Rick Gosselin's NFL rankings for Week 11: Keep an eye on the NFC West
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 11:
1. New England Patriots. The Patriots return from their bye with a chance to sweep the NFC East. New England already has victories over the division’s two cupcakes, the Giants and Redskins, and now visits Philadelphia this weekend before returning home to take on the Cowboys. Including the Super Bowl, the Patriots now have a six-game winning streak against NFC opponents. The last NFC team to beat New England was the Detroit Lions in September 2018.
2. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers and Seahawks are the only two teams in the NFL still unbeaten on the road. Both are 5-0. To finish the season perfect on the road, the 49ers will have to win regular season games at Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle. The 49ers will likely be the underdog in all of them.
3. Seattle Seahawks. For the Seahawks to finish the season unbeaten on the road, they will need to win games at Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Rams) and Carolina. The Seahawks have their bye this week, then play those three road games in a span of four weeks before finishing the season with two home games.
4. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have the NFL’s best rushing offense, a two-pronged attack featuring the legs of QB Lamar Jackson and HB Mark Ingram. Their ability to run the ball allows Baltimore to control the clock. The Ravens’ offense is averaging more than 34 minutes of time possession per game. That means the Baltimore defense is only on the field for 26 minutes, which simplifies the task of winning. If your opponent doesn’t have the ball, he can’t score – and the Ravens are selfish with the football.
5. Green Bay Packers. The 8-2 Packers have a bye this week, then play two consecutive games and four of their final six on the road. The positive in that schedule is that QB Aaron Rodgers has not committed a turnover on the road this season. His four turnovers this fall – two interceptions, two fumbles – all came at home. Rodgers does not beat himself nor his team with mistakes on the road.
6. Minnesota Vikings. Near-perfect football by QB Kirk Cousins has fueled a six-game winning streak that has the Vikings in the playoff hunt with a 7-3 record. His only interception in the last eight weeks came on a sideline pass to Stefon Diggs that sailed through his hands and bounced high off his helmet into the waiting hands of Philadelphia safety Andrew Sendejo. Sendejo, by the way, now plays for the Vikings.
7. New Orleans Saints. Alvin Kamara was an MVP candidate a year ago when he rushed for 883 yards, caught 81 passes and scored an NFL-runnerup 18 touchdowns. But he has not been the same back this season. He scored touchdowns on both a run and a reception in the third week against Seattle – but hasn’t found the end zone in any of the other six games he has played. He rushed for 97 yards against Houston in the opener but hasn’t hit 70 yards in any game since then.
8. Houston Texans. The Texans had a vaunted pass rush a year ago keyed by Pro Bowl edge rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Watt had 16 sacks and Clowney nine as the Texans tackled the quarterback 43 times. But both Watt and Clowney are now gone … and so is the pass rush. Watt is on season-ending injured reserve with back issues and Clowney was traded to Seattle in August in a contract dispute. The Texans rank 21st in the NFL in sacks this season with 21.
9. Los Angeles Rams. Cooper Kupp caught seven passes for 220 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati in L.A.’s eighth game of the season. But in the ninth game last weekend, Pittsburgh shut him out – no catches in four targets – and the Steelers upset the Rams. It marked the first time Kupp had been blanked since Oct. 14, 2018 when the Broncos kept him off the stat sheet. But Kupp was injured that day and played only the first quarter. He played all four quarters against the Steelers.
10. Buffalo Bills. QB Josh Allen has rushed for six touchdowns this season. That’s as many as incumbent Pro Bowl RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley have this year. Allen has three of those touchdowns in the last two weeks for the 6-3 Bills.
11. Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is back. Too bad he can’t play defense. With Mahomes taking the snaps, the KC offense is Super Bowl-ready. But a defense that allowed a 188-yard rushing game to Derrick Henry last weekend remains the team’s Achilles heel. The Chiefs rank 22nd in defense and 31st in run defense.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers. The trade acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick restored playoff hopes in Pittsburgh and the schedule over the next four weeks will stoke those hopes even further. The 5-4 Steelers play their next four games against three teams – Cleveland (twice), Cincinnati and Arizona. The combined record of the Browns, Bengals and Cardinals is 6-21-1.
13. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are a playoff contender with their 5-4 record and a share of first place in the NFC East. They’ll have the chance to establish themselves as a Super Bowl contender in the next two weeks with home games against New England and Seattle. Win those games and the Eagles will realize there is no one on their schedule they cannot beat.
14. Oakland Raiders. One player in particular is going to miss Oakland when the Raiders move to Las Vegas. That’s rookie RB Josh Jacobs. He has scored seven touchdowns this season – all at home. He’s had two TD games against Denver, Chicago and Detroit. But Jacobs has yet to find the end zone in 63 carries over four road games. He’s home again this week against Cincinnati. Let the good times roll.
15. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have one of the most explosive offenses in football. They rank first in yards and sixth in points. But they have scored 153 of their 251 points in the third and fourth quarters. But, oh, those first halves. The Cowboys fell behind both the Packers and Vikings 14-0 in the first quarter and found themselves in a 21-6 halftime hole against the Jets. Those slow starts have contributed mightily to that disappointing 5-4 record of the Cowboys.
