Rick Gosselin's Week 6 NFL rankings: someone new (and very familiar) at the top
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 6:
1. New England Patriots. The single most important statistic of a Super Bowl champion is scoring defense. Forty-two of the 53 Super Bowl champions finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense. The Patriots led the NFL in scoring defense in three of their six Super Bowl seasons. New England again leads the league in scoring defense this season, allowing only 34 points in five games.
2. Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson keeps rolling along and so do his Seahawks. He has committed only one turnover this season, losing a fumble in the second week against Pittsburgh. He now has thrown 156 passes this season without an interception for the 4-1 Seahawks. Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Marcus Mariota are NFL’s only five-week starting quarterbacks who still haven’t thrown an interception this season.
3. New Orleans Saints. With Drew Brees out, the New Orleans defense under Dennis Allen is rising up. The Saints shut the door on the Cowboys and Buccaneers in the last two weeks. NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott had one of the worst games of his career (18 carries for 35 yards) for Dallas and QB Jameis Winston was sacked six times and saw his streak of 300-yard passing games come to an end for the Bucs in losses to the Saints.
4. Kansas City Chiefs. Defense was the Achilles heel of the Chiefs last season and it’s surfacing as a problem again this year. Marlon Mack rushed for 136 yards, allowing the Colts to control the ball for more than 37 minutes – thus keeping Patrick Mahomes off the field – in Indy’s upset of the Chiefs last Sunday night. It was KC’s first loss of the season.
5. Green Bay Packers. The money the Packers spent on free agent outside linebackers Preston and Za’Darius Smith was money well spent. They have combined for 10 ½ sacks to give Green Bay some teeth in its pass rush. Three of them came in the upset of the Cowboys last weekend.
6. San Francisco 49ers. It’s time to start believing in the 49ers. They are 4-0 and ranked second in the NFL in defense and fourth in offense. They have 11 takeaways and seven interceptions on defense, which places them second only to New England in both of those key categories.
7. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have a bye week – a just reward for their surprising 4-1 start. The last time the Bills started a season 4-1 was 2011. The Bears, Colts and Raiders also have byes this week. Chicago is the only team of the four taking a loss into their bye.
8. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had three sacks on defense in the month of September. They had 10 the opening weekend of October against the Jets. End Brandon Graham had three of them and cornerback Orlando Scandrick two.
9. Los Angeles Rams. The Rams like achieving feats in pairs. Three times this season they have had a pair of 100-yard receivers in games. The one constant has been Cooper Kupp. He had 100-yard games against New Orleans, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Seattle. Brandin Cooks joined him with a 100-yard game against the Browns, Robert Woods a 100-yard game against the Buccaneers and Gerald Everett a 100-yard game against the Seahawks.
10. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have replaced the Chiefs as the NFL’s top-ranked offense. But they needed a 563-yard day in a losing cause against Green Bay last weekend to get there. QB Dak Prescott passed for 463 yards and three touchdowns in defeat.
11. Detroit Lions. Jamal Agnew leads the NFL in kickoff returns with an average of 32.4 yards. Two years ago he led the league in punt returns. Agnew has been in the NFL three seasons and he has already scored three touchdowns on returns. He has the only kickoff return for a touchdown this NFL season, a 100-yarder in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
12. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have positioned themselves to take control of the AFC South. With their road upset of the Chiefs, they are now 3-2 with a bye this week. When they return, they will play four of their next five at home. And Indy will be favored in all of them – Houston, Denver, Miami and Jacksonville.
13. Chicago Bears. The Bears are one of only two teams that have not fumbled the ball away this season. The Arizona Cardinals are the other. The last time the Bears lost a fumble was Dec. 23, 2018 against San Francisco. That was seven games ago. QB Mitch Trubisky was the fumbler that game.
14. Baltimore Ravens. Justin Tucker may be nudging his name into the Hall of Fame discussion, which is rare for a kicker. But…he’s the most accurate field goal kicker in history, converting 90.4 percent of his 273 attempts. He kicked his 14th career game-winner in overtime last Sunday at Pittsburgh to sink the Steelers. Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen are the only two kickers enshrined in Canton with Adam Vinatieri expected to one day join them. They may have to leave the door open for Tucker.
15. Carolina Panthers. If the NFL voted on an MVP today, it’d likely be Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey. He leads the league in rushing, yards from scrimmage and first downs, he’s second in touchdowns and 11th in receptions. He has had three 100-yard rushing games.
16. Minnesota Vikings. Adam Thielen was angry. Stefon Diggs was angry. So was the Minnesota fan base. The Vikings could run the ball and play defense but couldn’t pass. QB Kirk Cousins needed to up his game if the Vikings are to get where they want to go in 2019. Cousins did last week, passing for 300 yards for the first time this season and throwing for another season-high two touchdowns, both to Thielen, in a victory over the Giants.
