On the face of it, Week 7 was without doubt the weakest slate of games we’ve had so far this season. It doesn’t help when several of the league’s most electric offenses (Cowboys, Chargers, Jaguars *wink wink*) are all on Bye weeks. AND THEN there were multiple games on the slate with 15+ point underdogs…

This was a lopsided week, with only ONE game decided by one score on Sunday. It was always going to be tough to find much juice out of the Week 7 Sunday slate. That said… I think we’ve got it! We need to talk about a bigggggg upset in the AFC North, the Kansas City Chiefs potentially being broken, and Dan Campbell attempting to trick play his way to his first win as Lions Head Coach… and sadly falling short. We’ll get through this together. Let’s go.

Burrow & Chase Leading Bengals To The Promised Land

Credit: ESPN

Stop what you’re doing. Read this next sentence, digest it, ponder it, believe it, and process it, because it’s true: After 7 weeks of the 2021 NFL Season, the Cincinnati Bengals are 5-2, are in FIRST PLACE in the AFC North Standings… AND in FIRST PLACE in the AFC Playoff Standings!!! What. Is. Going. On?!

The oft-maligned Bengals have silenced the doubters, and Joe Burrow has bounced back from his injury-curtailed rookie year to have this team on the cusp of making their first playoff appearance since 2015. Mind you, they haven’t WON a playoff game since 1990, so you could well argue that the wait for a legitimate team has been even longer for the good people of Cincinnati.

The Ravens came into this hot off the back of defeating a rival AFC Championship contender in the LA Chargers, without breaking a sweat. This was Lamar Jackson’s first defeat in the month of October, and his first career defeat to the Bengals. But what stood out most if that wasn’t just a defeat; this was a mauling. The Bengals jumped on the Ravens, showed they weren’t scared of them and refused to stop pouring it on late on.

Baltimore have beaten the Chiefs & the Chargers (two of the hot preseason AFC favourites), but have also now lost to both the Bengals & the Raiders who were not supposed to be potential playoff teams. Don’t worry – this is merely a blip Baltimore fans; but it does ask questions about the Ravens credentials. They were at home, and a near touchdown favourite. Yet the Bengals wouldn’t be denied.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown made another nice TD grab, but Mark Andrews was marshalled well by the Bengals defense, who got to Lamar Jackson on multiple occasions. Jackson may have racked up the yards on the ground, but whenever the Bengals needed a stop they found a way to get one. 

The Bengals are completely transformed since Joe Burrow was drafted. Joe Mixon is now running with a vengeance. CJ Uzomah is all of a sudden a threat from the Tight End position… and then you have the Wide Receivers. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are great support acts for the main man. He’s surely going to be Rookie of the Year if he keeps this up… Ja’Marr Chase.

Burrow & Chase are flying their way to being the Number 1 WRxQB partnership in the league, with Chase on pace to *obliterate* Randy Moss’ famous rookie season of 1998. Moss had 69 catches for 1313 yards and 17 TDs. Chase may not hit that ridiculous number of scores, but is well on pace to beat the catches and yards marks.

So much of the pre-draft narrative around the Bengals was “you have to draft Penei Sewell to protect Joe Burrow,” rather than thinking about the potential dynamic offensive explosion that could happen with the LSU reunion with Chase. Zac Taylor has rolled the dice as a Head Coach and, in what was Cincinnati’s biggest regular season game since the one that confirmed they had the Number 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Bengals proved that they must be taken seriously.

Cincinnati have – somehow – put the AFC on notice. They will get their 6th win of the season next week against the Jets, and then we’ll really see how serious they are in Week 9 when they face the Cleveland Browns.

The Titans Complete The 2020 AFC Title Game Sweep

Credit: USA Today Sports

What a week for Mike Vrabel. Wow. The Titans have beaten both of last season’s AFC Championship Game contenders within the space of 7 days. And this time… they didn’t even need Derrick Henry to get into the endzone. What… is happening with the Chiefs?! Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu and Travis Kelce’s squad is 3-4, with games against the Giants, Packers, Raiders & Cowboys in the next month before their Week 12 bye.

Is it crazy to now suggest the Chiefs might be 5-6 going into that bye?! After the bye… Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Bengals & Broncos… so the end of the season looks a bit nicer… but could the Kansas City Chiefs be a 7-8 LOSS team this year?! Woah. Now it’s also completely possible that Mahomes wakes up, wins the next four straight and they go into their Bye at 7-4, then rattle off 6 wins to close the season and finish with 13 wins and (maybe) the Number 1 seed again. But… right now… it almost feels like the magic man is all out of tricks. Andy Reid needs to get back to the drawing board, and come up with a way to get the Chiefs back in the win column. 

