With the Bills and Chiefs playing so well this season, the Bengals have slowly become a forgotten contender in the AFC, but against the Falcons on Sunday, the defending AFC champs put the rest of the NFL on notice that they're still one of the best teams in the league.
The Bengals are at their best when Joe Burrow brings his "A" game, and Burrow definitely brought his "A" game on Sunday. Joe Cool threw for 481 yards and three touchdowns during a dominating 35-17 home win over the Falcons.
Burrow's passing total was the highest in the NFL this year, the second-highest total of his career and third-highest total in franchise history (He set his team and career record in 2021 when he threw for 525 yards against the Ravens).
The thing that makes the Bengals offense so dangerous is that they can score from anywhere on the field, and Burrow proved that when he hit Tyler Boyd for a 60-yard touchdown with his third pass of the game.
When it comes to scoring on the deep ball, no team is better than the Bengals. That throw marked the 12th time over the past two seasons that Burrow has thrown a TD pass of 50 yards or more. To put that in perspective, no other quarterback has even done that eight times. When it comes to touchdown CATCHES of 50 yards or more over the past two seasons, no one is better at scoring on the long ball than Ja'Marr Chase (6) and Tyler Boyd (4), who rank one and two in the NFL.
Chase didn't add to his total on Sunday, but he did score two touchdowns that both went for more than 30 yards. On the first play of the second quarter, Burrow threw Chase an absolute dime that went for a 32-yard touchdown:
Chase also caught a 41-yard score in the game on a day where he finished with eight catches for 130 yards. Not to be outdone, Boyd actually topped Chase's receiving total with 155 yards on eight catches.
The Bengals came just seven yards short of having THREE different receivers finish with more than 100 yards. Tee Higgins caught five passes for 93 yards in the game. And this is what makes the Bengals offense so dangerous: When all three receivers are healthy, this offense is almost impossible to stop. When you throw in Hayden Hurst (six catches for 48 yards), Joe Mixon (three catches for 33) and a slowly improving offensive line, the Bengals are looking better and better each week.
The Bengals have flown under-the-rader through the first seven weeks of the season, and to be honest, they probably like it that way. The defending conference champion usually has a target on their back the following season, but somehow, that target ended up on the Bills and the Chiefs in a season where the Bengals are just quietly coasting along.
After a slow start to the season, the Bengals offense has finally found its groove, and that makes Cincinnati one of the scariest teams in the NFL, and being scary is fitting for this team -- their next game is on Halloween.
Chicago 33-14 New England
|It's not easy to go into Foxboro and destroy the Patriots, but that's exactly what the Bears did on Monday night. After sputtering through most of the season, the Bears looked like a new team. Their offense was able to move the ball at will thanks in large part to the play of Justin Fields. The Bears QB beat the Patriots with his legs, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Bears' 33 points was the most they've scored in a game since Week 16 of the 2020 season. Defensively, the Bears beat up on both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, intercepting each quarterback one time. The Bears shut down the Patriots in the second half, holding them to zero points and just 87 yards. The Bears' performance came out of nowhere and thanks to the win, they now find themselves in a tie for second place in the NFC North. |
|This game was an all-out failure by a Patriots team that showed almost no life against the Bears. The Patriots got a small spark from Bailey Zappe in the second quarter, but other than that, this team didn't do much right. The biggest surprise was that the Patriots defense got steamrolled by a Bears offense that had struggled to move the ball for most of the season. The Patriots surrendered 244 yards on the ground, which is the most they've given up to an NFC team since 1990. It's not often that you see Belichick's defense get embarrassed, but that's what happened here. On the offensive side of the ball, Bill Belichick's decision to start Mac Jones backfired. Jones couldn't do anything and although Zappe was serviceable for two drives in the second quarter, he led the team to zero points and less than 100 yards in the second half.|
Bears-Patriots grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cincinnati 35-17 over Atlanta
|If there's one team in the NFL that doesn't have the weapons to win a shootout, it's probably Atlanta. The Falcons have been living and dying with their ground game this year and when the Bengals shot out to a 21-0 lead, this game felt all but over. The Falcons secondary was just no match for Joe Burrow. Offensively, the Falcons totaled just 214 yards against the Bengals, and 75 of that came on one play. Besides that, the Falcons offense had a tough time moving the ball. The Falcons have been surprisingly competitive this season; they just ran into a buzz-saw on Sunday.|
