Rick Gosselin's Week 14 NFL Rankings
Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 46th season reporting on the NFL in 2018. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 35 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 14:
1. Kansas City Chiefs. The two most important elements in today’s NFL are the quarterback and pass rush. The Chiefs have the game’s most prolific quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, who leads the league with his 4,300 passing yards and 43 touchdowns. The Kansas City defense also ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 42.
2. New Orleans Saints. The New Orleans defense has more sacks on the road alone (26) than five NFL teams have home and road the entire season. Like the Chiefs, the Saints have the two most important elements in today’s NFL covered with Drew Brees and a pass rush that ranks third in the NFL in sacks.
3. Los Angeles Rams. The Rams and their QB Jared Goff entered their bye week on a high. They were 10-1 and coming off of that nationally-televised shootout victory over KC when Goff passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns. But that week off cooled Goff down and has slowed the Rams in their Super Bowl quest. Goff has passed for fewer than 210 yards in the two games since the bye with one touchdown and five interceptions. The Rams have scored only 36 points in the two games, beating the Lions but losing to the Bears.
4. Los Angeles Chargers. Kirk Cousins, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and DeShaun Watson are the only quarterbacks to throw touchdown passes in all 13 of their team’s games this season. Rivers has now thrown a TD pass in 26 consecutive starts for the 10-3 Chargers, Roethlisberger 23 for the Steelers, Watson 18 for the Texans and Cousins 13 for the Vikings. The NFL record is 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass by Drew Brees.
5. Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky has thrown 21 touchdowns in this his first full season as the starting quarterback of the 9-4 Bears. Seventeen of them have come at home. Of his 28 career touchdown passes, 21 have come at Soldier Field.
6. New England Patriots. The Patriots were NFL champions in 2016 and AFC champions in 2017. During that two-year stretch Tom Brady and his traveling road show went 15-1 away from Gillette Stadium. But that road aura is gone. The Patriots are 3-4 away from home this season with losses to the 4-9 Jaguars, 5-8 Lions, 7-6 Titans and 7-6 Dolphins.
7. Houston Texans. Pass protection is not a strong suit in the state of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans rank 1-2 in the NFL in sacks allowed this season. Dak Prescott has been sacked 48 times and DeShaun Watson 46. Watson has been sacked at least four times in seven of Houston’s 13 games thus far. Prescott has also been sacked at least four times in seven of Dallas’ 13 games. Quarterbacks are too valuable a commodity to allow such a beating to take place.
8. Seattle Seahawks. QB Russell Wilson has started 109 games in his seven-year NFL career and has been held under 100 yards passing just twice. He won both times. Wilson passed for 93 yards in a 2017 game against Dallas and 72 yards Monday night against the Vikings.
9. Dallas Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball a career-high 40 times on runs (28) and receptions (12) last weekend in an overtime victory over the Eagles. The Cowboys are 18-4 when they have given the ball to Elliott at least 25 times in a game in his NFL career.
10. Indianapolis Colts. Last season only 15 NFL quarterbacks threw 50 passes in a game. This season there have been already 24 such games, including a league-high four by Andrew Luck of the Colts. Indianapolis is 0-4 in those games … but 7-2 when he throws fewer than 50 passes in a game. Those are the games that have the Colts in playoff contention with a 7-6 record.
11. Tennessee Titans. Derrick Henry enjoyed the best game by an NFL running back this season with his 238 rushing yards against Jacksonville last week. It was his first 200-yard game since Nov. 28, 2015, when he slapped 271 yards on Auburn during his final season at Alabama. It was one of four 200-yard games by Henry during his Heisman Trophy season.
12. Miami Dolphins. RB Brandon Bolden was a special-teams ace for the Patriots who didn’t survive the final roster cut last September. So the Dolphins signed him to boost their own kick coverage units. But last weekend the Dolphins let him play a little offense against his old team and his payback was satisfying. He carried the twice for 60 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-33 victory over the Patriots. He raced 54 yards for one score and six yards for another. He now has three carries on the season.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers. There have been 52 defensive touchdowns scored this season. The Buffalo Bills have been victimized for an NFL-high four of them. Only four teams have not allowed a defensive score this season – Denver, Houston, New England and Pittsburgh. The Steelers have given the opposition the most chances of the four teams with 21 turnovers.
14. Baltimore Ravens. There have been 185 individual 100-yard receiving games in the NFL this season. The Ravens became the last defense to allow one when Tyreek Hill caught eight passes for 139 yards in Kansas City’s victory over Baltimore last weekend. The one 100-yard game allowed by the Ravens remains the league-low. The Jets have allowed a league-high nine such games.
15. Minnesota Vikings. Adam Thielen caught seven passes against the Seahawks Monday night to give him an NFL-leading 103 on the season – the first 100-catch season by a Vikings since Randy Moss caught 111 in 2003. The only other receivers in franchise history with 100-catch seasons are both in the Hall of Fame, Moss and Cris Carter.
16. Carolina Panthers. There have been nine 100-yard receiving games by NFL running backs this season, including two apiece by Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers, Alvin Kamara of the Saints and Tarik Cohen of the Bears. But McCaffrey is the only one of the three who ranks in the league’s Top 10 in both rushing (926 yards) and receiving (86 catches).
