Rick Gosselin's Week 11 NFL rankings: Who dat on top?

Photo courtesy of USA Today
Rick Gosselin

Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 46th season reporting on the NFL in 2018. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 35 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 Orleans Saints. Usually it’s a run-based team that leads the NFL in time of possession because a ground game not only chews up yards but also clock. But when you have a quarterback who doesn’t throw incompletions, as the Saints have in Drew Brees, you can control the football, the clock and your opponent through the air. Brees is completing a league-best 76.9 percent of his passes and the Saints are controlling the football an NFL-best 33 minutes, 11 seconds per game.

2. Los Angeles Rams. After that performance Monday night – the first time in NFL history both teams scored 50 points in the same game – the Rams and the Chiefs deserve the week off. And they’ll get it. The NFL scheduled both teams their byes over the Thanksgiving holiday, the last of the 32 teams to have their byes.

3. Kansas City Chiefs. Not only are the Chiefs the highest-scoring team in the AFC, they are the most-penalized team in the NFL. Kansas City has been penalized 97 times for 813 yards. That’s 19 more penalties than NFL runnerup Pittsburgh (78). The Chiefs have been penalized 10 times in a game a league-worst five times.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers. Four of the NFL’s top five offenses lead their divisions. The NFC West-leading Rams are second, the NFC South-leading Saints are third, the AFC West-leading Chiefs are fourth and the NFC North-leading Steelers are fifth. The No. 1-ranked offense? Tampa Bay, which is spinning its wheels at the bottom of the NFC South with a 3-7 record.

5. New England Patriots. Frankly, Tom Brady probably needed the bye week to rest his 41-year-old arm. Brady entered the bye with just one touchdown pass in his previous three games. And nothing snaps Brady out of a slump like a game against the New York Jets, whom the Patriots visit Sunday. Brady is 23-7 in his career against the Jets with 50 touchdown passes.

6. Houston Texans. The Houston Astros have played 15 games since the Houston Texans lost a football game – and the Astros’ season ended more than a month ago. Since the Texans lost 27-22 to the New York Giants on Sept. 23, the Astros played their final seven regular-season games and eight playoff games. The Texans have won seven in a row since that loss to the Giants.

7. Chicago Bears. Safety Eddie Jackson is one of only two players in the NFL this season to score a touchdown on both an interception and fumble return. Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam is the other. Jackson returned the fumble this month against the Bills and the interception against the Vikings. Jackson was also one of only two players in the NFL last season to score touchdowns on both an interception and fumble return.

8. Los Angeles Chargers. Maybe the Chargers need to get out of Los Angeles more. The Chargers are 7-3, suffering all three of the losses in L.A. They lost to the Chiefs and Broncos at home and the Rams up the road at the Coliseum.

9. Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton has had his two worst rushing games of the season in the last two weeks, gaining only 10 yards against the Steelers then two yards against the Lions. The Panthers lost both games. His legs are a big part of his game. His four rushing touchdowns this season are tops among NFL quarterbacks. The 6-4 Panthers need Newton on the move again to continue their playoff pursuit.

10. Minnesota Vikings. With the addition of QB Kirk Cousins and the return to health of RB Dalvin Cook, the Vikings expected to take the next step from NFC championship game to Super Bowl this season. Cousins has given the Vikings what they expected from him in the passing game. He’s completing 71 percent of his passes for 2,947 yards with at least one touchdown pass in every game for the 5-4-1 Vikings. But a healthy Cook has not materialized. He missed the final 12 games of 2017 with a knee injury and has already missed five games this season with hamstring injuries. He has yet to score a touchdown and the Vikings rank 31st in the NFL in rushing.

11. Seattle Seahawks. Seven NFL teams have not had an individual 100-yard rushing game this season. Yet Seattle has three different halfbacks who have rushed for 100 yards in a game this season: Chris Carson, Mike Davis and rookie Rashaad Penny. Little wonder the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing this season.

12. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts knew they had to do a better job of protecting their franchise QB Andrew Luck so they invested the sixth overall pick of the 2018 draft on an offensive lineman, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. He should start receiving some NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year attention. The 5-5 Colts have not allowed a sack in five consecutive games and Luck is having an MVP type season**.**

Quenton Nelson photo courtesy of USA Today

13. Tennessee Titans. The Titans are 7-3 despite QB Marcus Mariota’s struggles on the road. He has only three touchdown passes in Tennessee’s six road games and has thrown for fewer than 130 yards in four of them. The 5-5 Titans visit AFC South-leading Houston this week and will need some production from Mariota to stay alive in the division race.

14. Dallas Cowboys. The schedule is setting up for the Cowboys to win the NFC East. At 5-5, they are a game back of the Redskins – but host Washington on Thanksgiving. It’s the first of three consecutive home games for the Cowboys. They also have a soft closing schedule the final two weeks of the season with a home game against the 2-8 Buccaneers and a road trip to the 3-7 Giants.

15. Washington Redskins. The Redskins head into the Thanksgiving holiday atop the NFC East with a 6-4 record. But there are three problems: 1) quarterback Alex Smith is gone for the season with a broken leg; 2) Washington plays four of its final six games on the road; and 3) as mentioned above, the Redskins are on the road on Thanksgiving to play their closest pursuer, the Cowboys.

16. Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers has not thrown an interception in six games covering 229 passes…but even perfect football from their quarterback can’t save the Packers this season. Green Bay has lost four of those last six games and sits 4-5-1 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

17. Baltimore Ravens. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson now has a bond with Baltimore’s starting quarterback Joe Flacco. Both picked up their first NFL victories against the Bengals. Jackson started last weekend against Cincinnati because of Flacco’s injury absence. Houston’s DeShaun Watson also picked up their first NFL victories against the Bengals.

18. Cincinnati Bengals. Hue Jackson was once the head-coach in waiting with the Bengals. But he left the staff of Marvin Lewis to become head coach of the upstate Cleveland Browns in 2016. A 3-16-1 record cost Jackson his job in Cleveland last month and Lewis rehired him a week ago as his assistant head coach. Jackson’s first home game this week will be against, ironically, the Browns.

19. Miami Dolphins. Only four backs in NFL history have carried the football more than Frank Gore and they all are in the Hall of Fame (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis). But

Frank Gore (21) photo courtesy of USA Today

Gore has never had a slump quite like this one. He has gone 15 consecutive games without rushing for a touchdown – the final five games of 2017 and the first 10 of 2018. That adds up to 217 carries without a TD. He’s had three 100-yard rushing games and two receiving TDs during that stretch without being able to find the end zone on the ground.

20. Detroit Lions. The Lions are 4-6 with victories over the Patriots and Panthers but losses to the Jets and 49ers. Go figure. They have proven they can beat the good teams – and there are plenty of them still on the schedule with home games the next two weeks against NFC division leaders the Bears (on Thanksgiving) and Rams.

21. Denver Broncos. There have been only two 200-yard individual rushing games in the NFL this season and the Broncos surrendered both – a 219-yard day to Isaiah Crowell of the Jets and a 208-yard day by Todd Gurley of the Rams. The 4-6 Broncos rank 27th in the league in run defense – an Achilles heel for a team that must play Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon twice a year in the AFC West.

22. Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have been playing without starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen since mid-September because of injuries and their absences have been glaring. Atlanta has allowed league-highs of six individual 300-yard passing games and eight individual 100-yard receiving games. They rank 27th in the NFL in pass defense and sit 4-6 in the standings.

23. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have allowed 231 points through 10 games this season, an average of 23.1 points per game. They allowed only 295 points through 16 games last season, an average of 18.4 points per game, on the way to their first Lombardi Trophy. A suddenly porous defense has been a culprit in Philadelphia’s 4-6 record – already twice as many losses as last season.

24. Cleveland Browns. The bye week has not been kind to Ohio teams. The two worst NFL franchises coming off byes are the Cincinnati Bengals (8-21-1) and the Cleveland Browns (8-16). Coincidentally, the Browns return from their bye this week to play the Bengals.

25. New York Giants. Rookie RB Saquon Barkley has three 100-yard rushing games this season, all at home. He also has scored 10 touchdowns and eight of those came at home. Three of New York’s final five games are at home.

26. Buffalo Bills. Rookie QB Josh Allen is set to return to the field Sunday after missing four games with an injury to the elbow of his throwing arm. Buffalo has started three different quarterbacks in the four games since then and lost three times. The seventh overall pick of the 2018 draft out of Wyoming, Allen engineered upset wins over both the Vikings and the Titans in his six NFL starts for the 3-7 Bills.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. QB Jameis Winston has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucs all-season because of his season-opening suspension and then inconsistent play. He has thrown eight touchdown passes in his five games, all on the road. That streak had better end soon -- the Bucs are home the next three weekends.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s only one sure-fire cure for Jacksonville’s season-long slump that has reduced the Jaguars from Super Bowl contender to playoff pretender. The Jaguars need more games against the New York teams. The Jaguars are 3-7 with victories over both the Giants and Jets. Maybe Jacksonville’s executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin can apply for a transfer to either the AFC or NFC East next season.

29. New York Jets. Where has Isaiah Crowell gone? Crowell rushed for 219 yards in the fifth game of the season against Denver, a 34-16 New York victory. But in the five games since then he has rushed for only 162 yards. He scored five touchdowns in the first five games of the season, including a 77-yard dash against the Broncos. But he has rushed for only one touchdown since then.

30. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have forced only five turnovers on defense in 10 games. That leaves San Francisco 22 behind the league leader Chicago with 27 takeaways. Little wonder the Bears lead the NFC North with a 7-3 record while the 49ers are at the bottom of the NFC West with a 2-8 mark.

31. Oakland Raiders. When the Raiders traded away Khalil Mack, they traded away their pass rush. Oakland has a league-low nine sacks in 10 games. And when Marshawn Lynch left the lineup in mid-October with a groin injury, he took the Oakland running game with him to the sideline. The Raiders have rushed for only four touchdowns this season and Lynch has three of them. The only rushing touchdown by the Raiders during Lynch’s absence was a 1-yard QB sneak by Derek Carr Oct. 28 against the Colts.

32. Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals can thank their lucky stars for the 49ers. They are 2-0 against San Francisco this season and 0-8 against everyone else. Arizona is suffering the growing pains of a rookie quarterback – the Cardinals are last in the NFC in scoring with an average of 14.5 points per game.

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