|The Bengals defense doesn't get as much publicity as the team's offense, but maybe it should, because it has been beating opposing teams up this season, especially in the second half. The Falcons scored zero points over the final two quarters, which probably shouldn't have been overly surprising considering that the Bengals have not surrendered a SINGLE second-half touchdown this year. The defense had one rough quarter with the Falcons scoring 17 in the second period, but other than that, the unit was totally dominant. When the Bengals defense and offense are both playing at a high level, this team is nearly impossible to beat.|
Falcons-Bengals grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Washington 23-21 over Green Bay
|Over the past three weeks, the Packers offense has somehow gotten progressively worse each game, and it might have finally reached rock bottom in Washington. Aaron Rodgers continues to have a look of perpetual frustration whenever he's on the field and it's somewhat understandable considering his receivers are struggling to get open. Over the first three quarters of this game, the Packers punted five times while only putting together one drive that went for more than 40 yards. The Packers defense did its best to keep things close with a pick-six in the first half, but it couldn't stop the Commanders offense in the second half. At one point, the Packers led this game 14-3, but it was an all-out failure after that. The Packers aren't out of the NFC North race by any means, but with the way they're playing, if they don't turn things around soon they're going to be playing for second in the division. |
|Early in the second quarter, this game looked like it was going to turn into a blowout in favor of the Packers, but then the Commanders turned things around. The most surprising turn around came from Taylor Heinicke, who played nearly flawless football after throwing a second quarter pick-six. Terry McLaurin made Heinicke's life much easier by catching nearly every pass that was thrown his way. The Commanders offense came alive in the second half by coming away with a score on each of its first three possessions. Of course, this win wouldn't have happened without a nearly perfect performance from a Commanders defense that didn't surrender a single third-down or fourth-down conversion in the game. Two weeks ago, the Commanders looked to be left for dead at 1-4, but with two wins in a row, they've quickly turned their season around.|
Packers-Commanders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Carolina 21-3 over Tampa Bay
|Aaron Rodgers wasn't the only one to hit rock bottom on Sunday because Tom Brady and the Buccaneers appear to have also hit it. Since starting 2-0, the Buccaneers have now lost four of their past five games and a big reason for that is because the offense looks broken. Part of that is due to Brady, who threw multiple errant passes, but even when he was throwing accurately, his receivers couldn't hang on to anything (Mike Evans dropped an easy TD pass in the first quarter). As bad as the offense was, the defense might have been worse. The Buccaneers couldn't stop a Panthers rushing attack that just traded away its best player. Carolina steamrolled the Buccaneers defense for 173 yards on the ground. All of a sudden, it's starting to feel like the Buccaneers are going to be in a dog fight in the NFC South, a division most people thought Tampa Bay was easily going to win.|
|After the Panthers traded away Christian McCaffrey on Thursday, some people accused them of tanking, but no one will be making that accusation anymore after this upset win. The loss of McCaffrey didn't seem to have any impact on the Panthers, who ran for a SEASON-HIGH 173 yards, marking the team's second-highest rushing total since the start of the 2020 season. Most of that production came from D'Onta Foreman (15 carries, 118 yards) and Chuba Hubbard (nine carries for 63 yards and one TD), two backs who proved to be more than capable of filling McCaffrey's shoes. The only thing more surprising than Carolina's rushing attack was the way the Panthers' defense was able to shut down Tom Brady. The Bucs quarterback faced relentless pressure on a day where Tampa Bay didn't score its first points until the fourth quarter.|
Buccaneers-Panthers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Baltimore 23-20 over Cleveland
|For the fourth time this season, the Browns lost by just one score, and for the fourth time this season, the Browns might have been able to win if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot multiple times. One of the biggest mistakes came from Jacoby Brissett, who lost a fumble in the third quarter that the Ravens eventually turned into a touchdown. The Browns also couldn't convert on third down (2 of 11) and they struggled to protect Brissett, who was sacked five times. On a day where the Browns actually did a good job of slowing down Lamar Jackson, they couldn't stop a Ravens rushing attack that piled up 160 yards.|
|The Ravens offense wasn't overly impressive on offense in this game -- it totaled only 254 yards -- but Baltimore came away with a win, thanks to a spectacular performance from their defense and special teams. The defense came up with five sacks on Sunday and none was bigger than the game-changing strip-sack by Calais Campbell in the third quarter that set Baltimore up at Cleveland's 25-yard line (The Ravens ended up scoring a TD). Although the offense sputtered for part of the day, Justin Tucker didn't. Mr. Automatic came through with three huge field goals, including a 55-yarder in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the game. If the Ravens proved one thing on Sunday, it's that they can still beat you even if their offense has a slight off-day.|
Browns-Ravens grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Dallas 24-6 over Detroit
