Rick Gosselin's NFL rankings for Week 10: A new gold rush in San Francisco
Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 47th season reporting on the NFL in 2019. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 37 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall of Fame selection committee and is a member of both the senior and contributor sub-committees. Gosselin also is one of the 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. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers sit atop the NFL this week as the only unbeaten team at 8-0. GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have engineered quite the turnaround. The 49ers have not had a winning season in five years and they finished in last place of the NFC West in three of those seasons. The turnaround has come courtesy of a defense that has allowed the fewest yards and second fewest points in the NFL this season.
2. New England Patriots. The Patriots are one of six teams with byes this week. That will give coach Bill Belichick two weeks to correct the mistakes from New England’s first loss of the season Sunday night at Baltimore. Two NFC East teams await the Patriots upon their return – Philadelphia on Nov. 17 and Dallas on Nov. 24. New England is 18-12 in the week following a bye.
3. New Orleans Saints. The Saints also have their scheduled bye and that’ll give coach Sean Payton two weeks to prep his team for four consecutive games against fellow NFC South teams. New Orleans will play Atlanta twice, Carolina and Tampa Bay in the next four weeks in a bid to put away the division and close the deal on a first-round bye.
4. Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing this season with 637 yards. That puts him on a pace for a 1,274-yard season. The NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback is 1,039 by Michael Vick in 2006. Jackson had two 1,500-yard rushing seasons in college at Louisville.
5. Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks play the 49ers Sunday and again in the regular-season finale – two games that could go a long way in determining not only the NFC West champion but possibly the top seed in the NFC as well. Seattle QB Russell Wilson has an 11-3 career record against the 49ers. But this is the first time in Wilson’s career the 49ers will challenge him with the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense.
6. Green Bay Packers. Inside linebacker Blake Martinez may be the most consistent performer in the league. He leads the NFL in tackles with 95 – this after finishing second each of the last two seasons. His 144 tackles in 2018 finished second to Indy’s Darius Leonard and his 144 tackles in 2017 finished second to Buffalo’s Preston Brown.
7. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have not allowed a 100-yard receiver in 10 games, the longest such streak in the NFL. The last 100-yard receiver against Buffalo was Detroit’s Kenny Golladay on Dec. 16, 2018. Buffalo is one of only two defenses that has not allowed a 100-yard receiver this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the other.
8. Kansas City Chiefs. The return of Tyreek Hill has returned the juice to the Kansas City offense – with or without NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. Hill has scored four touchdowns in the four games since his return from a shoulder injury, including bombs of 57, 46 and 40 yards. Mahomes threw Hill the 46-yarder against Houston and backup QB Matt Moore threw the 57-yarder against Denver and the 40-yarder against Minnesota.
9. Houston Texans. Pro Bowl WR DeAndre Hopkins has caught four TD passes this season and not a one has come at home. Hopkins has more TD catches in London (one) than he does in Houston. He caught 11 touchdown passes a year ago.
10. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are one of only three teams rank in the NFL’s Top 10 in both offense and defense this week along with Dallas and San Francisco. The Vikings visit the Cowboys this weekend.
11. Los Angeles Rams. Greg Zuerlein is one of the best long-range kickers in NFL history. He’s kicked 32 field goals of 50 yards or more in his career, including four this year. And those weren’t mere 50s. Three of his long-range field goals this season were 55 yards and beyond – a 58-yarder against Tampa Bay, a 56 against Carolina and a 55 against Atlanta.
12. Dallas Cowboys. TE Blake Jarwin has TD catches of 42 and 28 yards, both against the Giants, plus a 35-yarder against New Orleans and a 22-yarder against Washington. He also has a third touchdown on a 1-yard reception against the Eagles. This with a minimal workload. The Cowboys have targeted Jarwin with only 16 passes and he has caught 12 of them. The Cowboys might want to increase his workload in the second half of the season.
13. Carolina Panthers. The NFL is supposed to be a passing league, right? Yet the top five touchdown producers this season are all running backs. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey leads the pack with 13, followed by Green Bay’s Aaron Jones (11), Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook (9) and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler of the Chargers, both with eight.
14. Indianapolis Colts. Indy’s playoff hopes could be in the hands of Brian Hoyer in the short term. If Jacoby Brissett’s knee injury keeps him on the sideline, Hoyer figures to draw his first start since 2017 when he was with the 49ers. He is 16-21 as a starter in his 11 NFL seasons with seven teams. Hoyer’s first start with the Colts could come Sunday at home against the Miami Dolphins.
15. Philadelphia Eagles. Timmy Jernigan is back after a six-game injury absence to pair with Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox in the middle of the Philadelphia defense and the Eagles’ run defense is back as well. Philly held the Bears to 62 rushing yards last week in Jernigan’s first game back. What a difference another 300-pound body at the point of attack makes.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have recovered a league-high 11 fumbles. Edge rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are a big part of the reason. Watt has forced three fumbles and Dupree two. Pittsburgh’s rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush leads the league with four fumble recoveries.
