The Check-down Check-up (2020): Week Nine

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 punched in the mouth right before going into their bye week, and you have to think that that’s going to put them in a sour mood going into week ten. Getting Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller back from injury on the offense should help rejuvenate Cleveland, but I still have a lot of questions about their defense, especially against Deshaun Watson. I like the Browns here, but it’ll be closer than it needs to be.

Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Baltimore Ravens

It honestly feels like Baltimore’s defense scores a touchdown just about every week. Despite losing Calais Campbell to an injury during this game, the Ravens continued to be suffocating on the defensive side of the ball. Yannick Ngakoue will be a great piece for Baltimore going forward as the Ravens face an old rival in the form of the Patriots in week ten.

Verdict: 9/10, Check Up

Pittsburgh Steelers

For a franchise that has been so successful for so long, it surprises me that the Steelers have never been 8-0. Despite looking like the best team in the league, there is one thing that worries me about Pittsburgh. This game should have never been close, and yet the Steelers had to scratch and claw to this win over a Cowboys team led by Garrett Gilbert. Even though they won, I have to dock points for that.

Verdict: 9/10, Check Up

Cincinnati Bengals

Coming off a bye week and heading into a showdown with the unbeaten Steelers, Joe Burrow has never looked so good. Right now, it looks like the Bengals hit a grand slam with the No. 1 overall pick, but facing Pittsburgh’s disruptive defense will be the true test. Could Cincinnati pull the upset? It’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.

Verdict: 6.25/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC East

New England Patriots

The Patriots dodged the most embarrassing bullet of the year by narrowly avoiding a loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football. Even so, this tight of a game shows just how far the Patriots have fallen in the absence of Tom Brady. At 3-5, the Pats are third in the AFC East, and look to be far out of playoff contention due to the state of the AFC right now. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Verdict: 4.25/10, Check Down

Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Kyler Murray proved to be one of the NFL’s best young quarterback matchups of this year, with the rookie coming out on top. Hopefully this is just the first of many showdowns the league gets to see between these two for years to come, with stakes getting higher and higher every time. I’m locking this team in against the Chargers, and I think the Dolphins will cement themselves in the playoff race here.

Verdict: 10/10, Check Up (LOCK)

Buffalo Bills

For most of the game, the Bills pulled off the seemingly-impossible and shut down Russell Wilson. It didn’t last, but Buffalo’s defense hung on long enough to keep the Seahawks at bay, while doing major damage to Wilson’s MVP case. In week ten, Buffalo will meet a Cardinals team desperate to keep pace in the NFC West. I like the Cardinals in this one, but it should be a fun game.

Verdict: 8.75/10, 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

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

An Indianapolis loss to Baltimore makes this week against the Titans something of a must-win. Thursday night under the lights is a proper stage for this type of game, which could go a long way in deciding the division. Should the Colts lose, they will also be a game out of pace with the other wild card teams. Indy needs this one.

Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson was able to drag the Texans across the finish line in week nine, but a close game against the Jags isn’t exactly a vote of confidence. The Texans are a mess, and despite having a very talented quarterback, the lack of talent around that quarterback is appalling. Like I said in Cleveland’s portion of this column, I like the Browns in this one, but Watson just might pull a rabbit out of his hat against Cleveland’s porous defense.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Jacksonville Jaguars

Another week, another step closer to Justin Fields. Despite a strong showing from rookie Jake Luton in his first start, it’s clear to everyone that he is not the answer. The Jaguars need a bona fide top-flight quarterback, or they will continue to go nowhere fast. It’s hard to look at an NFL team and tell them to roll over and die, but the Packers might kill them before they are able to do that.

Verdict: 0.5/10, Check Down

Tennessee Titans

The Titans got a week to regroup against the Bears, and even if it was a one-score game, it felt like Tennessee was dominating. The Titans will now have a short week before going into a divisional showdown against the Colts, and they’ll have another one in week twelve. These games are, more than likely, going to decide the winner of the AFC South. This one is big.

Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Back Next Week

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs should never have been in the position they were in, quite honestly. The Panthers have not won a game in a month, and even with Christian McCaffrey, they are far less talented than Kansas City. Allowing the game coming down to a long field goal is not a great sign for the Chiefs, but an ugly win still counts as a win. Now the Chiefs get a week off to prepare for Las Vegas.

Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Up

Denver Broncos

The Broncos got a week to feel good about themselves before a crushing loss to the Falcons. At 3-5, it’s clear that Denver isn’t going anywhere this year, and in addition to that, the offense really misses Courtland Sutton. Sutton takes the top off of the defense, and can go get any ball thrown to him, and Drew Lock is sorely missing that. I’m taking the Raiders over Denver this week, but I think it’ll be a close game.

Verdict: 4.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are the new Falcons. How does this keep happening?

Verdict: 3.75/10, Check Down

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders got a gift in the waning moments of this game, and narrowly escaped with a win over the Chargers. A narrow win is still a win, though, and the Raiders look primed for a playoff push. With a tiebreaker over the Browns, it makes their path that much easier. A victory over Denver this week would even further cement Vegas as a playoff team, and I think they’ll get it done.

Verdict: 8/10, Check Up

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