Gosselin NFL rankings: KC finally stands alone


Kareem Hunt photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin is in his 45th season reporting on the NFL in 2017. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career, plus 34 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall-of-Fame selection committee for 22 years and is a member of both the senior and contributor subcommittees. Gosselin also is one of 12 voters for the AP 32, the weekly ranking of NFL teams conducted by The Associated Press. Here is his ballot for Week 5:

1. Kansas City. The Chiefs are the last of the NFL unbeatens at 4-0. It’s the third time since 2000 Kansas City has been the last unbeaten standing. The Chiefs also started 9-0 in both 2003 and 2013 but each time lost their 10th game.

2. Green Bay. Jordy Nelson has already caught five touchdown passes this season – and all have come at Lambeau. Unfortunately, the Packers are on the road the next two weeks at Dallas and Minnesota.

3. Detroit. Matthew Stafford, the NFL’s highest-paid player, threw an interception on his first pass of the season but hasn’t thrown one since. That a streak of 137 consecutive passes and a big part of the reason his Lions share first place with the Packers in the NFC North with a 3-1 record. Only a replay has prevented them from a 4-0 start.

4. Pittsburgh. The offense is still out of sync in Pittsburgh (21st in the NFL), but the Steelers are playing defense like the Steel Curtain of old. Pittsburgh ranks second in the NFL in defense and has resurrected Blitzburgh with an NFL-runnerup 15 sacks.

5. Philadelphia. It’s time to reopen the discussion as to which NFC East got the better quarterback in the 2016 draft, the Eagles (Carson Wentz) or the Cowboys (Dak Prescott). As Prescott has struggled for the 2-2 Cowboys, Wentz has passed for six TDs with two 300-yard games to propel the Eagles to the top of the NFC East with a 3-1 record.

6. Denver. The Broncos are 3-1 because they’ve been able to take care of business at home. Denver is one of only two NFL teams 3-0 at home along with Green Bay. Dallas and Oakland have both been conquests of the Broncos at Mile High.

Todd Gurley photo courtesy of Scott Rovak/LA Rams)

7. Atlanta. The reigning NFL MVP has played very un-MVP-like these last two weeks as Matt Ryan has thrown five interceptions and lost a fumble. A replay saved Atlanta two weeks ago against Detroit but nothing could save the Falcons last weekend against the Bills.

8. LA Rams. Here’s a vote for Todd Gurley as the best back in the NFC this season. He rushed for 100 yards in each of his last two games, both on the road, and has touchdowns in all four games. He has scored seven TDs overall, four on the ground and three through the air.

9. New England. The Patriots have allowed a 128 points, second most in the league, which puts them on a pace for a season yield of 512 points. Only two teams have ever advanced to the Super Bowl with a defense that allowed as many as 400 points – the 2008 Cardinals (426) and the 2011 Giants (400).

10. Tampa Bay. If the defense can become more opportunistic, the Bucs are a potential Super Bowl contender. Tampa has a Top-10 offense and a Top-5 passing attack. The big plays are there on offense, but they need more on defense. The Bucs have only one sack and four takeaways at this point.

11. Houston. Is DeShaun Watson this season’s Dak Prescott? Through four games, he has passed for 801 yards with seven passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns for the 3-1 Texans. Through  four games a year ago, Prescott passed for 1,012 yards with three passing TDs and two rushing TDs for the 3-1 Cowboys.

12. Seattle. The Seahawks is scuffling along at 2-2 and suffered a devastating injury in last weekend’s victory over Indianapolis when rookie running back Chris Carson suffered an injury to his left ankle. He was Seattle’s leading rusher with 208 yards.

13. Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor has not thrown an interception since the opening drive of the opening game of the season. That’s a streak of 93 consecutive passes without a pick by Taylor, ball security that has propelled the Bills to the top of the AFC East with a 3-1 record.

14. Carolina. Can Newton needs to get out of the Carolinas, at least on the weekends. He has thrown five touchdowns with one interception in his two road games this season and no touchdowns with three interceptions in his two home games. He’s 2-0 on the road and 1-1 at home.

