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Ben Volin | On football

Week 13 Review: Move over, Chiefs and Bills. The AFC belongs to the Bengals (until further notice)

The Bengals' Joe Burrow (right) is 3-0 against the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes.Jeff Dean/Associated Press

Hold up, Josh Allen. Move over, Patrick Mahomes.

The AFC belongs to Joe Burrow until further notice.

Burrow is the defending AFC champion after leading the Bengals to last year’s Super Bowl. And while Mahomes and Allen got off to hot starts and looked destined to meet in the AFC Championship game, it’s now Burrow and the 8-4 Bengals who look like the most dominant team in the AFC after their 27-24 win over the Chiefs on Sunday.

After an 0-2 start, Burrow and the Bengals are now proving that last year’s Super Bowl run was no fluke.

The statement made by Burrow and the Bengals is where we begin the Week 13 review:


Burrow and the Bengals are on a roll.Jeff Dean/Associated Press

▪ A week after a dominant road win over the Titans, the Bengals were even more impressive Sunday against the Chiefs. The Bengals’ offense gained 431 total yards and didn’t turn the ball over, while the defense kept Mahomes (223 yards) and Travis Kelce (56 yards) in check. Burrow completed 80 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns, and threaded a perfect pass to Tee Higgins for 14 yards on third and 11 to ice the game.

The Bengals could have turtled after getting stuffed on the goal line in the second quarter, but Burrow led three long scoring drives in the second half to pull off the win.

Burrow improved to 3-0 career over Mahomes, with each win by 3 points. Burrow hasn’t played Allen yet, but the Bills travel to Cincinnati in Week 17.

The Bengals are now the AFC’s No. 5 seed, and still sit second in the AFC North behind the 8-4 Ravens due to a head-to-head loss. But the Ravens may be without Lamar Jackson for a few games, and the Bengals are flourishing. And even if Burrow and the Bengals have to go on the road in the playoffs, they won last year in Nashville and KC and won’t be fazed by having to do it again.


▪ There’s no shame in losing to a solid 49ers team on the road, but the Dolphins’ 33-17 loss was telling.

Their offense, which had scored 30 points in four straight wins, perhaps was just beating up on bad teams (Lions, Bears, Browns and Texans). Tua Tagovailoa completed only 18-of-33 passes (54.5 percent) against the Niners’ No. 1-ranked scoring defense, and the Dolphins’ 308 total yards were there fewest with Tagovailoa since Week 1. This was the Dolphins’ first loss with Tagovailoa this season (7-1).

Tagovailoa struggled against the Niners, completing just about 50 percent of his passes.Scot Tucker/Associated Press

The Dolphins’ defense was also exposed as perhaps not championship level. Niners rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy, playing for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, completed 25-of-37 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Christian McCaffrey had 146 total yards and a receiving touchdown, and the Niners controlled the ball for 40:34.

The 8-4 Dolphins fell behind the Bills in the AFC East and now sit in the No. 6 seed. They need a big bounce-back against the Chargers next week.

▪ The Jets lost a 27-22 heartbreaker to the Vikings to drop to 7-5. Mike White threw two interceptions in his second start of the season, and the Jets’ offense kicked too many field goals, going 1 for 6 in the red zone.

But it’s still hard not to be impressed with the team that coach Robert Saleh is building. The Jets fought back from a 20-3 deficit late in the second quarter and 27-15 in the fourth quarter, and wore down the Vikings on both sides of the ball throughout the second half. White threw for 369 yards and played with a lot of moxie late in the game.


The Jets are so young and inexperienced that they don’t realize they’re the Jets. They’re going to be feisty and competitive down the stretch.

▪ The Titans didn’t want to pay A.J. Brown last offseason, trading him to the Eagles and letting them give Brown a four-year, $100 million contract. But Brown made the Titans pay Sunday, catching eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 35-10 win. Brown now has five “tight window” touchdown catches this year, per Next Gen Stats, two more than anyone else in the NFL.

Brown’s replacement, Treylon Burks, caught a 25-yard touchdown pass, but was knocked out of the game on the play by a hit to the head from Marcus Epps. The hit felt even dirtier than the hit that cost Bills DB Damar Hamlin an ejection Thursday night from the Patriots, yet Epps was only given a 15-yard penalty and was allowed to stay in the game.

▪ No one should have expected Deshaun Watson to play like an elite quarterback in his first regular-season action in nearly two years. But surely Browns owner Jimmy Haslam expected more from his $230 million quarterback than 131 yards and an interception in an ugly 27-14 win over the Texans.


