Rick Gosselin's Week 12 NFL rankings: Lamar Jackson emerging as NFL MVP favorite
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 12:
1. New England Patriots. The Patriots rank second in the NFL in pass defense and are one of only two teams that has not allowed a 300-yard passer this season. Cleveland is the other. The New England pass defense will face the ultimate test this season when the Patriots face Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. Prescott leads the NFL in passing yards and has a league-high three 400-yard games.
2. San Francisco 49ers. New England’s pass defense has been great this season. San Francisco’s has been even better. The 49ers lead the league, allowing an average of only 142.5 passing yards per game. Opponents are completing only 59.7 percent of their passes. The only quarterback to pass or 300 yards against the 49ers this season has been Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. The only two receivers to have 100-yard games against San Francisco also were Bengals, Tyler Boyd and John Ross, in the same game.
3. Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks return from their bye this week to take on the Eagles in Philadelphia. Seattle is 11-19 coming off byes. RB Chris Carson ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing with 853 yards but has lost a fumble in each of his last three road games.
4. Baltimore Ravens. QB Lamar Jackson has more 100-yard rushing games this season (3) than the entire AFC East (1). Jackson has had 100-yard days against Arizona, Cincinnati and Seattle. The AFC East’s one 100-yard game came from Buffalo’s Frank Gore, who put 109 yards on the Patriots in Week 4. Miami, New England and the Jets are still looking for their first 100-yard rushers. Jackson is having the type of season with his arm and legs that won Cam Newton NFL MVP honors in 2015.
5. Green Bay Packers. The Packers have built their 8-2 record with a schedule front-loaded with home games. Six of the first 10 were played at Lambeau and the Packers have won five of them. But Green Bay also has won on the road at Dallas and Kansas City. The final four road trips include San Francisco this week, then New York (Giants), Minnesota and Detroit.
6. New Orleans Saints. Injuries have forced the Saints to start two different quarterbacks and two different running backs this season. Yet New Orleans has still committed the fewest turnovers in the league with six through 10 games. RB Alvin Kamara hasn’t lost a single fumble, nor has QB Drew Brees. The only fumble the Saints lost came on a punt return. Brees has thrown three interceptions and his backup Teddy Bridgewater only two in his five starts.
7. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have their bye this week, which will give RB Dalvin Cook a chance to re-charge his legs. He rushed for 100 yards in five of his first seven games to vault into the NFL rushing lead. But he’s been held under 100 yards in each of his last three outings to slip into second behind Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has 1,059 yards, Cook 1,017.
8. Kansas City Chiefs. With explosive WR Tyreek Hill in and out of the lineup with injuries, TE Travis Kelce is picking up the slack. He has scored touchdowns in each of the last two games and three of the last four weeks. He’s also caught seven passes each of the last three games to help the Chiefs stay atop the AFC West with a 7-4 record.
9. Los Angeles Rams. The Rams rode the NFL’s most explosive offense to the Super Bowl a year ago. This year the Rams are staying in the playoff chase with defense. Through 10 games, the 5-4 Rams have scored 92 points fewer than the first 10 games of 2018. But they’ve also allowed 33 fewer points through 10 games. The Rams have held five of their 10 opponents to a single touchdown.
10. Dallas Cowboys. In 2017, there were only eight 400-yard passing games by NFL quarterbacks. In 2018, that number tripled to 24. There have already been 17 400-yard passing games through the first 11 weeks of the 2019 season. Ten different NFL quarterbacks have had those 400-yard passing games this season, topped by the three of Dak Prescott.
11. Buffalo Bills. Since the bye, QB Josh Allen has gone five weeks without throwing an interception. He has committed only one turnover during that stretch, losing a fumble against Philadelphia. This after throwing seven interceptions and losing two fumbles in the first five weeks of the season. Allen has passed for eight touchdowns and rushed for four more over the last five games. His ball security of late is a big part of the reason the Bills are in pursuit of a playoff berth with a 7-3 record.
12. Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are one of only three NFL offenses this season without a 300-yard passer. Buffalo and Pittsburgh are the others. But in the last five weeks Derek Carr has had a pair of games in the 290s and two more in the 280s. More importantly, he has thrown 15 TD passes against only five interceptions on the year.
13. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts rank 28th in the NFL in passing and there’s a good reason – their go-to guy T.Y. Hilton can’t stay healthy. He has missed four of Indy’s 10 games with injury, including the last three. He has caught five touchdown passes in the six games he has played. But the Colts are 1-3 in the games Hilton has missed.
14. Houston Texans. The Texans have three consecutive home games to make a run at another AFC South title. They are 6-4 and share first place with Indianapolis, although the Colts hold the tie-breaker with an October win over the Texans. This bodes well for Houston because DeShaun Watson plays his best football at home. He had a 400-yard passing game against the Falcons in Houston and has not thrown an interception yet in his four home games. The first game of this three-game homestand comes Sunday against the Colts.
15. Tennessee Titans. The Titans are coming off their bye. Hopefully they spent that free week figuring out a way to get their wide receivers more involved in the offense. Their leading WR Adam Humphries ranks 65th in the NFL in receiving with just 33 catches. No one on the receiving corps has more than three touchdowns and the longest pass play all season was turned in by a running back – a 75-yard TD reception by Derrick Henry.
