Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rematch Sets Playoff Stage

Bengals vs Steelers
Ja’Marr Chase snags this touchdown just before halftime in the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. (Photo by Sam Greene/The Enquirer)

Bengals vs Steelers Week 12 Rematch

The Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 rematch sets an AFC playoff stage this Sunday. The Bengals beat the Steelers 24-10 in Pittsburgh in Week 3. A Bengals win Sunday would mark the first time the team has swept the Steelers in the regular season since 2009. A loss by the Steelers could set their course to the bottom of the AFC North.

Steelers T.J. Watt might return against Bengals

Steelers star linebacker T.J. Watt did not play in his team’s Week 3 loss to the Bengals. He could be ready for the Week 12 rematch after injury derailed him in Week 10 in the Steelers tie against the winless Detroit Lions. A healthy Watt would be a difference-maker for the Steelers, who failed to sack Bengals QB Joe Burrow in the Week 3 loss.

Bengals go with ground game from Joe Mixon

The Bengals rode running back Joe Mixon for 123 yards on 30 carries in their Week 11 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Mixon dented the Steelers for 90 yards on 18 carries in the Week 3 Bengals win. Ground production from Mixon is key for the Bengals’ playoff push. It’s even more important against the Steelers to keep their pass rush off balance.

Steelers’ playoff life at stake against Bengals

Losses to both the Bengals in Week 3 and Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11 put the Steelers close to a do-or-die playoff position. The Steelers relied on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in both of those losses. He threw 58 times against the Bengals and 44 against the Chargers. The Bengals sacked him four times and linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted him twice in Week 3. But Roethlisberger should benefit greatly from the presence of leading receiver Diontae Johnson, who missed the first tilt with the Bengals.

Time to find out if the Bengals are for real

The Bengals still looked like AFC North contenders headed into their Week 9 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. After a 41-16 beating at home, the Bengals looked like more like playoff pretenders. Their playoff viability is in their hands against the Steelers this week and the Chargers next week. Both games are at home, which gives the Bengals a bona fide chance for redemption at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bengals vs. Steelers Prediction

The Bengals are still forming their identity. They could be great Sunday like they were in their Week 7 road romp over the Baltimore Ravens 41-17. Or they could get their identity handed to them like they did against the Browns.

The Steelers are far more recognizable. It took a fourth-quarter freakish frenzy against the Chargers to make a game of it. The Steelers look more like the cellar dwellers of the AFC North this year than the Bengals do.

So, let the playoff stage be set: Bengals 27, Steelers 23

Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft: Dueling Meek Brothers Edition

With the 2021 NFL season half over, it’s been a yearly tradition for the past 5 or so years for Bengals fans to look ahead to the NFL Draft. However, with the win over the Raiders, the Bengals are firmly entrenched in the playoff hunt and fans have more important things to look forward to than the draft.

Next week’s game against Pittsburgh is a huge game and has nearly all of our focus. With that being said, my brother and I decided to take a quick look ahead to the 2022 NFL draft with this four round Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft.

Cincinnati Bengals mock draft

Vance Meek’s Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft

Pick 23: Tyler Linderbaum, iOL, Iowa

The Bengals have an issue on the interior of the offensive line. Trey Hopkins rushed back from injury and has struggled at times. Right guard has been a revolving door of inadequate players all season. Linderbaum is a bit small, but has tremendous technique and knows how to use leverage to win. He could be a long-term answer at center for a team that has lacked a great one for quite a while.

Pick 45: Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington

With Riley Reiff clearly a short-term solution, the Bengals can certainly stand to add another tackle. Kirkland has experience outside and inside, but has the physical gifts to enable him to be a starting NFL tackle. He has great length and moves well laterally. He also should be solid as a run blocker with his movement skills.

Pick 89: Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee

Arguably, cornerback is the Bengals biggest need going into the 2022 offseason. The top guys were all gone before earlier picks, but Taylor has nice value here. He has good size and physicality for the NFL. Taylor is a solid tackler and isn’t afraid to get involved in the run game. He is still growing as a cornerback, having begun his career as a receiver. His upside is nice.

Pick 119: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

The Drew Sample experiment has failed. Adding another guy who can block, but is also a threat in the passing game is appealing, and the value here is very nice. He has enough speed to be effective at the next level, while also possessing the traits necessary to be a good blocker. He could develop into a solid starting tight end once CJ Uzomah moves on.

Pick 136: Isaac Taylor-Stuart, CB, USC

Another high upside cornerback is the pick here. Taylor-Stuart is a very good athlete with a track background. He still shows some rawness, but he also has a very high ceiling. He could wind up being a steal as a day three selection.

