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NFL Week 7: Did anyone predict a Cardinals-Bengals Super Bowl? It could happen

Joe Burrow led the Bengals to a 41-17 win over the Ravens, ending Baltimore's winning streak at five.Terrance Williams/Associated Press

If there are two NFL teams that aren’t used to sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.

Neither team has won a Super Bowl in the event’s 55 years. The Cardinals have been to just one, losing in 2008. The franchise hasn’t won an NFL championship since 1947, and hasn’t been a No. 1 playoff seed since 1948.

The Bengals haven’t been much better. They are 0-2 in Super Bowls, losing in 1981 and 1988. Those are the only times the Bengals have been a No. 1 playoff seed since they were born in 1968.


Yet it’s the Cardinals and Bengals who sit atop the NFC and AFC after Week 7. And neither team is a fluke. The Cardinals improved to 7-0 with a 31-5 thrashing of the Texans. And the Bengals improved to 5-2 with a 41-17 win over the Ravens, ending their rivals’ five-game winning streak.

Anyone pick a Cardinals-Bengals Super Bowl before the season? You have to love the NFL.

The two surprising teams are where we start the Week 7 review.

▪ A Bengals team that went 6-25-1 in its first two seasons under coach Zac Taylor now leads the AFC North and is an overtime loss to the Packers away from having won five straight games.

Their offense has been incredible in the second season with quarterback Joe Burrow. The Bengals racked up 520 yards against the Ravens, with Burrow throwing for a career-high 416 and Ja’Marr Chase continuing his outstanding rookie season with 201 yards and a touchdown.

Burrow averages 9.2 yards per attempt, second-best in the NFL behind Russell Wilson, and he has a deep stable of weapons in Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Chase, and C.J. Uzomah.


But don’t sleep on the Bengals defense, which is fifth in points allowed and tied for fifth with 19 sacks. Their big free agent signing was Trey Hendrickson from the Saints, and he already has 6.5 sacks. The Bengals held Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson to 15-of-31 passing.

The Bengals made a major statement with the win Sunday and have a good chance to get to 6-2 against the Jets.

▪ The Cardinals are 7-0 for the first time since 1974 and, like the Bengals, they have a deep and talented offense, and are equally loaded on defense. They are No. 1 in points allowed (16.3 per game) and have held their last three opponents (49ers, Browns, Texans) to 14 or fewer points. Markus Golden had two more sacks and a forced fumble Sunday to give him six and four this year.

Arizona's Kyler Murray had three touchdown passes in a decisive win over Houston.Darryl Webb/Associated Press

On offense, the Cardinals had four receivers with at least 50 receiving yards and two running backs with at least 60 rushing yards Sunday. Plus, quarterback Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level in his third season.

The Cardinals have dominant road wins against the Titans, Rams, and Browns, and have a big game coming up Thursday against 6-1 Green Bay.

▪ The Titans seem to have found their groove after getting blown out in their opener and losing to the Jets in Week 4. They won their third straight with an impressive 27-3 win over the Chiefs, which followed an equally impressive 34-31 win over the Bills.


It can’t be a coincidence that the Titans are winning now that they are finally getting healthy. A.J. Brown, who has battled a hamstring injury and food poisoning, had 133 yards and a touchdown Sunday. And Bud Dupree, the big free agent signing who was coming off a torn ACL, finally got his first sack of the season.

Tight end MyCole Pruitt grabbed a first-quarter touchdown pass to put the Titans in the lead for good against Kansas City.Wade Payne/Associated Press

Playing in a weak AFC South, the 5-2 Titans already have a two-game lead and a head-to-head win over the 3-4 Colts. A win at Indianapolis Sunday could basically wrap up the division.

▪ The Raiders improved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 without Jon Gruden with a 33-22 win over the Eagles. And apparently that offense runs itself.

Gruden had been the play caller the last four seasons, yet without him, the Raiders have scored 34 and 33 points in consecutive weeks, and Derek Carr completed an incredible 31 of 34 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s win.

Keeping separate the deplorable things Gruden said in his e-mails, the fact that his team continues to operate at a high level without him is a positive reflection of his coaching and the system he built. The Raiders take a half-game lead over the Chargers and momentum going into their bye.

