Rick Gosselin’s Week 11 NFL rankings – Sports Illustrated

Editor’s note: Rick Gosselin is in his 49th season reporting on the NFL in 2021. 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 11th week ballot:

1. Arizona. RB James Conner was an underrated free-agency signing in 2021 by the Cardinals. He has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games for Arizona and now has an NFC-leading 13 on the season. He’s had two-TD games against the Jaguars, Packers and Rams and a three-touchdown game against the 49ers. And get this – he didn’t make his first start for the Cardinals until two weeks ago. Conner led the Steelers in rushing last season with 721 yards and six touchdowns. Last week: 4

2. Tampa Bay. Mike Evans is heating up, having caught at least one touchdown pass in four consecutive games for the 7-3 Bucs. Tom Brady has passed for at least two touchdowns in his last six games. He has thrown 19 TD passes in that stretch and Evans has caught eight of them. Last week: 7

3. Green Bay. When four-time Pro Bowl WR Davante Adams goes off, the Packers usually go off. Adams has posted 16 100-yards receiving games over the last three seasons and Green Bay has won 13 of them. Last weekend was one of the exceptions when Adams caught seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Vikings. Last week: 2

4. LA Rams. A defense with three perennial Pro Bowl players – DT Aaron Donald, OLB Von Miller and CB Jalen Ramsey – shouldn’t be wallowing outside the NFL’s Top 10. The Rams had a bye week to fix whatever is ailing their defense – and it had better be fixed by Sunday when the Green Bay Packers visit in what looms as a potential playoff-tiebreaker matchup. Los Angeles enters the game with a two-game losing streak and the NFL’s 12th-ranked defense. Last week: 5

5. Tennessee. The Titans were built to run the ball, control the clock and play defense. But the strain of executing that gameplan without Derrick Henry is now apparent. With Henry through the first eight games of the season, the Titans averaged 147.6 yards on the ground and controlled the ball for almost 33 minutes. That propelled Tennessee to the top of the AFC South with a 6-2 record. But the Titans lost Henry in the eighth game with a broken foot. The Titans have averaged only 87.6 rushing yards in the three games since and were upset at home by lowly Houston Sunday. It’s difficult to play bully ball without your bully. Last week: 1

6. Baltimore. The Ravens rank third in the NFL in rushing but still don’t have an individual 100-yard game from their stable of running backs. Baltimore’s two 100-yard games on the season have come from QB Lamar Jackson. Latavius Murray leads the Ravens with four rushing touchdowns, followed by Devonta Freeman with three and Le’Veon Bell with two. But the best individual rushing game by a back has been the 79-yard effort by Freeman three games ago against Minnesota. Last week: 8

7. Kansas City. The Chiefs have beaten NFC opponents in 11 of their last 12 meetings. The one loss came at the hands of Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl last February. Kansas City concluded the nonconference portion of their 2021 schedule with a victory over the Cowboys last weekend. Five of their seven victories this season have now come against the NFC. The Chiefs also went 4-0 against the NFC in the 2020 regular season and won their final two games against NFC foes in 2019. Last week: 9

8. Dallas. QB Dak Prescott has played 81 career NFL games. He has not committed a turnover in 36 of his starts and the Cowboys have won 29 of them. Prescott has committed at least one turnover in his other 45 starts and the Cowboys have a 21-24 record in them. Prescott suffered just the fourth three-turnover game of his career in last weekend’s loss to the Chiefs. Last Week: 3

9. New England. The Patriots shut out the Falcons last week – the third consecutive season New England has claimed a shutout. No other team has done it in back-to-back seasons, much less three years in a row. There have been only 13 shutouts in the 677 NFL games played over the last three seasons and the Patriots have four of them. Buffalo and Denver have two apiece and Carolina, Denver, Green Bay, Miami and San Francisco one each. Last week: 10

10. Indianapolis. The Colts are 6-0 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushes for 100 yards in a game. His legs have sparked the resurgence by the Colts, who moved above .500 for the first time this season at 6-5 with a victory over the Bills. Taylor has rushed for 100 yards in three consecutive games, five of the last six and six of the last eight. He also leads the NFL with 15 touchdowns – 13 on the ground and two through the air. Last week: 18