Blake Meek’s Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft

Pick 23: Tyler Linderbaum, iOL, Iowa

Center has been one of the biggest weaknesses on the Bengals offensive line. Hopkins, who had a good year in 2020 before the injury, just hasn’t been good this year. Linderbaum has been the best center in all of college football this year and would be an immediate starter for the Bengals. Protecting Joe Burrow is still priority number one and adding Linderbaum would be a big help in that department.

Pick 45: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

Cornerback is one of the top two or three biggest needs for the Bengals this offseason. Chidobe Awuzie has been fantastic for the Bengals this year, but after that it falls off a bit. Kendrick would be a steal for the Bengals at pick 45. He has legit first round talent, and paired with Awuzie would give the Bengals a feared CB duo. This would allow the Bengals to part ways with Trey Waynes and save around nine million dollars.

Pick 89: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

Faalele is a mountain of a man on the right side of the Gophers offensive line. He has elite athleticism for a guy who is pushing 400 pounds. He played rugby in Melbourne, Australia, before coming to the US in 2016 to play his first snap of American football. With Riley Reiff a free agent after this season, right tackle is a position of need for the Bengals. Faalele has the talent to be one of the top right tackles in the league.

Pick 119: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada

Wide receiver isn’t anywhere near the top of the needs list for the Bengals, but Doubs’ talent was too much to pass on here. Doubs is a different kind of receiver than the Bengals currently have. He is a dynamic, big play guy who has the speed to really be an elite deep ball WR. That isn’t all he is though. Doubs also has the talent to separate in the intermediate and short area. Adding Doubs to this receiver room really wouldn’t be fair to opposing defenses.

Pick 136: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

Tight end may not be a need for the Bengals depending on what happens with C.J. Uzomah in free agency, but Kolar would be a fine replacement if Uzomah decides to sign elsewhere. Kolar is a big bodied tight end who used to play basketball in high school. He is very good in contested catch situations and will be an excellent red zone mismatch.

Check out Around the Block for all of our content and follow Vance Meek @vancemeek and Blake Meek @Bmeek23 on Twitter.

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades
Chris Unger – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals got back on track after their bye this week with a 32-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Week 11 Bengals position grades were a bit tough to formulate because it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. But, all around, it was good enough to get the job done. It’s really hard to knock a team, or a unit, when they achieve that goal.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: B+

It wasn’t the most spectacular game in the world for Joe Burrow. But, at the end of the day, he played well enough to lead the offense to 30+ points. He did a pretty good job recognizing when he needed to run the ball and finding the lanes to do so effectively.

He only managed to throw for 148 yards. But, he completed 20 of his 29 passes and found Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Bengals looked fully in control of the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

So, you could describe Burrow’s performance this week as… unspectacular, but clutch. He also avoided throwing any interceptions for the first time since week 4, and only the third time all season. When Joe Burrow plays concise, efficient football… the Bengals tend to win. But, I can’t give him an ‘A’ in the Week 11 Bengals position grades with the limited production he had.

Running Back grade: B+

By the end of the day, Joe Mixon looked like a huge reason why the Bengals won this game. It’s not necessarily false, but it took him a while to get to that point. In the first half, he was only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Not nearly good enough for the Bengals to win. But, he really got it going in the second half, finishing with 123 yards on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. Furthermore, his two touchdowns came at critical turning points in the game.

Samaje Perine wasn’t nearly as effective, however. He totaled 1.5 yards per run on the day. He wasn’t really needed because Joe Mixon managed to get things going in the second half. But, Perine had a mostly quiet day. Ultimately, he made more special teams tackles on the day than first down plays.

It was nice to see Chris Evans back in the lineup, though. He only caught one pass for seven yards on a drive that ended in a punt. But, he was occasionally brought in on certain packages that gave the Bengals a much more dynamic look on offense than they had without him.

Wide Receiver grade: C+

It seems like every receiver on the roster crawled out of the woodwork to get involved in the passing game this week. It was particularly encouraging to see Tyler Boyd get featured so much after struggling to make an impact against the Browns. Tee Higgins made some plays too, so it felt like the Bengals didn’t need an all-time performance from Ja’Marr Chase to develop a solid passing attack.

That said, the passing attack still never really developed. Receivers struggled in contested catch situations all night. Yeah, you could make the argument that a lot of the targets were broken up by good defensive play or were difficult to catch. But, there were way too many missed opportunities from this unit.

