Gosselin NFL rankings: surprise, surprise - no change 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 7:
1. Kansas City. Even with their first loss of the season last weekend at home against the Steelers, the Chiefs remain No. 1 because they have already beaten the two teams directly behind them – No. 2 Philadelphia and No. 3 New England.
2. Philadelphia. Philly is 5-1 despite a rugged opening schedule that sent the Eagles on the road to play four of their first six games, an NFL record. Now Philly has a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the East with an upcoming three-game homestand against Washington, San Francisco and Denver.
3. New England. The Patriots allowed only three 300-yard passers last season on the way to their fifth Lombardi Trophy. But New England has allowed a 300-yard passer in each of its first six games this season. Can the Pats repeat as champs with the NFL’s worst pass defense?
4. Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is the game’s best receiver who happens to play his best away from home. Three of his four 100-yard games this season have come on the road, as have both of his touchdowns. He has had a 182-yard game at Cleveland, a 157-yarder game at Jacksonville and a 155-yard game at Kansas City last weekend.
5. LA Rams. Antonio Brown isn’t the only player who saves his best for the road. Rams' RB Todd Gurley has had three 100-yard rushing games this season, all on the road – 121 at Dallas, 116 at Jacksonville and 113 at San Francisco.
6. Minnesota. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford has only played six quarters this season, but his backup Case Keenum has kept Minnesota afloat as a contender. He has won two starts and another in relief for the 4-2 Vikings. He has thrown only one interception in his 159 passes this season.
7. Carolina. Christian McCaffrey was the eighth overall pick of the 2017 draft as a running back. But his hands have been far more valuable to the 4-2 Panthers than his legs to this point. He has rushed for only 104 yards through Carolina’s first six games but leads all NFL running backs with 37 catches for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
8. Seattle. With starting RB Chris Carson gone with a fractured leg, the leading rusher on the Seahawks now is QB Russell Wilson with 154 yards. If the 3-2 Seahawks are to get back on track as a Super Bowl contender, it’s time for RBs Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise to step up and take the pressure off Wilson to make all the plays on the ground, not to mention through the air.
9. Washington. Only three running backs lead their NFL teams in both rushing and receiving this season – LeSean McCoy (Bills), Todd Gurley (Rams) and Chris Thompson (Redskins). Thompson has 175 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 18 catches for 340 yards and two TDs receiving for the 3-2 Redskins.
10. New Orleans. The reason the Saints dealt Adrian Peterson was because rookie Alvin Kamara has been better than billed. A third-round draft pick, Kamara is more versatile in the passing game than either Peterson or Mark Ingram. He has rushed for 158 yards and a TD and caught 24 passes for 159 yards and another score. When the Saints traded Peterson last week, Sean Payton installed Kamara as his starter.
11. NY Jets. If not for an unfavorably bad replay review last week against the Patriots, the Jets would be sitting 4-2 and alone atop the AFC East. The fact the Jets are 3-3 at this point is the testimony to Josh McCown, who is doing more with less than any quarterback in the league.
12. Miami. Where are Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick when you really need them? Six weeks into the season the Dolphins are the only NFL team still without a rushing touchdown. That’s strange because Miami has the NFL’s seventh-leading rusher in Jay Ajayi, who has 391 yards … but has yet to visit the end zone.
13. Atlanta. The Falcons are 3-2 with a pair of shocking home losses to Buffalo and Miami. Offense hasn’t been the problem with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. But the defense has forced a league-low three turnovers. The Atlanta defense needs to do a better job of getting off the field and getting that explosive offense back on.
14. Houston. Rookie QB DeShaun Watson has thrown 12 TD passes in his last three games, all at home. The Texans are one of two teams with a bye this week before hitting the road to play at Seattle. Detroit is the other team with a scheduled bye this weekend.
15. Denver. The Broncos have built their 3-2 record on the strength of four home games, where Mile High has always provided a terrific advantage. But the next three games are on the road at the Chargers, Chiefs and Eagles. Without a franchise quarterback, Denver does not travel well. The Broncos have lost their lone road game thus far at Buffalo.
