New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 104 yards on just 14 carries against the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who come to FedEx Field to face the Redskins this weekend. (AP photo)
Swap the Eagles for the Falcons in our Top 5, as the loss to the Patriots (back up to 7th) drops the Falcons to eighth. Moving back up? The Eagles, now fifth, after beating Kansas City with two backup quarterbacks. Evidently the Chiefs were so impressed, they got rid of one of theirs.
And if you’re a Redskins fan, just skip all the way to the bottom of this page. That’s where you’ll find Washington, now ranked 26th, and their 0-3 opponent this Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; they’re ranked 29th.
The rankings follow; as always, last week’s rankings are (in parentheses).
1. Giants (1): As October starts, Big Blue is where it finished 2007 and remained for much of 2008: on top. The defense lost safety Kenny Phillips after Week 2, but totally throttled Tampa Bay last week, allowing just five first downs and 86 yards for New York’s first road shutout since 1984. It should be a similar story on Sunday at Kansas City.
2. Ravens (2): Not only did quarterback Joe Flacco and the surging Baltimore offense have another big game in last Sunday’s laugher over Cleveland, the usually stingy defense bounced back from an embarassing afternoon at San Diego. That’s a devastating combination to take to New England and a date with the team that was supposed to be the AFC’s best.
3. Jets (3): The coach (Eric Mangini then, Rex Ryan now) is older. The quarterback is much younger (Brett Favre then, Mark Sanchez now), but New York is off to a second straight great start. The Jets lost a 14-0 lead last week before rallying to beat the Titans 24-17. Cornerback Darrelle Revis and Co. face a big test Sunday at New Orleans.
4. Saints (5): Pity the Bills. They hold Drew Brees to 172 yards and no touchdowns and get overrun by New Orleans’ running game for 222 yards and three scores. The Saints’ defense also rose up and held Buffalo to 243 yards and seven points. Still, Sunday’s game with the Jets will be a classic matchup of New Orleans’ firepower vs. New York’s defense.
5. Eagles (8): Philly survived quite nicely without Donovan McNabb for two-plus games. The 34-14 rout of Kansas City showed that backup Kevin Kolb can get the job done while the defense needed that kind of a rebound after getting strafed by the Saints. The Eagles have a bye before struggling Tampa Bay comes to the City of Brotherly Hate.
6. Vikings (6): Brett Favre unretired again for moments like the touchdown pass with 12 seconds left that beat San Francisco last week. Soon to be 40, Favre still has the magic. Just as important, Favre has never had a running back like Adrian Peterson as heads into the long-awaited first matchup with his old team/archrival, Green Bay, on Monday.
7. Patriots (7): It wasn’t a particularly memorable game, but last week’s 26-10 victory over Atlanta was a classic Pats performance that Bill Belichick’s team needed after the loss to the Jets. Fred Taylor’s 105 rushing yards were great news for an offense that needs to be as diverse as possible for Sunday’s visit by the rapacious Ravens defense.
8. Falcons (4): Atlanta hung with New England for three quarters, but ultimately lost 26-10 while getting badly outgained. Roddy White and Michael Turner didn’t produce much and Matt Ryan looked pretty human. More worrisome is that Mike Smith’s defense gave up 440 and 445 yards the past two games. Fixing that will be the focus of this week’s bye.
9. 49ers (9): San Francisco can’t be downcast after pushing Minnesota to the wall on the road. With Arizona getting pounded at home by Indy and Seattle losing at home to Chicago, the Niners are the class of the NFC West. They’ll almost certainly show that on Sunday against visiting St. Louis despite the absence of running back Frank Gore (ankle).
10. Colts (11): After two nail-biters, Peyton Manning gave first-year coach Jim Caldwell a restful game by carving up host Arizona’s defense all night. Receiver Pierre Garcon won’t be a secret weapon any longer. Indy’s defense held the high-octane Cardinals to 10 points while forcing three turnovers. Next up for the Colts: the so-so Seahawks.
11. Cowboys (12): Say this for the Boys, they just keep rolling out the talent. Marion Barber is out and Felix Jones rips off long gains. Jones goes down and Tashard Choice has a big game to lead Dallas past Carolina. And the defense forced three turnovers while pitching a second half shutout heading into a matchup at unbeaten Denver.
12. Bengals (13): Is Cincinnati really a fluke, last-minute 87-yard touchdown by Denver away from 3-0 despite facing Green Bay and Pittsburgh? Are we still on planet Earth? Not only did the Bengals beat the champs, they outscored them 14-0 in the fourth quarter. Marvin Lewis just has to make sure that his guys aren’t too cocky Sunday in Cleveland.
13. Bears (14): After follwing an ugly opener at Green Bay by stunning Pittsburgh, Chicago continued its ying-yang act last week, needing a late bomb from Jay Cutler to Devin Hester to beat the Matt Hasselbeck-less Seahawks. Chicago’s once-stout defense is an issue as is slumping sophomore running back Matt Forte with Detroit heading to town.
14. Broncos (18): Yes, Denver is unbeaten, but these rankings don’t give it up for lucking out vs. the Bengals and letting the Browns hang around. So move ‘em up four spots for quashing the Raiders. Now if rookie coach Josh McDaniels’ Broncos can beat the Cowboys Sunday at home, then I’ll start to believe.
15. Packers (19): The running game is still sputtering and they allowed two more sacks last week, but the rout of the Rams was a relief after the embarassing home loss to the Bengals. Green Bay visits Minnesota on Monday as a decided underdog to Packers legend Brett Favre and the Vikings. Time for a great pregame speech from coach Mike McCarthy.