It’s really a testament to the Bengals’ offensive potential that they managed to put up 30+ points despite their highly touted receiving corps receiving such an average grade in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Tight End grade: C-

Drew Sample and CJ Uzomah were largely absent in the passing game this week. Although, Uzomah did convert a key third down late in the third quarter. The ensuing drive eventually led to the Bengals taking their first double-digit lead of the game.

However, the real impact in this game from the tight ends was the blocking. Drew Sample was excellent as a lead blocker. He did well in both the H-back role and simply blocking from the tight end spot. You could make the argument that Joe Mixon probably wouldn’t have gotten going in the second half if Sample didn’t lay down some really strategically advantageous blocks.

Offensive line grade: C+

Don’t look now, but the Bengals’ offensive line has been doing a really great job lately of not committing penalties. Quite often, offensive line penalties can be some of the biggest momentum sucks over the course of a game. So, as much as you can point out certain flaws in their game, you have to respect their discipline.

That said, Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff got worked all day. Joe Burrow was constantly dealing with pressure in his face and it was largely due to problems coming from the tackles. That’s particularly problematic because the tackles are supposed to be the ones we can rely on this year.

Joe Burrow’s fumble on the first drive happened almost entirely because Riley Reiff couldn’t handle Yannick Ngokoue. The offensive line’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are largely representative of those issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B+

The way Sam Hubbard closed out that game on the Raiders’ final meaningful drive was a work of art. To just completely, single handedly turn the Raiders’ chances on their heads and break their hearts with back to back sacks and a fumble recovery. Oh by the way, Trey Hendrickson was the one who forced the fumble. 

The Bengals only came down with two sacks on the day. But, they mostly kept Josh Jacobs and Kenyon Drake in check. There were still a few issues with missed tackles on the day. But, they made the ones they needed to. This unit’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are much improved from last week because they were mostly where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was a huge step up from the last two games.

Linebacker grade: C

Another unit that, on the whole, you could argue largely did their job when they needed to, was the linebackers. That is, other than in coverage. It was painfully obvious the Bengals were missing Akeem Davis-Gaither, their best linebacker in coverage. Darren Waller finished the day with 116 yards on seven receptions.

In fact, the Raiders needed only three plays to put together their only touchdown drive of the game. How did they do it? Back-to-back 20-yard passes to Darren Waller and another one to Fabian Moreau, who Logan Wilson completely lost in coverage. It was a weakness the Raiders probably should have exploited more. Luckily they didn’t, but it could be an issue the Bengals need to keep an eye on going forward.

Cornerback grade: A

Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple had one of their best games of the season this week. There were a few bad plays sprinkled in here and there during the game. So, it wasn’t perfect. But, Derek Carr only completed five passes for 50 yards to wide receivers this week. One of those was a weird 20 yard pass to Zay Jones on broken coverage. But, everything else went to Hunter Renfrow, who only averaged 7.5 yards per catch.

Then, there was Eli Apple’s beautifully timed interception. It was like a gift from the football gods. I remember it in my head as though I watched it in slow motion. Did Eli Apple really just make one of the most clutch defensive plays I’ve seen from the Bengals all year?

Yes, yes he did. The Bengals capitalized on that interception with a touchdown when the Raiders had brought the game within just a couple of drives earlier. For as much crap as I’ve given him all year, I have to give him a shoutout in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Safety grade: B

What the hell is going on with Jessie Bates this year? Is his contract situation so distracting that he can’t play coverage? Part of the reason for Darren Waller’s big day was Jessie Bates’ lack of coverage. Going into this season, everyone in their right mind would have pegged him as the Bengals’ unquestioned superstar on defense. But, he hasn’t lived up to the hype even a little this year.

Vonn Bell was much more effective. He led the team in tackles and did a great job of cleaning up plays over top before they broke for long gains. A big reason why the Bengals only allowed one touchdown this week was because he played his role very well. It’s a big part of why I didn’t grade this unit lower in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Special teams grades: A+

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson joined Josh Scobee, Morten Andersen, Neil Rackers, and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers in NFL history to convert three 50+ yard kicks in a game. I don’t care if it happened in a closed stadium. That’s still damn impressive and was a huge reason the Bengals won this game. Sure, the Bengals would have still won by 10 points even without those field goals.

But, until the fourth quarter, it was basically the only reason they were winning. What’s even weirder is he capped all that off by missing an extra point late in the fourth quarter. But, he made up for it by converting a 47-yard field goal. I don’t get it, but I’ll take it.

The Bengals’ special teams coverage was absolutely lethal this week. The Raiders regularly started behind the 20-yard line this week. It was partially due to questionable returning decisions, but it was also because the Bengals’ special teams was all over the ball carrier. Darrin Simmons’ unit gave the Bengals a really underrated advantage this week.

