NFL Week 7 grades: Bengals get an A+ for destroying Ravens, Chiefs get an F for blowout loss to Titans – CBSSports.com
If it wasn’t clear to everyone before this week, it’s definitely clear now: The Cincinnati Bengals are for real.
Their offense is for real. Their defense is for real, and now, their place atop the AFC North is also for real. The Bengals are officially the first-place team in the division after going on the road and embarrassing the Baltimore Ravens 41-17 on Sunday.
The Ravens were the one team the Bengals weren’t supposed to be able to beat. Going into Sunday, Lamar Jackson had never lost to the Bengals (5-0), he had never lost an October game to anyone (9-0) and the Bengals had only scored two offensive touchdowns against Baltimore in two years. However, that all changed in a game that might have signaled a changing of the guard in the AFC North.
The fact that the Bengals won wasn’t completely surprising, the surprising part was the way they won: They blew Baltimore out of the water. The last time these two teams met, the Ravens rushed for 407 yards, but they got nowhere near that total this time around on a day where the Bengals’ defense dominated.
The turnaround of Cincinnati’s defense has probably been the most overlooked story of the 2021 NFL season. If you watched the defense play last year, it was absolutely atrocious. Imagine watching Derrick Henry play football against a group of elementary school kids and you’ll have an idea of just how bad the Bengals’ defense was last year.
One of its biggest problems in 2020 was that it couldn’t rush the quarterback. The Bengals finished the 2020 season with a league-low 17 sacks. This year, they’ve been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, including Jackson, who got sacked five times bringing Cincinnati’s season total to 19.
For most of the game, whenever Jackson would drop back to throw, the pocket would quickly collapse, which usually led to a bad outcome for Jackson, like this first-quarter sack by Larry Ogunjobi.
Although Jackson did make a few big plays for Baltimore, he seemed overwhelmed at times by the Bengals’ pass rush. Unfortunately for Jackson, he got no help from a Ravens ground game that was basically nonexistent. Although the Ravens ran for 115 yards, most of those came from Jackson (88) with Baltimore’s running backs totaling just 27 yards.
The fact the Bengals’ defense has turned things around makes Cincinnati a scary team. We already knew the Bengals’ offense was good, and somehow, it seems to be getting better every week (It’s averaging more than 30 points per game over the past four weeks).
Just seven weeks into the season, Ja’Marr Chase is doing his best to lock up the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The first-round receiver has been making plays all year and he made another huge one for the Bengals on a third-and-2 play in the third quarter.
That 82-yard score was a backbreaker. It put the Bengals up 27-17 and felt like it iced the game. Chase finished the game with 201 receiving yards, the ninth-highest total in franchise history. Chase now has 754 receiving yards through his first seven games, which is the most in NFL history for a first-year receiver.
Chase has a connection with Joe Burrow that you almost never see with a rookie receiver, even a duo who went to college together. Jaylen Waddle (Miami) and Devonta Smith (Philadelphia) are both playing with a quarterback they went to college with, but they’re not putting up Chase’s numbers. What Chase has done through the first half of the season is nothing short of unbelievable. Thanks to Chase, there’s a good chance you’ll never again hear anyone question the Bengals’ decision to take him over Penei Sewell in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Burrow threw for 416 yards against the Ravens with nearly half of those going to Chase.
Seven weeks into the season, the Bengals aren’t just sitting atop the AFC North, they’re also sitting atop the entire AFC. That’s not a typo: The Cincinnati Bengals are currently the top seed in the AFC. The Bengals have been exorcising a lot of demons this year and based on the way things are going, this is starting to feel like a team that might be able to exorcise the 31-year-old playoff demon that’s been hanging over its head since January 1991.
Alright, let’s get to the grades for every game from Week 7. If you’re looking for a deeper dive on Cleveland’s 17-14 win over the Broncos that was played on Thursday, be sure to click here.