Rick Gosselin's Week 4 NFL rankings: Here come the Chiefs
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 4:
1. Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are off to their first 4-0 start since 2001 but the schedule gets a bit tougher going forward. The Rams built that perfect start on the strength of three consecutive home games. Now they hit the road for three consecutive road games at Seattle, Denver and San Francisco.
2. Kansas City Chiefs. For 16 years the Chiefs watched as John Elway worked his magic for the Broncos on them and the rest of the AFC West. With the magic of Patrick Mahomes, the shoe is now on the other foot.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams aren’t the only NFL power coming off three consecutive home games. The next two games for the 3-1 Jaguars are on the road, including a potential AFC title game preview at Kansas City this weekend. The following weekend, the Jaguars visit the Dallas Cowboys.
4. New Orleans Saints. Twenty-three NFL quarterbacks have thrown 100 or more passes this season. But only two of those 23 have yet to throw an interception – Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes. Brees has tossed eight TDs with no picks in his 161 passes.
5. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens and Rams are the only two teams that rank in the Top 10 in both offense and defense. The Ravens rank 10th in offense and second in defense. The Rams rank first in offense and ninth in defense.
6. Green Bay Packers. There were 29 300-yard passing games and 12 more 400-yard games in the month of September. Perennial MVP candidates Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady do not have any of them.
7. Chicago Bears. The Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both have this Sunday off in the NFL’s second week of scheduled byes. After tossing a career-high six TD passes last weekend against the Bucs, Bears' QB Mitch Trubisky probably wishes he could play, not sit, this weekend.
8. Tennessee Titans. The Titans and the Bears are the only two defenses that have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Dating to last season, Tennessee has now gone nine consecutive games without allowing a rushing TD. The last? Frank Gore for the Colts on Nov. 26.
9. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals sit atop the AFC North (with a head-to-head tie-breaker over the 3-1 Ravens) and will get a boost defensively this week with the return of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfcit from his four-game NFL suspension. Also returning from NFL suspensions this week are WR Julian Edelman (Patriots), RB Mark Ingram (Saints), DT Corey Luiget (Chargers) and CB Jimmy Smith (Ravens).
10. New England Patriots. There have been 21 individual 100-yard rushing games through four weeks and rookie running backs have five of them … by five different rookies. New England first-rounder Sony Michel posted his first 100-yard game last weekend against Miami. Saquon Barkley (NY Giants), Phillip Lindsay (Denver), Kerryon Johnson (Detroit) and Nick Chubb (Cleveland) have the others.
11. Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have done the best job of playing within the rules of any NFL team this season. Carolina has been penalized only 19 times for a league-low 146 yards. That’s 23 fewer penalties than league-leader Pittsburgh for 255 fewer yards.
12. Washington Redskins. The Redskins return from their bye Sunday, which gave them two weeks to prepare for the New Orleans Saints. Washington is 14-15 all-time coming off byes. But the Redskins beat San Francisco coming off a bye under Jay Gruden last season.
13. Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles couldn’t lose with two quarterbacks last season. Carson Wentz steered Philly to the top seed in the NFC and then Nick Foles steered the Eagles to a Lombardi Trophy. Now Philly is losing with both quarterbacks. Foles lost to Tampa Bay in Week 2 and Wentz lost to Tennessee in Week 4, so the defending NFL champions find themselves 2-2 at the quarter pole.
14. Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers cut aging TE Antonio Gates in the offseason because they didn’t need him any more. They had a younger version in Hunter Henry. But Henry suffered a season-ending knee injury, which gave Gates a reprieve. At 38, he caught a touchdown pass last weekend against San Francisco – the 16th consecutive season he reached the end zone. He holds the NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end with 115.
15. Miami Dolphins. Frank Gore has taken more NFL handoffs (3,261) in his career than Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Thurman Thomas and Marshall Faulk. Gore ranks fifth all-time in carries.
