Gosselin NFL rankings: Eagles still nesting at the top
Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin is in 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 10:
1. Philadelphia. QB Carson Wentz has had three four-touchdown games this season, all at home. The 8-1 Eagles have a bye this week and then play four of their next five games on the road. Wentz has 15 TD passes in five home games and eight TD passes in his four road games.
2. Pittsburgh. The 6-2 Steelers return from their bye this week with a game at Indianapolis. The road has been good for Pittsburgh’s Pro Bowl RB Le’Veon Bell. He has scored all five of his touchdowns this season on the road and his two best games running the ball have come on the road, a 179-yard effort at Kansas City and a 144-yard day at Baltimore.
3. New England. The Patriots return rested from their bye this week and what awaits them is the most daunting portion of their schedule – five road games in the next six weeks. They will play the Broncos in the Mountain time zone, the Raiders in Mexico City, then finish up with four games in the Eastern time zone – Miami at home then roadies at Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh.
4. Minnesota. The Vikings also return from their bye this week for a game at Washington. Minnesota is 18-10 coming off byes, the second-best record in the NFL coming off byes to the 20-9 mark of the Cowboys.
5. LA Rams. QB Jared Goff is becoming quite the road warrior. He has a four-touchdown pass at the Giants, a three-TD game at San Francisco, a 2-TD game at Dallas and a one-TD game at Jacksonville. Ten of his 13 touchdown passes this season have come on the road.
6. New Orleans. The Saints have rallied from an 0-2 start to storm into first place in the NFC West with a 6-2 record. The defense has stepped up, limiting five opponents during the current six-game winning streak to 17 points or less. This from a defense that allowed an average of 28.4 points per game last season on the way to a non-playoff finish.
7. Kansas City. QB Alex Smith finally threw an interception, ending his season-long streak of 207 consecutive passes without a theft, and his Chiefs are now slumping. After a 6-0 start, they are now 6-3 heading into their bye.
8. Carolina. Rookie RB Christian McCaffrey finally scored a rushing touchdown in his ninth NFL game. But that’s not his value to the Carolina offense. He leads the NFC with 54 receptions, emerging as QB Cam Newton’s security blanket in the passing game.
9. Jacksonville. The 5-3 Jaguars are the only team in the NFL that ranks in the Top 10 in both offense and defense this week. Jacksonville ranks ninth in offense and third in defense. The Jaguars also are the only team to lead the NFL in both an offensive (rushing) category and defensive (pass defense) category.
10. Dallas. The Cowboys are the only NFC offense still without a 300-yard passer this season. Dak Prescott’s best game was a 268-yard effort in the opener against the Giants. The Cowboys have been relying heavier on RB Ezekiel Elliott, who has carried the ball at least 20 times in seven of the eight Dallas games thus far and has scored nine touchdowns.
11. Tennessee. The hottest player in the NFL doesn’t play offense. He plays defense for the Titans. He’s safety Kevin Byard, who has five interceptions in his last two games.
12. Washington. Big weekend for Michigan State quarterbacks. Brian Lewerke led the Spartans to an upset victory over Penn State, Kirk Cousins led Redskins to an upset victory at Seattle and Drew Stanton led the Cardinals to a victory over San Francisco in his first start of the season.
13. Seattle. Stephen Hauschka, the kicker the Seahawks let walk in free agency last offseason, ranks 11th in the NFL in scoring with 66 points. He is perfect in his 18 conversion kicks and 16-of-18 in field goals, including a league-best three from beyond 55 yards. Seattle’s current kicker Blair Walsh missed three field goal tries, all from inside the 50, in a 17-14 home loss to Washington last weekend.
14. Buffalo. The 5-3 Bills remain one of only two NFL teams still perfect at home, joining the Eagles. The Bills are 4-0 at Ralph Wilson Stadium and host the Saints there this Sunday. QB Tyrod Taylor has not committed a turnover at home since the season opener against the Jets when he threw an interception.
15. Atlanta. If the Falcons are to make a stand in defense of their NFC crown, it will come in the next five weeks. Atlanta is a modest 4-4 with four of its next five games at home, starting with Dallas Sunday. The Falcons moved into a new home this season, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and they’d better discover that homefield edge soon. Atlanta has lost two of its three home games thus far. Its season now hangs in the balance.
16. Detroit. Matthew Stafford has avoided throwing an interception in six of his eight games this season for the 4-4 Lions He's also on a roll with his receivers, having passed for 300 yards in each of his last three starts.