|The Lions were undermanned coming into the game without D'Andre Swift, then lost Amon-Ra St. Brown to a concussion on their second drive of the game. But you basically don't have a chance to win when you commit five turnovers anyway. Jared Goff was responsible for four of them with two picks and two late strip-sacks, but it was the Jamaal Williams fumble on the goal line that was most damaging.|
|Dak Prescott's return to the lineup was efficient (8.3 yards per attempt) if not necessarily explosive, with just 207 passing yards and one touchdown. But both Ezekiel Elliott (two touchdowns) and Tony Pollard (14 touches for 109 total yards) looked great, and the defense forced FIVE (5!!!!) Detroit turnovers while holding the Lions to just six points. The Cowboys are going to make sure that the NFC East race stays interesting. |
Lions-Cowboys grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tennessee 19-10 over Indianapolis
|Matt Ryan never looked comfortable with the pressure he was under on Sunday, and his back-to-back interceptions in the second quarter definitely hurt. Henry averaged over four yards per carry and once again shouldered the entire offense. If you want to beat Tennessee, you have to contain the beast at running back and not shoot yourself in the foot with turnovers. Indianapolis did neither on Sunday.|
|Mike Vrabel would probably grade Sunday as an "A." It wasn't the sexiest victory of all time, but the Titans swept the season series against the Colts for the second consecutive season with a 19-10 win. That's four wins in a row for Tennessee by the way. Derrick Henry rushed for 128 yards on 30 carries, and the defense picked off Matt Ryan on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. In fact, it was the defense that scored the only touchdown of the game for the Titans, as Andrew Adams recorded a 76-yard pick-six. Defense and running the ball -- that's the Titans' winning formula.|
Titans-Colts grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Giants 23-17 over Jacksonville
|The Giants got another game where they didn't beat themselves. New York had no turnovers and didn't put the ball on the ground as the Giants used the second half to wear down the Jacksonville defense for another come-from-behind victory. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley each ran for 100 yards -- including 122 combined in the fourth quarter -- as the Giants scored 10 points in the final frame to take a 23-17 lead and hold on for the win. New York had a scare in the final seconds, but Fabian Moreau stopped Christian Kirk short of the end zone on the final play to make sure the Giants preserved the win. The Giants don't turn the ball over, they wear teams down and they make the tackles they need to. They're fundamentally sound and well coached, which is why they're 6-1.|
|This was a game for the taking in Jacksonville, but miscues ultimately doomed Jacksonville from beating a fundamentally sound Giants team. Doug Pederson refusing to challenge a third-and-1 on a direct snap led to a failed fourth-and-1 conversion that a field goal would have put Jacksonville up seven in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars also had a Travis Etienne fumble in the red zone in the first half that led to three points for the Giants and failed to extend a four-point lead. A missed extra point also extended the miscues for the Jaguars in a winnable game. Jacksonville is a much better team, but the Jaguars still have a ways to go to finish games.|
Giants-Jaguars grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Las Vegas 38-20 over Houston
|When you only punt once in a game in the NFL, you usually come away with a win, but the Texans ended up getting blown out and it's because of their defense. The unit got bulldozed by Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Offensively, it looked like the Texans were going to be able to hang with the Raiders in this shootout, but then Davis Mills threw a pick-six in the fourth quarter, to cap off an ugly final period where the Texans got outscored 21-0. Although this was a battle of one-win teams, the Texans found out that not every one-win team is created equally. The Raiders feel like a team that could compete for a wild card spot while the Texans feel like a team that could compete for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.|
|Josh Jacobs has suddenly turned into the most unstoppable force in the NFL. The running back has played three games in the month of October and he has topped 140 rushing yards in each of those games, which seems almost impossible when you consider that he had NEVER hit the 140-yard mark before this month. Against the Texans, Jacobs rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns and he was so good that he opened thing up for Derek Carr, who was nearly perfect (21 of 27 for 241). The Raiders defense struggled against the Texans, but the unit came up big during a fourth quarter where it outscored Houston 7-0 thanks to a pick-six by Duron Harmon. The Raiders have four losses, but all four losses were by one score, which means this team might be better than its record suggests.|
Texans-Raiders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Seattle 37-23 over L.A. Chargers
