Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 47th season reporting on the NFL in 2019. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 37 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 17:
1. Baltimore Ravens. Mark Ingram has picked up his third 1,000-yard rushing season in the last four years but his first for the Ravens. His first two came in 2016-17 with the Saints. Ingram left for the Ravens in free agency this offseason and rewarded them with 1,018 rushing yards, which earned him a Por Bowl berth. Ironically, in his last six games, Ingram has scored more touchdowns on pass receptions (five) than on rushes (two).
2. New Orleans Saints. The two conferences played six games against each other last weekend and the AFC won four of them. But the two victories by Atlanta and New Orleans gave the NFC the season series, 33-31. The Falcons whipped Jacksonville and the Saints toppled Tennessee. The Saints were the only NFC team to go 4-0 against the AFC. Baltimore and New England both went 4-0 against the AFC.
3. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers rank second in defense, fifth in sacks with 47 and fourth in takeaways with 27. That’s a trifecta that will win games, division titles and Super Bowls. Great defense always plays well in January and February.
4. Green Bay Packers. Aaron Jones entered the season as a member of Green Bay’s supporting cast in the Aaron Rodgers Show. But Jones instead has assumed a starring role, scoring an NFL-leading 16 rushing touchdowns to help power the Packers to another NFC North title. He’s also closing in his first career 1,000-yard season. Jones needs 16 yards in the season finale against Detroit to get there.
5. New England Patriots. When you start sorting out candidates for assistant coach of the year, include Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge into the discussion. The Patriots have blocked four punts, recovered three fumbles and scored two touchdowns on special teams this season. Bill Belichick is one of the few coaches in the NFL who truly believes special teams are a third of the game and Judge turned his belief into reality this fall.
6. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have strung together five consecutive victories down the stretch to claim control of the AFC West and emerge once again as a Super Bowl contender. The 11-4 Chiefs have the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes – but it’s been defense that has provided the backbone to their recent success. Kansas City has held all five opponents during the streak to 17 points or less and held the last two opponents (Chargers and Bears) without a touchdown.
7. Seattle Seahawks. The Ravens, Chiefs and Seahawks have been the NFL’s best road teams this season, all posting a 7-1 record. Baltimore suffered its one road loss at Kansas City, the Chiefs suffered their only road loss at Tennessee and the Seahawks fell on the road to the Rams.
8. Minnesota Vikings. 10-5 The Vikings need to get Dalvin Cook back in the lineup producing like he did in September and October. Cook rushed for 100 yards in five of Minnesota’s first seven games, then had 95-plus yards in Games 8 and 10. The Vikings sat 7-3 at that point and were zooming toward the playoffs. But Cook was held below 30 yards in three of his next four games and then sat out the fifth game Monday night against the Packers. Minnesota needs Cook’s “A” game in January, not what we’ve seen in the last month.
9. Buffalo Bills. The Bills rank ninth in the NFL with 42 sacks. They collected seven sacks in a game against Miami, five in a game against Tennessee and four sacks in five other games. The Buffalo pass rush has been shut out just twice this season – the two games the Bills played the Patriots.
10. Houston Texans. Houston acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil from the Miami Dolphins last summer. He’s had an impact, earning his first Pro Bowl berth as DeShaun Watson’s blind-side pass protector. Watson has been sacked 44 times this season, the fifth most of any quarterback. Still, that’s 18 fewer sacks than he suffered a year ago. Given more time to throw, Watson ranks fifth in the NFL with 26 TD passes.
11. Los Angeles Rams. Tyler Higbee wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl – but he might have been had the balloting been conducted two weeks later. The Rams tight end has strung together four consecutive 100-yard games since Thanksgiving. He caught seven for 107 against Arizona, seven for 116 against Seattle, 12 for 111 against Dallas and nine for 104 against San Francisco. His four 100-yard games give him a share of the position lead this season along with Oakland’s Darren Waller.
