The Washington Times - October 2, 2008, 07:29PM

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 Thursday.

And, there’s a new No. 1 team, thanks largely to the Washington Redskins (who jumped from 11th to fourth on the list). The defending Super Bowl champion Giants take over the top spot, while the Cowboys — losers last Sunday to the Redskins — fell to fifth. As always, last week’s rankings are in parentheses.


1. Giants (2) — They’ve had a week to rest after the too close for comfort victory over Cincy . They lost in noisy Seattle in 2005 and 2007, but the Seahawks don’t have the pass defense to stop Eli Manning (even without suspended top target Plaxico Burress) and this game’s at Giants Stadium. New York stays perfect since December.

2. Titans (3) — The Steelers showed that the Ravens could be scored on, which has to give Tennessee hope that it can do the same on Sunday despite having retread Kerry Collins at quarterback. Rookie running back Chris Johnson has been dynamic while linebacker Keith Bulluck and the defense are too formidable for Baltimore’s underwhelming offense.

3. Bills (7) — The NFL ‘s biggest surprise is in the market most in need of an injection of excitement. Young quarterback Trent Edwards is hot as is Dick Jauron’s defense, which hasn’t been tested like it will be by Arizona. However, the Cardinals’ defense was blistered by Jets quarterback Brett Favre and could be taken apart again by Edwards and Co.

4. Redskins (11) — A consensus last-place pick in the rigorous NFC East , Washington and quarterback Jason Campbell are flying high after three straight conference victories, the last a stunning upset in Dallas. But now the Redskins, who haven’t won two straight division road games since 2001 when Arizona was still in the NFC East, have to try to win in Philly.

5. Cowboys (1) — Their Super Bowl reservations are on hold following the beating on both sides of the ball by the visiting Redskins. The Cowboys are still the NFL’s most talented team, but if not for a botched late handoff by the Eagles, they’d be 2-2. Dallas will take out its frustrations on the winless Bengals on Sunday.

6. Steelers (6) — It has been a curious start in the ‘Burgh where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and ace running back Willie Parker have been hurting, but the ailing Steelers have hung tough to start 3-1. Sunday they’ll be out to avenge for the home playoff loss to the Jaguars in a game that could be a serious barometer for the rest of the season.

7. Chargers (9) — The chic preseason AFC pick, San Diego’s season seemed in jeopardy with a shocking early 15-0 deficit in Oakland last week. That’s when All-Pro back LaDainian Tomlinson got his mojo back and the defense rediscovered its pass rush. Pats-killer Miami is next and a victory over those unheralded Dolphins is necessary with New England up next.

8. Buccaneers (12) — They gave up three long touchdowns, turned the ball over three times and committed eight penalties and yet still pulled away from the Packers. Monte Kiffin’s defense isn’t the force it long had been, but it still might be good enough in the wacky NFC South . Ex-Broncos QB Brian Griese would relish a victory in his return to Denver.

9. Packers (4) — Oh, Mr. Grant. Running back Ryan Grant, the surprise hit of 2007 in Green Bay, had 20 yards on 15 carries at Tampa. The lack of a ground game stymied quarterback Aaron Rodgers who threw three picks and hurt his shoulder. The Falcons at home should be the cure for what ailed the Packers in their back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Bucs.

10. Ravens (10) — After a cake start (Bengals, bye, Browns), rookie coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco had it going again with a 13-3 halftime lead in Pittsburgh . But then reality bit as the Steelers rallied to force OT and then won the game. Sunday’s test at Tennessee figures to be another tight defensive struggle.

11. Bears (16) — A goal-line stand in Week 3 helped make the underdog Giants Super Bowl champions in 2007. Could a goal-line stand in Week 4 turn the underdog Bears into the NFC North kings in 2008? Could be, especially if quarterback Kyle Orton plays the way he did early against Philly. Having Detroit twice and Atlanta in the next four games helps, too.

12. Eagles (5) — Sure, they missed linchpin back Brian Westbrook against the Bears. Sure, they’ve already had to play without four other offensive starters. But how could Andy Reid be so conservative in three shots from the Chicago 1 with Donovan McNabb under center? A home loss to Washington on Sunday could be problematic longterm in the NFC East race.

13. Patriots (13) — There’s no way that Bill Belichick’s Patriots can lose back-to-back to the Dolphins and 49ers, right? Matt Cassel is certainly no Tom Brady, but this team still has Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork et al. With the Chargers and Broncos up next, New England would actually be in trouble with a loss at San Francisco.

14. Jets (21) — Just when you think you’ve seen it all from Brett Favre, he tosses a career-high six touchdown passes less than a month from his 38th birthday. And now come games against Cincinnati, Oakland and Kansas City (combined record 2-10). If defense-minded coach Eric Mangini can get his struggling defense on track, this could be a playoff team.

15. Saints (15) — After three straight nailbiters, it was over by halftime in the Superdome against the Niners. That doesn’t figure to be the case against the Vikings, who can make New Orleans a pass-only offense and can expose the Saints’ mediocre run defense with Adrian Peterson. Drew Brees has to clearly outplay Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte for the W.

16. Panthers (18) — It was circa 2003 last Sunday in Charlotte as Jake Delhomme hit Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad with touchdown bombs in a rout of Atlanta. Kansas City, despite its upset of Denver, shoud be just as much of a pushover unless the Panthers are caught looking ahead to next week’s NFC South showdown at Tampa Bay.