Coaching grade: A

This might not be a direct representation of how the coaches performed in the game itself. But, I just have to point out how nice it is to watch a Bengals team look ready and prepared for an opponent after a bye week. Too many times we watched Marvin Lewis coached teams in Cincinnati look like they were hoping for an extra week of vacation after byes.

The Bengals came into this game needing to be ready to go and ready to make an impact. They did just that and took back control of a playoff seed in the process.

You really have to give credit to Zac Taylor’s staff for putting together a really effective game script and executing it as well as they did. Lou Anarumo’s defensive unit, for all its flaws, came out and played a really solid game. Yes, they let Darren Waller shred them. But, they didn’t allow much else. The Raiders were only able to find the endzone once this week, and the offense went over 30. That’s a winning formula if there ever was one.

Midseason Position Grades for Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals midseason position grades
Gregory Shamus – Getty Images

That might have been one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ best bye weeks of all time. Things started to look bleak after losing to the lowly Jets and falling 41-16 at home to the Browns. So, the bye week seemed like it was coming at a good time anyway. It was an opportunity to rest, relax, and reset after this young Bengals team appeared to be letting early success get to their heads.

Then, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the even lowlier Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The New England Patriots completely upended the Cleveland Browns 45-7. It looked way worse than what the Browns did to the Bengals the week before. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win against the winless Detroit Lions.

Had the Lions converted a missed extra point earlier in that game, the Steelers would have lost and the Bengals would be back in control of a playoff seed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But, it was still a monumentally useful bye week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still looking fully alive at midseason.

Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: A-

Most of Joe Burrow’s 11 interceptions this season have not been his fault. Although, he is tied for third in the NFL with five turnover worthy plays.  But, perhaps it provides some context for the main area he’s been struggling this season.

For what it’s worth, he’s also tied for third in the NFL in Big Time Throws. They’re defined as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” per PFF.

So, yeah, he’s been a bit erratic and inconsistent. But, he makes it work. In the last four games, he’s led the Bengals’ offense to 30+ point outings in all but one game. That one game against the Browns is the one freshest in our memories. But, it shouldn’t hold any more weight than any other game in the midseason position grades.

Running Back grade: B+

Joe Mixon is currently on pace for his best rushing season yet. If he continues his current production, he’d finish with 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Samaje Perine is also on pace for his best season since his relatively solid rookie season in which he started eight games for Washington.

The Bengals are still trying to find ways to incorporate Chris Evans into the game plan. But, he still has 133 all purpose yards and a touchdown. That’s pretty impressive for a third string running back who has only touched the ball 13 times, in five of nine games.

The one area this unit could stand to improve in the midseason position grades is pass blocking. For the most part it’s been ok, but inconsistent. Chris Evans has done a solid job filling in for Giovani Bernard’s vacated pass protecting role when he’s been on the field. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, on the other hand, have had as many struggles as they’ve had good plays in this department.

Wide Receiver grade: B

At the midway point, Ja’Marr Chase’s overall rookie season has been legendary. Especially, considering the general narrative surrounding his awful preseason. To be fair, he had a rocky last two weeks. The Jets locked him down and he and fell apart against the Browns.

But, even then he’s still on pace to shatter Bill Groman’s rookie receiving yards record of 1,473. Even in a 16 game season he would be on pace to break it with 1,484. But, with the extra game, it would be more of a surprise if he didn’t at this point. Especially considering he’s currently on pace for 1,577.

It hasn’t been as lucrative for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, whom some were expecting could join Chase as 1,000 yard receivers in 2021. Neither are currently on pace for it, whether due to drops or simply not getting open enough.

With NFL teams starting to pay more attention to Chase, opportunities for Higgins and Boyd could certainly open up soon. But, they’ll need to take advantage of those opportunities to get there.

Tight End grade: B-

CJ Uzomah has been a revelation this year. He’s currently on pace for 591 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s not exactly going to be shattering any records (other than his own) with those numbers, but it’s still impressive for a tight end room many considered to be the worst in the NFL heading into this season. Uzomah’s fantastic season is a big reason why this unit grades so well in the midseason position grades.

Drew Sample, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as impressive. He’s been below average as both a run and pass blocker. He’s been targeted only eight times as a receiver and, even then, only caught five passes for 45 yards. I think the Bengals were expecting a lot more out of their No. 52 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Offensive line grade: C-

Joe Burrow has been sacked 25 times this year. That’s seventh most among quarterbacks in the NFL, and fifth most for quarterbacks who aren’t known as a habitual scrambler. The Bengals’ offensive line ranks 23rd in the NFL this season in PFF’s pass blocking grade (57.8). That’s largely due to the revolving door at right guard for the second year in a row.

