Rick Gosselin's Week 7 NFL rankings -- here come the 49ers
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 7:
1. New England Patriots. There have been six blocked punts in the NFL and two of them have been returned for touchdowns – both by the Patriots. So not only do the Patriots have Tom Brady on offense and the league’s top-ranked defense, they have the NFL’s best special teams. Which explains why the Patriots are one of only two teams still unbeaten.
2. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won Super Bowls as a pass-first offense with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. The 2019 49ers are unbeaten and are succeeding as a run-first offense. The 49ers rank second in the NFL in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and 21st in passing.
3. Seattle Seahawks. The 5-1 Seahawks are winning despite the lack of a pass rush. They have been held sackless in the last two games by the Rams and Browns and have now gone without a sack in three of their last four games. The Saints also shut out the Seattle pass rush in Week 3.
4. New Orleans Saints. The Saints were supposed to be vulnerable without Drew Brees, right? Well, backup QB Teddy Bridgewater is 4-0 in the absence of the NFL’s all-time leading passer with victories over Dallas and Seattle and a 300-yard, four-TD passing game against Tampa Bay.
5. Green Bay Packers. The Packers sit atop the NFC North with a 5-1 record. Now they can assert their dominance over the AFC West with consecutive games the next three weeks against Oakland, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Packers have already knocked off the Denver Broncos this season.
6. Buffalo Bills. The Bills return from their bye with a 4-1 record -- one of only six teams with one loss or less through mid-October. The good news – Buffalo plays the next three games at home against Miami, Philadelphia and Washington. Better news – the Bills are 19-11 coming off byes.
7. Baltimore Ravens. Maybe because the long-time general manager himself (Ozzie Newsome) was a Hall of Fame tight end, the Ravens have always placed a premium on that position. Their leading receiver when they won their first Super Bowl in 2001 was a tight end – Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. And a tight end again leads the Ravens in receiving this season. Mark Andrews has caught 34 passes and has two 100-yard games. He was a third-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2018.
8. Minnesota Vikings. Maybe the Vikings ought to apply for admission to the NFC East. QB Kirk Cousins struggled in the first four games, throwing only three TD passes as the Vikings scuffled off to a 2-2 start. But in the last two weeks against the Giants and Eagles, Cousins has thrown for a combined 639 yards and six touchdowns. The Vikings still play Washington in October and Dallas in November.
9. Houston Texans. Only three quarterbacks have thrown more TD passes than the 12 of DeShaun Watson. But get this – Watson has as many rushing touchdowns (5) as Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. Watson’s legs are the X factor of his game. He has rushed for 164 yards and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
10. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have allowed only six sacks. Only the Steelers have allowed fewer (5). The Indy blocking front has kept the pass rush off QB Jacoby Brissett each of the last two weeks, allowing no sacks in 78 dropbacks. Brissett has thrown 10 TDs against only three interceptions this season and is the key reason the Colts are 3-2.
12. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have allowed a 100-yard rusher each of the last four games. Mark Ingram started the stampede for the Saints, followed by Kerryon Johnson of the Lions, Milton Mack of the Colts and Carlos Hyde of the Texans.
11. Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have 27 sacks on defense this season – and 21 of them have come on the road. They had an eight-sack game at Arizona, a six-sack game at Houston and a seven-sack game against Tampa Bay in London.
12. Detroit Lions. The Detroit defense has recovered a league-high eight fumbles – and not a one has come from a strip sack of a quarterback. The Lions have recovered four fumbles by wide receivers and four more by running backs.
14. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles visit Dallas this weekend with first place in the NFC East on the line. Both teams sit 3-3, a game ahead of the Giants. The only quality win either the Cowboys or Eagles has is Philadelphia’s victory over the Packers in Green Bay in Week 4. The Eagles have already beaten both the Packers and Jets -- and the Cowboys have lost to both teams in the last two weeks.
15. Los Angeles Rams. This isn’t the same Todd Gurley who made a run at NFL MVP last season and these aren’t the same Rams. Gurley has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season and sat out last week’s loss to the 49ers with a quad injury. The Rams started the season 3-0 but have since lost three in a row to sink to mediocrity.
16. Dallas Cowboys. The Rams aren’t the only former NFC division champ in a downward spiral. The Cowboys also started 3-0 and also have lost all three games since. Blame slow starts. The Cowboys have been outscored 47-9 in the first half of those games against the Saints, Packers and Jets.
17. Chicago Bears. The Bears have committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL – four. They are one of only two teams that has not lost a fumble yet. That’s allowed the Bears to survive in the NFC North despite the NFL’s 30th ranked offense. The Bears are 3-2 and return from their bye this week to host the Saints.
