Gosselin NFL Rankings: Here comes Carolina
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 6:
1. Kansas City. The Chiefs rank second in the NFL in offense this week with QB Alex Smith, RB Kareem Hunt and WR Tyreek Hill. The last time KC finished with a Top-10 offense was during the Dick Vermeil era in 2005.
2. Green Bay. The Packers win because of QB Aaron Rodgers. But the Green Bay pass defense is providing him ample support. The Packers are the only NFC team that has not allowed a 300-yard passer this season. They rank sixth in the NFL in pass defense, allowing fewer than 200 yards per game.
3. Philadelphia. With Carson Wentz, the 4-1 Eagles are capable of scoring from very far out. He has thrown three TD passes in excess of 50 yards this season. Alex Smith has two such TD strikes for the Chiefs but no other quarterback in the league has more than one 50+ TD.
4. Carolina. Only two NFL teams are 3-0 on the road this season, the Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Carolina won only two games on the road all of last season.
5. New England. The 3-2 Patriots have allowed a 300-yard passer in each of their five games this season. They have a chance to end that streak this weekend when they play the Jets. NY QB Josh McCown has passed for as many as 200 yards in only two of his five games.
6. Seattle. The Seahawks are one of four teams with a bye this weekend along with the Bills, Bengals and Cowboys. Seattle and Cincinnati are coming off wins, Buffalo and Dallas losses.
7. Denver. The Broncos, Falcons, Redskins and Saints are back in action after their byes last week. Denver has the AFC’s best record coming off byes at 21-7. The Broncos return this Sunday at home against the winless New York Giants.
8. Atlanta. The Falcons, Vikings and Redskins are the only teams in the NFL that rank in the Top 10 in both offense and defense this week. Atlanta ranks fourth in offense and 10th in defense.
9. Jacksonville. The 3-2 Jaguars have the NFL’s most opportunistic defense with a league-high 15 takeaways. Jacksonville has intercepted 10 passes, including five against Ben Roethlisberger last weekend. The Jaguars rank third in the NFL in pass defense and continue to lead the league with 20 sacks.
10. LA Rams. For the first time in five weeks, a defense (Seattle) was able to keep Rams RB Todd Gurley out of the end zone. Now the only player who has scored touchdowns in all five weeks of the NFL season is Jacksonville’s rookie RB Leonard Fournette.
11. Tampa Bay. The only two quarterbacks to pass for 300 yards each of the last three weeks are Tom Brady and Jameis Winston, who put 328 on the Vikings, 332 on the Giants and 334 on the Patriots. Winston has not thrown an interception in his last 84 passes.
12. Baltimore. The Ravens have not managed a 100-yard rusher on offense yet this season but still rank sixth in the NFL in rushing with three players sharing the load. Starter Terrance West has 138 yards, Buck Allen 262 and Alex Collins 261.
13. Detroit. The Lions and Cowboys are the only two teams in the NFC that have not had a 300-yard passer this season. Matthew Stafford is averaging 276 yards passing per game in his career, but he’s only averaging 223 yards per game this season for the 3-2 Lions.
14. Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger talked of retirement during the offseason and clearly didn’t bring his A game into the season. He has more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6), and Pittsburgh, with one of the most talented offensive casts in the league, is plodding along with just an average offense (17th in the NFL). The Steelers failed to score a touchdown last weekend at home against Jacksonville.
15. Minnesota. Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen has a sack in each of the first five games for the Vikings and now has six on the season.
16. Buffalo. When you hire a head coach with a background on defense, there’s going to be an emphasis on that side of the ball. That’s been the case with the Bills. New coach Sean McDermott inherited a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game last season. This season, his Bills are allowing a league-low 14.8 points per game.
17. Washington. With the departure of his two favorite targets Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency last offseason, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is now spreading the ball around. WR Jamison Crowder, TE end Jordan Reed and RB Chris Thompson share the team lead with 14 receptions apiece and deep threat Terrelle Pryor in close pursuit with 13.