17. Oakland Raiders. When the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to the Bears in 2018, he took the Oakland pass rush with them. But when the Raiders finally played against Mack and the Bears last Sunday in Oakland, Mack was held sackless and the Raiders upset the Bears. Chicago didn't have any sacks, in fact.
18. Houston Texans. There’s cause for celebration in Houston…or at least there is in the Deshaun Watson household. Watson was not sacked last Sunday by the Atlanta Falcons – the first time his blockers have kept him upright since Oct. 25, 2018. He was sacked 52 times in the next 13 games before his line kept the Atlanta pass rush off him. He rewarded his blockers with 426 yards and five touchdowns passing in a route of the Falcons.
19. Los Angeles Chargers. Melvin Gordon is back from his holdout and back in the starting lineup, dislodging Austin Ekeler from the halfback spot. But Ekeler isn’t leaving the field quietly. In fact, he’s not even leaving the field. He’s now the situation back and caught a team-high 15 passes from Philip Rivers last weekend for 86 yards. He finished the day with more touches (18) than Gordon (16).
20. Jacksonville Jaguars. Gardner Minshew became the third rookie quarterback to have a 300-yard passing game this season, joining Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. But Murray and Jones were both selected in the Top 6 picks of the 2019 draft. Minshew was a sixth-rounder. He passed for 374 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Panthers.
21. Tennessee Titans. The Titans are 2-3 and can blame their home woes for their slow start. Tennessee has played two home games and lost them both. But the Titans are not alone. Home teams have been struggling across the board, posting a 34-43-1 mark through the first five weeks of the season. Home teams historically win 53-55 percent of their games each NFL season.
22. New York Giants. Daniel Jones is in the lineup. Golden Tate is back from suspension. Evan Engram is evolving into a Pro Bowl weapon at tight end. When Saquon Barkley returns from injury, the Giants may have the semblance of an explosive NFL offense.
23. Cleveland Browns. The second season has not been as smooth for Baker Mayfield as his first. He has thrown eight interceptions and lost a fumble through five games, mistakes that have contributed to a disappointing 2-3 start.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Shaquil Barrett, a product of Boys Town in Nebraska, leads the NFL in sacks with nine. But he was held without a sack by the Saints last weekend for the first time this season. Barrett left the Broncos in free agency last offseason because he couldn’t get on the field with first-round draft picks Von Miller and Bradley Chubb ahead of him on the depth chart. The Broncos could use him now. Barrett has four more sacks individually than Denver has collectively this season.
25. Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals had one sack of Andy Dalton in the third quarter last Sunday for zero yards. Why is that important? Because it extended Arizona’s streak of consecutive games with a sack to 56, the longest in the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by the way, had their 19-game sack streak stopped by the Saints last weekend.
26. Denver Broncos. For the fourth time in five games, the Broncos were held without a sack last weekend. But it didn’t matter – Denver gave Vic Fangio his first victory as an NFL head coach with a road upset of the Los Angeles Chargers.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers. If Mason Rudolph can’t go this week because of a concussion, the Steelers will start a quarterback who wasn’t even on their opening-day roster – Devlin Hodges. Pittsburgh entered the season with Ben Roethlisberger, Rudolph and Josh Dobbs as their three-deep. But they traded Dobbs to Jacksonville after the first week of the season, then Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the second week. Hodges was then promoted from the practice squad. He won the Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) at Samford last season and signed with the Steelers as an undrafted college free agent. He completed 7-of-9 for 68 yards off the bench in his NFL debut last week against the Ravens.
28. Atlanta Falcons. Since appearing in the Super Bowl in 2016, the Falcons are 18-20. You have to wonder how their fate might have been different had they not blown a 25-point lead to the Patriots over the game’s final 18 minutes in that Super Bowl. They haven’t been the same team since that devastating loss.
29. New York Jets. Sam Darnold returns from a concussion to start this week against the Cowboys. It will be none too soon – the Jets have not thrown a touchdown pass in the three games since he left the field and his backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk have struggled. Between them that have thrown three interceptions, lost a fumble and been sacked 18 times.
30. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 0-5. The last time Cincinnati started 0-5 was 2008 – and the losing extended for three more games before the Bengals won for the first time in the ninth week. They finished 4-11-1 that season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback.
31. Washington Redskins. The Redskins have officially laid the blame of their 0-5 start at the doorstep of coach Jay Gruden. They fired him this week. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who once took the Raiders to a Super Bowl, inherits this mess now as interim coach.
32. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are spending an average of only 23 minutes, 43 seconds per game on offense. You won’t win many games in the NFL when you ask your defense to play more than 36 minutes each week. Thus, Miami’s 0-4 start.