Second round pick Jackson Carman appeared to be doing a decent job of holding the position down, but has seemingly fallen back out of favor among the coaching staff despite earning their stamp of approval earlier in the season.

The run blocking has been better, although still not perfect. In this category, they rank 17th in the NFL (66.0). It’s a testament to how well the running backs have been performing that they’ve been putting up as much production as they have. 

Overall, the offensive line appears to be a step forward from where they were last year. Hence, their slightly below average result in the midseason position grades. It’s not a complete train wreck. But, there are still clear and obvious areas for improvement next year.

Perhaps Jackson Carman isn’t the answer at Right Guard? Maybe Tre Hopkins can be replaced at center? The tackles are doing fine, but the interior still has a lot of issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B-

Another unit that looks massively improved from last year in the midseason position grades is the defensive line. Last year, they were a major part of an abysmal 17 sack season that ranks among the worst in franchise history. Through nine games, they’ve already passed their mark from last year. They are tied at No. 11 in the NFL for most sacks (23). Granted, it hasn’t really shown up much the past couple of weeks. 

They also rank No. 10 in the NFL per PFF’s run defense grade (61.7). I know it hasn’t looked like it the past few weeks, but this defense is performing like a top 10 unit this year. If they can get themselves back on track after the bye week, there’s no one the Bengals can’t beat in the NFL.

Linebacker grade: C+

Logan Wilson’s hot start this season, with the turnovers and the sacks, has been mostly reversed after he’s struggled to make a major impact in recent weeks. Granted, he’s still the team’s leading tackler virtually every week. But, there is an argument out there that the Bengals’ best overall linebacker in 2021 through nine games has been Akeem Davis-Gaither.

Unfortunately, he’s going to miss a good chunk of the rest of the season with a serious foot injury that sent him straight to Injured Reserve.

Cornerback grade: C+

For the most part, Chidobe Awuzie has been a godsend to a Bengals’ cornerback room that was bereft of talent in 2020. He has missed an uncomfortable number of tackles (seven, 11th among cornerbacks). But, he’s been lethal in coverage. He is only allowing 54.2 percent of the passes thrown his way to be competed. And, has the 13th most stops in the NFL (13).

You’d like to see him come down with more interceptions. But, overall the Bengals love what the results of their most recent free agent acquisition at cornerback.

What holds this unit back is the No. 2 cornerback spot. Last year’s big money free agent signing at the position, Trae Waynes, has only gotten on the field twice this year. When he was on the field, he didn’t look particularly good.

In fact, the much maligned Eli Apple has had more good games this year (3) than Waynes has played in his entire Cincinnati Bengals career. This unit really needs someone to step up at CB2, which is why I can’t grade this unit higher in the midseason position grades.

Safety grade: C+

We were all hoping Jessie Bates would step up and make a huge impact in his contract year. His All-Pro performance in 2020 led to a lot of people hoping he could be a major player on defense in 2021. But, he’s looked pretty average, in general.

Vonn Bell has been a major player this year, lining up all over the defensive backfield and making big plays that really helped this defense get off to a fast start. Even Ricardo Allen got in on the action before going down with an injury he just recently got back from.

Overall, however, this unit needs Jessie Bates to go back to playing at an All Pro level. Their midseason position grades are suffering as a result.

Special teams grades: A

Despite some of the week-to-week mishaps than happen for any NFL team, Darrin Simmons has coached up on of the best special teams units in the NFL this year. Their 91.4 overall grade per PFF ranks second in the NFL, behind only the also 5-4 New Orleans Saints.

Players like Joe Bachie, Wyatt Ray, Chris Evans, and Mitchell Wilcox, who generally struggle to make much of an impact in their primary roles, have really stepped up this year. Stanley Morgan, of all people, leads the unit with four tackles.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has had a few struggles, missing three of his 14 field goal attempts. Two of those misses happened in the same game. But, he hasn’t let it rattle him and has converted the winning field goal twice already this season, despite never having the opportunity in college.

Coaching grade: B

In general, I think Zac Taylor has done a solid job in 2021. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 through nine games, despite analysts across the country squawking about how they wouldn’t win more than 6 games in 17 attempts. It seems more likely than not they’ll wind up in the playoffs, after going just 6-25-1 through his first two seasons.