17. Jaguars (19) — Is any team giving its fans more heartburn than the Jags? Since the narrow losses in Nashville and Buffalo, Jacksonville has beaten Indy and Houston on final-play goals. Gregg Williams’ defense needs to force more turnovers, but the offense is improving heading into Sunday’s playoff rematch with the Steelers.

18. Vikings (17) — Last week’s game was Gus Frerotte in a nutshell: 266 passing yards but two turnovers. At 37, the Gus Bus still has more air in its tires than youngster Tarvaris Jackson, but with the Packers and Bears both favored to win this week, the Vikes will fall two games back in the NFC North unless they can knock off the Saints on the road.

19. Broncos (8) — How bad is the Denver defense? So bad that it was plowed through by a Kansas City offense that was inept in its first three games. Four turnovers by the Broncos’ offense didn’t help, but Jay Cutler still passed for 361 yards. The Bucs don’t have a big-time offense, but they might look like the ‘99 Rams against Denver’s D on Sunday.

20. Cardinals (14) — So much for spending the whole week on the East Coast, huh Whiz? The questionable decision to bunk in D.C. between games with the Redskins and the Jets looks horrible after the 56-35 bludgeoning in New York. And now the unbeaten Bills visit the desert. The excitment over the Cards’ first 2-0 start since ‘91 has been all but forgotten.

21. Colts (20) — If the Colts used the bye week to get almost all of their ailing players back in shape as it seemed from the Wednesday injury report, then the 1-2 start could quickly become just a bad memory after Sunday’s game at Houston. But if the lowly Texans win, we might truly be witnessing the end of Indy’s longstanding excellence.

22. Seahawks (23) — Like the Colts, the perennial NFC West champion Seahawks have been decimated by injuries, particularly at receiver. But even if Mike Holmgren’s team was fully healthy, a visit to the unbeaten Giants wouldn’t be fun. Seattle actually has more offensive touchdowns (7-6) than its foes, but now the schedule gets tougher.

23. Dolphins (24) — Miami has gone two weeks without a loss for the first time since 2006. Of course, last week was a bye, but if the Dolphins can pound the Patriots on the road, there’s no reason they can’t hang with the visiting Chargers this week. The Dolphins are running the ball and stopping the run and that should allow them to stay in most games.

24. Chiefs (31) — They were whipped by the rancid Raiders and crushed by the Falcons with a rookie coach and rookie quarterback. So KC was left for dead until coach Herm Edwards decided to play veteran quarterback Damon Huard against the dreadful Denver defense. ButCarolina is better defensively and the Chiefs’ defense will have trouble with Steve Smith.

25. Texans (29) — They forced OT in Jacksonville with a last-second field goal but lost the coin flip and never got the ball back. Such is life for the 7-year-old franchise which has yet to finish even .500. Now comes a date with the rested Colts. Life isn’t easy in the AFC South . At least rookie running back Steve Slaton looks like the real deal.

26. 49ers (22) — The 2-game winning streak ended with a thud in New Orleans. Ahead are four matchups with the 2007 Super Bowl teams, the potent Eagles and the Seahawks, who’ll be out to avenge a Week 2 OT upset. The 2-1 record before last week figures to be San Francisco’s high-water mark this season despite Frank Gore and new quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan.

27. Falcons (25) — Their 24-9 loss at Carolina probably went largely unnoticed in the gloom in the Peachtree State over Georgia’s defeat by Alabama. Not much is expected from the Falcons, but their defense has been stingy under former Jags coordinator Mike Smith, their running game has been superlative and rookie passer Matt Ryan has shown serious potential.

28. Browns (28) — They have the NFL’s worst offense despite the presence of Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Jamal Lewis, but they’re the best team in Ohio (Whoo, Hoo!) after beating the Bengals. Quarterback Derek Anderson is still a mess and they face four straight good defenses after their bye: Giants, Redskins, Jaguars, Ravens. Oy.

29. Raiders (26) — That boyish-looking man singing “I’m Free” isn’t Roger Daltrey (he’s a couple of decades past boyish), it’s Lane Kiffin, who’s happy to join Mike Shanahan, Norv Turner, Joe Bugel et al as a former Raiders coach. Blowing a 15-0 lead against San Diego was the last straw for owner Al Davis, whose self-inflicted wound are almost sad. Almost.

30. Bengals (27) — The only team in the bottom four not to fire its coach or general manager in the past 10 days, Cincinnati is also the only one with no chance to win on Sunday. The Bengals are in Dallas while the Lions play host to the Bears and the Raiders and Rams have byes. If Carson Palmer can’t play, Cincinnati might as well just forfeit.

31. Lions (30) — While Matt Millen should’ve been canned long ago, firing a GM during the season has little effect except to show the players and the fans that even the Ford family has its limits when it comes to tolerating losing. Sunday against Chicago, coach Rod Marinelli and his team can show if they got the message during their bye week.

32. Rams (32) — Jim Haslett led the previously horrid Saints to the playoffs as a rookie coach in 2000, but they never repeated that success. Now he gets a second chance to take over a truly bad team. St. Louis wasn’t competitive in any of its four games under Scott Linehan. Haslett has a bye this week to get ready for the Redskins, Cowboys and the Pats.