12. Tennessee Titans. Rookie WR A.J. Brown is both a fast starter and fast finisher. Brown, a second-round draft pick out of Ole Miss, caught three passes for 100 yards in his NFL debut on opening day against the Cleveland Browns. He’s added three more 100-yard games in the last five weeks and now has a shot at a 1,000-yard rookie season. He heads into the season finale needing 73 yards for that thousand. His 46 catches have averaged a staggering 19.3 yards, third best in the NFL.
13. Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz is proving he can carry a team. Playing without his top running back (Jordan Howard) and three top wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson), Wentz has delivered a three-game winning streak with a cast of unknowns, highlighted by an NFC East showdown victory over the Cowboys and the NFL’s top-ranked offense last weekend that has put the Eagles in a position to capture the division title.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers. There have been 194 individual 100-yard receiving games this season. The Buccaneers and Cardinals have allowed a league-high 11 apiece. At the other end of the spectrum are the Bills and Steelers, who have allowed only one 100-yard game each. The Bills yielded a 135-yard game to Miami’s Davante Parker in Week 11 and the Steelers a 101-yard game to Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd in Week 12.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston has thrown 37 touchdown passes this season – an NFL-leading 31 to his team and six to opponents. Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Marcus Peters, Marcus Williams, Darius Leonard and Bradley Roby have all returned Winston interceptions for touchdowns. Winston has thrown a league-leading 28 interceptions and his Bucs lead the NFL with 38 turnovers.
16. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are the least penalized team in the NFL, only 75 flags for 634 yards. In comparison, the Jacksonville is the most penalized team in the league with 129 flags for 1,138 yards. The two teams close the season against each other Sunday in Jacksonville.
17. Oakland Raiders. There have been 16 NFL quarterbacks who have started all 15 of their team’s games thus far this season. Oakland’s Derek Carr is the only one who still hasn’t passed for 300 yards in a game. Carr has a personal drought of 18 consecutive games without a 300 dating back to December 2018. He’ll have his work cut out for him if he hopes to end that streak on the NFL’s final weekend. He faces the Broncos, who rank sixth in the NFL in pass defense and have allowed only two 300-yard passers all season.
18. Chicago Bears. QB Mitch Trubisky failed to throw a touchdown pass in five of Chicago’s first seven games -- a lack of production in the passing game that contributed to a 3-4 start. But Trubisky has now thrown a TD pass in six consecutive games, 12 total. He’s had three-TD games against Dallas and Detroit twice. He also has rushed for touchdowns against Dallas and the Giants.
19. Dallas Cowboys. The NFL’s top-rated defense has produced 12 victories and a division title for New England. The NFL’s top-rated offense has produced a sub-.500 record (7-8) and left the Cowboys in a position that they need help this weekend to qualify for the playoffs. Four of the NFL’s top five defenses have already secured playoff spots (NE, SF, Buffalo & Baltimore). Three of the NFL’s top five offenses are on the outside looking in (Atlanta, Dallas & Tampa).
20. Atlanta Falcons. There have been 124 individual 300-yard passing games this season, eight short of the NFL record set by quarterbacks in both the 2015 and 2018 seasons. The Falcons lead the league with 11 of those 300-yard games, 10 by Matt Ryan and one by his backup Matt Schaub.
21. Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals picked up RB Kenyan Drake in the Miami fire sale at mid-season for a sixth-round draft pick. What a steal. Drake rushed for only 174 yards and no touchdowns in the first six games of the season for the Dolphins. But he rushed for 110 yards against San Francisco in his debut with the Cardinals and collected his second 100-yard game last weekend – a 166-yard, two-touchdown explosion against Seattle. He has now rushed for 583 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games with the Cardinals.