Lou Anarumo has looked much improved as well. Granted, the recent two week skid makes you worry his unit overperformed through the first seven weeks. The last two have looked a lot more like what they’ve looked like the last three years. So, for the coaches to get up to an ‘A’ after the midseason position grades, Anarumo will need to get his unit back on track to playing at a high level.

Week 10 NFL Power Rankings

Week 10 NFL Power Rankings
Robert Ricks – USA Today

The Week 10 NFL Power Rankings show exactly why I love the NFL so much. It’s truly a week-to-week league, so you really don’t know who teams are until the games are played. Any team can win any given week. Also, teams that looked like power houses a few weeks ago can end up on the fringe of playoff contention this week. What will next week have in store? Who knows. But, let’s dive into what we learned from this week…

32. Detroit Lions (0-8)

Last Week: 32

The Detroit Lions come off the bye week still stuck in the basement of the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings. You really shouldn’t have expected anything else, to be fair. Everyone else has won a game, so it would have taken a special level of incompetence I don’t think we’ve seen in the NFL yet to displace this Lions team. Maybe they can take advantage of a Steelers team that has been super inconsistent this year? Hard to imagine, but they can’t go 0-17 can they?

31. Houston Texans (1-8)

Last Week: 31

The Texans won the turnover battle. But, they still turned the ball over four times themselves. Despite forcing five, they only managed to put nine points on the board. They couldn’t find the endzone once, despite being set up in or near Miami territory four times. In fact, they elected to take a field goal at the one-yard line despite being down 11 points in the fourth quarter. I guess the idea was to take the points so you’re only down by a touchdown and a two-point conversion? I don’t know. I’d have tried a quarterback sneak or something. Just seems cowardly.

30. Miami Dolphins (2-7)

Last Week: 30

The Dolphins… did it? They beat the Texans, I guess. Woo. The Dolphins turned the ball over five times, but somehow managed to hold onto a lead they built in the first half. They won’t win many more games playing like that, especially against the Ravens next week.

29. New York Jets (2-6)

Last Week: 26

There’s the Jets we know and love. It looked like Mike White was going to have another good day. But, he exited the game with a nerve contusion. He should be fine after 10 days of rest. But, now the question is, does he get another opportunity, or do the Jets bring back their No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson? It’s probably the only exciting Jets related talking point that exists right now, because they don’t have much else going on. That defense is still wretched. Frankly, they should be 1-7 right now. But, I’m sure they’ll find loss No. 7 next week in Buffalo.

28. Washington Football Team (2-6)

Last Week: 28

Washington went into their bye week on a four game losing streak after looking relatively competitive through the first four weeks. The division is completely out of reach at this point, and it’s tough to find many more winnable games on their remaining schedule. Maybe the Panthers? Maybe they can split with the Eagles? I don’t know. It’s a rough time in the nation’s capital these days.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)

Last week: 29

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so impressed and, simultaneously, not impressed by a win in my life. The Jaguars did knock off a team I’ve had at No. 1 in these power rankings before. But, they also didn’t score a single touchdown and had to finish the game without Trevor Lawrence. He should be fine, but the Jags aren’t going to hold opponents to six points every week.

26. New York Giants (3-6)

Last Week: 27

Two good games in a row against AFC West opponents, but this time the Giants actually pulled it off. I’m not ready to start buying into them yet. But, they do have the Bucs, Eagles, and Dolphins after the bye week. If they can come out of that stretch 2-3 I’ll probably take them out of the cellar.

25. Chicago Bears (3-6)

Last Week: 23

The Bears couldn’t overcome multiple obviously terrible calls by the zebras this week in a hard-to-watch game against the Steelers. I think there might have been more flags than actual game-changing plays. To be fair, some of them were deserved. The Bears played sloppy this week. At the end of the day, if you’re in position for the refs to beat you, you don’t deserve to win. The Bears don’t deserve much winning right now. The wheels are starting to fall off and I’m not sure how much longer Matt Nagy lasts.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)

Last Week: 22

Man, the Eagles had ‘em. They held a lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and their defense was playing great. But, Justin Herbert did Justin Herbert things and took the lead back. The Eagles did manage to march back down the field and tie the game, but they couldn’t stop the chargers from taking the entire remaining six minutes of the game on the last drive to knock in what was essentially the game winning field goal. The Eagles’ desperation double lateral at the end of the game that only lost 14 yards perfectly highlighted the false hope and actual payoff this game felt like.

