Rick Gosselin's Week 2 NFL rankings: Chiefs remain on top
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 2:
1. Kansas City Chiefs. The loss of a player the caliber of Tyreek Hill would devastate most NFL offenses. But not a Kansas City offense that features NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes handing the ball to former NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy and throwing it to Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and speedy Sammy Watkins. Hill left the season opener in the first quarter with a shoulder injury but the Chiefs still rolled up 40 points in a road victory at Jacksonville.
2. New England Patriots. The Patriots can now line up two past Pro Bowl receivers (Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon), a Super Bowl MVP (Julian Edelman) and a former No. 1 draft pick (Philip Dorsett) on the flank for Tom Brady. So who needs Rob Gronkowski?
3. Los Angeles Chargers. No Melvin Gordon. Now no TE Hunter Henry because of a season-ending knee injury suffered in practice. Phil Rivers is running out of weapons. Wonder if Chargers GM Tom Telesco still has TE Antonio Gates on speed dial...
4. Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson is 32 years old but showing no signs of slowing down. Back in Philadelphia after a five-year absence, Jackson caught touchdown passes of 51 and 53 yards in a season-opening victory over Washington. His presence on the flank automatically makes Carson Wentz a much better quarterback.
5. Dallas Cowboys. The chemistry is developing quickly between new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and QB Dak Prescott. With Moore calling the plays, Prescott delivered his first career perfect game in passing efficiency (158.3) in a rout of the Giants. Prescott threw for 405 yards with touchdown passes to four different receivers.
6. Los Angeles Rams. The defending NFC champion Rams are now 1-0 on the road, having traveled to Carolina and defeated the Panthers in the opener. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – the Rams have been a better road team (14-3) than home team (11-5) since Sean McVay became coach in 2017.
7. New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and the Saints pass rush is still the Saints pass rush. Brees engineered his 35th career fourth-quarter comeback in a season-opening victory over Houston and the Saints sacked DeShaun Watson six times. New Orleans finished fifth in the NFL with 49 sacks in2018 and now lead the league after one week of this season.
8. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have long been known for their defense. But with electric Lamar Jackson taking the snaps, the team’s dynamic could be changing. He completed 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns and the Baltimore offense rang up 59 points on the road in a season-opening victory over Miami. Jackson is now 7-1 in his career as a starting quarterback.
9. Minnesota Vikings. The NFL is a passing league but the Vikings don’t need the arm of Kirk Cousins to win. They proved that last weekend in a thumping of the Falcons when Cousins threw the ball only 10 times in a 28-12 victory. Dalvin Cook rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns and the Minnesota defense sacked Matt Ryan four times and forced four turnovers.
10. Seattle Seahawks. Doug Baldwin had long been Russell Wilson’s favorite target but retired after a series of injuries – and surgeries – in 2018. Wilson may have already found his downfield replacement in rookie D.K. Metcalf, who caught four passes for 89 yards in his NFL debut last weekend against Cincinnati.
11. Green Bay Packers. Green Bay’s investment in defense last offseason has paid its first dividend. Free agent LBs Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith combined for six tackles and 2 ½ sacks and first-round draft pick CB Darnell Savage chipped in three tackles and a PBU as the Packers held the defending NFC North champion Bears to a mere field goal on their home field in the opener.
12. Chicago Bears. The Bears peddled their leading rusher Jordan Howard to the Eagles in the offseason. That took a nine-touchdown, 935-yard chunk out of the offense. His absence from the field was glaring in the opening-night loss to the Packers as the Bears managed to rush for only 46 yards.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe the Steelers are going to miss Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown more than they thought they would. The offense was MIA in the opener at New England, scoring a meager three points.
14. Tennessee Titans. Coach Mike Vrabel has built a ground-and-pound offense featuring former Heisman Trophy-winning HB Derrick Henry. But his hands were as valuable as his legs in the season-opening victory over the Browns. He rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown and also caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from QB Marcus Mariota.
15. Buffalo Bills. The Bills spoiled the home opener of the New York Jets last weekend. In a scheduling quirk, they now have the chance to spoil another home opener in the very same building when they visit the New York Giants Sunday.
16. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers scored one touchdown on defense in 2018, returning an interception for a TD against the Chargers. But they already have two after one game in 2019 as both Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returned Jameis Winston interceptions for scores in a victory at Tampa.