11. LA Chargers. Austin Ekeler has scored an NFL-runnerup 13 touchdowns this season – seven on runs and six on receptions. There has been one common thread in his scoring prowess – all but two of his scores have come at home in SoFi Stadium. He has not reached the end zone in his last two road games and his next two games also will be on the road – at Denver and Cincinnati. Last week: 13

12. Buffalo. How good has the Buffalo defense been this season? The Bills allowed 41 points to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend and have still allowed the fewest points in the league (176). Buffalo hasn’t allowed either a 300-yard passer or a 100-yard receiver this season. In fact, the Bills are the only defense in the league that has not allowed a 100-yard receiver. They also share the league lead with 15 interceptions. Last week: 6

13. Cincinnati. Joe Burrow has been a better quarterback on the road than he is at home. He has posted four three-TD pass games this season and all have come on the road. Fifteen of his 21 touchdown passes have come on the road. The only time he failed to throw a TD pass at home was against Cleveland in his last game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals play their next three games at home, starting with Pittsburgh on Sunday. Last week: 16

14. Cleveland. Baker Mayfield is struggling both in the training room and on the field. He missed the Denver game Oct. 21 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and has not been himself in the four games since, throwing only four TD passes against three interceptions. He also was knocked out of the New England game Nov. 14 with a knee injury. He passed for only 176 yards last weekend against the winless Lions. Last week: 15

15. Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception since Oct 3 – a streak of 173 consecutive passes. Unfortunately for the Steelers, he has not passed for 300 yards in a game since then, either. Roethlisberger has not thrown a touchdown pass longer than 10 yards in his last four starts. The Steelers have a tie and loss in their last two games to fall behind the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North. Last week: 11

16. Minnesota. The Vikings and Packers are the only two teams in the league with fewer than 10 giveaways this season. Minnesota has turned the ball over a league-low six times and the Packers are next with nine. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has quietly compiled a season worthy of MVP consideration with 21 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The Vikings are 5-5 but three of their losses came either in overtime or on the opponent’s final possession. Last week: 20

17. San Francisco. WR Deebo Samuel has given the back end of defenses fits all season with receiving games of 189, 171, 156 and 100 yards. He ranks second in the NFL in receiving yardage with 994. Now he’s giving defensive front sevens fits as well. The 5-5 49ers have used him extensively at running back the last two weeks and he’s rushed 13 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a pair of victories over the Rams and Jaguars. Last week: 21

18. Las Vegas. The Raiders have lost three in a row since their bye and it appears their offense is still in an extended bye week. Through the first seven weeks Las Vegas featured one of the most prolific offenses in the game, averaging 26 points on the way to a 5-2 record. But the Raiders have failed to score as many as 17 points in any of their last three losses with QB Derek Carr throwing as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns. Last week: 12

19. Denver. The Broncos are coming off their bye and, at 5-5, have a chance to re-establish themselves as an AFC West contender with their next two games at the Chargers and then home against the Chiefs. Here’s the bad news for the Chargers – Denver is the best team in the NFL coming off byes with a 23-9 record. Last week: 14

20. Philadelphia. The NFC South brings out the best in QB Jalen Hurts. He has rushed for eight touchdowns this season and seven of them have come against NFC South foes. He rushed for three scores last weekend against New Orleans and also had a pair of two-TD games against Carolina and Tampa Bay. Hurts didn’t rush for a touchdown in the season-opener against Atlanta but he did pass for a season-high three scores against the Falcons. Last week: 22

21. New Orleans. Sean Payton knew the Saints would be a bit offensively challenged this season without the NFL’s No. 2 all-time leading passer Drew Brees. But take away Pro Bowl HB Alvin Kamara – as a sore knee has done the last two weeks –- and the offensive struggle intensifies. The Saints have lost both games without Kamara to fall to 5-5. He has scored at least one touchdown of six of the eight games he has been healthy, including the last four in a row. Without him, there are no guaranteed points in the offense. Last week: 17

