Rick Gosselin's Week 8 NFL rankings: 2 of top 3 teams meet Sunday
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 8:
1. Los Angeles Rams. Aaron Donald leads the NFL with 10 sacks. The NFL record for sacks by a defensive tackle is 18 by Minnesota’s Keith Millard in 1989. Donald’s personal best was 11 sacks in both 2015 and 2017. He'll be chasing Drew Brees this weekend.
2. Kansas City Chiefs. How much of a homefield advantage does Arrowhead Stadium give the Chiefs? The loudest stadium in the NFL has paved the way for 16 sacks in four home games by the Chiefs. Kansas City has half that many sacks in its four road games.
3. New Orleans Saints. The Saints have allowed the fewest sacks in the league – nine. That clean pocket has QB Drew Brees sitting atop the NFL in passing with a 118.2 efficiency rating. Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh will pose a formidable challenge for the Saints' offensive line this weekend.
4. New England Patriots. Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers this Sunday night. As tantalizing as any Yankee-Red Sox matchup...
5. Los Angeles Chargers. Wonder why the Chargers are sitting up here. They have committed an AFC-low six turnovers on the way to a 5-2 start. QB Philip Rivers has thrown only three interceptions and WR Keenan Allen, RB Austin Ekeler and KR J.J. Jones have all lost a fumble.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers. Le’Veon who? James Conner leads the NFL with four 100-yard rushing games and the Steelers are 3-0-1 in those games. He also has scored two touchdowns each of his last three games, all victories by the AFC North-leading Steelers.
7. Houston Texans. The loss of WR Will Fuller with a season-ending knee injury is a blow to an offense on the rise. Fuller did a nice job of deflecting some of the heat off De’Andre Hopkins with his three 100-yard games and four touchdown receptions this season.
8. Washington Redskins. The NFC East-leading Redskins have 11 sacks in the last two games – this after collecting only 10 sacks in their first five games. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has three of those 11 sacks.
9. Carolina Panthers. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen suffered a broken foot in the season opener, then sat out four games before returning in Week 7 against Philadelphia. How important is he to the Panthers? They are 3-0 with him and 2-2 without him. He has a touchdown reception in each of the last two games, both victories.
10. Minnesota Vikings. Starting wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have combined for 10 touchdowns receptions for the Vikings this season. That’s more than six NFL teams. They also have combined to catch 132 passes. That’s more than four NFL teams.
11. Cincinnati Bengals. The 5-3 Bengals are chasing the Steelers in the AFC North – but their chase is slowed by the NFL’s worst defense. Cincinnati has allowed the most yards (447.8 yards per game) and most points (237) this season.
12. Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll has dusted off his old gameplans from the Super Bowl days when he had Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. The Seahawks are back to rushing the football. Chris Carson has three 100-yad games and Mike Davis one for the 4-3 Seahawks.
13. Green Bay Packers. The Packers may not be on a tear (1-2 in the last three games) but Davante Adams certainly is. The Pro Bowler wide receiver has strung together three consecutive 100-yard receiving games against the Lions, 49ers and Rams. He’s caught 24 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns during that stretch.
14. Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky has passed for 12 touchdowns at home this season but only three on the road. His Bears visit Buffalo this weekend.
15. Philadelphia Eagles. The Philadelphia Eagles drew a crowd of 85,870 for their international game at Wembley Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the first time the NFL has ever scheduled its defending Super Bowl champion for a regular-season game in London. The Eagles drew the largest crowd in the 32 games the NFL has played over the years in England.
16. Baltimore Ravens. Terrell Suggs has 5 ½ sacks this season and 131 in his career. He needs two more sacks to pass Lawrence Taylor on the all-time list. If Suggs can collect seven more sacks this season, he will move into the Top 10, passing a couple more Hall of Famers John Randle and Richard Dent.
17. Miami Dolphins. Eight games into the season Frank Gore is still looking for his first rushing touchdown as a Dolphin. It’s the longest such scoring drought in the 14-year career for Gore, the NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mike Evans caught three touchdown passes in the first 14 quarters of the season from Ryan Fitzpatrick. After Fitzpatrick was benched for Jameis Winston, Evans went the next 13 quarters without catching a TD pass. Winston was pulled last weekend after throwing his fourth interception in the third quarter against the Bengals, returning Fitzpatrick to the field and Evans to the offense. Fitzpatrick promptly hit Evans with a 72-yard scoring toss. The Bucs need Evans involved, so Fitzpatrick has been returned to the starting lineup for this week’s game against Carolina.
19. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys return from their bye with a Monday night home game against the Tennessee Titans. Dallas is among the most successful team in the NFL coming off byes with a 20-9 record. Only the Eagles (22-7) and Broncos (21-8) are better.
20. Detroit Lions. The Lions are going to need more than “Snacks” (Harrison) to improve their run defense. They are going to need the entire meal. Detroit traded for Harrison specifically to upgrade the NFL’s 30th ranked run defense, allowing an average of 139 yards per game. In his Detroit debut last week, the Lions allowed 176 yards on the ground in a home loss to the Seahawks.
21. Denver Broncos. Counting the 2017 post-season, Denver’s Case Keenum has thrown an interception in 10 consecutive games, the longest current streak of any NFL quarterback. He has thrown 13 interceptions in that 10-game stretch.
22. Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan has thrown 192 passes over the last five games without an interception. He has a 400-yard passing game, three 300-yard games and 13 TD passes during that stretch – but the Falcons have little to show for it. They have lost three of the five games and find themselves at 3-4 on the season, three games back of the front-running Carolina Panthers.
23. Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariota has passed for only three touchdowns this season and the Titans as an offense have rushed for an NFL-low three scores. Tennessee ranks 31st in the NFL in scoring with just 106 points – and that inability to find the end zone has the Titans in the throes of a three-game losing streak that has dropped them to 3-4.
24. Indianapolis Colts. Indy’s blocking front has now gone three consecutive games without allowing a sack of QB Andrew Luck. He has thrown 97 passes during that stretch. The Colts have scored at least 34 points in all three of those games, winning two of them to improve to 3-5.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars. If any team needs a week off, it’s the Jaguars. They head into their bye week with a four-game losing streak that has them teetering on playoff elimination before Halloween. Star RB Leonard Fournette has also missed the last four games with a hamstring injury. Maybe the extra week will help him get back onto the field.
26. New York Jets. Sam Darnold was the only rookie of the 2018 draft class to start from Day 1 and his growing pains are evident. Darnold, the third overall pick of the draft, has passed for fewer than 200 yards in five of his eight starts. He has thrown one TD pass or fewer in five of his starts and has already thrown 10 interceptions for the 3-5 Jets.
27. Cleveland Browns. Do the Browns ever miss Joe Thomas. He lined up at left tackle, protecting the quarterback’s blind side, for 10 seasons before a torn triceps in his 11th season in 2017 ended his career. Thomas went to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 healthy seasons. Without him for the first time in 2018, the Browns have allowed a league-high 33 sacks.
28. Arizona Cardinals. W 2-6 Welcome back, Larry Fitzgerald. He scored a touchdown each of the last two weeks – his first two TDs of the season – and he also posted his first 100-yard receiving game of the season Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. He needs 33 more receiving yards to pass Terrell Owens and move into No. 2 all-time.
29. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have the NFL’s sixth-best defense but an offense than can’t get out of its own way. Buffalo ranks 31st in offense, 32 in passing and has committed an NFL-runnerup 18 turnovers and a league-high 33 penalties on that side of the ball. Little wonder the Bills sit 2-6.
30. New York Giants. The offensive line is dogging first-year coach Pat Shurmur just as it dogged his predecessor Ben McAdoo. There are no holes for RB Saquon Barkley – he has been held under 50 yards rushing in five of his eight NFL games – and no protection for QB Eli Manning. He’s absorbed a seven-sack assault (Giants), a six-sack assault (Cowboys) and three four-sack games (Texans, Eagles, Falcons).
31. San Francisco 49ers. Give the 49ers the edge this weekend when the two Bay Area teams square off in the race for the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft. The 49ers will host the Raiders in a battle of one-win teams…and the Raiders are winless on the road.
32. Oakland Raiders. Well, at least offensive-minded Jon Gruden knows the value of a quality pass rusher now. He unloaded his disgruntled Pro Bowl edge rusher Khalil Mack on the eve of the season and the absence of a pass rush since has spelled doom for the 2018 Raiders. Oakland has a league-low seven sacks in seven games in its 1-6 start.