Rick Gosselin's Week 2 NFL rankings: Big jump for the Cardinals
Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 48th season reporting on the NFL in 2020. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 38 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall of Fame selection committee 25 years 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. Kansas City Chiefs. (Previous rank: 1) The Chiefs gave Patrick Mahomes a throwaway start in the 2017 season finale. They’d already clinched the AFC West with QB Alex Smith at the helm, and this was a chance to give their rookie quarterback some work. Mahomes won that day – and 28 times in his 37 starts since then. He’s been an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP in his two full seasons as a starter.
2. Baltimore Ravens. (2) Want to know how to build a perennial playoff team? Freshen up your roster every season as Baltimore is doing. Despite finishing with a league-best 14-2 record a year ago, the Ravens started three rookies on opening day: linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison and guard Tyre Phillips. Another rookie, RB J.K. Dobbins, rushed for two touchdowns.
3. New Orleans Saints. (3) The Saints place a premium on special teams, finishing first in the NFL a year ago. That emphasis continues in 2020. New Orleans signed DT Margus Hunt last week. He blocked 17 kicks in college, including an NFC-record 10 field goals, and blocked four more placement kicks in his first seven NFL seasons. In his first game with the Saints, he blocked a Tampa Bay field goal.
4. Seattle Seahawks. (4) The Seahawks certainly got their money's worth from their new Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams. Acquired in August from the Jets for two first-round draft picks. Adams debuted with a 12-tackle, one-sack performance in Seattle’s road victory over Atlanta.
5. Green Bay Packers. (8) Only three teams did not allow a sack on the NFL’s opening weekend, Denver, Green Bay and Las Vegas. Given a clean pocket, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Derek Carr of the Raiders did not commit any turnovers and their teams both won on the road.
6. Arizona Cardinals. (15) DeShaun Watson’s loss is Kyler Murray’s gain. DeAndre Hopkins helped make Watson a Pro Bowl quarterback each of the last two years with a pair of 100-catch seasons. But the Texans traded Hopkins to Arizona in the offseason and he caught 14 of Murray’s passes for 151 yards in his debut with the Cardinals, an upset victory over the defending NFC champion 49ers.
7. Buffalo Bills. (6) Josh Allen’s first career 300-yard passing game came in his 28th career start in his third NFL season. He set career highs with his 33 completions and 312 yards on opening day against the Jets. He passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers. (12) The Steelers led the NFL in both sacks and takeaways on defense in 2019. It was more of the same in 2020 as Pittsburgh collected three sacks and two takeaways in the season opener at the Giants.
9. Tennessee Titans. (11) The Titans thought they solved their 2019 placekicking woes this month by signing the NFL’s 12th all-time leading scorer, Stephen Gostkowski. But he missed three field goals and an extra point in the opener at kicker-friendly Denver before hitting a game-winning 25-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
10. San Francisco 49ers. (5) The 49ers didn’t lose a game in 2019 until November, reeling off eight consecutive victories to start the season on the way to an NFC championship. But San Francisco already has one loss in the bank after one Sunday of the 2020 season.
11. Los Angeles Rams. (17) Todd Gurley is gone but the Rams don't miss him with Malcolm Brown taking the handoffs. He rushed for 79 yards on 18 carries and two scores to give the Rams a ball-control element in the opener against Dallas. L.A. held onto the football for almost 36 minutes in the upset of the Cowboys.
12. Minnesota Vikings. (9) The Vikings allowed the fifth fewest points in the NFL last season. But minus four starters from that unit this season --- DT Linval Joseph, DE Everson Griffen and CBs Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes – head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer has some serious patchwork to do. The Vikings got rolled at home by the Packers, 43-34, with QB Aaron Rodgers passing for 364 yards and four scores.
13. Dallas Cowboys. (7) The Cowboys left Los Angeles with more than a loss on the field. Dallas also suffered two losses in the lineup. Tight end Blake Jarwin suffered a torn ACL and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch a fractured collarbone. The departure of Vander Esch will further stress a thin defense.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (10) Tom Brady was 15-3 on opening days in his career with the Patriots. He is now 0-1 in openers with the Bucs. Brady threw 36 passes but could not put the ball in the hands of two of his best Pro Bowl weapons, completing only two passes to TE Rob Gronkowski and one to WR Mike Evans in a loss to the Saints.
