The Washington Times - October 11, 2008, 03:06PM

Out of the dead tree and on to the Internet, David Elfin’s weekly NFL Power Rankings have a new home here on Redskins 360, where they’ll appear each week.

This week, the Giants have held on to their top spot in the rankings, and the Titans remain No. 2. The Bills fell after their loss, and the Redskins have taken advantage, moving up to the third spot in David’s rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses).


new york giants

1. Giants (1). That was some show that Eli and Co. put on without Plaxico against the Seahawks. The champs are first in total offense, first in rushing, second in pass defense and third in total defense. The Giants are 18-4 dating to Week 3 of last year. Does anyone think they’re going to lose at Cleveland?

2. Titans (2). As is so typical of a Jeff Fisher-coached team, Tennessee had just enough to beat Baltimore last week. The Titans are 25th in offense and 24th in passing, but they’re the only 5-0 team because they play ferocious defense (fifth) and they don’t beat themselves. Their plus-6 turnover ratio is tied for No. 1. They don’t need this bye week.

3. Redskins (4). When the schedule came out and Washington faced all three of its formidable NFC East foes on the road in the first five weeks, some observers picked the Redskins to be 1-4. Others said 2-3. But thanks to much-improved quarterback Jason Campbell, wily and aggressive rookie coach Jim Zorn and a solid defense, they’re 4-1 and on a roll.

4. Steelers (6). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 18 times, but has produced a fine 95.7 passer rating. And the second-ranked defense, led by a fierce group of linebackers is as good as any. Avenging the playoff loss to the Jags was sweet. This week’s bye should help ailing running back Willie Parker and Roethlisberger to heal.

5. Cowboys (5). As Tony Romo and Co. showed again against Cincy, Dallas is going to score. In bunches. But as the defense showed again in enabling the Bungles to get close late, championships are earned, they’re not annointed. Especially to a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 11 years and a coach who has never won in postseason.

6. Bills (3). Give ‘em a little break because quarterback Trent Edwards went down on the third play at Arizona. Not that Edwards’ absence explained how poorly the previously stout defense played against the Anquan Boldin-less Cardinals. We’ll find out whether the Bills are for real when they return from this week’s bye with a tough stretch of games.

7. Bears (11). They’re not this good, but the four teams that were ranked just ahead of them lost last week, three to much lower foes. So here the Bears are. Maybe Kyle Orton just needed the better part of two years on the bench to mature. Maybe the defense found itself with that goal-line stand against the Eagles. Maybe Chicago‘s the best in a bad division.

8. Ravens (10). Yes, they lost a heartbreaker last Sunday at home, but it was to the unbeaten Titans. Hence the move up two spots. Baltimore is playing wicked defense, allowing the fewest yards in the air and on the ground as well as just three touchdowns heading into a tough test at Indy. Imagine if the Ravens had any semblance of a passing game.

9. Patriots (13). The loss two weeks ago to Miami doesn’t look quite as horrible now that the Dolphins upset the Chargers, too. If the Pats can take care of the Bolts this week for the third time in 26 games, all will be back on track in Brady-less hand. If not, the Bosox better keep winning to keep New England fans’ minds off what’s wrong with the Pats.

10. Panthers (16). It seemed like ages since Carolina put a hurting on an opponent like the one it laid on Kansas City last Sunday. With Tampa Bay and New Orleans both losing and having already whipped Atlanta, the Panthers can really take command of the NFC South by winning at Tampa Sunday and beating the Saints at home the following week.

11. Dolphins (23). It’s very hard to jump 12 spots in the rankings in a week, but that’s what stunning last year’s AFC finalists, New England and San Diego, in consecutive games will do. Rookie coach Tony Sparano’s use of Ronnie Brown in the single-wing looks brilliant and the reconstruction of the run defense (32nd in 2007, seventh now) has been superb.

12. Cardinals (20). If being spanked 56-35 by the Jets on the road dropped the Cards like a stone, whipping the previously perfect Bills 41-17 at home sends them soaring back up the charts. Arizona is also atop the NFC West with Dallas coming to town. If the Cards can upset the mighty Cowboys, then they might really be playoff-bound for the first time in a decade.

13. Eagles (12). The NFL‘s best team with a losing record, Philly lost to Dallas, Chicago and Washington by just four points each game. Still, the Eagles can’t afford many more close losses since they play in the elite NFC East. Linchpin running back Brian Westbrook has broken ribs, but fortunately the schedule is much easier the rest of October.

14. Broncos (15). Where did that defensive effort against the Bucs come from all of a sudden? If Bob Slowik’s guys can play that way the next two weeks against the Jags and Pats, then all of the hard work by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal et al on offense won’t go to waste. Until then, this is a deeply flawed 4-1 team.

15. Buccaneers (8). Would they have won in Denver if Brian Griese hadn’t gotten hurt? Probably not given that they were the first team to in four weeks to make the Broncos seem like they have a defense. Speaking of defense, it’s shocking to see this long-outstanding defense out of the top 10 against the run and out of the top 20 against the pass.

16. Jets (14). Someone likes Eric Mangini. Brett Favre falls in his lap and now the Jets face winless Cincinnati, turmoil-tossed Oakland and hapless Kansas City coming out of a bye week before a visit to Buffalo and a date with winless St. Louis. New York (2-2) would have to try to lose not to top last year’s four W’s by early November.

