Rick Gosselin's NFL Rankings for Week 7: there's a new King in town
Editor's note: Rick Gosselin is in his 48th season reporting on the NFL in 2020. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career plus 38 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 7:
1. Tennessee Titans. (5) The Titans are so good they don’t need practice. In the last two weeks, since re-opening their facility following a COVID shutdown, the Titans have had only two full practice (and neither with pads) in the last two weeks and still have won two games, handing the Buffalo Bills their first loss and then toppling AFC South champion Houston to run their record to 5-0.
2. Seattle Seahawks. (2) The three top teams this week are all top-heavy statistically. Two are loaded on offense and one on defense. The No. 1 Titans rank second in offense and 27th in defense. The No. 2 Seahawks are eighth in offense and last in defense. The No. 3 Steelers are second in defense but 21st in offense. No team in the NFL this week ranks in the Top 10 in both offense and defense.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers. (6) The Steelers lead the NFL with 24 sacks, which puts them on a pace for a 77-sack season. That would break the NFL record of 72 sacks by the 1984 Chicago Bears. The Steelers have at least three sacks in all five of their games with a high of seven sacks the second week against Denver. The pass rush also knocked Broncos QB Drew Lock out of the game with a shoulder injury.
4. Kansas City Chiefs. (3) The Chiefs rushed for a season-high 225 yards Monday night against the Bills and guess what? KC’s running game is going to get better with the addition of Le’Veon Bell reporting this week. Bell is a three-time Pro Bowler, an AFC rushing champion in 2014 … and he’s only 28 years of age. The defending champion Chiefs are 5-1 and their arrow is pointing up.
5. Baltimore Ravens. (4) Lamar Jackson posted the first 100-yard rushing game by an NFL quarterback this season with his 108 against Philadelphia last weekend. He’s now only five 100-yard games short of the NFL record for quarterbacks held by Michael Vick, who rushed for 100 yards 10 times in 115 career starts. Jackson has his six such games in his 24 career starts.
6. Green Bay Packers. (Previous rank: 1) Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw interceptions, holding the NFL record for career interception avoidance. When he doesn’t throw picks, he wins. Over the last two seasons, Rodgers has avoided an interception in 16 of his 21 games. The Packers won 14 of them. He didn’t throw a pick in the first four games of this season, helping the Packers get off to a 4-0 start. But his two interceptions last weekend against the Buccaneers contributed to Green Bay’s first defeat. By the way, the Packers have the fewest turnovers in the league this season at two, both on Sunday.
7. Chicago Bears. (10) Shades of the 1985 Bears. Chicago has held four of its six opponents under 20 points, including its last three foes, to run its record to a surprising 5-1. The Bears have forced four turnovers and sacked eight quarterbacks in the last three games. The two teams that scored in the 20s against the Bears – Detroit (23) and Atlanta (26) – both lost to Chicago. Great defense has always gone a long way in the Windy City.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (14) Is Rob Gronkowski finally getting his legs back after that year layoff? Gronk caught only two passes in Tampa Bay’s first two games but has caught 15 in his last four, including his first touchdown, a 12-yarder last weekend against Green Bay. That’s as many catches as Tampa’s Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans has in the last four games and more than the Bucs’ other Pro Bowl WR Chris Godwin (10).
9. Buffalo Bills. (7) The Bills have just finished a gauntlet of playoff contenders, playing four consecutive games against teams with a combined 16-5 record, including fellow division leaders Tennessee and Kansas City. They dropped those last two games to the Titans and Chiefs to fall to 4-2 but the schedule eases up the next two weeks with games against the 0-6 Jets and 2-3 Patriots.
10. Indianapolis Colts. (17) The Indy defense leads the league with 10 interceptions, including three apiece against the Vikings and the Jets. The Colts are on a pace to intercept 26 passes this season. The Patriots led the NFL with 25 picks last season.
11. Los Angeles Rams. (8) Jared Goff has thrown 10 touchdown passes this season. Nine of them have come on the road. He has only one touchdown pass in his two home games – and the Rams are home this weekend against the Chicago. The Bears have allowed a league-low four touchdown passes this season.
