
The Steelers and Ravens never let us down, and this battle was no exception. That being said, Lamar Jackson didn’t exactly look like the MVP in this one. Two picks and a completion percentage below 50 is pretty ugly, but the Ravens are good enough to keep themselves afloat even when Lamar has a rough game. I predict an angry Ravens team to tear the Colts apart in week ten.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
The Steelers just keep on rolling. Even the vaunted Baltimore Ravens were no match for this defense, which has been eating offensive backfields for Sunday brunch all season long. The Steelers are for real, and should absolutely be the AFC favorite to make the Super Bowl this year. Not to mention, they get to see the Cowboys in week ten, after all of America saw how awful their quarterback play is with Ben DiNucci under center.
Verdict: 10/10, Check Up
Joe Burrow is making magic happen in southern Ohio, and you could make a serious argument that the Bengals might be 0-8 without him. They might not be a “good team” yet but Cincinnati is on the rise in the NFL, and Burrow is showing each and every week why he was the No. 1 overall pick. This week, the Bengals’ offense made the Titans look defensively soft, and now they get a bye week before they face the unbeaten Steelers.
Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week
New England Patriots
The Patriots are 2-5. The last time they were this bad, Bill Belichick was in his first year as their head coach, and Tom Brady was in his early twenties. As a 1998 baby, I literally cannot remember the last time the Patriots were bad. This is culture shock for the citizens of New England. Welcome back to the pack. Thankfully, the Pats get a game regroup against the Jets on Monday night. But…could you imagine if they lost this one?
Verdict: 4/10, Check Down
Outside of a fumble on his second snap, Tua looked like a bona fide NFL starting quarterback out there. The Dolphins are over the .500 mark, thanks in large part to their solid coaching staff, and they’re primed to at least make a postseason push, even if they don’t get in thanks to the likes of the Browns and Raiders. The ‘Phins have the Cardinals coming up, and this contest could be very telling if Miami pulls it off.
Verdict: 7/10, Check Up
The Bills finally put their demons to rest against the New England Patriots, even if they almost let Belichick and Co. get the better of them once again. At 6-2, Buffalo would have a vice grip on the AFC East if not for Miami’s recent success. But unfortunately for them, their eleventh-ranked passing defense has to try to stop MVP candidate Russell Wilson in week nine. This could be a very entertaining battle of the gunslingers.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
New York Jets
Another week, another loss. I’ll fill out this part of the column when they win a game.
Verdict: 0/10, Check Down
The Colts did exactly what they were supposed to do against the Detroit Lions, putting up their highest point total of the entire year with 41. However, Indianapolis has two very important, very tough games coming up, and they need to win at least one to keep up in the playoff race. Either Baltimore or Tennessee. Take your pick, Colts. You need at least one.
Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week
JJ Watt is still a Texan following their bye week, which is a great sign for a team that really needs a win right now. I find it hard to believe that Romeo Crennel will be the head coach of this team in 2021. Deshaun Watson isn’t the problem. The problem is that he’s played for Bill O’Brien for his entire professional tenure. This team needs a real coach, but in the short term, they need a win over the Jags.
Verdict: Check Down, 4/10
Despite having a bye week, I’m not sure the Jaguars can do anything right now to lift my spirits. I don’t expect them to win against Houston this week, and looking at the rest of their schedule, I don’t know if there’s a second win in there. Maybe the Vikings? But even that would be tough. Either way, Jags fans can look forward to the fact that they have the inside track on Justin Fields. That’s about the only thing I’m confident in.
Verdict: 0.75/10, Check Down
Oh, well this was unexpected. I almost locked the Titans in last week. I figured they’d be angry after losing to Pittsburgh, and Derrick Henry would run all over a soft Cincinnati defense. Instead, Joe Burrow made the Titans look like Swiss cheese defensively, and now Tennessee’s lost their second in a row. The Titans have to be able to stop the Bears this week, plain and simple. I refuse to believe this team was a fluke.
Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week
Kansas City Chiefs
I mean, it was the Jets. You’re the Super Bowl champions. You want a medal or something?
Verdict: 9.75/10, Check Up
What a set of thrillers for the 4:00 games this week. Both this and the Bears/Saints game were absolutely wonderful, as long as you weren’t a fan of any of the teams. The Broncos came back from down three scores and stunned the Chargers on the last play of the game. This should help Broncos fans feel a little more at ease going into week nine against the Atlanta Falcons.
Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert may be the unluckiest quarterback in the NFL this year. His receivers don’t drop that many passes, sure, and he has a lot of talent, but his team just keeps blowing it. There is no reason the Chargers should have won this game, but even when they were up 21-3, it felt like they might let this one slip. And, naturally, they did. Now it’s time for another divisional matchup against the Raiders in week nine.
Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week
Las Vegas Raiders
This one was massively important for the Raiders. Vegas has broken the .500 mark, they’re rolling into a divisional game against the Chargers, and the back half of their schedule isn’t exactly difficult. This Raiders team could absolutely make the playoffs if they continue to play their cards right. It’s all right there for the taking.
Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Up