18. NY Jets. The only team hotter than the Jets these days is the 5-0 Chiefs. The Jets have won three in a row to grab a share of the lead in the AFC East along with the Bills and Patriots at 3-2. With Buffalo off this week, the Jets can claim first place for themselves with a home victory Sunday over the Patriots.
19. New Orleans. Drew Brees has been sacked a league-low four times this season. Give him time and there are few better. He ranks third in the NFL in passing efficiency behind only Alex Smith and Tom Brady.
20. Dallas. The Cowboys are now 7-3 over the last two seasons when Ezekiel Elliott has rushed for 100 yards in a game. Two of those losses have come against the Packers, once in the playoffs last January and again last weekend.
21. Cincinnati. Andy Dalton completed 54.5 percent of his passes with four interceptions and no touchdowns in the first two games of the season, both losses by the Bengals. That cost offensive coordinator Ken Zampese his job. Under Bill Lazor these last three games, Dalton has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions for the now 2-3 Bengals.
22. Miami. The home crowd is getting impatient with Jay Cutler, chanting “We Want Moore,” during last week’s victory over Tennessee. In the last two weeks, both home games, Cutler has passed for 164 yards against the Saints and 92 against the Titans. “Moore” is backup quarterback Matt Moore.
23. Houston. Will a Hall of Fame-caliber career be derailed by injuries? For the second consecutive year, Texans DE J.J. Watt suffered an early season-ending injury. Last year he suffered a back injury in the third game of the season and this time a fracture of the tibial plateau of his leg in the fifth game. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will miss a combined 24 games over this two-year period.
24. Oakland. Marshawn Lynch has not been the offensive impact player the Raiders expected him to be, failing to rush for 50 yards in any of his last four games. With Oakland now down to its backup quarterback (E.J. Manuel) for at least the next month, the Raiders desperately need the return of Beast Mode.
25. Indianapolis. In his four starts at quarterback for the 2-3 Colts, Jacoby Brissett has rushed for more touchdowns (three) than he has thrown (two).
26. Tennessee. The two most important elements in successful NFL football are the quarterback and pass rush. The Titans are down to their backup QB (Matt Cassel) on offense and they can’t get to the quarterback (only eight sacks in five games) on defense. Little wonder plodding along at 2-3.
27. Arizona. How much do the Cardinals miss David Johnson? He was the NFL’s seventh leading rusher last season with 1,239 yards and a league-best 20 touchdowns. Without him this season (dislocated wrist in the opener), the 2-3 Cardinals have slid to last in the NFL in rushing. So what does Bruce Arians do? He trades for Adrian Peterson this week.
28. LA Chargers. The Chargers can move the ball and score points with Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. But there’s one problem – the offense is only on the field for a league-low 26 minutes, 53 seconds per game. The LA defense can’t stop the run (32nd in the NFL), which allows the opposition to keep the clock moving and also keep Rivers & Co. off the field.
29. Chicago. Mitch Trubisky became the fourth rookie quarterback to start for the Bears since 2000, joining Rex Grossman (2003), Craig Krenzel (2004) and Kyle Orton (2005). Grossman won his debut start against Minnesota but Trubisky lost his to the Vikings last weekend.
30. San Francisco. The winless 49ers are the most penalized team in the NFL, having been flagged 49 times for 385 yards. If San Francisco hopes to start winning, the 49ers must stop beating themselves with those penalties.
31. NY Giants. The season has gone from bad for the winless Giants to worse. Not only did they lose their fifth consecutive game Sunday against the Chargers, they also lost their best player, WR Odell Beckham Jr., for the season with a fractured ankle.
32. Cleveland. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer has been benched in two of his first five NFL starts, including last weekend against the Jets. In his last four starts he has committed 10 turnovers (eight interceptions, two fumbles) and thrown only two TD passes.