Watson was rusty in his return to action Sunday.Matt Patterson/Associated Press

Cleveland’s three touchdowns were scored on a punt return, fumble return, and interception return. Watson led the Browns’ offense to just 6 points, and their 304 total yards were their second fewest of the season.

The Browns improved to 5-7, but if Watson plays like that next week at Cincinnati, he and the Browns are going to get crushed.

Quick hits

▪ The 9-3 Bills are the AFC’s new No. 1 seed following their win over the Patriots and the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals. The 9-3 Chiefs now have head-to-head losses against both the Bills and Bengals, which could be important for playoff seeding.

▪ A huge win for the Ravens to squeak past the Broncos with backup QB Tyler Huntley, who led a 91-yard touchdown drive for the win. The 8-4 Ravens remained in first place in the AFC North, but coach John Harbaugh said they will be without Lamar Jackson for “days” or possibly “weeks” with a knee injury. A tricky game with the Steelers awaits next week.

▪ The Seahawks have the NFC’s No. 7 seed at 7-5 (.583), sitting .006 ahead of the 7-5-1 Commanders (.577). Geno Smith’s 75-yard, last-minute touchdown drive to beat the Rams showed a lot of heart.

▪ The team no one wants to face right now – the 5-7 Lions. They put up a 40-burger on the Jaguars and picked up their fourth win in five weeks. The Lions have a mild closing schedule – Vikings, at Jets, at Panthers, Bears, at Packers. They’re two games out of the playoffs but might make a run at the No. 7 seed.


▪The Steelers improved to 5-7 with a win over the Falcons, and have won three of their last four games. Mike Tomlin needs to do that again – three wins in four games – to avoid his first career sub-.500 season.

▪ Packers rookie WR Christian Watson has eight touchdowns in his last four games after scoring one in his first six. Aaron Rodgers may not like his receivers this year, but Watson is a keeper.

Tracking Former Patriots

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Was carted off with a left foot injury in the first quarter, and it turned out to be a season-ending broken foot. Just a devastating loss for Garoppolo and the 8-4 Niners, who have won five in a row and are a top contender in the NFC. Garoppolo had 16 touchdowns against four interceptions this season, and was playing some of the best ball of his career. Purdy played well against the Dolphins on Sunday, but it’s hard seeing him play at a Super Bowl level over the rest of the season. Garoppolo will be a free agent this offseason, and may have played his last snaps for the 49ers.

Garoppolo suffered a serious foot injury in the win over Miami.Ezra Shaw/Getty

Raiders DE Chandler Jones: Had three sacks in the Raiders’ win over the Chargers, after compiling just a half-sack through the first 11 games.

Bears WR N’Keal Harry: Had one catch for 49 yards, the longest of his career. Entered the game with four catches for 44 yards in three games this season.

Chiefs G Joe Thuney: After starting in 120 games to start his career, missed his second straight game Sunday with an ankle injury.

Giants coach Brian Daboll: At least the 7-4-1 Giants halted their two-game losing streak with the tie against Washington. Daniel Jones had another solid day – 200 yards, 80 percent completion, 71 rushing yards, and no interceptions – but the Giants got no points on their final seven drives, with six punts.

Raiders coach Josh McDaniels: Three weeks ago it looked like he would be fired. Now the Raiders have won three straight to get to 5-7, and it looks like the players have finally bought in. The Raiders are playing much better than the Patriots, who travel to Las Vegas in two weeks.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel: His team still looks good for the AFC South title despite dropping to 7-5. But that it barely showed up in a 35-10 loss to the Eagles is alarming. A quick look at the Titans’ schedule shows that they beat up the bad teams (Raiders, Colts (twice), Commanders, Texans, Broncos and Packers), and lose to the good ones (Giants, Bills, Chiefs, Bengals and Eagles).

Stats of the Week

▪ The Packers overtook the Bears for the most franchise wins in NFL history (787), the first time since December 1921 the Bears don’t hold that record.

▪ Eagles WR A.J. Brown had more catches, yards, and touchdowns (8, 119, 2) than the entire Titans’ receiving corps (4, 41, 1).

Brown had a big week against his old team.Rich Schultz/Associated Press

▪ Titans RB Derrick Henry is averaging just 52 yards and 2.8 yards per carry in his last four games.

▪ The 49ers’ defense entered Sunday having allowed zero points in its previous 94 minutes . . . then allowed a touchdown on the first play of the game against the Dolphins.

▪ Bears QB Justin Fields had just two scrambles for 7 yards. The Packers played zone defense on 100 percent of snaps, per Next Gen.

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