The Washington Times - November 20, 2008, 01:26PM

We’ve got football again tonight, Bengals at Steelers, so we’re getting David Elfin’s weekly power rankings up with a few hours to spare before kickoff.

Look out for the Jets, who jumped from 12 to 7 this week after the overtime win at New England. And who should be looking out? None other than the No. 1, unbeaten Tennessee Titans, who play host to Brett Favre and Co. on Sunday at 1 p.m. (on CBS).


Other matchups sure to shake up David’s rankings:

- No. 15 Eagles at No. 9 Ravens at 1 p.m.

- No. 2 Giants at No. 5 Cardinals

- No. 3 Panthers at No. 10 Falcons at 4 p.m.

- No. 16. Packers at No 15 Saints on Monday night

As always, last week’s rankings are (in parentheses).

- John Taylor


(Associated Press photo of Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse after win No. 10)

1. Titans (1): There’s none of the buzz about Tennessee being 10-0 as there was about New England having the same record last year, but the Titans aren’t a fluke. They have the NFL‘s stingiest defense and an efficient offense. Tennessee can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Jets and having Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Miami all lose or tie.

2. Giants (2): Funny how the team that Kerry Collins quarterbacked to the Super Bowl in 2000 is on course to meet his current team for the title. Big Blue ran roughshod over the Ravens’ then-league-leading run defense and is running away with the NFC East with a 3-game lead and victories over the Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles.

3. Panthers (3): Carolina has certainly benefited from an easy schedule — three winning teams so far — but the Panthers have shown their defense (third in points allowed) and their running game (sixth) are forces to be reckoned with come January. Beating a quality foe on the road like Atlanta or Green Bay the next two weeks would add to Carolina’s luster.

4. Steelers (4): The 11-10 (first such score in NFL history) over visiting San Diego wasn’t pretty, but Pittsburgh still moved to 7-3. Only the Titans have a better record in the AFC. Cincinnati at home on Sunday shouldn’t be much of a challenge, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s struugles continue to be a worrisome sign come playoff time.

5. Cardinals (8): If it’s weird that Arizona’s fifth in the rankings after 10 games, then how about it’s being able to clinch its first division title in 34 years with a victory on Sunday and losses by San Francisco and Seattle is downright bizarre. Of course, the Cards would have to upset the Giants to do so, but the NFC West will be theirs soon enough.

6. Buccaneers (9): Even without injured top rusher Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay should win three straight games for the second time this year Sunday against visiting Detroit and maintain its hold on the NFC’s top wild card spot. Warrick Dunn is an able replacement for Graham and the fifth-ranked defense has allowed more than 16 points just once since Week 4.

7. Jets (12): Last Thursday’s wild overtime victory at New England gave New York a 3-1 AFC East record and sole possession of the division lead for the first time since 2001. Brett Favre’s 93.0 passer rating is the opposite of his age (39). If the Jets can knock off the unbeaten Titans, they would have a shot at the top seed in the conference playoffs.

8. Redskins (5): Jim Zorn was the toast of Washington six weeks ago when the Redskins were 4-1 and had upset Dallas and Philadelphia on the road. But Zorn’s offense has been toast in the red zone since. The Redskins might get away with that Sunday at lowly Seattle, but with the defenses of the Giants and Ravens ahead, the coach needs to fix things in a hurry.

9. Ravens (6): If the run defense problems that suddenly cropped up against the Giants happen again Sunday against Philadelphia, then there’s trouble in Charm City. If not, the Ravens classic run the ball, stop the run formula could well earn them a playoff spot. QB Joe Flacco is doing a solid job of managing the game, especially for a rookie.

10. Falcons (7): In August, a 4-point loss to Denver would’ve been a success for the rebuilding Falcons. After their 6-3 start, it was a major disappointment. If Atlanta wants to a true Cinderella story, the loss to the Broncos can’t snowball into Sunday’s visit by NFC South leader Carolina, a team to which the Falcons lost 24-9 in Week 4.

11. Colts (15): It was apparently too soon to write the ending to Indy’s era of dominance. The Colts aren’t the team they were the past nine years, but they have won three straight and have the Browns, Bengals, Lions and Jags still to play. Avenging last year’s playoff loss Sunday at struggling San Diego would make the Colts 7-4 and put them in good position.

12. Cowboys (16): Tony Romo’s comeback look like it was going to be a continuation of the Cowboys’ woes without him when his second and third series ended with picks. But Romo was nearly flawless otherwise, Marion Barber revved up and the defense buckled down for the huge win in D.C. Visits by the Niners and Hawks should keep things on the upswing in Big D.

13. Patriots (13): Yes, New England lost by a field goal for the second time in three weeks, but the Pats have to be encouraged by the huge day from quarterback Matt Cassel as they head to Miami for a rematch with the Dolphins, who stunned them in Week 3. Bill Belichick’s defense ahas to play up to its usual standards for the Pats to reach postseason.

14. Dolphins (14): Miami won four straight, a huge achievement for a team that was 1-15 in 2007. However, edging Oakland on a last-minute field goal doesn’t mean that the Dolphins are very good right now despite the development of receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. Sweeping the Patriots would do that, especially with the Rams, Niners and Chiefs still to play.

15. Eagles (10): What’s worse, tying the lowly Bengals or 10th-year quarterback Donovan McNabb not knowing that regular season games can’t go beyond the first OT and that playoff games go until there’s a winner. The Eagles can’t get away with a similar performance Sunday at Baltimore and stay above .500.