18. Oakland Raiders. The Raiders also return from their bye this week and also are 3-2. Jon Gruden has Oakland playing old-school football – they run the ball and stop the run. They rank in the NFL’s Top 10 in both categories. Rookie Josh Jacobs ranks sixth in the league in rushing with 430 yards.
19. Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray has thrown seven touchdowns passes this season, all at home. He has yet to throw for a touchdown in 72 passes covering his two games on the road. With four of Arizona’s next five games on the road, Murray needs to look harder for Larry Fitzgerald in the red zone.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have started three quarterbacks this season and won games with two of them in their 2-4 start. The only quarterback who couldn’t win a game was Ben Roethlisberger, who went 0-2 before an elbow injury sidelined him for the season. Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati with Mason Rudolph taking the snaps and the Chargers with Delvin Hodges.
21. Los Angeles Chargers. Defenses have taken away WR Keenan Allen of late and the Chargers have struggled on offense as a result. Allen opened the season on fire, catching 29 passes in the first three weeks. He caught 123 yards in passes against Indy, 98 against Detroit and 183 against Houston. But in the last three weeks he has caught a combined 11 passes for 99 yards. QB Philip Rivers threw 17 passes to Allen in the Houston game. He’s thrown only 18 passes to him in the last three weeks.
22. Denver Broncos. The Broncos sacked Tennessee quarterbacks seven times last weekend. They also sacked Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew five times in Week 4. But that’s been it. Twelve sacks on the season. The pass rush has been shut out in the other four games and Denver has yet to sack a quarterback on the road in three games.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars reached the AFC title game in 2017 with the league’s second-ranked defense and best pass defense. But the shutdown aspect of that defense has vanished. The Jaguars have forced a league-worst two takeaways and have slid all the way to 22nd in the NFL in defense. Jacksonville needs more from its defense – much, much more -- until Nick Foles can return at quarterback.
24. Tennessee Titans. It’s been a struggle for Marcus Mariota this season. He has failed to throw a touchdown pass in three of his last four games and did toss a pair of interceptions, his first of the season, at Denver last week. Coach Mike Vrabel pulled him in favor of Ryan Tannehill, who didn’t fare much better with four sacks and an interception. The 2-4 Titans need some sort of contribution from the quarterback position if they hope to turn their season around.
25. New York Giants. The Giants need to shore up their pass defense if they expect to get back in the NFC East race. New York has allowed four 300-yard passing games in the first six weeks. Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards in the opener against the Giants and Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins and Tom Brady have all thrown for 300 yards since. The opposition is completing 69.2 percent of its passes against New York.
26. Cleveland Browns. As much as the Browns like their QB Baker Mayfield, they need to give the football to RB Nick Chubb more. He ranks second in the NFL in rushing, just a dozen yards behind Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey. Chubb has had two 100-yard rushing games, scored six touchdowns and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The Browns still have a 2-1 ratio favoring the pass over the run.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bruce Arians spent a coaching career around quarterbacks who didn’t beat themselves, specifically Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. So his adjustment to Jameis Winston in Tampa must be somewhat of a culture shock. Winston turned the ball over six times last week against Carolina, throwing five interceptions and losing a fumble. He has now thrown 10 interceptions on the season for the 2-4 Buccaneers.
28. New York Jets. What a difference a quarterback makes. Without Sam Darnold because of mononucleosis, the Jets failed to throw a touchdown pass in four games, all losses, and bottomed-out as the NFL’s 32nd ranked passing offense. In his first game back, Darnold threw two touchdown passes, including a 92-yard bomb, on his way to a 338-yard game in New York’s upset of the Cowboys.
29. Washington Redskins. Interim coach Bill Callahan won his first game in place of Jay Gruden by making the Redskins a run-first offense. Callahan gave Adrian Peterson a season-high 23 carries and he responded with his first 100-yard rushing game of the season – and 56th of his career – in a win over the Dolphins. Washington ran (33 carries) more than it threw (25 passes) in winning for the first time this season.
30. Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Dan Quinn has a defensive background but it’s defense that’s holding the Falcons back. They rank 26th in the NFL in defense, having allowed a league-high 23 touchdowns and a league-runnerup 15 by pass. Atlanta is 1-5 with a four-game losing streak despite QB Matt Ryan passing for 300-plus yards in all six games this season.
31. Cincinnati Bengals. For the second time in two seasons, Lamar Jackson rushed for 100 yards in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the fifth time in franchise history a quarterback has rushed for 100 yards in a game against the Bengals. That’s tops in the league. Kordell Stewart, Cam Newton and Kevin Hogan were the other QB 100-yard rushers against Cincinnati.
32. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have proven they can’t win with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (0-2) or QB Josh Rosen (0-3), but at least they have a chance to move the football with Fitzpatrick. Rosen threw only one touchdown pass in his three starts before being yanked in favor of Fitzpatrick last weekend against Washington.