Rick Gosselin's Week 4 NFL rankings: It's a Chiefs Kingdom (still)
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 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 4:
1. Kansas City Chiefs. (Previous rank: 1) Who needs training camp? The Chiefs are already Super Bowl-ready after whipping the Ravens in Baltimore Monday night in a showdown of the top two teams in the rankings.
2. Seattle Seahawks. (3) There have been four 400-yard passing games in the NFL this season and the Seahawks have allowed two of them – 450 to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in Week 1 and 472 to Dallas’ Dak Prescott in Week 3. But the fact the Seahawks are 3-0 is a testament to their QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown a league-leading 14 TD passes in the first three weeks.
3. Green Bay Packers. (4) The Packers are one of the best organizations in football because they know what a player looks like. Green Bay raided the Jacksonville practice roster in December 2018, pilfering WR Allen Lazard. He wound up catching 35 passes for the 13-3 Packers in 2019. Last Sunday, with Pro Bowl WR Davante Adams out, Lazard caught six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s upset at New Orleans.
4. Baltimore Ravens. (2) When Lamar Jackson runs for almost as many yards (83) as he passes (97), the Ravens are in trouble. That was the case Monday night against the Chiefs. Kansas City sacked him four times and pressured him all night, forcing him to run rather than throw.
5. Buffalo Bills. (6) Russell Wilson may be the early favorite for NFL MVP but don’t leave Josh Allen out of the discussion. The Buffalo quarterback has passed for 10 touchdowns and rushed for two more for the 3-0 Bills. He has thrown 4 TD passes in each of the last two games and steered the Bills 75 yards in 11 plays in the closing minutes for the winning touchdown against the Rams.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers. (7) Defense and a ground game go a long way. As the Steelers are once again proving. James Conner has had 100-yard rushing game each of the last two weeks and the Steelers again lead the NFL in sacks with 15. They rank second in defense and first against the run. Little wonder they are 3-0.
7. Tennessee Titans. (9) Ryan Tannehill passed for four touchdowns against Jacksonville two weeks ago and threw for 321 yards against Minnesota last weekend. He’s proving worthy of that $118 million contract the Titans gave him in the offseason.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (13) Tom Brady is starting to warm up. More importantly, he’s getting his receivers warmed up. His top target the first week was Chris Godwin with six catches. His top target the second week was Mike Evans with seven catches. And last weekend, Brady finally welcomed his old friend Rob Gronkowski into the offense with a team-high six catches.
9. New England Patriots. (14) Tom Brady may be gone but New England’s defense didn’t leave town with him. The Patriots lead the NFL with seven defensive takeaways, intercepting four passes and recovering three fumbles. They scored twice on those takeaways with a Devin McCourty interception and a Deatrich Wise fumble recovery in the end zone.
10. New Orleans Saints. (8) This is the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Saints have started 1-2 or worse. Only once did they rally to qualify for the playoffs. That was in 2017 when they finished 11-5 to capture the NFC South.
11. Arizona Cardinals. (5) The Cardinals are one of only three teams that rank in the Top 10 in both offense and defense this week. Arizona is joined by Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Cardinals rank ninth in offense and eighth in defense.
12. Chicago Bears. (16) Nick Foles passed for more yards in the fourth quarter last weekend (185) than Mitch Trubisky did in the first three quarters (128) against Atlanta. He also threw for almost as many yards in the fourth quarter as Trubisky did the entire game the previous week against the Giants (190). The three TD passes by Foles rallied the Bears from a 16-point deficit to victory against the Falcons.
13. San Francisco 49ers. (15) These next three weeks present the best chance for the 2-1 49ers to catch the 3-0 Seahawks in the NFC West. San Francisco plays the next three at home against beatable opponents – 0-2-1 Philadelphia, 1-2 Miami and 1-2 Rams. The 49ers need to come out of this stretch 5-1.
14. Las Vegas Raiders. (10) Derek Carr is one of only four quarterbacks who have started all three games this season and has yet to throw an interception. He’s in a select fraternity with past NFL MVPs Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. That’s 100 passes without a theft for Carr.
15. Los Angeles Rams. (11) Todd Gurley is gone but the L.A. offense doesn’t miss him any. Minus the 2018 NFL MVP runnerup, the Rams rank fourth in rushing this season with an average of 170 yards per game. Darrell Henderson has rushed for 201 yards and Malcolm Brown 145. Brown arrived as an undrafted college free agent in 2015 and Henderson as a third-round draft pick in 2019.
16. Indianapolis Colts. (19) The big news in the offseason was the signing of quarterback Philip Rivers in free agency. But the big news in September is the fact the Colts lead the NFL in defense through three weeks. They rank first in pass defense and fourth in run defense. Indy also ranks second in takeaways with six, sixth in sacks with nine. And have allowed the third fewest points in the league.
17. Dallas Cowboys. (12) The Cowboys already have four different wide receivers with 100-yard games this season, tops in the league. Amari Cooper and rookie CeeDee Lamb posted their 100-yard games two weeks ago against Atlanta, then Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson cashed in last week against Seattle.