16. Chargers (24): San Diego took out its frustrations on Miami from the narrow loss to Baltimore, but Philip Rivers and Co. still managed just 16 points (the defense scored a touchdown). And the Dolphins averaged nearly five yards a carry. All is not well for the Chargers as they visit the desperate Steelers in a rematch of last year’s 11-10 loss.
17. Jaguars (26): Coach Jack Del Rio better deliver breakfast in bed to Maurice Jones-Drew this week. If not for the mini-mite back’s 147 yards and three touchdowns on 27 touches at Houston, the Jags would be 0-3 heading into Sunday’s game with Tennessee. As for the rest of the team, Del Rio has a lot of work to do.
18. Steelers (10): It’s supposed to be the Super Bowl losers that struggle, not the champs. However, Mike Tomlin’s men seemed to have lost their killer instinct, having been outscored 24-0 by the Bears and Bengals in consecutive fourth quarters. In third place in the AFC North, the 1-2 Steelers really need to beat the Bolts to get their mojo back.
19. Texans (16): Maybe Gary Kubiak needs to have his starting defense practice against Steve Slaton for the AFC South rematches with Tennessee and Jacksonville because Houston has been unable to tackle Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. The latter failure ruined a big day by Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Oakland’s visit should be an easier test.
20. Titans (17): At least Jeff Fisher’s team has won three in a row at Sunday’s site, Jacksonville, because the Titans, the AFC’s regular season kings of 2008, have lost three in a row to start the season. One more loss and it might be time to bench Kerry Collins and see if Vince Young can be the quarterback of the future he seemed to be in 2006.
21. Seahawks (20): Seneca Wallace gave it a good try while starting for the injured Matt Hasselbeck last week, but he’s not really a starting quarterback. Seattle will have to up its offensive production to keep up with Peyton Manning and Indianapolis on the road on Sunday. Julius Jones is doing his part with 4.9 yards per carry.
22. Bills (15): Buffalo came so close to beating New England in Week 1 and then smacked Tampa Bay, but the Bills reverted to their non-competitive selves last week, mustering just a touchdown against New Orleans. Top back Marshawn Lynch returns from his suspension to face winless Miami, but running the ball hasn’t been the issue.
23. Cardinals (21): Larry Fitzgerald has set such a high standard that 17 catches, 181 yards and two touchdowns in three games is a downturn. Eight months after almost winning the Super Bowl, the big-time offense is 20th in scoring. Houston, last in total defense and 28th in scoring defense, should allow the Cardinals’ attack to get back on track.
24. Lions (30): After 644 days without a victory, it was time to party in Motown last Sunday. Quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t play like a rookie against the Redskins and he had good support from running back Kevin Smith and receivers Bryant Johnson and Calvin Johnson. Now if the Lions can learn to play pass defense, they might win more often.
25. Panthers (27): Carolina, which never scored fewer than 28 points during the final seven games of 2008, has produced just 37 points in three games, all defeats. The defense is struggling too, having given up eight touchdowns (three more were scored on returns) and recording just four sacks. The Panthers definitely need this week’s bye.
26. Redskins (22): There was the sudden dropoff of ‘93, the 0-7 plunge of ‘98, the 0-5 start of ‘01 and the collapses from 6-2 starts in 2000 and 2008, but none of those Washington teams found a way to lose to a team that had lost 19 in a row. Just three games into the season and there’s already an under siege atmosphere at Redskin Park.
27. Dolphins (23): There’s a new rollercoaster in Miami. It’s called the Dolphins. After soaring from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 and the AFC East title in 2008, is 0-3 and has lost quarterback Chad Pennington for the season. And after Sunday’s visit by Buffalo come the Jets, Saints, the Jets again and the Pats. The coaster is badly off the tracks.
28. Raiders (25): So much for the new, improved Raiders. After playing San Diego tough and winning ugly at Kansas City, Oakland played host to Denver with a chance to tie for the AFC West lead. Instead, the Broncos held failed No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell to 61 yards on 21 pass attempts and fellow first-rounder Darren McFadden to 45 yards on 12 carries. In tumultuous times, it’s good to know that the Raiders are reliably awful.
29. Buccaneers (28): While watching his offense seem to be mired in quicksand against the Giants, Bucs rookie coach Raheem Morris benched quarterback Byron Leftwich for the unproven Josh Johnson. What’s more worrisome is that the defense, long the foundation of Tampa Bay’s success, is allowing more yards and points than any in the NFC.
30. Rams (29): Any momentum from the near-victory at Washington disappeared with the early 16-0 deficit at home against Green Bay. With the Lions upsetting the Redskins, the Rams’ 13-game skid is now the NFL’s longest. St. Louis’ offense is so punchless that the streak looks likely to last at least until the Week 8 visit to Detroit.
31. Browns (31): Make it 85-16 for the opposition since Cleveland was leading Minnesota at halftime of its opener. Coach Eric Mangini responded by benching quarterback Brady Quinn for predecessor Derek Anderson. The Browns have faced only unbeaten teams, but only the Rams score less and no one gives up more points. That’s a sure guarantee of defeat.
32. Chiefs (29): From 2003 through Week 7 of 2007, Kansas City was 43-28 with two playoff berths. Since then, the Chiefs have staggered to a 2-26 record, beating AFC West rivals Denver and Oakland once last year. Rookie coach Todd Haley isn’t going to get off the schneid the next two weeks at home against the Giants and Cowboys.