12. Las Vegas Raiders. (17) The Raiders return from their bye this week to host the Buccaneers. They are one of the NFL’s worst teams coming off byes with a 12-19 mark. But those decisions came when they were the “Oakland” Raiders. Maybe their fortunes will change now that they are the pride of Nevada.
13. Arizona Cardinals. (16) QB Kyler Murray has rushed for six touchdowns for the 4-2 Cardinals this season. That’s more than 12 NFL teams have on the ground this season and as many as six others. Murray also has passed for 10 touchdowns.
14. New Orleans Saints. (12) The Saints return from their bye this week – and they’ll be returning with arguably their best player, wide receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas hasn’t played since opening day. He missed the next three games with a high ankle sprain, then sat a fourth game against the Chargers under a team suspension for a fight in practice. His absence from the lineup helps explain why the Saints rank out of their customary spot in the Top 10 in offense. Thomas led the NFL with a single-season record 149 catches in 2019 for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.
15. Cleveland Browns. (9) The Browns need to get Jarvis Landry more involved in the offense. The five-time Pro Bowler has yet to score a touchdown in six games nor has he turned in a 100-yard game. He led the Browns in receiving last season with 83 catches for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns. He’s on a pace now for a 64-catch, 850-yard season.
16. San Francisco 49ers. (24) The 49ers have one of only two offenses in the NFL without a 100-yard receiving game yet by a wide receiver. Kansas City is the other. The 49ers have two such games, both by tight end Greg Kittle, and the Chiefs have one by Travis Kelce. The longest catch by a wideout was a 35-yarder by Deebo Samuel last week against the Rams and the best game was a 5-catch, 70-yard outing by rookie Brandon Aiyuk against the Giants.
17. Miami Dolphins. (20) The Ryan Fitzpatrick era in Miami comes to an end on a high note -- a three-touchdown performance last weekend in a victory over the Jets, evening the Dolphins' record at 3-3. But sitting on the bench those six games was Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft. His fellow quarterbacks selected in the top six picks, Joe Burrow and Justin Hebert, have already hit the field for their teams and proven themselves worthy of their lofty draft selections. Now it's Tua's turn. The Dolphins will use their bye this week to get him ready for his first start in November against the Rams.
18. Carolina Panthers. (15) The Carolina Panthers finished second in the NFL in sacks last season with 53. But all four primary starters on the defensive line left in free agency in the offseason – Mario Addison (Buffalo), Bruce Irvin (Seattle) and both Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe (Dallas). Safety Eric Reid also became a salary-cap casualty with his four sacks. Little wonder the Panthers are now last in the NFL in sacks with five. They have failed to sack the quarterback in three of their six games thus far.
19. New England Patriots. (13) Amazing stat of the week – the Patriots have been penalized only 12 times all season for 139 yards. With or without Tom Brady, this is a disciplined football team. There are four NFL teams that have already been penalized 40-plus times. The Patriots were penalized just once last weekend against Denver and had two-penalty games earlier against Seattle and Las Vegas.
21. Denver Broncos. (26) Drew Lock is back at quarterback but the touchdowns aren’t. Lock missed the previous two games with a shoulder injury but returned last weekend for a start against the Patriots. He failed to produce a touchdown for this first time in three starts this season and only the second time in eight career starts. Not that it mattered. The Broncos prevailed 18-12 on six field goals.
22. Detroit Lions. (27) The Lions are developing a one-two punch on the ground in veteran Adrian Peterson and rookie D’Andre Swift. Peterson has rushed for touchdowns each of the last two games and Swift turned in the club’s first 100-yard day of the season against Jacksonville last week. QB Matt Stafford has longed for a rushing game throughout his career. Maybe he finally has one in 2020.