But let’s not let that detract from the excellence of the Tennessee Titans. What a bounce back from the absolute embarrassment of losing to the New York Jets. The Titans are so difficult to come back against, as Henry runs the ball right at your face, and Tannehill is equally a threat with his legs, and they’ve now got Julio Jones to threaten down the field alongside the excellent AJ Brown.

Oh and Derrick Henry is throwing TD passes again now. They brought that play out a couple of years ago against the Patriots in what proved to be TB12’s last game in Foxboro, but yesterday it felt like a slap right in the Chiefs’ face. But the story of this game has to be that the Titans held the Kansas City Chiefs to… THREE points. Three. 1. 2. 3. THREEEEEEE. No touchdowns. The lowest points total in the Andy Reid era. Amazing.

Mahomes doesn’t look like himself right now, and both Hill and Kelce have somehow been marshalled well by opposing defenses recently. The Titans were ferocious rushing the passer, and exploited the holes in the KC O-Line without hesitation. The Titans team now sits at 5-2, and is absolutely in contention for the latter stages of the AFC Playoffs. The AFC is loaded, and it feels like any number of surprise teams could make a run, especially with the Chiefs faltering. Nashville is bouncing. With the King leading the way, the sky’s the limit for the Titans.

Quick Hits

Credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press)
  • Man… I love Dan Campbell so much. I feel really sorry for Dan Campbell. I want Dan Campbell to be a success in Detroit. I believe Dan Campbell can be a success in Detroit. Going all-out with constant trick plays as an underdog on the road AND pulling them off successfully deserves significant respect. To go out, score on the opening drive, then ONSIDE KICK and get the recovery, then fake two punts… I love it. Keep believing Lions fans. Better days are coming. And give Jared Goff some credit. Yes, he threw the back-breaking interception to Jalen Ramsey late on, but 
  • That said… The Rams weren’t going to let the fairytale come true. Cooper Kupp is absolutely ridiculously productive with Matt Stafford as his Quarterback. They’re fighting Joe Burrow & Ja’Marr Chase for the Number 1 WRxQB Partnership.
  • Mike Evans and Tom Brady want to be that Number 1 WRxQB partnership too. The Buccaneers are not messing around. Clinical and cold when they have the chance to take over a game. Their defense is still legit despite all the injuries. Next week: The Saints (who beat the Bucs twice in the Regular Season last year).
  • The Bears are dead. Dead, dead, dead. 
  • Damien Harris is a legit Running Back. New England have a guy they can rely on. It’s only the Jets, so we can’t read too much into this, but the Patriots put on a merciless show of strength on Sunday.
  • Zach Wilson is gonna be out 2-4 weeks with his knee injury. I’m still astounded that the Jets have won a game this season, let alone vs the Titans, but you really feel like they may well go entirely defeated the rest of the way.
  • I may have been too high on the Eagles. Jalen Hurts needs help. They don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way. That said, I still think they may end up finishing 2nd in the NFC East.
  • The Rich Bisaccia era has started fantastically well in Las Vegas. No Darren Waller, no problem. Enter: Foster Moreau as a Tight End that nobody owned in Fantasy Football but scored 15+pts…
  • JJ Watt and DeAndre Hopkins walking off with a 7-0 record after handling the Houston Texans with ease must have been sooooo satisfying for that pair. Kyler is still making absolutely magical plays. The Cardinals are so so good. Respect them.
  • Davis Mills really ain’t it for the Texans. Feels like the Deshaun Watson trade might actually happen this week…
  • And it feels like the Miami Dolphins might be the team who are actually going to pay the exorbitant price to acquire Watson’s services. It’s an extremely questionable moral decision, and an equally questionable football decision when you consider that Watson may be unable to play this season… and who knows about the future with the pending legal charges. It’s… an incredibly complex situation. Watson undoubtedly is a better QB than Tua Tagovailoa, but can you justify the horrific accusations that come with him? For the 2nd time in 2 weeks the Dolphins managed to lose the game on a last-second Field Goal, despite Tua’s first 4 Pass TD game… Miami are in absolute chaos right now.
  • YoungHoe Koo is clutch. Kyle Pitts is a monster. The Falcons are still not good, but with a new and dynamic QB in a couple of years… they could be frisky.
  • Well, that 3-0 Carolina Panthers start feels like a fluke doesn’t it?
  • Give Joe Judge some credit for managing to win an NFL game with all of his top weapons out injured. If Daniel Jones can stay out of his own way, and the weapons can stay healthy, the Giants could also be frisky in a couple years time.
  • Thoughts and Prayers to Taylor Heinicke for the Lambeau Leap… on a Touchdown that didn’t count because he slid short of the goal line… and then got stopped on 4th and Goal trying to sneak it in. Not ideal. 
  • The Green Bay Packers are absolutely rollllllling. This Thursday Night? Cardinals vs Packers. Let’s. F*cking. Go. 7-0 vs 6-1. Buzzing.
  • Well… are we finally ready to all admit Jimmy G is not, and never was, “the Guy?” Come on. The 49ers run game is fantastic, similar to the Browns, where you feel like they could plug in and play ANY running back and he’d go for 100+ yards each week. But in the passing game, despite Deebo Samuel continually ruining my fantasy football matchups each week, Garoppolo cannot carry this team. Trey Lance might not be ready yet, but this sort of performance continues to reiterate that reaching the SuperBowl a couple of years ago with Jimmy G was nothing more than a fluke.
  • Carson Wentz! Jonathan Taylor! Michael Pittman Jr.! The Colts! The Colts are alive! In a wet and windy Santa Clara, the Colts put the Niners to the sword with a combination of defensive pass interference penalties, Darius Leonard being back in “maniac” form, and good running from Jonathan Taylor. Can the Colts push the Titans in the AFC South? I don’t think so, but I hope so for “In-Season” Hard Knocks’ sake…

MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 5-2)

Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer (Associated Press)

Well, the streak came to an end last week when, after rattling off 5 straight wins, I picked the Bills, and they ran into the steam train that is Tractorcito. Derrick Henry’s hat trick of TDs put pay to my dreams of 6 straight correct Monday Night Football predictions. No time to be down – let’s jump back on the horse with a weird one in Seattle… isn’t it always strange up there?

Jameis Winston and the Saints are the visitors, as Geno Smith (still starting!) and the Seahawks are desperate for a win. Pete Carroll’s men are desperately trying to stay afloat with Russell Wilson still recovering from finger surgery. Give Geno some credit: the Seahawks have hung tough and been close in both games Geno has played in so far. He’s given them a chance to win the games, but the combination of bad defensive play, Chris Carson being out injured, and the obvious downgrade between Wilson and Smith has meant that Seattle are now 2-4, staring up at the Rams and Cardinals in their own division.

If – like me – you thought the Seahawks would win 10 games this season… and bet on it… you really need their fortunes to change starting tonight. Geno has to keep things simple, get the ball to Tyler Lockett & DK Metcalf, and hope the run game from Alex Collins and the returning Rashaad Penny does enough to keep the chains moving.

The Saints, however, are coming off a bye, and have had 2 full weeks to prepare for this game. Alvin Kamara will be fresh and ready to roll against a Seahawks defense that has been leaky at best this season. Michael Thomas is not quite ready to come back off the PUP list yet, but Marquez Callaway continues to make enough plays to keep the Saints moving down the field.

Jameis Winston has been up and down, but with far less incomprehensible plays than he was making in his last season in Tampa Bay. Winston has done more than enough to keep them in the chasing spot right behind the Bucs in the NFC South, with both Carolina faltering and Atlanta being as inconsistent as ever. 

So with all that put into my head… I’m blindly picking the Seahawks tonight using the logic that they NEED the win more. Geno will have a raucous crowd behind him, and the 12s in Seattle will cause havoc for the Saints. This is maybe the wrong call, but I like the underdogs at home.

Official Prediction: Seattle Seahawks

Week 8 Preview

Week 8 is muuuuuuuuuuuuuuch better than Week 7 for entertaining games. Unfortunately for those of us in the UK, the Crown Jewel of those games is actually at 1am on Friday morning.

I’ve already mentioned it, but Thursday Night Football this week sees Aaron Rodgers, and the 6-1 Green Bay Packers, square off with Kyler Murray, and the 7-0 Arizona Cardinals. Now, if the Cardinals win THIS game, the “undefeated season” talk is going to get REALLY loud. A long way to go, but this would be a huge statement. And equally for the Pack, a win here means they’re tied for the NFC’s #1 seed. Lots on the line. Then we get to Sunday…

NOTHING would make me happier than Jameis Winston’s Saints defeating Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. The Revenge Game narrative is going to be fantastic. Let’s go Saints. Furthermore, we’ve got a few more exciting in-division games with Bills-Dolphins (ehhhh maybe not), Colts-Titans AND the always fun Browns-Steelers game.

In the late slate, Patriots-Chargers could be interesting, Sunday Night Football gives us Cowboys vs Vikings and… OH BOY… Do the Chiefs need a win or what against the Giants on Monday Night?! Lots of good stories to tell, and I’ll be here next week to do so. As always, stay safe and sane. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter & Instagram; come say hey. Be well.

Callum Squires