Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK
Here are THE games to watch this week.
This week is a really curious one in the NFL. There aren’t a ton of “gimme” games on the schedule, and instead we’ve got some competitions between struggling teams, more games between middling organizations, and then these four games, which are really spectacular or interesting matchups.
Whether or not these games actually end up being good is kinda of immaterial. Even a bad game can really tell us something in the story of the 2021 season. So these are the games I’m watching to try and fill in the chapters of this year.
No. 1: Packers vs. Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET — Fox
If you told me this would be a must-watch game a month ago and I would have laughed at you. That’s why this season has been so beautiful. The assumption before the season began is that the Packers would be dominated the NFC while the Bengals would remain in the cellar of the AFC North as they continue to build off their young talent, but now with both teams at 3-1 I kinda can’t wait to see what happens.
The story of the Packers is well known at this point. Their embarrassing Week 1 struggles gave way to Aaron Rodgers and Co. finding their groove and running through the competition. However, so much less is known or discussed when it comes to the Bengals.
Cincinnati has been quietly excellent this season. Joe Burrow has been outstanding this season outside of a Week 2 SNAFU against the Bears which pulled his season numbers down. Burrow has picked up his rapport with Ja’Marr Chase where the pair left off at LSU, and Tyler Boyd has become a great target in his own right.
This is all backed up by a “bend don’t break” defense that has only given up eight touchdowns on the season, and is allowing the offense room to shine. A win over Green Bay would elevate the Bengals into the larger conversation among the top teams of the AFC.
No. 2: Browns vs. Chargers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET — CBS
Another battle of 3-1 teams, Browns vs. Chargers is the perfect example of how teams can build and evolve in the NFL. Where both teams were once laughing stocks, now they are legitimate threats to win their respective divisions.
This is shaping up to be purely an offensive vs. defensive affair. The Chargers are 3-1 right now because of the stellar play of Justin Herbert, who in one year has completely changed the future of this franchise. Meanwhile, honestly, the Browns passing offense has been spectacularly average, and Baker Mayfield really hasn’t been good in 2021.
Thankfully for Cleveland they boast one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, and a defense that’s only giving up 275 yard per game. It’s an old-school construction that’s working for them, and gives them plenty of room to win football games.
No. 3: 49ers vs. Cardinals, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET — Fox
The 49ers might only be 2-2, but they’re a dangerous 2-2. Meanwhile the Cardinals, the last undefeated team in the NFL, looks damn-near perfect on offense, with a defense good enough to keep them in games.
This is just going to be a fun battle, and I kind of really want to see Arizona keep this run alive — just because they’re so entertaining.
No. 4: Bills vs. Chiefs, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC
AFC Championship rematch … nuff said.
Well, there is more we can talk about here. Namely that the Chiefs are looking really, really shaky this season and are in dire need of a win. Meanwhile the Bills are looking for revenge for keeping them out of the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City defense is so spectacularly bad this season I honestly don’t know if they can stop Josh Allen. I have a lot more faith in Buffalo winning this one, but should Kansas City fall to 2-3, well, that’s definitely a hole to dig out of.
That’s enough drama for me to tune in.