18. Cleveland Browns. (20) The more effective the Browns are at running the ball, the better Baker Mayfield is at quarterback. Mayfield threw the ball 39 times in a season-opening blowout loss to the Ravens. But with Nick Chubb rushing for 100 yards each of the last two weeks, Mayfield has had to throw only 23 passes in victories over Cincinnati and Washington. He also threw a pair of touchdowns each game.
19. Detroit Lions. (31) Kenny Golladay is back and so are the Lions. Their Pro Bowl receiver missed the first two games with a strained hamstring and the Lions lost both. But he returned Sunday and caught six passes for 57 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown, in a 26-23 road upset of the Arizona Cardinals.
20. Los Angeles Chargers. (17) As each week passes it’s going to be tougher for Anthony Lynn to return to Tyron Taylor at quarterback when he’s healthy. Taylor passed for 208 yards and no touchdowns in a season-opening victory at Cincinnati. But a punctured lung sidelined him the last two weeks and first-round draft pick Justin Herbert made his NFL debut with consecutive 300-yard passing games against Kansas City and Carolina. Herbert took the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs into overtime before losing.
21. Carolina Panthers. (26) Carolina used all seven of its draft picks on defense last April. Six of the seven made the team, all six are active on game-day and two start -- tackle Derrick Brown and safety Jeremy Chinn. The second-rounder Chinn posted 12 tackles in last weekend’s victory over the Chargers and leads all NFL rookies in tackles thus far with 27.
22. Miami Dolphins. (30) The Dolphins allowed 58 sacks last season so they made an investment in their blocking front, signing center Ted Karras and guard Ereck Flowers in free agency and drafting left tackle Austin Jackson in the first round. All three now start and the infusion of fresh talent is paying off. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked only five times this season – almost two sacks per game fewer than a year ago.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars. (18) Let’s shine a spotlight on HB James Robinson, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted college free agent out of Illinois State. When the Jaguars cut Leonard Fournette this summer, Robinson became the opening-day starter and through three weeks he ranks in the Top 10 in the NFL in rushing with 210 yards. He has more yards than Todd Gurley, more 100-yard games than Ezekiel Elliott and more touchdowns than Derrick Henry.
24. Washington. (21) Washington has a share of the NFC East lead with a 1-2 record because of one thing – their pass rush. They lead the NFC with 13 sacks. QB Dwayne Haskins hasn’t thrown for 225 yards in a game yet and Washington ranks 30th in the NFL in offense. But they get after the passer and that’s keeping them in games.
25. Philadelphia Eagles. (23) Where’s Nick Foles when the Eagles really need him? Carson Wentz is in a big-time funk with seven turnovers through three weeks. His six interceptions – two and each game – and fumble have contributed to that 0-2-1 start. He also ranks third in the league with 11 sacks. And now the Eagles hit the road for two games against Super Bowl hopefuls, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
26. Cincinnati Bengals. (27) The Bengals need some offensive help for rookie QB Joe Burrow – and they need it from RB Joe Mixon. The Bengals are 0-2-1 despite a pair of 300-yard passing games and five TD passes from Burrow. Mixon still hasn’t reached the end zone with his 59 offensive touches. But Mixon is no stranger to slow starts – he went the first nine games of the 2019 season without rushing for a touchdown.
27. Minnesota Vikings. (22) Mike Zimmer teams have always been defense driven. Last year’s team collected 48 sacks and 31 takeaways. But five key parts are missing from that defense in 2020 – NT Linval Joseph, edge rusher Everson Griffen, CBs Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes and OLB Anthony Barr. And their absences are glaring. The Vikings rank 30th in the NFL in defense and are one of only two teams that have allowed more than 100 points this season. Joseph, Griffen, Rhodes and Waynes all left in free agency and Barr is on injured reserve with a torn pec.
28. Atlanta Falcons. (25) The Falcons have blown fourth-quarter leads of 15 points against Dallas and 16 points against Chicago in the last two weeks, losing both games and falling to 0-3.
29. Houston Texans. (24) Three weeks into the season and the Texans still don’t have a defensive takeaway. They have one of only three NFL defenses still looking for an interception and one of only eight defenses still looking to recover a fumble. Little wonder the Texans are 0-3.
30. Denver Broncos. (29) The Broncos were the envy of the NFL from 1983 through 1999 when John Elway was there week-in and week-out taking snaps, winning games, delivering AFC championships and Lombardi Trophies. That’s what the stability of one quarterback for 16 seasons can do for a team. Since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season, the Broncos have started eight different quarterbacks in winning only 30 of 67 games.
30. New York Giants. (28) The black hole of offense is MetLife Stadium where the Giants and Jets call home. The Giants rank 31st in the NFL in offense and the Jets 32nd. The Giants rank last in the league in rushing and the Jets rank last in passing. The Jets have scored a league-low 37 points and the Giants are right behind them with 38 points. Needless to say, they are a combined 0-6.
32. New York Jets. (32) QB Sam Darnold never had a day like this during his Heisman season at Southern Cal. He threw more touchdown passes to the other team (2) than his own team (1) and also was sacked in the end zone for a safety in a 36-7 drubbing at the hands of the Colts.