Gosselin Week 3 rankings: KC, Denver, AFC West rising
Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin enters 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 3:
1. Oakland. You win in the NFL with quarterbacking. Derek Carr now has a 13-4 record in his last 17 starts for the Raiders, with 33 TD passes and only six interceptions.
2. Atlanta. The Atlanta pass rush will slow down a step with the loss of outside linebacker Vic Beasley with a torn hamstring last weekend. Beasley led the NFL in sacks last season with 15 ½ and is expected to miss a month.
3. Kansas City. If you voted on NFL MVP after two weeks, it’d be Alex Smith, who has thrown five touchdown passes with no interceptions for the 2-0 Chiefs. He also engineered the season’s biggest upset, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in the season opener.
4. Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown may be the NFL’s best receiver, but 16 catches for 244 yards have not produced his first touchdown yet this season.
5. New England. There was nothing wrong with the Patriots that a trip to New Orleans and a visit with the NFL’s worst pass defense couldn’t cure. Tom Brady will face a stiffer challenge the next two weeks from the defenses (and pass rushes) of the Titans and Panthers.
6. Denver. Three teams sit atop the AFC West with 2-0 records – the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders. Denver and Kansas City have scored a league-leading nine touchdowns apiece. This division is loaded.
7. Detroit. The Lions are one of eight teams with a 2-0 start but the real tests comes this week when Detroit hosts the defending NFC champion Falcons.
8. Seattle. Four rookies rank in the Top 7 in the NFL in rushing this week – Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Chris Carson. The biggest surprise is Carson. Of the 253 players selected in the 2017 NFL draft, Carson was number 249.
9. Green Bay. If the Packers see the Falcons again this post-season, they might want to alter their defensive game plan. Green Bay has now allowed 78 points to Atlanta in their last two meetings – the 2016 NFC title game and the second game of the 2017 season.
10. Dallas. When the Cowboys can’t run the ball, they can’t win. Ezekiel Elliott suffered the worst game of his brief career last weekend at Denver – only eight yards in nine carries – and both QB Dak Prescott and the Dallas defense struggled as a result.
11. Tampa Bay. The Bucs are 1-0 and key new offensive additions WR DeSean Jackson and TE O.J. Howard haven’t been heard from yet. They combined to catch only four passes for 56 yards in Tampa’s season-opening victory over Chicago.
12. Minnesota. The Vikings look like a Super Bowl contender with Sam Bradford taking the snaps at quarterback. But with Case Keenum taking the snaps, Minnesota is a middle-of-the-pack club. Keenum could only generate nine points last weekend in a loss at Pittsburgh.
13. Baltimore. The Ravens already have eight interceptions and 10 takeaways on the season. No one else in the league has more than five takeaways.
14. Carolina. The Panthers are playing defense again like they did in 2015 when they won the NFC championships. Carolina is the only defense in the league allowing fewer than 200 yards per game (196.5) and has yet to allow a touchdown.
15. Philadelphia. The Eagles have played the first two games of the season on the road, and QB Carson Wentz has passed for 300 yards in both of them. But Philadelphia is only 1-1 to show for his efforts.
16. Tennessee. If AFC rushing champion DeMarco Murray doesn’t get you, former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry will. With Murray struggling last weekend against Jacksonville (25 yards in nine carries), Henry came off the bench to rush for 92 yards and a touchdown in 14 carries.
17. Houston. Two rookie quarterbacks have made their NFL starting debuts, and both games were played in Ohio. Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer lost the opener at home to Pittsburgh, and Houston’s DeShaun Watson won in Week 2 at Cincinnati.
18. Washington. The chemistry between Kirk Cousins and his new go-to guy Terrelle Pryor remains a work in progress. Cousins has targeted him 15 times, but he’s only caught eight of those balls for fewer than 100 yards with no scores.
19. Arizona. The clock is ticking on the Cardinals. They are the only team in the NFL whose average age for its starting lineup is over 28 years. The average age of its starting 11 on offense is almost 29 years.
20. Miami. Whether it’s Ryan Tannehill or Jay Cutler taking the snaps, the key to any Miami success remains the legs of Jay Ajayi – and he delivered a 100-yard rushing game in a successful opener for a 1-0 start by the Dolphins.
21. Buffalo. The two starting cornerbacks from 2016 are gone. Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore left in free agency, and Ronald Darby was traded to Philadelphia. Yet the Bills now rank in the Top 10 in pass defense. Kudos to new corners rookie Tre’Davious White and E.J. Gaines.
22. Jacksonville. The Jaguars had 10 sacks in their opener, an upset at Houston. Then they managed only one sack the following week in an upset home loss to Tennessee. It could be a long year for the Jaguars if they need 10 sacks to win every Sunday.
23. LA Rams. The Rams left Los Angeles because of fan apathy and have returned to find more fan apathy. Two teams in L.A.? It’s doubtful this city is willing to support one.
24. New Orleans. The Saints used a first-round draft pick on CB Marshon Lattimore, but they clearly need more help in the secondary. Opponents are completing a staggering 80 percent of their passes for a league-high 388.5 yards per game.
25. LA Chargers. The Chargers are winless in two starts and will be the underdog at home in the next two games against Kansas City and Philadelphia. Wonder what the over/under on the crowd size will be – 20,000?
26. NY Giants. Woe are the Giants, who can’t run, can’t block and can’t tackle. Even Odell Beckham Jr. can’t save them.
27. San Francisco. There have been eight 100-yard rushers in the NFL this season, and their teams are 7-1 in those games. The only loss was suffered by the 49ers, who wasted a 124-yard effort by Carlos Hyde against Indianapolis last weekend.
28. Cincinnati. When you play your first two games without scoring a touchdown, someone is going to pay. It was offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, fired after Cincinnati’s 0-2 start.
29. Cleveland. It took two weeks into the season, but rookie QB DeShone Kizer is now suffering from growing pains. He committed four turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble – and was pulled for against Baltimore for Kevin Hogan.
30. Chicago. Last Sunday was a bad day all-around for the NFL’s two top runners of a year ago. Rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was held to a career-worst eight yards on nine carries by Denver, and rushing runnerup Jordan Howard was held to seven yards on nine carries by Tampa Bay.
31. NY Jets. The Jets already miss DT Sheldon Richardson. They have a league-low two sacks on defense after two games.
32. Indianapolis. How much do the Colts miss Andrew Luck? Two weeks into the season, and they are one of only three NFL offenses that is still without a touchdown pass, joining Cincinnati and San Francisco.