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 2:
1. Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player on their front line (Aaron Donald) and a player who previously was the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (Ndamukong Suh) lining up next to him. Yet the Rams have only two sacks. Something doesn’t compute here.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s not often you see a Blake Bortles win a shootout with Tom Brady. Bortles passed for 377 yards and four touchdowns to top Brady’s 234 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s home upset of the defending AFC champions last weekend.
3. Kansas City Chiefs. The offense is fun to watch with novice starter Patrick Mahomes firing out of the shotgun. But the defense… Well, in two games the Chiefs have allowed four 100-yard receivers, two apiece to the Chargers and Steelers.
4. Minnesota Vikings. It looks like Kirk Cousins might be worth the $84 million the Vikings are paying him over the next three seasons.
5. Green Bay Packers. The Packers are an atrocious roughing the passer penalty against Pro Bowl OLB Clay Matthews from being 2-0.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After two weeks, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the front-runner for NFL MVP honors with his 819 yards passing and eight touchdowns for the surprising 2-0 Buccaneers. What has Tampa Bay discovered in Fitzpatrick that his previous employers the Cardinals, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans and Jets could not?
7. Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton isn’t the only quarterback with a set of legs in the NFC South. Matt Ryan rushed for two touchdowns for the Falcons last weekend.
8. Philadelphia Eagles. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles has finally lost a game, snapping a four-game winning streak as Philadelphia’s interim quarterback. Now incumbent Carson Wentz has been cleared to return for the Eagles … and a Super Bowl MVP heads back to the bench.
9. New England Patriots. When the Jaguars took away Rob Gronkowski from his offense last weekend, Tom Brady didn’t have much left in the passing game. Bill Belichick hoped to rectify that this week by trading for former Pro Bowler (but troubled) Josh Gordon.
10. Los Angeles Chargers. RB Melvin Gordon has become an ideal fit in the Chargers’ offense. He brought the ability to run from Wisconsin, where he set a Big Ten record for rushing yards in a season, and has evolved into a pass catcher playing with LA quarterback Philip Rivers. He has caught 15, passes, scored two touchdowns and has a 100-yard receiving game already this season.
11. Carolina Panthers. Christian McCaffrey caught a career-best 14 passes against the Falcons last weekend. Only one NFL player has caught more passes in a game this season – Micheal Thomas of the Saints, who caught 16 on opening day against the Bucs.
12. Miami Dolphins. This offseason the Dolphins subtracted two impact players – one on offense (Jarvis Landry) and one on defense (Ndamukong Suh) – and now find themselves 2-0. Go figure.
13. Cincinnati Bengals. The 2-0 Bengals lead the NFL with eight defensive takeaways, three interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Playmaking was an issue for the Cincinnati defense a year ago when the Bengals forced only 14 turnovers.
14. Denver Broncos. Denver, Green Bay and New Orleans were the only teams in the league with a scheduling break of two home games to start this season. But the Broncos are the only one that cashed in, going 2-0. The Packers are 1-0-1 and the Saints 1-1.
15. Baltimore Ravens. The faces have changed over the years but not the efficiency. Ray Lewis is gone. Ed Reed is gone. But Terrell Suggs is still around and the Ravens once again lead the AFC in defense.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are the most penalized team in football. They are the only NFL team with more than 20 penalties (24) and the only team assessed more than 200 yards (206).
17. Chicago Bears. The Bears acquire Khalil Mack…and guess who now has the best pass rush in the NFL? The Bears lead the league with 10 sacks, including six on Monday night against the Seahawks.
18. Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have not been able to generate much of a pass rush since Wade Phillips left town in 2010. But they have a rush this season with an NFL-runnerup nine sacks. Coordinator Rod Marinelli’s “quantity” rush is paying off – the Cowboys got six sacks from six different players against Eli Manning and the Giants last weekend.
19. New Orleans Saints. WR Michael Thomas is the NFL’s leading receiver with 28 catches. But he’s fumbled the ball away in each of the first two games of the Saints. He didn’t lose a single fumble in 2017.
20. San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo has been sacked nine times, more than any other quarterback this season. The 49ers need to do a better job of protecting a player they are investing $137 million in over the next five years.
21. Tennessee Titans. Mike Vrabel picked up his first NFL victory as head coach of the Titans last weekend and he did it the hard way – with a backup quarterback. Blaine Gabbert threw a TD pass filling in for Marcus Mariota to lift the Titans past the Houston Texans.
22. Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck has been away a year but he hasn’t forgotten where to throw the ball in the Indianapolis offense. Luck has targeted his Pro Bowl WR T.Y. Hilton 11 times each of the first two games and Hilton has a touchdown each game.
23. Washington Redskins. Alex Smith has not thrown an interception in his two games as quarterback of the Redskins. Dating to his days with the Chiefs in 2017, Smith has now gone five consecutive games without getting picked off.
24. New York Jets. Two games into his career, Sam Darnold already has one more 300-yard passing game (1) than Hall of Famer Joe Namath managed in his rookie season with the Jets.
25. Cleveland Browns. The Browns are four points away from being 2-0 instead of 0-1-1. Those points are easy to find – kicker Zane Gonzales has missed three of his five field goal tries and two of his five conversion kicks. He missed late field goals that would have beaten Pittsburgh in overtime and tied New Orleans in regulation, forcing an overtime. So the Browns have cut Gonzalez.
26. Seattle Seahawks. There were 33 wide receivers selected in the 2018 NFL draft. But the only rookie with a 100-yard receiving game thus far this season is a tight end – Seattle’s Will Dissly, a fourth-round draft pick from Washington.
27. Houston Texans. Quarterback DeShaun Watson is back. So is three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. But the winning isn’t. The presence of a healthy Watson and a healthy Watt has not been enough to stave off an 0-2 start by the Texans.
28. New York Giants. New York spent $62 million in free agency on left tackle Nate Solder and used the 34th pick of the draft on guard Will Hernandez…but the 0-2 Giants still can’t block. They rank 29th in the NFL in offense and 28th in rushing. There are few holes for Saquon Barkley and little protection for Eli Manning.
29. Oakland Raiders. Jon Gruden lost his final four games as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now he’s lost his first two games as head coach at Oakland. The Raiders also lost their final four games of the 2017 season, which cost Jack Del Rio his job and freed up owner Mark Davis to hire Gruden. Now both team and coach take six-game losing streaks to Miami this weekend.
30. Detroit Lions. As defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Matt Patricia had no answers for the rushing attack of the Eagles in the Super Bowl, allowing 164 yards on the ground. Now as Detroit’s head coach, Patricia’s winless Lions can’t stop the run, allowing a 100-yard rusher in each of the first two games.
31. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have started three different quarterbacks in their last three games and lost with all of them – Tyrod Taylor in the playoffs last January, Nathan Peterman on opening day and first-round draft pick Josh Allen last weekend against the Chargers. Ah, stability — Allen returns to the field Sunday.
32. Arizona Cardinals. Sam Bradford has thrown 61 passes without a touchdown for the winless Cardinals this season. And that’s with Larry Fitzgerald on the flank. How soon before coach Steve Wilks turns to first-round draft pick Josh Rosen?