The Washington Times - September 18, 2008, 05:31PM

Once a staple of the print product, David Elfin’s weekly NFL Power Rankings have a new home on Redskins 360, where they’ll appear each Thursday.

For our first edition of the season, the top team is the Dallas Cowboys (whose fans have found a home over on Dan Daly’s column, enjoy!). David’s preseason rankings are in parentheses.



tony romo

(AP photo)

1. Cowboys (1) — The offense is certainly clicking, but QB Tony Romo’s gaffes have to give coach Wade Phillips pause as does his defense’s horrible first half against the Eagles with just six days to prepare for the visit to Aaron Rodgers and the potent Packers.

2. Giants (6) — The playoff runs of Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress have rolled into this season. New York’s confidence is sky-high. The defense has seven sacks despite losing Strahan and Umeniyora. Sunday’s game against the visiting Bungles could be over by the second quarter.

3. Packers (3) — Is Rodgers (117.8 passer rating) really this good? We’ll know more after Sunday’s matchup with the Cowboys. Coach Mike McCarthy has to be concerned about his pass defense which gave up two scoring bombs to Calvin Johnson in the fourth quarter last week to make the game close.

4. Steelers (8) — The only 2007 AFC playoff team not to have something terrible happen yet, Pittsburgh crushed Houston and had enough to win in rainy, windy Cleveland. Ben Roethlisberger’s sprained shoulder has to be a big concern, but the Steelers are too good for the Ravens this week.

5. Titans (15) — How does Jeff Fisher do it? He loses his QB — who might be losing his confidence and his mind — and has no receivers anyone knows, but Tennessee’s pass rush batters Jacksonville and its running game runs over the Bungles. The Texans are rested, but the Titans should still go to 3-0.

6. Cardinals (20) — They average just 2.7 yards a carry, but boy can these guys throw the ball. Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin were superlative in their first two games against the Niners and Fins. Throw in Larry Fitzgerald and it’s no wonder the Cards are 2-0 for the first time in 17 years.

7. Patriots (3) — They’re 2-0 since losing Tom Brady in the first quarter of the opener. The victories over the Chiefs and Jets haven’t been pretty, but last year’s offensive explosion made some people forget that Bill Belichick always won with defense. Miami won’t stop the Pats from staying perfect.

8. Bills (22) — Sure, Seattle and Jacksonville are injury-riddled, but Buffalo’s victims were still playoff teams in 2007. That’s something the Bills haven’t been since the Music City Miracle of 1999. With Oakland and St. Louis next, it’s time to get excited in Buffalo about a likely 4-0 start.

9. Eagles (11) — If Donovan McNabb hadn’t muffed the handoff to Brian Westbrook in the fourth quarter of that wild Monday night game in Dallas, Philly could be atop the rankings. That the passing game has been so good minus its top two WRs says that the Eagles will be in the hunt all season.

10. Broncos (21) — I still don’t think they’re for real, not with this shoddy defense (excepting stud CB Champ Bailey), but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are certainly getting it done. Denver won’t need Mike Shanahan to gamble on a last-second 2-point conversion on Sunday at Kansas City.

11. Panthers (10) — They survived in San Diego on a last-second TD catch by previously unknown TE Dante Rosario. They came from 17-3 down with 18 minutes left to beat Chicago 20-17. Now top weapon Steve Smith is back from his suspension just in time to tangle with Minnesota‘s tenacious D.

12. Bears (25) — WR Brandon Lloyd has done more in two games than he did in two years as a Redskin. Maybe that minimum salary provided the kick-start he needed. Losing the big lead at Carolina wasn’t good, but rookie RB Matt Forte looks like the real deal and the defense remains big-time.

13. Redskins (16) — After a lackluster debut, QB Jason Campbell and rookie coach Jim Zorn both stepped it up against the Saints. The fourth quarter comeback might have gotten Campbell over the hump, but the CBs will have their hands full with the Cardinals’ passing game on Sunday.

14. Saints (9) — They’ve got QB Drew Brees and a good D-line, but they won’t win without a running game — that means you Mr. Overrated Bush — or a secondary. Can’t see any of the latter hanging with Brandon “18 Catches” Marshall very long.

15. Buccaneers (17) — The ever-excellent Tampa Bay Cover 2 defense brought Atlanta and rookie QB Matt Ryan back to reality last Sunday. However, the red-hot Bucs running attack doesn’t figure to be nearly so effective against the stingy Bears in what should be a defensive struggle at Soldier Field.

16. Chargers (2) — Certainly the NFL‘s best 0-2 team. A last-second loss on a Carolina TD pass was followed by a blown call and 2-point conversion that turned victory into defeat in Denver. Even though the Bolts play in the AFC Worst, they need to find a way to overcome Norv’s usual karma in the clutch and win again on Monday against Brett Favre and the Jets.