22. Houston Texans. DeShaun Watson was sacked a league-worst 62 times in 2018. After a six-sack night against the Saints in the opener, Watson is on pace to be sacked 96 times this season.
18. Carolina Panthers. If Christian McCaffrey isn’t already in the discussion with Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley as the most complete back in the NFL, he should be. He rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also caught 10 passes in the opener. But it wasn’t enough for his Panthers to upset the defending NFC champion Rams.
17. Detroit Lions. Four rookies posted 100-yard receiving games in their NFL debuts last weekend with Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson the only tight end to accomplish that feat. The other three were wide receivers: Marquise Brown of the Ravens, A.J. Brown of the Titans and Terry McLaurin of the Redskins. Hockenson and Marquise Brown were first-rounders, A.J. Brown a second and McLaurin a third.
19. Washington Redskins. The way Case Keenum played in his debut as quarterback of the Redskins, it may be a while before first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins hits the field. Keenum passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers in the opener at Philadelphia. He staked the Redskins to a 17-0 lead but the defense couldn’t hold it in a 32-27 defeat.
29. Oakland Raiders. When the Raiders leave Oakland, the NFL also will leave behind the only stadium where a city’s football and baseball team share the same field. The A’s and Raiders both call the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium home, which explains the dirt infield on that Monday night broadcast.
23. Indianapolis Colts. QB Jacoby Brissett acquitted himself quite well in the first game of the post-Andrew Luck era, throwing for two touchdowns and not turning the ball over. But not so the Indianapolis defense. The Colts allowed 425 yards to the Chargers with 75 of them coming on the game-winning touchdown drive in overtime.
21. Atlanta Falcons. The Atlanta defense was supposed to take a step forward with good health in 2019. Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are both back after missing significant chunks of 2018 with injuries. But that defense was steamrolled by Minnesota, which built a 14-0 lead after one quarter, a 21-0 lead by halftime and a 28-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter on the way to a 28-12 victory.
24. Cincinnati Bengals. Dak Prescott isn’t the only quarterback benefitting from a new offensive play-caller. With new head coach Zac Taylor on the headset, embattled Andy Dalton passed for a league-best 418 yards and two touchdowns on the opening weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. The Bengals lost on the road, 21-20, but there is hope now for Dalton.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars. First Andrew Luck retired from the Colts, now Nick Foles leaves the Jacksonville offense with a broken clavicle. Beware Houston and Tennessee – the quarterback ranks are thinning in your division.
20. Denver Broncos. If Broncos GM John Elway was hoping to repeat the Peyton Manning magic with Joe Flacco – recruit a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and ask him to do it again in Denver – he might be coming up a bit short. Flacco could generate only one touchdown drive in a 24-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
26. Arizona Cardinals. There have been 150 quarterbacks who made the NFL starting debuts as rookies since 1980. Kyler Murray became only the second to finish his debut start in a tie, passing for 308 yards in a 27-27 game with Detroit. The only other rookie QB since 1980 to post a tie in his debut start was Green Bay’s Don Majkowski against Denver in 1987.
27. Cleveland Browns. In 256 NFL games last season, the most penalties assessed against any one team in any one game was 16 against the New York Jets against Green Bay for 177 yards. The Browns were assessed 18 penalties for 182 yards in the 2019 season opener, a home loss to Tennessee.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians hoped to make Jameis Winston a wiser passer – someone willing to throw the checkdown instead of trying to squeeze in a dangerous throw down the field. With three interceptions in the opener, including two for San Francisco touchdowns, Winston remains a work in progress.
30. New York Jets. Le’Veon Bell (runner) and Jamison Crowder (receiver) will make Sam Darnold a better quarterback in 2019. But it’s not offense that needs fixing at this point – not after the Jets blew a 16-0 third-quarter lead at home in losing to the Bills in the opener. It’s the defense that needs to be addressed.
31. New York Giants. It wasn’t too long ago that the Giants were lining up Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison on their defensive front and creating havoc. Now all are gone and New York can no longer rush the passer. The Giants didn’t get to Dak Prescott a single time last weekend and he wound up with a perfect passer rating, throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns in a pressure-free environment.
32. Miami Dolphins. Down 42-10 at halftime of your home opener? The Dolphins didn’t waste any time positioning themselves for the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft.