Joe Theismann is the No. 2-rated quarterback in the National Football Conference and he will lead the Redskins Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and Ron Jaworski, the top-rated passer in the conference. However, Theismann's thoughts were not on his upcoming duel with Jaworski yesterday.

Both of Theismann's children, Joey, 6, and Amy, 5, were in a school-bus accident Wednesday and Theismann was still a bit shaken. His son was uninjured when the bus ran into a tree in Fairfax County but his daughter suffered a gash over her right eye that required 60 stitches.

"We brought her home from the hospital this morning," Theismann said, "and she seems to be OK. It was all very scary, though."

Theismann called his daughter who had open-heart surgery two years ago, "the toughest little lady who walks the earth."

The fact that Theismann and Jaworski are the top-rated passers in the conference is a surprise based on their statistics from last season, which were mediocre. Experience, patience and playing on better teams have all contributed to each skyrocketing in the ratings.

Going into Sunday's clash in Philadelphia. Jaworski is rated 24.1 points higher than he was a year ago. Theismann is up 25.3 points.

"I can definitely credit Joe Walton for what has happened to me," said Theismann. "He, Coach Jack Pardee and the overall system. I must be doing something right, too, I know, but they certainly have a lot to do with it."

Theismann's improvement can be seen simply by watching him. He does not force passes as he did in the past, he throws to secondary receivers, he has learned how to eat the ball and he is blessed with an offense designed for him.

Most important of all perhaps, he is the Redskins' No. 1 quarterback and he knows he will remain so, no matter what.

Jaworski has gone through a transformation, too.

"He is a changed quarterback," Pardee said. "He used to be bombs away, but not anymore. He's throwing short and he's going to the open receiver."

Jaworski leads the NFC with a rating of 84.4 and Theismann is right behind at 83.3.

The NFL has a 36-page booklet of charts, tables and instructions it uses to rate the passers. Here, basically, is how it works.

Four categories are used as a basis for rating a passer - percentage of touchdown passes, percentage of completions, percentage of interceptions and average yards gained per attempt.

A standard table has been devised by the league to translate each of these percentages into a figure that ranges from .000 to 2.375. To achieve a 2.375 rating in a given category, a passer would have a perform well above the NFL record in each category.

For example, to gain a 2.375 in completion percentage, a passer would have to complete 77.5 percent of his passes. The NFL record is 70.3. To gain 2.375 in percentage of interceptions, a passer would have to go interception-free. The 2.375 figure in average yards per completion is 12.5), compared to an NFL record of 11.17. To earn the maximum in percentage of touchdowns, a passer would have to achieve 11.9. The NFL record is 10.2.

To make the overall passing rating more understandable, another table then converts the total of the four .000-2.375 figures to a scale based on 100 (although this converted figure may exceed 100 points).

With all of this in mind, here is how Theismann got his 83.3 rating:

He has completed 50.7 percent of his passes. The table for point allocation on percentage of completions says that is worth 1.035 points. Theismann's percent of touchdown passes is 6.9, worth 1.380 points on the touchdown table. His 3.5 percentage of interceptions is worth 1.500 points and his 7.32 average yards per pass attempt gives him 1.080 according to the table for that statistic.

Add that up and Theismann has a total of 4.995.

The conversion into a 100 scale chart shows that a point total of 4.995 is an 83.3 rating.

The maximum rating attainable is 158.3. The best ever recorded is the 110.4 by Milt Plum in 1960. Second best is Sammy Baugh's 109.7 in 1945.

Although this system for rating passers wasn't introduced until 1973, players who performed before them can be rated with it because it is raging them against a set standard and not against other passers.

Which category is most important to a quarterback? "I don't even know what the categories are they use to rate us," Theismann said. "All I know is that we're 6-0. I do think touchdown passes and interceptions are the two most important stats a quarterback can have, though."

"If things are going good for the quarterback then usually they are going good for the team, so in that respect, it's good to be up among the league leaders," Theismann said.

Benny Malone arrived at Redskin Park just as practice was ending. He had his sprained ankle examined by team physician Stan Lavine, who said it is only a "moderate" sprain. The Redskins listed Malone as probable for Sunday's game.

"If he is completely ready to play, we might get him in for a couple of plays," Pardee said. "Maybe he'll get in on special teams; I don't know, yet."

Lemar Parrish, who missed Wednesday's practice with a sore back, and Donnie Hicman, who was sick with a virus, practiced yesterday, but Mike Thomas did not. Thomas sprained his ankle in the Detroit game and it was tender. "It should be ok," Pardee said. "It's a slight sprain with minimal swelling."