23. Los Angeles Chargers. (21) The Chargers have a Top 10 offense with a rookie quarterback, ranking 10th. Last year, when the Chargers had veteran Pro Bowlers Philip Rivers at quarterback and Melvin Gordon at halfback, they also ranked 10th in the league. And Herbert has operated the last two weeks without his best running back Austin Ekeler, out with injury. Herbert has thrown seven TD passes those two weeks in his absence.
24. Philadelphia Eagles. (19) Philadelphia identified Carson Wentz as a franchise quarterback and gave him a $128 million contract to keep them in contention for Super Bowls. But the Eagles really need to protect him to give Wentz a chance. The Eagles have allowed a league-high 25 sacks. The Redskins sacked Wentz eight times, the Ravens six times and the Steelers five times, all in Philadelphia losses.
20. Dallas Cowboys. (18) Even though the Cowboys remain in first place of the NFC East with a 2-4 record, it’s clear that an offense without Dak Prescott, an offensive line in tatters and a defense with no clue will have trouble sticking with the 1-4-1 Eagles as the season wears on. The Eagles also have Pittsburgh and Baltimore already off their schedule. The Cowboys do not.
25. Cincinnati Bengals. (22) Rookie QB Joe Burrow is still getting the yards but not the points. Burrow passed for 313 yards against Indianapolis last weekend but failed to throw for a touchdown in any of his 25 completions. It was the second consecutive week he failed to toss a TD pass and the third time in six games he has failed to throw one. He has four 300-yard games for the 1-4-1 Bengals.
26. Minnesota Vikings. (23) For the Vikings to be the team they want to be and Kirk Cousins the quarterback he wants to be the interceptions must stop. He leads the NFL in interceptions with 10, having thrown at least one pick in all but one of Minnesota’s six games. He had three-interception games against Indianapolis and Atlanta and a two-interception game against Tennessee. The only game Cousins didn’t throw an interception was at Houston – and that stands as Minnesota’s only victory this season.
27. Houston Texans. (25) The Texans have the NFL’s only offense averaging fewer than 26 minutes per game of time of possession. It’s easy to see why – Houston can’t stop the run. The Texans rank last in run defense, allowing other teams to control the clock and the tempo on the ground. The Texans have allowed a league-high three 100-yard rushing games to rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire of Kansas City, James Conner of Pittsburgh and Derrick Henry of Tennessee. Henry rushed for 212 yards against the Texans last weekend for the first 200-yard rushing game of the NFL season.
28. New York Giants. (29) The Giants visit the Eagles this weekend. Giants QB Daniel Jones has thrown only three touchdown passes this season and all have come at home. He has yet to throw a TD pass in three road games. Ironically, his best games as a rookie in 2019 came on the road, throwing five touchdown passes at Washington and four apiece at Detroit and the Jets.
29. Atlanta Falcons. (31) In the modern era of football (1960 on), the Falcons have fired more coaches in-season than any other NFL franchise – seven. Norm Van Brocklin, Marion Campbell, Pat Peppler, Jim Hanifan, Wade Phillips and this season, Raheem Morris, all took turns as interim coach of the Falcons. But Morris became the first of that seven to win his debut game, coaching Atlanta to a 40-23 victory at Minnesota last weekend.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars. (28) The Jaguars are in desperate need of a bye to sort some things out. They need to fix their running game (29th in the NFL), run defense (28th) and pass defense (26th). QB Gardner Minshew is going to need some help if the 1-5 Jaguars are going to straighten out their season. It won't get any easier this weekend as they travel across country to play the Chargers.
31. Washington. (30) Kyle Allen threw two TD passes last weekend against the Giants. That’s half as many touchdown passes as Dwayne Haskins threw in his first four starts for the Redskins this season. Allen’s arm gives the 1-5 Redskins a chance given that Washington already have a Top 10 defense. He has an elite target in WR Terry McLaurin, who ranks seventh in the NFL in both receptions (36) and yardage (487).
32. New York Jets. (32) The Jets have little defense (20th in the NFL), even less offense (30th) and are the league's most penalized team with 45 for 445 yards. That’s almost 4 ½ fields the Jets have given their opponents from flags, which help explains this 0-6 start.