17. Chargers (7). Nobody has practiced against the single wing since the days of leather helmets, but San Diego defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and his players saw Miami use it against New England and still seemed unprepared to counteract it. The Bolts have allowed 10 TD passes and L.T.’s averaging 3.7 a carry. They hardly seem ready for the Pats this week.

18. Falcons (27). This might be as high as Atlanta gets in the rankings all year, but kudos to rookie coach Mike Smith for convincing his young team it can win in places like Lambeau Field after the franchise was devastated by Michael Vick crimes and Bobby Petrino’s dishonesty. If the Falcons could stop the run as well they run, they’d really be dangerous.

19. Packers (4). It’s not Aaron Rodgers’ fault that Green Bay has hit the skids. Brett Favre’s former understudy has a 95.7 passer rating even though he played last week with a bum shoulder. The trouble is the underachieving defense and the disappearing ground game. Seattle’s suspect pass defense is ripe to be had, but Rodgers can’t win by himself.

20. Vikings (18). They allowed two punt return touchdowns and Adrian Peterson could never get untracked in New Orleans, but they still escaped the Superdome with a 30-27 victory thanks to some critical throws by 37-year-old Gus Frerotte in his first Monday night start in 11 years. Playing the Lions at home should feel like a bye week after that struggle.

21. Jaguars (19). This time against Pittsburgh, the breaks didn’t go Jacksonville‘s way. And if not for last-second field goals by Josh Scobee to edge Indy and Houston, the Jags would be 0-5. They could really use a bye, but instead they face Denver’s high-powered offense with a defense that is struggling to stop anybody. At least the bye comes next.

22. Saints (17). How do you get two punt return touchdowns from Reggie Bush and lose at home to the Vikings, who were 6-12 on the road under coach Brad Childress? The Saints mamaged to do by losing four turnovers, having a blocked field goal returned for a TD and committing 11 penalties. The good news lowly Oakland visits the Superdome on Sunday.

23. Colts (21). Yeah, teams that win aren’t supposed to drop in the rankings, but Indy would be winless if not for improbable finishes at Minnesota and Houston. The offensive line has been beat-up, but any team that ranks last in rushing and run defense a quarter of the way through the season can’t be considered a serious Super Bowl contender.

24. Seahawks (22). Sure, the receiving corps has been ravaged by injuries, but that’s no excuse for the utter collapse of the defense which surrendered 523 yards and 44 points to the Giants after having two weeks to prepare. Mike Holmgren’s farewell is no party. Seattle has only beaten winless St. Louis and has five games against ‘07 playoff teams remaining.

25. Texans (25). Houston does what bad teams do: finds a way to lose. The Texans push the Jaguars to overtime and give up the winning field goal before ever getting the ball again. Sage Rosenfels loses two late fumbles that allow the Colts to stage a miracle comeback. Now it will take an 8-4 finish to match the 8-8 mark of ‘07. Ain’t gonna happen.

26. Chiefs (24). The 33-point explosion against Denver was apparently a mirage because Kansas City was embarassed in the shutout loss at Carolina. Larry Johnson carried seven times for two yards. Herman Edwards is playing for the future by going back to kid quarterback Brodie Croyle after this week’s bye. But will the coach be around to see it?

27. 49ers (26). They hung in there with the Patriots for a while in what was supposed to be Tom Brady’s homecoming to the Bay Area, but four years into Mike Nolan’s program, his team still doesn’t enough pieces to be a winner. The porous offensive line has allowed 20 sacks and figures to be overwhelmed by the Eagles and the Giants the next two weeks.

28. Browns (28). Romeo Crennel and Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls together as Giants assistants. Coughlin won last year’s title as the boss of their old team. Crennel’s team was a chic pick to finally get there this year. Crennel will only be in Tampa as a guest because his mess of a team will sink to 1-4 after squashed by the Giants on Monday night.

29. Raiders (29). Al Davis’ alma mater, Syracuse, could well be the worst team in Division I. His NFL franchise could wind up as the NFL’s worst. Again. Interim coach Tom Cable will learn very soon that predecessor Lane Kiffin might have been overmatched, but that he wasn’t the main problem in Oakland. That man can be found in the owner’s office.

30. Bengals (30). Carson Palmer revived the passing game with a gutsy effort at Dallas. But Ocho Stinko simply refuses to be revived while wearing the tiger stripes. And former defensive guru Marvin Lewis has yet to revive the defense in six years in Cincinnati. Expect Lewis to be relieved come the end of the season even if the Bengals win a game or two.

31. Lions (31). So much for the long-awaited dismissal of general manager Matt Millen curing what ails Detroit. A 27-point home loss after a bye to so-so Chicago? Was it just last year that quarterback Jon Kitna was promising a playoff berth? Can it get any uglier for coach Rod Marinelli Sunday in Minnesota?

32. Rams (32). Jim Haslett took over a mess in New Orleans in 2000 (remember the Mike Ditka era) and guided the Saints to the playoffs. But at least he had a full offseason to change the culture. The interim coach’s offense has some weapons, but if hasn’t been able to fix the Rams’ defense the last two-plus years, how can he fix the whole team?