15. New England Patriots. (19) The NFL record for consecutive winning seasons by an NFL coach is 20 by Hall of Famer Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Bill Belichick has now strung together 19 consecutive winning seasons at New England. Tom Brady was his quarterback for 18 of them, Matt Cassel for one and if Belichick is to reach 20, Cam Newton will be at the helm. He’s off to a 1-0 start.
16. Chicago Bears. (21) Trailing 23-6 at Detroit in the fourth quarter, QB Mitch Trubisky generated his fifth career fourth-quarter comeback victory with three TD passes to Jimmy Graham, Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. A modest 12-of-26 for 152 yards through the first three quarters, Trubisky heated up in the fourth quarter with eight completions in 10 attempts for 90 yards and those three scores.
17. Las Vegas Raiders. (22) The Raiders unveil their new stadium Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. There are 30 stadiums in the NFL and home teams are 17-12 in the inaugural games.
18. Los Angeles Chargers. (29) The Rams christened $5 billion SoFi Stadium with a victory over the Cowboys on national TV last weekend. Now the Chargers make their debut at SoFi this Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
19. Washington. (31) Ryan Kerrigan collected two sacks in the season opener against Philadelphia and now has a franchise record 92 career sacks. He passed Dexter Manley at 91 last weekend.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars. (32) The Baltimore Ravens aren’t the only NFL team that favors youth. The Jaguars carried 16 rookies on the final roster and 12 of them suited up for the opener. Three of them started for Jacksonville in the upset of the Indianapolis Colts, including second-round draft pick WR Laviska Shenault who caught a touchdown pass.
21. Philadelphia Eagles. (13) Philly’s two offensive tackles of choice, Lane Johnson on the right side nd Andre Dillard on the left, are absent from the lineup and it shows. QB Carson Wentz was sacked eight times, lost a fumble and threw two interceptions as the Eagles cratered in the opener, blowing a 17-0 lead in losing to the Redskins.
22. Houston Texans. (16) The Texans need to give their $156 million QB DeShaun Watson a chance to win games. That means they must protect him in the pocket. The Texans did a poor job last season, allowing him to be sacked 44 times, and not much has changed in 2020. The Chiefs sacked Watson four times in the opener.
23. Indianapolis Colts. (14) There were only 16 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL last season and the Colts had one of them in Marlon Mack. But they won’t have him going forward. Mack suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last weekend against the Jaguars.
24. Atlanta Falcons. (18) Defense was a problem for the Falcons last season when they allowed more points (399) than their high-powered offense could score (381). It remains a problem in 2020 after the Seattle Seahawks lit Atlanta up for 38 points and almost 400 yards in falling to 0-1.
25. New York Giants. (20) Joe Judge (Giants), Matt Rhule (Panthers) and Kevin Stefanski (Browns) all made their NFL head-coaching debuts last weekend. All lost.
26. Denver Broncos. (24) With WR Courtland Sutton out with a shoulder sprain, QB Drew Lock leaned heavily on TE Noah Fant in the opener -- and he produced the best day by any tight end in the league, catching six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown..
27. Carolina Panthers. (25) The Panthers led the NFC in sacks last season with 53. But three starting defensive linemen departed in free agency – Mario Addison, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe – and the pass rush has lost some steam. Carolina failed to collect a sack in the season opener -- the first time the Panthers have gone sackless in a game since September 2018.
28. Cincinnati Bengals. (28) Joe Burrow became the 25th quarterback drafted first overall since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He also became the 20th member of that fraternity to lose his NFL starting debut in his rookie season.
29. Detroit Lions. (26) The Lions have now lost five consecutive games to both the Bears and Vikings and two consecutive games to the Packers. It’s difficult to compete for a playoff spot when you can’t compete in your own division.
30. Miami Dolphins. (30). The clock is ticking on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick after his three-interception performance in Miami’s season-opening loss to New England. First-round draft pick Tua Tagovailoa is waiting in the wings.
31. New York Jets. (27) The Jets already miss Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, who was dealt to Seattle last month. Minus their best player on defense, the Jets surrendered 404 yards and 27 points to a Buffalo team that usually wins games on defense. The Bills jumped in front 17-0 in the game’s first 25 minutes to ground the Jets.
32. Cleveland Browns. (23) The Browns malfunctioned on opening day on both offense and defense in that 38-6 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens. A scapegoat has been identified, though -- kicker Austin Seibert, who was cut after missing his lone field goal and extra point attempts. Seibert converted 25 of his 29 field goal attempts in 2019 but this is a franchise with little patience. Remember, the Browns are on their sixth head coach in the last 10 years.