17. Jets (19) — Two games into his AFC West career and a month shy of his 39th birthday, the un-retired Brett Favre has a 104.1 passer rating. But the Jets have scored just 30 points. The defense has been first-rate and will be tested by L.T. and Co. on Monday.

18. Ravens (26) — John Harbaugh debuted with a dominating victory over the Bungles and has had to wait two weeks to try to make it a winning streak. That could well happen against Cleveland because the Ravens’ defense is a good match for the Browns‘ so far disappointing offense.

19. Colts (4) — Did the comeback from a 15-0 deficit at Minnesota get the longtime offensive juggernaut off the schneid? Maybe that’s the case for Peyton Manning, but Joseph Addai looks lost without Jeff Saturday leading the blocking. Indy’s not exactly primed for the visit by AFC South archrival Jacksonville.

20. Jaguars (7) — The NFL’s second-best winless team. A decimated 0-line has left Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew like Martha and the Vandellas: with nowwhere to run. That’s put too much pressure on QB David Garrard to win games. So Gregg Williams’ defense will have to be in top form in Indianapolis.

21. Vikings (5) — No team with a back as good as Adrian Peterson and a defense as ferocious as Minnesota’s should be 0-2, but coach Brad Childress is the Norv of the NFC: he finds a way to lose. Benching QB Tarvaris Jackson after two games and naming 37-year-old journeyman Gus Frerotte the starter for the rest of the season reeks of desperation.

22. 49ers (29) — Aftre losing at home to Arizona, Mike Nolan’s guys could’ve given up when they fell behind 14-0 in Seattle midway through the first quarter. But J.T. O’Sullivan showed that he can run Mike Martz‘s offense and win. Now with the help of former Lion O’Sullivan, Martz gets a shot at Detroit, which fired him after just two seasons as O.C.

23. Seahawks (13) — How bad is Mike Holmgren’s injury situation at WR? So bad that his top wideout last week was Billy McMullen, who just showed up after being cut by Washington. And now Seattle is giving Koren “Trouble” Robinson yet another shot to show he can stay straight. The good news is that the Rams visit this week and they’re even worse.

24. Browns (12) — Playing the Cowboys and Steelers (in awful conditions) is why TE Kellen Winslow and WR Braylon Edwards are averaging just 9 yards a catch and RB Jamal Lewis is averaging just 3.1 a carry, right? The defense should do better against the punchless Ravens, but struggling QB Derek Anderson and the offense have to get going.

25. Falcons (31) — It’s not Lions week every Sunday in the NFL, eh Mr. Ryan? Fortunately, the rookie can hand off all afternoon to RBs Michael Turner and Jerrious Norwood against Kansas City’s porous run defense.

26. Raiders (30) — You would feel sorry for Lane Kiffin, who’s being left to twist in the wind by over-the-hill boss Al Davis, but the man was extremely lucky to become an NFL head coach at 32. And Kiffin’s rookie RBs, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, can make any coach look good despite the disaster that is second-year QB JaMarcus Russell.

27. Chiefs (28) — RB Larry Johnson looks he might be done before he turns 29. They are weak on both lines. The QB in crunch time last week was someone named Tyler Thigpen. At least former DB Herm Edwards’ team can play a little pass defense.

28. Texans (18) — They’re only this high because unlike everyone elese below them, they only have one loss thanks to losing last weekend’s game to Hurricane Ike. However, the extra practice time likely won’t help against the Titans, who won all six meetings the past three seasons, unless the O-line gives QB Matt Schaub lots of time to find WR Andre Johnson.

29. Lions (24) — They have no defense. They have no running game. QB Jon Kitna had two picks take back for TDs by the Packers last week. But even though Mike Martz is gone, Detroit can still keep games interesting the way it can pitch and catch.

30. Dolphins (32) — They’re bad and they know it. This is a young team that hopes that veteran QB Chad Pennington can keep it competitive while the kids learn on the job. Even though Tom Brady’s hurt, it could be ugly this weekend in New England.

31. Bengals (23) — At least Marvin Lewis could always count on his offense as his defense bombed yet again. But now Carson Palmer and Co. are nightmarish. Palmer has a 37.1 rating. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ocho Stinko have 11 catches between them and the Rudi-less ground game has ground to a halt. They’ll be no match for the defending champion Giants.

32. Rams (27) — Like the Bungles, the long-potent Lambs have forgotten how to get it done on offense. Are Torry Holt, Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger really occupying those uniforms? They’re playing like Cedrick Holt and Tarvaris Jackson. How long will coach Scott Linehan last?