22. Denver Broncos. The Broncos have cycled through three quarterbacks this fall and the third one appears to be the keeper. Denver opened with former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco for the first eight weeks but he managed only six TD passes and the Broncos lost six of the games. Then Denver turned to Brandon Allen, who managed only three TD passes and one victory in his three starts. Finally, the Broncos turned to their second-round draft pick Drew Lock, who has thrown six TD passes in his four starts and won three of them.
23. New York Jets. The Jets have a player they believe to be their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold and one of the best multi-purpose backs in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell, yet rank dead last in the NFL in offense. The offseason shopping list should include an upgraded cast of wideouts. New York’s leading receiver, Jamison Crowder, ranks 26th in the NFL with 70 catches. The Jets also need an impact tight end to compete in the AFC East.
24. Cleveland Browns. When Myles Garrett left the field with a season-ending suspension for his helmet-swinging incident in the 13th week of the season, he took the Cleveland pass rush with him. In the three games he’s been away, the Browns have managed only two sacks – and the pass rush has been shut out the last two weeks by Arizona and Baltimore. Despite his absence, Garrett still leads the Browns with 10 sacks.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie Gardner Minshew is 5-7 as a starting quarterback for the Jaguars, so he hasn’t done enough to win games. But the one thing he doesn’t do is lose games with turnovers, as most rookie quarterbacks are prone to do. Minshew has thrown only four interceptions in his 12 starts. He’s had 300-yard passing games against both the Panthers and Texans and a three-TD pass game against the Jets. Going forward, the Jaguars need to put an offensive cast around him that gives him a chance to win games.
26. Los Angeles Chargers. Maybe the forward pass isn’t the way to go in the NFL. The Chargers rank sixth in the NFL in passing – but only one of the Top 6 passing teams is headed to the playoffs. That would be the Chiefs, who rank fourth in passing. The other five top passing offense are on the outside of the pots-season looking in – Tampa Bay (1), Dallas (2), Atlanta (3), the Rams (5) and Chargers (6).
27. Carolina Panthers. Will Grier became the ninth rookie quarterback to make his starting debut in 2019, an NFL record. That broke the previous mark of eight rookie quarterbacks set in both the 2012 (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson draft) and 2010 seasons (Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow draft). But like four of his Class of 2019 predecessors, Grier lost his debut.
28. New York Giants. Welcome back, Saquon Barkley. The NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 was a shell of himself through the first 13 games of the 2019 season with only two 100-yard rushing games and three touchdowns, a lack of production that contributed mightily to New York’s woeful 3-11 start. But he has ripped off a pair of 100-yard rushing games and four touchdowns in the last two weeks, both New York victories.
29. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are 4-11 for a reason – they have the NFL’s worst defense. Miami has allowed a league-high 54 touchdowns this season – 37 by pass, 14 on the ground and three on returns. The Dolphins close the season Sunday at New England, which has allowed a league-low 22 touchdowns. And therein lies the gap between the Dolphins and Patriots in the AFC East – New England is 32 touchdowns better.
30. Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson is 34 but not running like it. He has started all 14 games for the Redskins this season and has rushed for 820 yards. His two seasons in Washington have allowed him to climb to the No. 5 spot on the all-time rushing list. He has rushed for 1,862 yards for the Redskins, giving him 14,138 career yards. He sits 1,131 yards behind Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in the fourth spot on the all-time rushing list.
31. Detroit Lions. The NFL implemented an eight-division format in 2002. Since then, only three franchises have failed to win at least one division title: Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. The last division crown won by the Browns came in 1989 in the old AFC Central. The last for the Lions came in 1993 and the last for the Bills in 1995.
32. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals rank 26th in the NFL in offense but have been given very few short fields by their defense. You get short fields when the defense forces turnovers – and that’s been most glaring deficiency in a season of deficiencies for the 1-14 Bengals. Cincinnati has forced a league-low 13 turnovers, intercepting only eight passes and recovering five fumbles. After the Bengals use the first overall pick of the 2020 draft on a quarterback, they should focus on a defensive playmaker with the first overall pick of the second round.