23. Carolina Panthers (4-5)

Last Week: 18

I didn’t give the Patriots a bump in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings this week for beating the Panthers. But, I’m definitely knocking the Panthers down for that loss. The Patriots took care of business in a game they were expected to win if they were for real. But, the Panthers fell flat in a game they desperately needed to win to maintain some semblance of competitiveness. Sam Darnold’s three interceptions reminded you of the ghosts he so famously saw against New England in the past.

22. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Last Week: 25

Woah! I thought for sure the Falcons were going to find a way to lose that game, and they almost did! Even after Cordarelle Patterson put them in easy field goal range with less than a minute remaining, Mike Davis almost fumbled the game away. Arthur Smith made a decision that looks cowardly, but is probably the smartest thing to do if you’re the Falcons. He took the gift, told Matt Ryan to kneel on the ball, and took the highest percentage chance of winning possible to squeeze out a win that almost wasn’t.

21. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)

Last Week: 21

The Seahawks could get lucky next week if Aaron Rodgers is unable to pass COVID protocols. Russell Wilson should have no problem dispatching the team the 2021 version of the Chiefs overcame. But, if Rodgers does play, the Seahawks could find that Wilson couldn’t come back quick enough. They only managed to win one game with Geno Smith and now have an uphill battle with the Packers and Cardinals next on the schedule. 

20. San Francisco 49ers (3-5)

Last Week: 17

The 49ers had no answers for James Connor, Colt McCoy, and Christian Kirk. That’s not a great sign for a team that was looking to stay relevant in the playoff hunt. There’s still time to turn things around, but they still have a handful of tough games left on their schedule.

19. Denver Broncos (5-4)

Last Week: 24

Is that a sign of life I see from Denver? It might be false hope, because weird games happen in the NFL. But, after being one of the most promising teams through the first three weeks, the Broncos finally have a reason to feel like they could turn their season around. Weirdly enough, it came after they shipped Von Miller to Los Angeles. They have a bad Eagles team coming up next. If they find a way to come away with a win, they’ll be 6-4 at the bye. That would put them in great position to make something out of a mostly disappointing season.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

Last Week: 19

I can’t say I’m terribly impressed by the way Pittsburgh won this game. An absolutely terrible run of form by the referees killed any semblance of hope for the Bears. Yeah, the Steelers won, but did it make you believe in this team any more than you did last week? Not me. They play the Lions next week and I’m sure they’ll win that one too. That said, if they can pull off the upset over the Chargers in Week 11, I’ll put them in the top 14.

17. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)

Last Week: 16

I’m pretty much done with the Vikings at this point. Yes, their record could be so much better than it is right now. I have been preaching that non-stop all season. But, this is what separates the good teams from the bad teams. The Ravens are the team that finds a way to come away with wins in these close games. The Vikings find a way to lose. It doesn’t always make perfect sense, but that’s the NFL baby.

16. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Last Week: 20

Although the AFC South division race is starting to look out of reach for the Colts, the playoffs are still a realistic possibility. The Colts get a boost in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings because they took care of business against a bad team, and they have a few more bad teams coming up. The Colts could realistically be 6-5 by Week 11 and possibly in control of a wild card spot. Quite the turnaround for a team that started 1-4.

15. New Orleans Saints (5-3)

Last Week: 14

Last week, I was asked why I didn’t have the Saints higher considering they beat Green Bay and Tampa Bay, two top-10 teams. Well, that’s why. Without Jameis Winston, I’m just not sure how competitive this Saints team can really be. This week, they lost to a Falcons team that is suddenly .500. You read that right. The Falcons got right against the Saints. Not a position you want to be in.

14. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

Last Week: 13

There’s the Raiders team we were expecting to see. They overcame the Gruden distraction to play some of the best football they’d played all season. But, losing Henry Ruggs III seems to have been a bit more than they were prepared to overcome. The defense didn’t exactly play great, but Derek Carr threw two interceptions to only one touchdown. They had to rely on Daniel Carlson for their remaining 10 points, which just wasn’t going to get the job done against the good version of Daniel Jones. 

13. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Last Week: 10

Had the Bengals’ next opponent, after their upcoming bye week, not also lost in embarrassing fashion this week, I’d probably have them at 14 right now. Essentially, I’m saying I still consider them a playoff team, but barely. According to the standings, they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs right now when they held the AFC’s No. 1 seed just two weeks ago. This defense is a train wreck right now. The bye week couldn’t come at a more perfect time. They need to readjust and refocus if they want to be alive in January.