▪ Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa actually has played pretty well amid the Deshaun Watson trade rumors. Tua completed 32 of 40 passes (80 percent), threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns, and had a 109.5 passer rating. But there’s always a “but” with Tua. The Dolphins still lost, 30-28, to Atlanta, and Tua threw two interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter that the Falcons turned into a touchdown.


Despite the high completion percentage, the Dolphins either won’t turn Tua loose or he won’t do it himself. Only one of his 32 completions went for more than 20 yards, and he averaged only 7.3 yards per attempt. The 1-6 Dolphins can’t salvage this season even if they trade the farm for Watson.

▪ However, the Panthers look desperate enough to trade for Watson before the Nov. 2 deadline. A 3-0 start has turned into 3-4 after their latest loss, a 25-3 shellacking by the Giants, and Sam Darnold has turned into a pumpkin. He has four touchdown passes and seven interceptions in the four-game losing streak, and he was benched for P.J. Walker Sunday.

The Panthers have a great defense, but it’s being wasted by the QB play. Let’s see if they make a run at Watson.

▪ Two thoughts from the Colts’ 30-18 win Sunday night over the 49ers:

The older I get, the less I like “weather” games, like a blizzard or the “bomb cyclone” that dumped buckets of rain on Levi’s Stadium. The occasional weather game can be fun, and they can provide iconic photographs. But severe weather also ruins the X’s-and-O’s tactics of the game, and makes it a miserable experience for the fans. Give me dome football all day.


And we learned via the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel that a punt returner can kick the ball 20 yards backward into his own end zone and still be credited with a touchback, not a safety. That might be the second-worst rule in the NFL, behind the “fumble out of the end zone becomes a touchback for the other team.”

Ranking the rookie QBs

1. Mac Jones, Patriots: His 92.8 passer rating is 20th in the NFL, ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill, and Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars: The only other rookie QB not to lose in Week 7 — because he had a bye.

3. Davis Mills, Texans. Led three touchdown drives against the Patriots. Led one touchdown drive in his other four starts.

4. Trey Lance, 49ers: Struggled in his one start and was sidelined by a knee injury Sunday night.

5. Zach Wilson, Jets: A knee injury that will keep him out 2-4 weeks may be good to let him clear his head.

6. Justin Fields, Bears: Became the first quarterback in two years to have five turnovers in a game in 38-3 loss to the Bucs. He’s the NFL’s lowest-rated QB (61.8) and clearly isn’t ready to play.

Have not appeared: Kyle Trask, Bucs, and Kellen Mond, Vikings

Tracking former Patriots

▪ Bucs QB Tom Brady: Threw four touchdown passes against the Bears to become the first quarterback with 600 in his career. Add in the playoffs and Brady has 685.

▪ Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski: Missed his fourth straight game with cracked ribs. Hope the big fella can get healthy soon.

▪ Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones: Missed second game in a row with COVID and doesn’t have any sacks since coming up with five in the season opener.

▪ Falcons WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson: Had 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Dolphins, and ranks 22nd in the NFL with 88.2 scrimmage yards per game, his career high.

Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 60 yards against Miami.Michael Reaves/Getty

▪ Dolphins coach Brian Flores: His team is the NFL’s biggest disappointment at 1-6, his defense is 31st in points allowed (29.6), and Miami would be in line for the No. 2 draft pick but traded it to Philadelphia last spring.

▪ Giants coach Joe Judge: Improved to 2-5 with a 25-3 win over the Panthers. It wasn’t pretty, but it was at least convincing.

▪ Texans GM Nick Caserio: His offense has been held without a touchdown in three of its last four games.

Stats of the Week

▪ Rams WR Cooper Kupp is the first player in the Super Bowl era with 800 receiving yards (809) and nine TDs in his team’s first seven games.

▪ Since Week 9 of the 2019 season, Bill Belichick is 4-0 against the Jets and 10-18 against the rest of the NFL.

▪ The 2-5 Eagles currently hold the following first-round draft picks in 2022: No. 2 (from Miami), No. 6, and No. 13 (from Indianapolis).

▪ Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes threw an interception in his sixth straight game, and had his first career game without 250 passing yards or a touchdown.

▪ Jones is the fourth rookie QB to have 225 passing yards and a touchdown in five straight games, joining Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, and Watson.

▪ The Lions are 2 for 5 on onside kicks this year. The rest of the NFL is 1 for 13.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.