16. Packers (19): The 37-3 rout of Chicago was an eye-opener for a team coming off nailbiters against Tennessee and Minnesota. Running back Ryan Grant, a revelation as a rookie in 2007, woke up with a big day against the Bears. If he can keep that going Sunday against New Orleans’ mediocre run defense, the Packers will stay atop the NFC North.

17. Saints (17): The NFL’s best offense topped 30 points for the fifth time last week, but the defense continued to struggle, giving up 330 yards and 20 points to the lousy Chiefs. At 5-5, the Saints are still in the NFC West cellar with a daunting schedule — Green Bay, at Tampa Bay, Atlanta — ahead. New Orleans is stuck in a win one, lose one pattern.

18. Broncos (21): Go figure Denver. Long one of the NFL’s top teams at home, the Broncos have lost their past two at Invesco Field but have won at Cleveland and Atlanta (where the Falcons had been undefeated). With the lousy Raiders coming to town this week, Denver should make it three in a row, but little has made sense with this team this season.

19. Vikings (18): Minnesota led 13-6 at halftime last week at Tampa Bay but couldn’t score in the second half to fall to 1-4 on the road. That loss and the possible suspensions of ace defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for positive tests for a banned substance doesn’t have the Vikings primed for a visit to a desperate Jacksonville team.

20. Bears (11): On Election Day as Illinois’ Barack Obama was winning the Presidency, the Bears were winning the NFC North. Since then, Chicago has been as effective as John McCain against Tennessee (a 21-14 loss) and Ralph Nader (a 37-3 wipeout at Green Bay). Chicago’s once-dominant defense is 19th overall, 30th against the pass and 21st in points allowed.

21. Chargers (22): Norv Turner, king of the narrow defeats, would be the first coach to find a way to lose 11-10. San Diego’s defense had no answers for the Steelers last week, allowing 410 yards, 73 on the 13-play drive which culminated in the game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left. It doesn’t get any easier for the 4-6 Bolts on Sunday against Indy.

22. Browns (23): New quarterback Brady Quinn has been just fine in his starts and old reliable kicker Phil Dawson’s five field goals, capped by a career-best 56-yarder, prevented a second 3-game losing streak this year on Monday at Buffalo. Quinn should improve to 2-1 as the starter Sunday at home against a bad Houston defense.

23. Bills (20): Buffalo reached 5-5 in very bad fashion, following a 4-0 start with a 1-5 skid that includes losses the past four weeks. Quarterback Trent Edwards, everyone’s darling in September, has turned as cold as the Buffalo weather with seven interceptions during the 0-4 slump. Probably better that Sunday’s game is at Kansas City rather than at home.

24. Jaguars (24): Jacksonville was ahead of Tennessee in most AFC South observers’ minds when the season started. But after being swept by the unbeaten Titans last week, the 4-6 Jags have already been eliminated from the division race. Jacksonville is 1-4 at home with the victory over Houston in OT. This team should be embarassed.

25. Bengals (28): Make it three straight weeks that the Bengals haven’t lost with a victory over the Jaguars followed by a bye and a tie (with the Eagles). The deadlock was Cincy’s first since it was a second-year AFL franchise in 1969. Marvin Lewis takes a 7-game road losing streak back home to Pittsburgh on Sunday. Make it an 8-game road losing streak.

26. Texans (25): Rookie Steve Slaton ran wild in Indy (156 yards on 14 carries). His 71-yard TD put Houston up 20-17 with 24:30 left. But as usual, the Texans were outcored 17-7 when it mattered. They take their 0-5 road record (12-41 alltime) to Cleveland on Sunday. At least the Browns are operating on a short week. The Texans just never really operate.

27. Seahawks (26): Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receiver Deion Branch finally returned last week against Arizona but the former threw for just 170 yards three picks and the latter had just four catches for 54 yards. And neither plays defense, which was trampled again. Will the Hawks be such kind host to former QB/QBs coach Jim Zorn and the Skins this week?

28. 49ers (31): In his first three games as the Niners’ coach, Mike Singletary has gone from getting pounded by Seattle, to losing a heartbreaker at Arizona to crushing St. Louis. That serious progress will likely take a serious detour Sunday at Dallas and it’s debatable whether San Francisco can show enough the rest of the way for Singletary to keep his job.

29. Chiefs (29): That’s six straight defeats for K.C. and a staggering 18 of 19 since a 2-2 start in 2007. At least there’s some hope this Sunday since Buffalo visits on a short week and with its own 4-game losing streak. It’s hard to see how coach Herm Edwards survives this disaster. Imagine if the Chiefs played in a good division as opposed to the AFC Worst.

30. Raiders (30): “Lost Generation” writer Gertude Stein was talking about Oakland, not the Raiders’ offense when she said “there’s no there, there.” But she could have been. The Raiders averaged 8.3 points the past six games. Since the defense has allowed an average of 22.3, the ugly results are obvious. And now comes Denver which beat them 41-14 in Week 1.

31. Rams (27): When you lose by 19 points to the 31st-rated team, a week after losing 47-3 to the Jets, you deserve to plummet like Wall Street. The Rams are a mess. Ace runner Steven Jackson and longtime stalwart tackle Orlando Pace are hurt. The defense plays like it’s hurt. When the punter is the bright spot, you know you’re having a horrible season.

32. Lions (32): The Tigers were a major bust this summer. Michigan football is an embarassment this fall. The crippled auto industry is praying for a government bailout. Life isn’t fun in Detroit (the Red Wings and Pistons excepted). Then there are the 0-10 Lions, who could make history with only .500 or better teams between them and an 0-16 record.