12. Cleveland Browns (5-4)

Last Week: 15

This just in: Odell Beckham Jr was the problem in Cleveland. I’ve been saying it all year, but there was no greater proof than the Browns nearly equalling their highest point total of the year without the alleged ‘star’ wide receiver. Baker Mayfield looked locked in and efficient, helping the Browns to 41 points against a sputtering Bengals defense. Interestingly enough, the only other time the Browns put up a comparable point total this year was against the Chargers. OBJ played, but he wasn’t exactly a major part of the game plan with only 3 targets.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4)

Last Week: 12

I’m starting to think the Chiefs aren’t going to turn things around. They got a win against the Packers this week, but it wasn’t pretty. Patrick Mahomes didn’t make any major mistakes, which is huge. But, he also couldn’t get much done against a stout Packers defense either. The Chiefs were handed a golden opportunity to beat a top team with the Rodgers situation. To their credit, they came away with the win. But, it was an ugly win that didn’t inspire much confidence they can replicate the result going forward.

10. Los Angeles Rams (7-2)

Last Week: 5

The Rams end their four game win streak with a loss to the newly minted Week 10 NFL Power Rankings No. 2 team. On the whole, the defense didn’t play too badly. They only allowed just over 200 yards of total offense, although they did allow three touchdowns. The fourth touchdown came with the absolute meltdown of the Rams’ offense. Matt Stafford reverted back to his Detroit form with two killer interceptions. Their running game generally did pretty well. But, with the game being out of control at halftime, they ended up throwing WAY more than running.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)

Last Week: 9

I was ready to knock the Chargers down a few spots for the run of form they’ve been on lately, especially after a loss to the lowly Eagles. But, LAB found a way to get it done on the road this week. It was a rough first half, but they found their stride against the Eagles in the second half and salted things away with a Dustin Hopkins field goal at the death. For now, they maintain their spot in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings.

8. New England Patriots (5-4)

Last Week: 8

Last week I gave the Patriots an 8 spot jump. I thought, perhaps, I might be being a little too generous. Yeah they massacred the Jets and beat a former top-5 team. Yeah they came close to beating the Cowboys. Their only bad losses this year were a Week 3 loss to the Saints and a weird Week 1 loss to the Dolphins. But are they really turning things around this quickly in New England? Oh yes. They wholloped the struggling Panthers this week. I didn’t give them a bump in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings. But, it confirmed to me that my faith was well placed.

7. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

Last Week: 7

At a certain point, the ability to pull out miracles against opponents, no matter how cursed, is impressive. Throughout much of the season, the Ravens have reminded me of last year’s Steelers, who famously went 11-0 against bad teams and fell apart when the schedule got hard. The Ravens should be 5-3 because of the uncalled Delay of Game against the Lions, but that hardly matters now with the rest of the AFC North tearing itself apart.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Last Week: 6

Although it doesn’t affect their standing in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings, the Saints’ loss helps the Buccaneers out dramatically. With WFT, the Giants, Colts, and Falcons coming up the next four weeks, the Buccaneers should be able to capitalize on their lucky regaining of control of the NFC South this week.

5. Buffalo Bills (5-3)

Last Week: 2

Bad games happen, so I still consider this Bills team to be a top 5 contender. But, games like that can’t happen often. It was the first time all season they failed to score a touchdown and the only time other than Week 1 when they scored under 20. So, Bills fans shouldn’t be ready to panic yet. Bounce back against the Jets last week and all will be forgiven.

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

Last Week: 3

The Cowboys probably deserve a deeper dive in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings than this. But, luckily for them, many other teams around them had worse losses, or were on bye. Dak Prescott was outplayed by Teddy Bridgewater and their defense allowed the Broncos to put up 30 points. It was their highest point total of the season, and they’ve only scored 20 points once since September.

3. Green Bay Packers (7-2)

Last Week: 1

I’m not going to knock the Green Bay Packersdown in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings too hard for losing without their starting QB. However, I am going to knock them down for showing how screwed they are without Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers plays that game, they probably crush a still sloppy looking Chiefs team. But, Jordan Love didn’t look ready to lead this team. Hopefully Rodgers comes back for Seattle.

2. Tennessee Titans (7-2)

Last Week: 11

Alright, so maybe the Titans will be fine without Derrick Henry. I famously pushed them down in the Week 9 NFL Power Rankings due to losing the player I assumed their football team would live and die with. Well, they went out and dropped 28 points on the Rams before the Rams ever got their first touchdown. Derrick Henry? How about Adrian Peterson.

1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

Last Week: 4

How do you counteract losing to a heavily undermanned Green Bay Packers team in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings? You go beat a team while being heavily undermanned yourself! The Cardinals handily took care of business this week without Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins. They still put up 31 points and bullied a 49ers team that is desperately trying to claw its way into the playoff race.