16. Carolina Panthers. Christian McCaffrey has scored touchdowns in seven consecutive games and has a league-leading 14 on the season. So he’s on a pace to score 25 TDs this season. The NFL record for touchdowns in a single season is 31 set by Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
17. Indianapolis Colts. NFL teams are averaging 7.3 penalties for 62 yards per game this season. The Colts are at the low end of the league with an average of 5.8 penalties for 51 yards per game. The Oakland Raiders are at the high end with an average of nine penalties for 69.5 yards.
18. Tennessee Titans. Logan Ryan is one of the few cornerbacks who makes plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Not only does Ryan lead the NFL in passes defensed with 18, he also leads all NFL defensive backs in sacks with 3 ½. Ryan has three interceptions and also leads all NFL defensive backs with three forced fumbles.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars. Leonard Fournette ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing with 831 yards. But he has rushed for only one touchdown. It’s the only TD the Jaguars have scored on the ground, not surprisingly, a league low. The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey has 11 on his own. Where’s Fred Taylor when you really need him?
20. Chicago Bears. The less a defense plays, generally the better it plays. The Patriots lead the NFL in defense this week playing an average of only 27 minutes per game. The 49ers rank second playing an average of 26 minutes per game. Then there’s the Bears, who continue to field a Top 10 defense despite having to play 31 ½ minutes per game. That’s because Chicago has an offense that ranks 29th in the NFL and can’t stay on the field.
21. Los Angeles Chargers. Phillip Rivers leads the NFL with 2,816 passing yards this season. That puts him on a pace for 4,506 yards on the year. The last time a league passing leader finished a season with fewer than 4,500 yards was 2006 when Drew Brees threw for 4,418 yards for the Saints.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the Bucs won their Super Bowl in 2003, they led the NFL in pass defense with Pro Bowlers Ronde Barber and John Lynch roaming the secondary. Opponents completed only 51 percent of their passes for 252 yards per game. The current Tampa Bay defense ranks last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing a 64 percent completion rate and 299 yards per game.
23. Cleveland Browns. Nick Chubb rushed for six touchdowns in six games before Cleveland’s bye. But he hasn’t scored a TD in the three games since the bye. He has carried exactly 20 times in each of those three games with 100-yard efforts against both New England and Buffalo…but no scores. The Browns need Chubb in the end zone. They rank 26th in the NFL in scoring.
24. Arizona Cardinals. Eleven-time Pro Bowl WR Larry Fitzgerald ranks sixth all-time with his 118 career touchdown receptions. But he has not scored a TD in his last seven games, the second longest in-season drought of his career. Fitzgerald went 10 consecutive games without a score in 2016.
25. Detroit Lions. Only three receivers this season have caught at least 30 passes and averaging 18-plus yards per catch – and Kenny Golladay of the Lions is one of them. He has 38 catches for 697 yards and an 18.3-yard average. His eight touchdowns have an average length of 26.4 yards.
26. Atlanta Falcons. Six-time Pro Bowl WR Julio Jones has four 100-yard receiving games this season and three of them have come on the road. He’s dinged the Eagles, Colts and Cardinals for those 100s. Jones and his Falcons hit the road again this weekend for a game against the Carolina Panthers.
27. Denver Broncos. Phillip Lindsay was one of the NFL’s best stories a year ago -- an undrafted rookie free agent who went on to score 10 touchdowns and become a 1,000-yard rusher for the Broncos. With five touchdowns and 584 rushing yards through nine weeks this season, he’s on pace to have an even better season in 2019. Better, at this pace, by one yard. Credit Lindsay for his consistency.
28. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins opened the season with Kalen Ballage as their starting running back. After two games, he was replaced by Kenyan Drake. After two more games, Drake was traded to the Cardinals. Mark Walton became the starter and he spent the next four games in the lineup. Then he was suspended by the NFL for four games for substance abuse, prompting Miami coach Brian Flores to return Ballage to the lineup. Little wonder the 2-7 Dolphins ranks last in the NFL in rushing with an average oy only 64 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.
29. New York Jets. The Jets traded DE Leonard Williams, the sixth overall pick of the 2017 draft, to the Giants on Oct. 28. With Williams in the starting lineup, the Jets managed only nine sacks in their first seven games of the season. But since his departure, the Jets have rung up 10 sacks in their last two games. Addition by subtraction?
30. New York Giants. The last time the Giants won a Super Bowl in 2011, they committed only 24 turnovers on offense. They have already committed a league-high 24 turnovers this season. Little wonder they are scuffling along in the second year of a rebuild with a 2-8 record. When the Giants stop beating themselves with mistakes, they’ll start winning games.
31. Washington Redskins. First-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins set a Big Ten record at Ohio State with 54 touchdown passes in a single season in 2018. But he has played in three games now for the Redskins in this his rookie season with one start, throwing 44 passes. He’s still looking for his first NFL touchdown pass. He’ll make his second start –and first home appearance – this Sunday against the New York Jets.
32. Cincinnati Bengals. The winless Bengals have the NFL’s worst defense, allowing an average of 419 yards per game. The Ravens slapped 49 points on the Bengals last week and the 49ers hit them up for 41 in another game. Both of those defensive collapses came before the home fans at Cincinnati.