Gosselin NFL rankings: Fly, Eagles fly

The Steelers have handed the ball to Le’Veon Bell 30+ times in three of the last four games and Pittsburgh has won them all, moving to 5-2.

Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin is in his 45th season reporting on the NFL in 2017. He has covered the Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Cowboys in his career, plus 34 Super Bowls. He has served on the Hall-of-Fame selection committee for 22 years and is a member of both the senior and contributor subcommittees. Gosselin also is one of 12 voters for the AP 32, the weekly ranking of NFL teams conducted by The Associated Press. Here is his ballot for Week 8:

1. Philadelphia. The Eagles own the best record in the NFL at 6-1 and have home games against San Francisco and Denver the next two weekends to pad that record. Would you be up for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl between the Eagles and Steelers?

2. Pittsburgh. The Steelers have handed the ball to Le’Veon Bell 30+ times in three of the last four games and Pittsburgh has won them all, moving to 5-2. Bell had 35 carries for 144 yards against Baltimore, 32 for 179 against Kansas City and 35 for 134 last week against Cincinnati.

3. Kansas City. Alex Smith is the only starting quarterback still without an interception. He’s at 223 passes without a pick now and counting. Smith once went 312 consecutive passes without an interception in 2011. Tom Brady holds the record at 358 passes without a pick.

4. New England. RB James White has stepped in to replace WR Julian Edelman as Tom Brady’s go-to guy. White leads the Patriots in receiving with 38 catches and ranks second among all NFL running backs. In Brady’s 16-year run as a starting QB, a running back has never led the Patriots in receiving.

5. LA Rams. There are only two NFL teams unbeaten on the road this season, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots and the Rams. Both are 3-0 away from home.

6. Minnesota. The 5-2 Vikings have not allowed a sack in either of their last two games, both victories. They have the league’s only offensive line to hold defenses sackless in three games this season. A retooled blocking front this season with a rookie center (Pat Elflein) and two unrestricted free agent tackles (Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers) is paying off.

7. Seattle. With three of their next four games at home, the 4-2 Seahawks can make up some ground on the NFC West-leading Rams. Seattle has one of the best homefield advantages in the NFL and is one of only three teams still unbeaten at home. The Seahawks will host the Texans, Redskins and Falcons in that stretch.

LeSean McCoy photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

8. New Orleans. There has been no hotter team in the NFL than the Saints, who have won four in a row to resurrect themselves as a playoff contender with a 4-2 record. A big part of the turnaround has been the running of Mark Ingram, who has had back-to-back 100-yard games since the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson.

9. Buffalo. The more LeSean McCoy touches the football, the more I like the Bills. McCoy touched it a season-high 28 times last weekend and scored a pair of touchdowns in a victory over the Buccaneers. He rushed 23 times for 91 yards and both scores and caught five passes for 31 more yards. McCoy is Buffalo’s ticket to challenging New England’s dominance in the East.

10. Miami. Miami fans have been chanting for backup quarterback Matt Moore for a few weeks, and now they get him. Jay Cutler suffered a rib injury that will definitely keep him out of Thursday night’s game against Baltimore and probably longer. Moore came off the bench to throw two fourth-quarter TD passes, rallying the Dolphins past the Jets last weekend.

11. Jacksonville. The NFL did not see a 10-sack game by any defense in either 2014 or 2015. But the Jaguars have already had two of them this season, both on the road, against Houston in the opener and Indianapolis last week. The Jaguars now have an NFL-best 33 sacks on the season. By the way, the Jags managed only 33 sacks all of last season.

12. Tennessee. The 4-3 Titans have a Top=10 rushing attack with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry but need more from QB Marcus Mariota. He has thrown one TD pass or fewer in five of his six starts. Tennessee used the fifth overall pick of the draft on WR Corey Davis, but he missed the last five games with a hamstring injury. Mariota needs him back on the field.

13. Houston. The NFL picked a good weekend to send the Texans on the road. The American League champion Astros are in their first-ever World Series this week and will host the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in Games 3-4-5 this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. When the World Series concludes, Houston will care about the Texans again.

14. Dallas. With seven takeaways and seven giveaways, the Cowboys turnover differential is zero. The division-leading Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers also sit at zero. The Buffalo Bills lead the league at a plus-10, and the Cleveland Browns are a league-worst minus-11.

15. Washington. The Redskins are 3-3, but the record doesn’t do them justice. Two of the losses have come against 6-1 Philadelphia, and the other came on the road against 5-2 Kansas City. Washington can’t afford many more losses if it hopes to stay in the wild-card chase, so the next two weeks will be ultra important to their playoff hopes – home against Dallas and then on the road at Seattle.