17. Denver Broncos. Undrafted rookie free agent RB Phillip Lindsay leads the NFL with an average of 5.8 yards per carry for the Broncos. He needs 33 more yards to become the first undrafted college free agent to rush for 1,000 as a rookie since LaGarrette Blount in 2010.
18. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are clearly not the same team that won an NFL championship last season. Especially on the ground. Philadelphia finished third in the NFL in rushing a year ago with Jay Ajayi and LaGarrette Blount pounding away at defensive interiors. But Blount left in free agency and Ajayi is on injured reserve. The 6-7 Eagles now rank 28th in the NFL in rushing and are one of only two teams still without an individual 100-yard rushing game. Jacksonville is the other.
19. New York Giants. Without Jason Pierre-Paul, who fled to Tampa Bay in free agency, the Giants managed only seven sacks in the first six games in a dismal 1-5 start to the season. But the pass rush has come alive of late with five sacks in each of the last two games, including 3 ½ by end Olivier Vernon. The Giants have won those two games and four of the last five to improve to 5-8.
20. Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers threw his last interception – his only interception of the season, in fact – on Sept. 30. He committed his last turnover – a fumble – on Oct. 7. That was nine games ago. That was 320 passes ago. If you add in his rushes (22) and sacks (25), Rodgers has now handled the ball 367 consecutive times without a turnover. Yet the Packers have won only three of the eight games since that last Rodgers giveaway and sit a disappointing 5-7-1 on the season.
21. Cleveland Browns. No franchise has a greater history at the running back position than the Browns. Marion Motley, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell all took handoffs in Cleveland and used the Browns as a launching pad for Hall of Fame careers. But there has been a drought of late. If Nick Chubb rushes for 240 yards over the last three games this season, he’ll give the Browns their first 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 5-8, the Buccaneers will miss the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season, the longest current drought in the NFC. The Browns have the longest current drought in the AFC at 16 years.
23. Detroit Lions. The Lions are only 5-8 but have beaten three past NFL MVP quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. It’s been the lesser quarterbacks and the lesser challenges that have tripped the Lions up this season.
24. Washington Redskins. The Redskins will start their fourth quarterback of the season when Josh Johnson takes the snaps this Sunday against Jacksonville. Alex Smith, Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez preceded Johnson but Smith and McCoy lost the job because of injuries and Sanchez because of ineffectiveness last weekend. The Redskins signed Johnson off the streets a week ago. He had been out of football for three seasons and his last start came in 2011 with Tampa Bay.
25. Cincinnati Bengals. What do you get when you play a schedule that includes Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield? You get the NFL’s worst defense. The 5-8 Bengals have allowed the most yards, the most rushing yards, the most points and the fourth-most passing yards this season against that parade of past and future Pro Bowl QBs.
26. New York Jets. It’s been a season to forget for the Jets. The are 4-9 with the NFL’s 30th ranked offense and 23rd ranked defense. But the one shining light has been kicker Jason Myers, who ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring with 114 points. He leads the league with 30 field goals, including a league-high five from 55 yards and beyond. The Jets claimed Myers off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks in August.
27. Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have played their worst football over the last five weeks with five consecutive losses to fall out of the playoff hunt at 4-9. But their perennial Pro Bowl WR Julio Jones has played his best football of the season during that stretch with four 100-yard receiving games and four touchdowns.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars. Leonard Fournette was a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie in 2017 and expected to contend for an NFL rushing title in 2018 with the Jaguars. It hasn’t materialized. A suspension and injuries have limited him to six games and the Jaguars remain one of only two teams that has not had an individual 100-yard rushing game this season. The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are the other.
29. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have replaced the Baltimore Ravens this week as the NFL’s top-ranked defense. Buffalo has allowed an average of 290.6 yards per game. The Bills also rank first in pass defense with an average of only 185.8 yards per game. The last time Buffalo led the NFL in defense was in 1999. The last time the Bills led in pass defense also was 1999. Defensive guru Wade Phillips was the head coach then.
30. Oakland Raiders. The Khalil Mack-less Raiders have collected more than one sack in only one of their 13 games this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who lead the NFL in sacks, have endured only one game with fewer than two sacks this season. Ironically, the Raiders beat the Steelers last weekend.
31. San Francisco 49ers. Maybe it’s time we start paying attention to second-year tight end Greg Kittle as one of the NFL’s elite at his position. Kittle caught 43 passes as a rookie but has emerged as an offensive force in 2018 with 69 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. Only three NFL tight ends have more 100-yard games than Kittle – Travis Kelce of the Chiefs, Jared Cook of the Raiders and Zach Ertz of the Eagles. Kittle turned in the first 200-yard game by a tight end this season with his seven-catch, 210-yard performance against the Broncos.
32. Arizona Cardinals. The NFL is completing passes at a 65.2 percent clip this season. But Arizona rookie QB Josh Rosen is struggling along at a 55.4 percent clip. Incompletions leads to punts – and Arizona’s Andy Lee has a league-high 74 of them. That also leads to a diminished time of offensive possessions. The Cardinals rank last in the league in time of possession at 26 minutes, 17 seconds. Little wonder the 3-10 Cardinals rank last in the NFL in offense.