16. Arizona. It looks like Adrian Peterson still has some gas left in his tank. He rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns in his debut game with the Cardinals, who acquired him from the Saints last week in a trade. He rushed for only 81 yards total in his first four games with New Orleans.
17. Green Bay. By record, the Packers still belong in the Top 10 with their 4-2 mark. But with Pro Bowl QB Aaron Rodgers gone with a broken collarbone, likely for the season, Green Bay is cooked. The inexperienced Brett Hundley is no Aaron Rodgers on a QB-driven team like the Packers.
18. Buffalo. The Bills have the longest playoff drought of any NFL team. The last time they qualified was last century – 1999. But if the Bills could play more games coming off byes, that drought would be a memory. Buffalo is 17-11 coming off byes – and the Bills are coming off a bye this weekend at home against Tampa Bay.
19. Jacksonville. The 3-3 Jaguars will go as far as rookie RB Leonard Fournette can carry them. He has rushed for 100 yards in three of his first six games and is the only player in the league to score a touchdown in each of the first six weeks of the season.
20. Tennessee. Marcus Mariota is back from a hamstring injury and so is the winning by the Titans. He left the field with Tennessee sitting on a 3-1 record and they promptly lost two consecutive games with backup QB Matt Cassel. Mariota returned last weekend with his first 300-yard passing game of the season, and the Titans claimed a share of first place in the AFC South with a victory over the Colts.
21. Detroit. Matthew Stafford has thrown four interceptions this season and three of them have been returned for touchdowns. The Saints scored three times last weekend on Stafford turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble – to drop the Lions to 3-3.
22. Tampa Bay. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t win in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a league-low six sacks. Little wonder they sit in the NFC South basement with a 2-3 record.
23. Baltimore. What has happened to Joe Flacco? He has failed to throw a TD pass in three of the last four games. This is not the same quarterback to whom Baltimore gave a $120.6 million contract in 2013. He has thrown twice as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (4) this season for the 3-3 Ravens.
24. Dallas. The Cowboys are coming off their bye. The good news is they are 19-9 coming off byes. And they will have defending rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, who got a court order this week to put off his six-game NFL suspension. Dallas visits winless San Francisco this weekend.
25. Cincinnati. The Bengals have scored only 84 points, an average of 16.8 per game. That’s the second fewest in the league. That’s put a tremendous burden on the Cincinnati defense – and the Bengals on that side of the ball have held up. Cincinnati takes the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense into Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.
26. Oakland. The Raiders’ Super Bowl bandwagon has crashed off the tracks. After opening the season 2-0, Oakland has lost four consecutive games. That matches their loss total for all of 2016. Worse, Oakland’s star-studded offense with QB Derek Carr, RB Marshawn Lynch and WR Amari Cooper now ranks 30th in the NFL.
27. LA Chargers. The Chargers have won their last two games, both on the road. Now the Chargers return home to Los Angeles, where the Denver Broncos and apathy will greet them. The Chargers are 0-3 at home with an average crowd of fewer than 26,000.
28. Indianapolis. Four NFL teams still have not played a non-conference game yet. But the Colts have already finished their non-conference slate for the season, going 1-3 against the NFC West. Indy beat the 49ers but lost to the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks.
29. Chicago. Running the ball and defense have always gone a long way in the NFL. The Bears have suddenly become competitive for that reason – they have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, plus the league’s sixth-best defense.
30. NY Giants. With Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall gone and Sterling Shepard hobbled, the 1-5 Giants have retooled the offensive line and reinvented themselves as a running team. They moved Justin Pugh from guard to tackle, inserted D.J. Fluker at guard and are handing the ball off to Orleans Darkwa – and now have a victory over the Broncos to show for the new look.
31. San Francisco. Third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard will make his NFL starting debut at quarterback for the 49ers this weekend against Dallas. The last three rookie quarterbacks to make their starting debuts against the Cowboys were Vince Young, Michael Vick and David Carr. Vick and Carr both beat the Cowboys. Young lost.
32. Cleveland. The Browns are winless at home (0-3). But Cleveland has plenty of company. Through the first six weeks of the season home teams have a 45-46 record. This in a league where the home teams historically win between 56-58 percent of the games. The two Super Bowl teams, Atlanta and New England, are a combined 2-4 at home this season.