The Washington Times - October 17, 2008, 11:20AM

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.

After a crazy week, the Tennessee Titans take over the top spot. The Titans, Steelers and Bills all were idle last week, and every other team ranked in the top 11 lost last week — including the No. 1 Giants and the No. 3 Redskins.

This week’s rankings follow (Last week’s rankings in parentheses).



(AP photo of Tennessee’s David Thornton, Nick Harper and Chris Hope)

1. Titans (2): Yes, they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. Yes, they don’t have a passing game (Ever hear of leading receiver Bo Scaife?). But they have a hellacious pass rush and a sure-fingered secondary. The Titans also have the NFL‘s only perfect record, one that will stay that way after Sunday’s game at Kansas City so they’re No. 1.

2. Giants (1): Keeping the champs on top can certainly be argued depite their awful outing in Cleveland, but in truth, New York’s only quality W was its opener against Washington when it didn’t score after halftime. Cleveland exposed the Giants’ secondary and showed that when Eli Manning, who’s not 100 percent, has a bad day, New York is quite beatable.

3. Steelers (4): Have a bye week and have two of the three teams ahead of you in the rankings lose in shocking upsets and you move up a notch. If coach Mike Tomlin and his staff used the break to devise some better pass-blocking schemes, it will have been time well spent. Cincy won’t be a test, but then come the Giants, Skins, Colts and Bolts in order.

4. Redskins (3): Losing at home to a winless team normally sends a team skidding down the rankings, but the 19-17 loss to the Rams was a very fluky defeat, one in which Washington should’ve won after rallying for 10 points in the fourth quarter. And not one of the top 10 teams won last week. The Redskins certainly won’t overlook the Browns on Sunday.

5. Cardinals (12): This spot is debatable, but Arizona whipped then-unbeaten Buffalo (albeit after knocking out Bills quarterback Trent Edwards on the first series) and knocked off powerful Dallas the past two weeks. The Cardinals struggle running the ball, but their passing game makes them the class of the NFC Worst.

6. Cowboys (5): Kings of the hill three weeks ago, the Cowboys are in turmoil. Tony Romo is out four weeks, leaving the accurate but rag-armed Brad Johnson at quarterback. Adam Jones‘s suspension weakened an already overrated secondary. And the trade for receiver Roy Williams has to leave Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin wondering what they did wrong.

7. Bills (6): Losses by New England and Miami made Buffalo’s bye week even more enjoyable. Trent Edwards should return from the concussion that ended his Arizona game after three plays. San Diego seems to be a tough task, but the Chargers are struggling on defense so if Marshawn Lynch and Lee Evans can get in the open field, the host Bills could move to 5-1.

8. Buccaneers (15): Give Jon Gruden and quarterback Jeff Garcia, who looks older than his coach props for thumping NFC South rival Carolina. Tampa‘s two losses have come by a total of seven points and one was against an AFC foe, so the Bucs are looking strong in the NFC playoff chase. They should cruise Sunday at home against the shell of the Seahawks.

10. Bears (7): Despite losing late to surprising Atlanta, the Bears might be the best in the bad NFC North if they can beat so-so Minnesota at home on Sunday. Chicago‘s three losses have come by a total of eight points. While the run defense remains elite, the Bears are better this year because of rookie back Matt Forte and rising quarterback Kyle Orton.

9. Falcons (18): I’m not quite a believer yet, but rookie coach Mike Smith has already matched last year’s four victories after his young team edged the Packers and the Bears the past two weeks. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan seems like the real deal and John Abraham has become an elite passrusher again at 30. These guys will enjoy their bye week.

10. Eagles (13): Down 26-17 heading into the fourth quarter at San Francisco, the Eagles were well on their way to a disheartening third straight loss. But quarterback Donovan McNabb held things together and Philly won the fourth quarter 23-0 to prove it can win on the road without ace running back Brian Westbrook, who could be back after this week’s bye.

11. Chargers (17): Pounding the Patriots 30-10 in revenge for playoff losses in 2006 and 2007 was sweet, Tom Brady or no Tom Brady. But three of the next four are on the road at Buffalo, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. If the Bolts are still within sight of the AFC West-leading Broncos after that stretch, they could well defend their division title.

12. Panthers (10): Getting pounded at Tampa Bay last Sunday was so Carolina-like. Instead of pulling away in the NFC South, the Panthers fell into a three-way tie with the Bucs and Falcons while the Saints are just a game back. Jake Delhomme was picked off three times by the Bucs as he heads into this week’s aerial duel with New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

13. Ravens (8): Those season-opening victories over the Bengals and Browns seem pretty far away now they’ve been followed by three straight losses. If the blowout by the Colts was a fluke off day by the defense, Baltimore can hang with Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the AFC North. If it was the start of a slide for the top-ranked unit, this team is in big trouble.

14. Browns (28): Any team that blows out the unbeaten, defending Super Bowl champion Giants by three touchdowns deserves to shoot up the rankings. If Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards can make the same kind of big plays and the defense can hassle Jason Campbell the way it did Eli Manning, the Browns can continue their renaissance against the Redskins.

15. Patriots (9): They can’t really be this bad, can they? Losses by 25 and 20 points in two of their last three games? Sure, quarterback Matt Cassel isn’t anything close to injured predecessor Tom Brady, but Brady didn’t play defense last time I checked. Bill Belichick’s crew can’t stop the run which is never a good thing heading into a matchup with Denver.