17. Oakland. The Raiders remain the only team in the NFL still without an interception from their defense this season. That’s 288 passes without a theft. Oakland had a ballhawking secondary a year ago, finishing in the NFL’s Top 10 in interceptions with 16. Where’s Willie Brown when you really need him?
18. NY Jets. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of seven tight ends who leads his team in receiving this season, joining Jack Doyle (Colts), Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Jared Cook (Raiders), Delanie Walker (Titans), Evan Engram (Giants) and Zach Ertz (Eagles). Seferian-Jenkins has caught 33 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns for the 4-5 Jets.
19. Arizona. It appears the 4-4 Cardinals will extend their season as far as Adrian Peterson’s legs can carry them. Since his acquisition from the Saints three games ago, Peterson has rushed for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for only 81 yards in his first four games with New Orleans. With Carson Palmer out the next wo months, the offense now belongs to Peterson.
20. LA Chargers. The Chargers have one of only four NFL defenses that has not allowed a 100-yard receiver yet along with the Jets, Ravens and Vikings. The last receiver to catch 100 yards of passes against the Chargers was Miami’s DeVante Parker 16 games ago.
21. Miami. RB Jay Ajayi has already scored one more touchdown in his one game with the Eagles than he scored in the first seven games of the season for the Dolphins. Which helps explain why he was moved by the Dolphins north. Miami remains the only team in the NFL still without a rushing touchdown.
22. Baltimore. The Ravens have one of only four defenses that has not allowed a 300-yard passer this season – and they are all in the AFC, also the Broncos, Browns and Jets. Baltimore ranks third in the NFL in pass defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete only 56.7 percent of their passes. The league average is 62.5 percent.
23. Chicago. Kareem Hunt wasn’t the only mid-round find at running back in the 2017 NFL draft. The Chiefs took Hunt in the third round and the Bears found Tarik Cohen in the fourth out of North Carolina A&T. He has rushed for 228 yards and a touchdown as Jordan Howard’s understudy but also leads the Bears in receptions with 28 for 234 yards and another score.
24. Green Bay. Brett Hundley has started two games in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, both at home. He failed to throw a touchdown pass in either game and the Packers lost both. Hundley did have a rushing score in both games.
25. Houston. DeAndre Hopkins has caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games and in six of the eight games the Texans have played thus far. Seven of his eight touchdowns, though, have come at home. The 3-5 Texans hit the road now for three of their next four games, starting this Sunday at the Rams.
26. Denver. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time the Broncos, a team that prides itself on its defense, gave up 50 points in a game. That was against the Raiders. The Broncos gave up 51 last weekend at Philadelphia to the dynamic offense of the Eagles. Denver faces an even more dynamic offense this Sunday when the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots visit. The Eagles rank fifth in the NFL in offense. The Patriots rank first.
27. Indianapolis. Jacoby Brissett, Indy’s third option at quarterback this season, has had two interceptions and two fumbles returned for touchdowns this season. Those four defensive scores are the most surrendered by any NFL quarterback.
28. Cincinnati. The injury absence of Pro Bowl TE Tyler Eifert and the talent absence at running back are sinking the Bengals. They rank last in the NFL in both offense and rushing offense. The double- and triple-teams on WR A.J. Green are taking a toll. He has only seven catches in his three games since the bye.
29. Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are shutting down QB Jameis Winston for at least two weeks with a shoulder injury. He has failed to throw a TD pass in three of his last four games. With a receiving corps that includes Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, that was almost incomprehensible. The injury likely has been a factor.
30. NY Giants. At 1-7, the Giants have problems. A lack of blocking on offense ranks first, but the absence of a pass defense is a close second. New York ranks 29th in pass defense and has allowed an NFC-high four 300-yard passers: Jameis Winston (332), Trevor Siemian (376), Russell Wilson (334) and, most recently, Jared Goff (311).
31. San Francisco. This is the first 0-9 start in franchise history. The previous worst start was an 0-7 by the 1979 49ers. That was Bill Walsh’s first season and the 49ers went on to finish 2-14. Three years later, they were Super Bowl champions.
32. Cleveland. This is the second consecutive season the Browns have started 0-8. A year ago the Browns opened 0-14 before beating the Chargers to avoid a winless season. The worst start by the Browns in the non-Jimmy Haslam era was 0-9 by the 1975 Browns on the way to a 3-14 finish. Where is Paul Brown when you really need him?