16. Carolina. The Panthers are doing what they need to do to succeed – controlling the football. They lead the NFL with an average time of possession of 33 minutes, 46 seconds. But Carolina needs to do more than just control the football – the Panthers need to score with it. They sit at 4-3, having failed to score an offensive touchdown in two of the games.

17. Detroit. The Lions and Texans are coming off their byes this week. Detroit is 15-13 coming off a bye and Houston 7-8. The Lions host Pittsburgh Sunday night and the Texans visit Seattle.

Matt Ryan photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

18. Oakland. The Raiders have the only defense in the NFL still without an interception. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown the ball 219 times through seven games without an interception. That helps explain why the Raiders, who entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, find themselves in last place of the AFC West with a 3-4 record.

19. Atlanta. After seven weeks of the 2016 season, the Falcons were 4-2 and on their way to winning the NFC, and Matt Ryan was on his way to becoming the league MVP with 16 TD passes and only four interceptions. Through seven games this season, the Falcons are 3-3 and Ryan has seven TDs and six interceptions.

20. LA Chargers. Two NFL teams visited Los Angeles last weekend and neither scored a point. The Rams shut out the Cardinals and the Chargers blanked the Broncos. Jacksonville also posted a shutout, giving the NFL its first three-shutout weekend since Week 15 of the 2012 season.

21. Chicago. The Bears have won two in a row with their rookie QB Mitch Trubisky. But it’s not what he’s doing as much as what he’s not doing. Trubisky has not thrown an interception in those two games, so he’s not beating himself and his team. That’s allowed the Bears to succeed despite a combined 12 completions by Trubisky in those two victories.

22. NY Jets. Every team in the NFC has allowed a 300-yard passer this season. But there are six teams in the AFC that still have not allowed one, including the Jets. The closest anyone has comen against the Jets has been a 257-yard day by Tom Brady.

23. Denver. Trevor Siemian has thrown eight touchdown passes in his four home games this season. But he has yet to throw a TD pass in his two road games – and the road is going to get markedly tougher for him with games the next two weekends at division leaders Kansas City and Philadelphia.

24. Green Bay. The Packers have a bye this week, and no team in the NFL could use one more. That gives QB Brett Hundley an extra week of practice to get better acclimated to his offensive teammates. Hundley threw for fewer than 100 yards in his starting debut in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers last weekend in a rare home loss to New Orleans.

25. Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers, not the Patriots or Saints, have the NFL’s best passing offense. But it’s not doing Tampa Bay much good. The Bucs are averaging 312.3 yards passing per game but still find themselves lagging in the NFC South at 2-4. Jameis Winston has had four 300-yard passing games, and Tampa Bay has lost three of them.

26. Baltimore. The Ravens authored one of the great run defenses of all-time in 2000 on the way to their first Lombardi Trophy, allowing only five touchdowns and an average of 60.7 yards per game on the ground. But this season the Ravens rank last in the NFL in run defense with an average yield of 145.2 yards per game. Baltimore has already allowed five rushing touchdowns and an NFL-high three individual 100-yard rushers.

27. Arizona. The fade of the Cardinals will accelerate now with the loss of QB Carson Palmer for the next eight weeks with a broken arm. Bruce Arians now turns the offense over to Drew Stanton. Arizona has scored a touchdown or less in two of its last three games to fall to 3-4.

28. Cincinnati. Rookie RB Joe Mixon is unhappy with his workload. Hyped as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate this summer, Mixon has seen his carries decrease over the last four games from 18 to 17 to 15 to 7. He has converted his 74 carries on the season into 235 yards, which translates into 3.2 yards per carry. He has only one touchdown for the 2-4 Bengals.

29. Indianapolis. With the season already a wash at 2-5 and their quarterbacks taking a beating, maybe the Colts don’t want to rush Andrew Luck back onto the field this season. Quarterbacks Scott Tolzein and Jacoby Brissett have been sacked 29 times through seven games. That’s left them time in the pocket to throw only three TD passes.

30. NY Giants. The 1-6 Giants have a bye this week, and they’ll need it to break in a new set of receivers. With Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall out with injuries, Eli Manning has been struggling with a young, inexperienced group of pass catchers. Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee and the Los Angeles Rams also have the weekend off.

31. San Francisco. The 49ers remain winless and continue to make it difficult on themselves. San Francisco leads the NFL with 58 penalties – a pace that would give them 133 penalties by season’s end. The NFL record is 163 penalties by Oakland in 2011.

32. Cleveland. The Browns have used three different quarterbacks in the last four games, and they have combined for one touchdown pass. These Dawgs are winless with the toothless passing attack.