22. Washington. Like its beltway neighbor Baltimore, Washington has a Top 10 rushing attack without an individual 100-yard game from its running backs. In fact, Dallas has the only NFC East offense with an individual 100-yard rusher this season and the Cowboys have two of them. But like his father Norv, Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner has made the running game a priority and his troops are averaging 123 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. HB Antonio Gibson leads the team with 601 rushing yards and QB Tyler Heinicke is next with 276. Last week: 25

23. Miami. The Dolphins have won three games in a row to improve to 4-7 and the schedule now turns dramatically in their favor. The Dolphins will not have to leave home for the next month. They are home against the Panthers and Giants the next two weeks, then have a bye, then close out the homestand against the Jets. A 7-7 record and a six-game winning streak looms as a strong possibility. Last week: 27

24. Carolina. The 5-6 Panthers started a different quarterback each of the last three weeks – Sam Darnold, then P.J. Walker and finally Cam Newton. The only other team to start three different quarterbacks this season has been the New York Jets (Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco). The Panthers and Jets were among four teams to give quarterbacks their first starts of the season last weekend. There have now been 50 different quarterbacks who have started games in the NFL this season. Last week: 19

23. Atlanta. In 2019, the Falcons ranked fifth in the NFL in offense and third in passing. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Devonta Freeman were Matt Ryan’s top three receivers with Freeman also the leading rusher. Now all three of those targets are gone – and so is the Atlanta offense. The Falcons have scored three points total in their last two games in dropping to 4-6. They have fallen to 29th in the NFL in offense and 27th in scoring. Last week: 23

26. Seattle. The Seahawks ranked seventh in the NFL last season with 46 sacks. Safety Jamal Adams led the team in 2020 with 9 ½ sacks last season but he doesn’t have any yet this year. DT Jarran Reed had a team-runnerup 6 ½ sacks in 2020. But he left Seattle for the Chiefs in free agency in the offseason. With no pass rush, it’s little wonder the 3-7 Seahawks rank 30th in pass defense this season. Last week: 24

27. Chicago. There is plenty that ails the 3-7 Bears – but the pass rush is not one of them. Chicago leads the NFL with 36 sacks, including 10 by DE Robert Quinn. The Bears have had a six-sack game, a five-sack game and three four-sack games. Twelve different defenders have sacks for the Bears, including Khalil Mack with six. Last week: 26

28. NY Giants. The 3-7 Giants rank 23rd in the NFL in offense and 26th in points. After scoring a season-low 10 points Monday night in Tampa, the Giants fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Freddie Kitchens, who failed as both a play-caller and head coach o the Cleveland Browns, takes over. Last week: 28

29. Houston. The Texans have been double-digit underdogs a league-high six times in their 10 games this season. They finally won outright as an underdog last weekend with a shocking 22-13 dismantling of the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans. The Texans were a 10-point underdog. Last week: 31

30. Jacksonville. Trevor Lawrence failed to throw a touchdown pass in only two of his 40 college games at Clemson. He has now failed to throw a TD pass in three consecutive NFL games for the Jaguars. His last TD pass came against Seattle on Halloween, 93 passes ago. Last week: 29

31. NY Jets. Where is Darrelle Revis when you really need him? During his eight seasons with the Jets, he had seasons of six, five and four interceptions (twice). His went to five Pro Bowls and his corner of the defense was dubbed “Revis Island.” But you won’t find any Pro Bowl candidates in New York’s 2021 secondary. The 2-8 Jets rank last in the NFL with just three interceptions in 353 opponent passes. Last week: 30

32. Detroit. A wide receiver has not scored a touchdown for the Lions since Oct. 3 when Khalif Raymond rang up the Bears twice with receptions. The Lions have thrown only one touchdown pass in the last six weeks. RB De’Andre Swift took a swing pass 63 yards for that one against the Rams on Oct. 24. Little wonder that in a pass-driven league the Lions are now 0-9-1. Last week: 32