16. Jets (16): Brett Favre didn’t rip apart the Bengals for six touchdowns the way he did the Cardinals the previous game, but he still completed 25 of 33 passes and he has the Jets within a victory of last year’s total of four. They should get No. 4 Sunday at Oakland without much difficulty. Having the third-ranked run defense makes it easier.

17. Colts (23): It was just one game, but Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne looked like their vintage selves as they torched the top-ranked Ravens defense for 11 catches, 211 yards and three scores. Indy’s opportunistic defense forced five turnovers and recording four sacks. It won’t be nearly so easy to continue the comeback at Green Bay.

18. Dolphins (11): Miami, which won just one game last season, was oh so close to a three-game tear but couldn’t close the deal. Still, it was a bad loss, coming to previously winless Houston after the Dolphins led 14-3 early in the second quarter. The Ravens won’t test Miami’s weak pass defense, so 20 points by the offense could produce a victory.

19. Packers (19): Pulling away from the struggling Seahawks doesn’t mean the Pack is back after consecutive losses to Dallas, Tampa Bay and Atlanta, but at 3-3, Green Bay is on top of the lousy NFC North. The Pack can’t stop the run, but Indy can’t run the ball so Sunday’s game at Lambeau should be the Aaron Rodgers vs. Peyton Manning show. Bring the popcorn.

20. Jaguars (21): The Jags have been through a lot (injuries, a shooting, drug woes), but they’ve now won at Indy and Denver to stay in the AFC playoff hunt. Maybe Gregg Williams can patch his defense during this week’s bye. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who exploded against the Broncos, didn’t want the time off, but the rest of the team needed it.

21. Broncos (14): After stepping up against the Bucs, the defense came crashing down against the Jags, giving up 416 yards. How a unit with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly at the corners is the worst against the pass is hard to figure. Winning in Foxbor isn’t easy, but Denver’s 5-1 against the Pats the past seven years and New England is off its game.

22. Saints (22): After narrow defeats to Wasington, Denver and Minnesota in three of the previous four weeks, New Orleans fans were nervous when Oakland led well into the second quarter, but from then on, it was all Saints. If they can make it four out of five years with a victory at Carolina on Sunday, they’ll be in good shape in the NFC South race.

23. Vikings (20): Normally, teams don’t drop in the rankings when they win. But that’s what happens when you need a questionable pass interference call and a last-second field goal to beat pathetic Detroit at home, 12-10. A similar performance Sunday against Chicago will put a quick end to Minnesota’s 2-game winning streak.

24. Texans (25): With Matt Schaub back at quarterback, the Texans pulled out the victory over the Dolphins rather than blowing a sure W against the Colts. Schaub scored the winning touchdown and passed for 379 yards. The defense didn’t do as well, but with the Lions coming to town, the Texans are about to have a 2-game winning streak. It’s party time in Houston.

25. Seahawks (24): Matt Hasselbeck couldn’t play against the Packers. Nor could Seneca Wallace. So Charlie Frye showed why the Browns got rid of him, passing for 83 yards while being picked off twice and sacked three times. Three of the next four are on the road and then the schedule gets harder. Maybe Mike Holmgren shouldn’t wait until January to retire.

26. 49ers (27): Give the Niners some credit for taking a 26-17 lead on the Eagles into the fourth quarter. But the 0-23 blowout in the final quarter showed yet again that Mike Nolan, a highly-touted defensive coordinator, can’t stop foes as a head coach. The Niners have allowed at least 30 points in four of their six games. And now they get the angry Giants.

27. Chiefs (26): Kansas City hasn’t scored all month. True, the Chiefs had a bye last week, but other than an inexplicable 33-point explosion against Denver, K.C. has averaged 8 points a game. Unbeaten Tennessee allows an NFL-low 11 points a game and is also coming off a bye. Anyone think the Chiefs have much of a chance of avoiding falling to 1-5?

29. Rams (32): Jim Haslett is unbeaten in St. Louis after stunning Washington in his debut. Donnie Avery started to justify being the first receiver picked in April with his late 43-yard catch. The woebegone defense recorded four sacks and forced four fumbles. But the Rams still were lucky to win. Maybe that luck carries over into Tony Romo-less Dallas.

30. Bengals (30): Apparently Carson Palmer really messed up his shoulder by trying to save the season two weeks ago in Dallas. Palmer’s heroics fell short and without him, the pussycats managed 171 yards and one offensive touchdown against the Jets. Palmer’s out again this week against the Steelers. Put winless Cincy down for a seventh straight loss.

31. Raiders (29): So Al Davis replaces baby-faced coach Lane Kiffin with Tom The Cable Guy and his Raiders jump on top of the Saints. OK, Oakland was outscored 34-0 the rest of the way as JaMarcus Russell was 13-for-35 in his return to Louisiana. Can a franchise actually get worse after finishing an NFL-worst 19-61 the past five seasons? Maybe this one

32. Lions (31): How many teams have ever tossed in the towel before Midnight Madness? Add the ‘08 Lions to the list. On Tuesday, winless Detroit traded top receiver Roy Williams for draft picks and put quarterback Jon Kitna on injured reserve. It’s hard to go 0-16, but the Lions, outscored 159-76 so far, don’t figure to be favored in any of their final 11 games.