16. Philadelphia Eagles. Only two quarterbacks have thrown touchdown passes in every game their teams have played this season – Carson Wentz (Eagles) and Russell Wilson (Seahawks). Wentz has a pair of three TD games against Green Bay and Washington, a pair of two-TD games against Detroit and Minnesota and six other games in which he has thrown a single touchdown pass, including each of the last four weeks against Dallas, Buffalo, Chicago and New England.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have always fielded a linebacker-driven defense and found yet another good one in Devin Bush. Pittsburgh traded up to claim him with the 10th pick of the 2019 draft and not only did he become a walk-in starter, Bush now leads the Steelers with 74 tackles. He also has two interceptions, a sack and a touchdown on a fumble recovery for the 5-5 Steelers.
18. Carolina Panthers. Julius Peppers retired after last season with 166 career sacks, the fifth best of all-time. But he didn’t take the Carolina pass rush with him into retirement. The 5-5 Panthers lead the NFL with 39 sacks this season. Thirteen different defenders have sacks for the Panthers, led by the eight of edge rusher Mario Addison.
19. Cleveland Browns. The Browns have a two-game winning streak to rebuild their record to 4-6. The turnaround is due, in part, to the ball security of QB Baker Mayfield. He has not committed a turnover in the last three games and the Browns have won two of them. This after throwing 12 interceptions in the first seven games. Mayfield has two TD passes each of the last two weeks in victories over Buffalo and Pittsburgh and also rushed for a score against the Steelers.
20. Los Angeles Chargers. Phillip Rivers has thrown more interceptions in the last two weeks (7) than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, DeShaun Watson and Lamar Jackson have thrown all season. Rivers threw three against Oakland and four against Kansas City in a pair of Los Angeles losses, dropping the Chargers to 4-7.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars. Leonard Fournette is on track for his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. He has 854 yards through 10 games to rank sixth in the league. But what’s missing from his game are the touchdowns. He’s has scored only one all season and that came six weeks ago in a loss to Carolina.
22. Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky has taken a huge step backward from his rookie season when he quarterbacked the Bears to an NFC North title. He has passed for fewer than 200 yards in five of his nine starts this season for the 4-6 Bears. He also has thrown one touchdown or fewer in six of his starts. That 30th ranked pass offense puts way too much pressure on the Chicago defense to win every game.
23. Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan leads the NFL with seven 300-yard passing games. But his Falcons are 2-5 when Ryan throws for 300. League-wide, teams are 43-46-2 when their quarterbacks pass for 300 yards or more.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bradley Pinion ranks low among the NFL punters with his 43.5-yard average and 39.4-yard net average. But his real value to the Bucs comes on kickoffs. He leads the NFL with 54 touchbacks – eight more than anyone else. That’s a special-teams win for the Bucs on every kickoff.
25. Arizona Cardinals. The concern with Kyler Murray as an NFL quarterback was his lack of size. At 5-10, 205 pounds, could his body absorb the hits of those 280-300 pound NFL pass rushers? Well, Murray is taking a beating this season but still ticking. He’s been sacked 35 times, second most in the NFL, but he has yet to miss any time. Murray has four 300-yard passing games, 14 passing touchdowns and three more rushing scores for the 3-7-1 Cardinals.
26. Detroit Lions. The Lions can’t get to opposing quarterbacks. They have had one sack or fewer in six of their 10 games. That lack of pressure up front has made it easy on quarterbacks, which is why the Lions rank 30th in pass defense. Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Kirk Cousins have dinged Detroit for 300-yard passing games and Dak Prescott shredded the Lions with a 400-yard game last weekend.
27. New York Jets. The Jets have the NFL’s worst offense. They rank 31st in both rushing and passing and 32nd overall. Their leading rusher Le’Veon Bell ranks 21st in the NFL and their leading receiver Jamison Crowder ranks 22nd. The Jets have scored 123 fewer points this season than the Patriots, the team they are supposed to be chasing in the AFC East.
28. Denver Broncos. Where are John Elway and Peyton Manning when you really need them? The Broncos rank 25th in the NFL in passing with only nine TD strikes in 10 games. The 3-7 Broncos haven’t been able to generate any offense through the air with either Joe Flacco or Brandon Allen. Second-round draft pick Drew Lock is waiting in the wings for his chance.
29. Miami Dolphins. The Miami defense has only seven sacks in six home games this season. Little wonder they have won only once at home and find themselves 2-8 on the season. The Dolphins’ leading sacker is Taco Charlton, who was claimed off waivers from the Cowboys in the third week of the season and became an immediate starter. He has four sacks.
30. New York Giants. The Giants installed rookie Daniel Jones as their starting quarterback in Week 3 and he promptly delivered consecutive victories over Tampa Bay and Washington to help New York even its record at 2-2. But the Giants haven’t won since, dropping six consecutive games, and Jones has been a big part of the problem. He has committed 12 turnovers – six interceptions and six fumble recoveries – during those six losses.
31. Washington Redskins. RB Derrius Guice was supposed to be a focal point of the Washington offense but his season – and that of the Redskins – was derailed when he suffered a torn meniscus in the opener. He returned last weekend against the Jets after an eight-game absence and flashed the big-play potential that the Redskins have been missing most of the season with a 45-yard touchdown reception on his only catch.
32. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have four of their remaining six games at home to avoid becoming the third 0-16 team in NFL history -- and second in the state of Ohio. The Detroit Lions were winless in 2008 and the Cleveland Browns winless in 2017. The 0-10 Bengals have the Steelers and Jets at home the next two weeks, then New England and Cleveland at home in December.