|It's fitting that the Seahawks are alone in first place in the NFC West after winning this game, because this victory definitely proves that Seattle is for real. The Seahawks' biggest weakness through the first few weeks of the season was their defense, but that unit has turned things around over the past two weeks. Seven days after holding the Cardinals to nine points, the Seahawks absolutely shut down a Chargers offense that's not easy to shut down. The defense even set up 10 early points by forcing two turnovers in the first quarter. Offensively, Kenneth Walker had a breakout game with 23 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns. When you combine that with the fact that Geno Smith is playing like a borderline MVP candidate, it's not crazy to think that this team could end up winning the NFC West.|
|The Chargers stumbled out of the gate and fell flat on their face to start this game. Before the first quarter even ended, the Chargers had a failed fourth down, a lost fumble and an interception, and things only uglier from there. Justin Herbert had an erratic day and a big reason for that is because the Seahawks brought constant pressure on a day where they sacked him three times. Herbert got zero help from a ground game that totaled just 53 yards. The Chargers are now 0-3 under Brandon Staley when they rush for under 60 yards and they've been outscored by an average of 23.3 points in those games. Defensively, the Chargers did force two turnovers and get a safety, but that was about all they did right.|
Seahawks-Chargers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 44-23 over San Francisco
|It's pretty wild how effortlessly they carved up the NFL's No. 1 defense, even though they started off their "A" game. Down 10-0 early after a pick, they responded by spreading the ball around to, quite literally, everyone in their lineup. And everyone did their jobs. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling looked like lifelong Chiefs -- truly trusted outlets for Patrick Mahomes. The only reason they weren't perfect is because they permitted San Francisco to move well on the ground out of the gate, although they solved that later by ratcheting up pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo.|
|Such a tough grade. On one hand, they either led or stayed within one score of the red-hot Chiefs into the third quarter, and their new rushing duo of Christian McCaffrey and Jeff Wilson looked as good as advertised. On the other, Jimmy Garoppolo, whose best attribute is being a caretaker for Kyle Shanahan's offense, put the ball in harm's way on one too many key downs in a game that required near-perfection. Deebo Samuel was unusually quiet. And DeMeco Ryans' defense, stingy as it may be, had no answers after halftime, failing to properly pressure Mahomes or cover any of K.C.'s downfield options.|
Chiefs-49ers grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Jets 16-9 over Denver
|The Jets won and improved to 5-2, but many of their issues, especially on offense were exposed. They struggled to convert first downs and were only able to score one touchdown. Their penalties were another issue and it could have cost them a win if they were playing a team that had a better offense than what the Broncos are putting out on the field. The saving grace for the Jets on Sunday was their defense, which held the Broncos scoreless in the second half. |
|The Broncos did hold the Jets to just one touchdown, but other than that, they showed that they are not going to become a winning team anytime soon. Their offense only got in the end zone once and their backup quarterback, Brett Rypien, didn't have any magic to offer with one interception and no touchdowns. Like every game they play, the defense kept the Broncos in it, but the offense has looked slow, disjointed and somewhat dysfunctional, which has prevented the Broncos from winning more games. |
Jets-Broncos grades by Shanna McCarriston (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let her know on Twitter.)
Miami 16-10 over Pittsburgh
|This game looked like it was going to turn into a blowout early after Pittsburgh fell behind 13-0, but the Steelers managed to make a game of it thanks to a defense that held the Dolphins to just three points over the game's final three quarters. Although the defense continuously came up with big stops, it wasn't perfect as it let multiple interceptions slip through its hands (The Steelers dropped four passes thrown by Tua). Speaking of interceptions, Kenny Pickett had a chance to be the hero of the game, but instead, he threw three picks, including two that came in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. All three of Pickett's interceptions came from inside Miami's 25-yard line. This a Steelers team going through growing pains and this loss was extra painful because it's a game they certainly could have won.|
|The Dolphins offense scored 13 quick points in the first quarter, but then struggled to do much of anything after that. Fortunately for Miami, though, that was more than enough to win the game thanks to the play of a defense that mostly shut the Steelers down. The Dolphins' bend-but-don't-break defense intercepted three passes after Pittsburgh had driven inside Miami's 25-yard line, a total that includes an interception by Noah Igbinoghene that came with just 25 seconds left to play. On the offensive side of the ball, Raheem Mostert was a big reason why the Dolphins were able to sneak away with the win. The running back totaled 109 yards and a touchdown on just 20 touches. Tua Tagovailoa was also more than serviceable in his first game back from his concussion with 261 yards and one TD. This win wasn't pretty, but the Dolphins went into Week 7 on a three-game losing streak, so they probably weren't too worried about style points. |
Steelers-Dolphins grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)