15. Washington. This will be the first weekend of the NFL’s scheduled byes. The Redskins are one of four teams with the weekend off, joining the Broncos, Falcons and Saints.

16. Dallas. There’s no shame in losing at home to the Rams. The Cowboys also lost at home to the Rams in 1992 on their way to the first Lombardi Trophy of the Jerry Jones era that season.

17. Oakland. The Raiders need to get Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper reacquainted with the offense. In their last two games, both losses, Cooper has caught a total of three passes for 15 yards.

18. Tennessee. Marcus Mariota has a sore hamstring and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a sore ego after the Titans allowed 57 points last weekend in a blowout loss at Houston.

19. Minnesota. The Vikings have played the last two weeks without quarterback Sam Bradford and will be without their dynamic rookie running back Dalvin Cook going forward. He suffered torn knee ligaments last weekend in the home loss to the Lions.

20. New Orleans. There have been only two shutouts through the first four weeks of the NFL season, and the Saints posted one of them last Sunday against the Dolphins. This from a defense that finished 27th in the league a year ago and entered last weekend ranked 31st. So kudos to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

21. NY Jets. Did someone say the Jets have a quarterback issue? Josh McCown is completing 70 percent of his passes and has them 2-2 on the season – the same record as the defending AFC East champion Patriots. He has thrown only one interception over the last three games.

22. Arizona. The Cardinals have yet to win a game in regulation. But they are 2-0 in overtimes for a 2-2 start to their season.

23. Jacksonville. Blake Bortles has been sacked a league-low three times but even with time to throw, he has struggled. He’s completing only 54 percent of his passes and is averaging barely six yards per attempt. By comparison, LA’s Jared Goff is completing 68 percent of his passes and averaging more than nine yards per attempt.

24. Baltimore. The Ravens are suffering from a complete loss of identity. Despite a Super Bowl-winning QB (Joe Flacco) they are not a passing team, ranking last in the NFL. And despite the ghosts of Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Rod Woodson, they are no longer a defensive team, ranking 21st in the NFL. A result, the Ravens are spinning their wheels at 2-2.

Mitch Trubisky photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina

25. Cincinnati. DE Carl Lawson has been a quality addition to Cincinnati’s Top-5 defense. A fourth-round draft pick from Auburn, Lawson became a walk-in starter and has 2 ½ sacks off the edge to complement the interior rush of Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins (3 1/2 sacks).

26. Miami. There are only two teams still without a rushing touchdown a month into the season, the Bengals and Dolphins. Even though Miami has Pro Bowl RB Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins have rushed the ball a league-low 62 times. Here’s a word of advice to Miami head coach Adam Gase – take the ball out of Jay Cutler’s hands and put it in those of Ajayi.

27. Chicago. Mike Glennon has thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns in the first four games (four) as the Bears have stumbled off to a 1-3 start, so it’s now Mitch Trubisky time. Chicago traded up to claim Trubisky with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft. He’ll make his NFL starting debut Monday night against the Vikings.

28. Indianapolis. Pencil in safety Malik Hooker as an early front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. A first-round draft pick from Ohio State, Hooker has three interceptions already for an Indianapolis secondary that only picked off eight passes all of last season.

29. NY Giants. The Giants are no longer road warriors. They are the only team in the NFL that’s 0-3 on the road. The good news is that the 0-4 G-men have plenty of home games left to get back into the wild-card hunt.

30. LA Chargers. The Chargers closed out a three-game homestand with three losses to fall to 0-4. LA now plays four of the next five on the road, including games across three time zones against the Giants and Patriots.

31. San Francisco. The 49ers have nine sacks on defense in their two road games but no sacks in their two home games. Not that any of it matters. They sit 0-4 with a road pass rush and little else.

32. Cleveland. The Browns have the youngest roster (an average 24.17 years) and starting lineup (24.68) in the NFL. The other 31 teams all have rosters and lineups that average 25 years of age or higher. That lack of experience is showing in Cleveland’s 0-4 start to the season.

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