17. Tennessee Titans. Despite two 300-yard games by Ryan Tannehill in his three starts for the Titans, Tennessee still ranks 24th in the NFL in passing. The Titans’ leading receiver, Adam Humphries, ranks 49th in the NFL with only 32 catches for 318 yards and no touchdowns.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars. Sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew has been surprisingly efficient as a rookie starting quarterback of the Jaguars in the injury absence of Nick Foles. He’s had a pair of 300-yard passing games and has only thrown four interceptions in his eight starts. But going forward, he needs to work on his awareness of the pass rush. He has lost seven fumbles. The Jaguars are off this week and Foles will return to the lineup after the bye.
19. Los Angeles Chargers. Keenan Allen is Phillip Rivers’ go-to guy – but Rivers hasn’t been going to Allen in the red zone. Allen has not scored a touchdown in six games and has not scored a road touchdown in four games this season. All three of his TDs came in the first three weeks of the season at home.
20. Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have not allowed a 300-yard passing game yet – but they’ve allowed three 400-yard games. Detroit’s Matthews Stafford was the latest, passing for 406 yards in a losing cause against the Raiders last weekend. Patrick Mahomes passed for 443 yards and Aaron Rodgers 429 yards in victories over the Raiders.
21. Detroit Lions. Speaking of Stafford, he has passed for 1,112 yards and 10 touchdowns over his last three games but the Lions have only one victory to show for it. He has passed for at least three touchdowns in five of Detroit’s eight games this season but the Lions have converted his throwing prowess into only three victories on the year.
22. Arizona Cardinals. You expect rookie quarterbacks to make mistakes. But Kyler Murray is not your typical rookie quarterback. The Cardinals have committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL this season, only four. Murray, the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft, has committed all four of the turnovers with interceptions. But he has not fumbled in 56 rushes or 29 sacks. The Cardinals are the only team that has not lost a fumble this season.
23. Chicago Bears. Tarik Cohen was the X-factor for the Bears last season when he rushed the ball, caught passes and returned kicks on the way to his first Pro Bowl. He scored three touchdowns on the ground and five through the air as the Bears stormed to an NFC North title. But he has all but disappeared from the offense this season with just one touchdown – a 10-yard reception against the Vikings six weeks ago. The 3-5 Bears need him more involved in the offense.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are the only team in the NFL with a pair of wide receivers with 50 catches at the season’s midway point. That puts them both Michael Evans and Chris Godwin on pace for 100-catch seasons. Godwin has 54 catches for 766 yards and six touchdowns. Evans has 50 catches for 842 yards and seven TDs. They have combined for seven 100-yard games.
25. Denver Broncos. Joe Flacco hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass in three games before being deactivated by the Broncos for last weekend’s game against Cleveland with a hip injury. His replacement, Brandon Allen, promptly threw two TD passes in the opening 18 minutes in a 24-19 victory over the Browns. Allen’s 75-yard TD pass to rookie TE Noah Fant was the longest pass play by the Broncos this season.
26. New York Giants. The 2-7 Giants are paying the price for playing a rookie quarterback. They lead the NFL with 22 turnovers and QB Daniel Jones has 15 of them on seven interceptions and eight fumbles.
27. Cleveland Browns. The Browns are the most penalized team in the NFL with 75 for 631 yards. Think about it – that’s almost 6 ½ football fields of free yardage for your opponents. The Browns had an 18-penalty game against Tennessee, a 13-penalty game against New England and a pair of nine-penalty games in a disappinting 2-6 start to their season.
28. Washington Redskins. The Redskins are one of four teams still without a win at home. Washington has lost all four of its home games thus far. The other three winless teams are all 0-3 at home: Cincinnati, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. The Redskins have a bye this week and then return for two home games (and two chances to win) against the Jets and Lions.
29. Miami Dolphins. Gone from Miami’s 7-9 team of a year ago – a team that handed New England it’s last loss on the way to another Lombardi Trophy -- are the head coach (Adam Gase), leading passer (Ryan Tannehill), two leading rushers (Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake), three top receivers (Danny Amendola, Drake and Kenny Stills), leading tackler (Kiko Alonso) and two top sackers (Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake). Little wonder the Dolphins sit at 1-7 at the season’s midway point.
30. New York Jets. Sam Darnold’s 338-yard, two-TD performance against the Cowboys after a four-week absence from the lineup with mononucleosis gave the Jets a false sense of hope. In the three games since then he has thrown eight interceptions and only three touchdowns in three straight losses that have dropped the Jets to 1-7.
31. Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons return from their bye to finally begin division play. They are the last NFL team to play a division game in 2019. Atlanta will spend the next five weeks playing its NFC South rivals Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. But even if the Falcons won all five games, they wouldn’t find themselves in playoff contention. A 1-7 start to the season has torpedoed Atlanta’s season and may ultimately cost coach Dan Quinn his job.
32. Cincinnati Bengals. Winless in eight starts this season, QB Andy Dalton has been benched by the Bengals in favor of rookie Ryan Finley. He’ll make his first start Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Finley becomes the sixth rookie QB to make his starting debut this season. The first five went 2-2-1 with Daniel Jones and Devlin Hodges picking up the wins and Kyler Murray the tie. Gardner Minshew and Dwayne Haskins absorbed the losses.