A new team sits atop the Gosselin NFL rankings
Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin enters his 45th season reporting on the NFL in 2017. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career, plus 34 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall-of-Fame selection committee for 22 years and is a member of both the senior and contributor subcommittees. Gosselin also is one of 12 voters for the AP 32, the weekly ranking of NFL teams conducted by The Associated Press. Here is his ballot for Week 2:
1. Oakland. With Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack and the safety tandem of Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson, this is the most talented Oakland team since the 2002 AFC champions.
2. Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers threw for 300 yards in the season opener, and all is well in Green Bay. He didn’t pass for 300 in a game last season until the seventh weekend.
3. Kansas City. The stunning season-opening upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots did not come without a cost. Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry has been lost for the season with an Achilles injury.
4. Atlanta. QB Matt Ryan hasn’t missed a step from his MVP season, starting 2017 off with another 300-yard passing game and another victory for his defending NFC champion Falcons.
5. Pittsburgh. Welcome to Le’Veon Bell’s preseason. He sat out the summer in a contract holdout, returning to the Steelers last week. But with 32 yards in 10 carries in the opener against the lowly Browns, Bell’s is still trying to find his game legs.
6. Dallas. As long as Ezekiel Elliott stays on the field, the Cowboys are the favorite in the NFC East. But the NFL figures to spend this fall in court trying to get his six-game suspension restored.
7. New England. Time to bail on the 0-1 Pats? Not really. New England lost the opener in three of its five Super Bowl championship seasons.
8. Seattle. If you’re not the Patriots, though, you have problems. Only eight of the 51 Super Bowl champions lost their season opener on the way to hoisting that Lombardi Trophy. Seattle also finds itself 0-1 this season.
9. Detroit. The Lions managed only 14 defensive takeaways in 2016, second fewest in the NFC. But they came away with four in the season-opening upset of the Cardinals.
10. Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers were the featured team on HBO’s "Hard Knocks" this summer. Of the 12 previous "Hard Knocks" teams, only five qualified for the playoffs, three won division titles and two had their coaching staffs fired. The combined record of the 12 "Hard Knocks" teams was 95-97.
11. Minnesota. After injuries and disappointment at both St. Louis and Philadelphia, Sam Bradford appears to have finally found a home for his quarterbacking skills in Minnesota.
12. Carolina. The Panthers were one of only two offenses that did not allow a sack on opening weekend. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the other.
13. Baltimore. This franchise once called Cleveland home. It’s clear the Ravens are still comfortable there, posting their last two shutouts in Ohio. They blanked the Browns in Cleveland in 2009 and the Bengals in Cincinnati last weekend.
14. Philadelphia. The Eagles filled a void in their defense in August when they acquired cornerback Ron Darby from Buffalo. But the void returns with word that Darby will miss at least the next month with an ankle injury.
15. Jacksonville. The Jaguars already have a return on their $60 million offseason investment in Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell. He collected four sacks in the season opening upset at Houston.
16. Denver. Vance Joseph became the second Denver head coach to begin his career with a victory over the Chargers. Mike Shanahan also beat the Chargers for his first Denver victory in 1988.
17. Tennessee. The Titans need to get their running game untracked if they hope to make a playoff push this season. With DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield and one of the best blocking fronts in the NFL, the Titans need more than the 95 yards they gained last weekend against Oakland.
18. New Orleans. The Patriots visit the Saints, and Drew Brees ought to be licking his chops after watching Alex Smith shred New England in the opener – 368 passing yards and four touchdowns.
19. Washington. When Kirk Cousins doesn’t turn the ball over, the Redskins win. When he turns it over, the Redskins lose. Washington needs perfection from its quarterback.
20. Arizona. Worse news than the loss to the Lions on opening day is the potential loss of RB David Johnson for a couple of months with a dislocated wrist. He led the NFL with 20 touchdowns last season.
21. Miami. The extra week off because of Hurricane Irma actually benefitted the Dolphins. It gave QB Jay Cutler an extra week of practice to figure out his new offense and new teammates.
22. LA Rams. Last season, the Rams scored 46 points in the entire month of September in their return to Los Angeles. This September they scored 46 points on opening day alone.
23. Buffalo. If the Bills were tanking by trading Sammy Watkins, Ron Darby and Reggie Ragland late in the preseason, someone forgot to tell LeSean McCoy. His legs can keep Buffalo in games and his 110 yards on opening day powered the Bills past the Jets.
24. LA Chargers. The Chargers have lost six games in a row dating to last December. The first five losses came with the Chargers representing San Diego. This last defeat came with the Chargers representing Los Angeles.
25. NY Giants. Without Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants’ playmaking bucket is empty.
26. Houston. The Tom Savage Era didn’t last long. After 30 minutes, six sacks and two fumbles, the Texans moved on to rookie QB DeShaun Watson in the season opener against Jacksonville.
27. Cincinnati. QB Andy Dalton remains as inconsistent as ever with four interceptions in the season opener. But the one element of the Bengals that is consistent is the pass rush. Cincinnati now has a sack in a league-best 29 consecutive games.
28. Cleveland. The Browns have started 10 rookie quarterbacks since the NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999. With Deshone Kizer’s loss to Pittsburgh, those rookie QBs are now 0-10 in their starting debuts with seven touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 44 sacks.
29. Chicago. It’s going to be tough for the Bears to compete in the NFC North with Mike Glennon as their quarterback. Sam Bradford (Minnesota) and Matthew Stafford (Detroit) were both first overall picks of drafts and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) is a two-time NFL MVP.
30. San Francisco. The 49ers have work to do now on both sides of the ball. They failed to score a touchdown in the opener, and their defense was held without a sack for the first time in 24 games.
31. NY Jets. After watching the Jets this summer, I can understand why franchise owner Woody Johnson left to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.
32. Indianapolis. Where are Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis when you really need them? The Colts are reeling defensively after being torched by the lightly-regarded Rams for 46 points.