16. Seattle Seahawks. Earl Thomas becomes the fifth Pro Bowl defender to leave the Seattle defense in 2018, joining pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor. The free agent-to-be Thomas saw his season come to an end with a broken leg.
17. Dallas Cowboys. There have been 71 individual 100-yard receiving games in the NFL through the opening month of the 2018 season. The Cowboys don’t have any of them. Their wide-receiving corps has one 100-yard receiving performance in the last 27 games.
18. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings fielded the best defense in the NFL last season, allowing the fewest yards and points on the way to the NFC title game. Not so this season, though. The Vikings rank 21st in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed and are a disappointing 1-2-1.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers. How much do the Steelers miss Le’Veon Bell? Pittsburgh ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing and has been spinning its wheels in a 1-2-1 start to the season while Bell sits in a contract holdout.
20. Denver Broncos. Case Keenum threw three touchdowns in a season-opening victory over Seattle – but hasn’t thrown one since over the last three games covering 102 passes.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ryan Fitzpatrick saw his string of 400-yard passing games come to an end with a whimper. He passed for only 126 yards with an interception against the Bears and was yanked at halftime with the Bucs trailing, 38-3. That cost him the starting job. Jameis Winston moves back in at quarterback.
22. Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan has passed for 793 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception in the last two weeks – and his Falcons have lost both games. The loss of three defensive starters with season-ending injuries is taking a toll as Atlanta has allowed 80 points in the two losses.
23. Houston Texans. QB Deshaun Watson has been on fire of late but few have noticed because of Houston’s 1-3 start. He has passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of his last three starts but the Texans needed overtime last weekend to win for the first time.
24. Oakland Raiders. Remember when Baker Mayfield planted the OU flag in Columbus in 2017? Ohio State extracted some revenge in 2018 when former Buckeye Gareon Conley intercepted a Mayfield pass last weekend and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown in Oakland’s victory over the Browns.
25. Cleveland Browns. The Browns are already getting impressive contributions from their 2018 draft class. First overall pick Baker Mayfield came off the bench to beat the Jets with his arm in Week 3 and second-rounder Nick Chubb rushed for his first 100-yard game in Week 4 against the Raiders. First-round CB Denzel Ward intercepted two passes in the opener against Pittsburgh.
26. Detroit Lions. The Lions’ D ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks despite playing without its best pass rusher the last three weeks. Edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah (12 sacks in 2017) hasn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener.
27. New York Giants. The Giants made a sizable investment in the running game under first-year coach Pat Shurmur, using their first two draft picks on a running back (Saquon Barkley) and a road-grader guard (Will Hernandez). But they still rank a lowly 27th in the NFL in rushing. And the Giants have a 1-3 record to show for the first month of their season.
28. Indianapolis Colts. A year off didn’t rust Andrew Luck’s quarterbacking skills. He has thrown a touchdown pass in all four games this season and rung up 464 yards in a game against Houston and 319 more in a game against Cincinnati. But he’s going to need some help. The Indy defense is below average (19th in the NFL) and the running game is way below average (29th).
29. Buffalo Bills. If the Bills hope to have a future with their rookie quarterback Josh Allen, they’d better start protecting him. Allen has been sacked 15 times in his first three NFL starts. The Packers pummeled him for seven sacks last weekend. Buffalo ranks last in the NFL in passing.
30. New York Jets. Sam Darnold started off his career with a bang, passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a victorious NFL starting debut on opening day against the Lions. But it’s been rough sledding since. He has thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (two) in three consecutive losses.
31. San Francisco 49ers. C.J. Beathard gave the 49ers more passing yards (298) in his first start last weekend than in any of Jimmy Garoppolo’s three starts to open this season. The 1-3 49ers lost their $137-million dollar quarterback (Garoppolo) with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
32. Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are off to their first 0-4 start since 1996. The bad news is that Arizona has already burned up three home games in the opening month of the season.