By Lloyd Vance
Updated: October 12, 2007
– I love this time of the year, because the weather is changing, the leaves are turning colors and the NFL starts sorting through the contenders and pretenders on the way to the crucial midway point of the season in week 8. The standings sport three unbeaten teams with the Patriots, Colts, and Cowboys vying for the top spot. The group will be slashed by one after the weekend as the Cowboys and Patriots will lock horns Sunday afternoon in Dallas and someone’s “0″ has to go (Colts are on a bye).
The meeting between the two heavyweights will be only the fifth time in history that clubs with a 5-0 record or better have met and it will also be only the fourth time since 2000 that the NFL’s two top scoring clubs met in Week 6 or later in the regular season.
The playoff picture is still a little blurry because after five weeks of the season, history paints an interesting picture. Since 2000, 39 teams that finished Week 5 with a winning record did not make the playoffs and 11 teams with losing records at that point did make the playoffs, including the 2001 New England Patriots, who were 2-3 and went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
- Colts (5-0): They are still the champs, but the Patriots are closing the gap quickly. Hopefully both teams will be unbeaten when they meet in Week 9. After dominating the Bucs in the “Dungy” bowl they are on a bye in Week 6.
- Patriots (5-0): Looked sluggish at times in disposing the Browns, but the game was never in jeopardy winning by 17 points. Will travel to Dallas to face the “lucky” Cowboys in the NFL’s marquee game.
- Cowboys (5-0): In the strangest game that I have seen in a long time the Cowboys overcame 6 turnovers (Romo) to win in the final seconds. If they want to show the country they are for real they need to put up a fight and possibly win versus the mighty Patriots.
- Steelers (4-1): Shutout the Seahawks in a Super Bowl XL re-match that was never even close. Will have a bye week to rest and heal (Hines Ward).
- Packers (4-1): On Sunday Night Football, the Bears came back to take a close black and blue NFC North battle helped by some five Packers’ turnovers. Face the up and coming Redskins in a game they need to win to maintain separation over the Lions and Bears.
- Titans (3-1): Won an ugly battle over the Falcons, but their offense was nowhere to be found. Will need to play much better in Tampa Bay against the upstart Bucs.
- Jaguars (3-1): Dominated the Chiefs in KC by pounding the run and controlling the clock. They will look to continue their successful vanilla ground attack at home against the Texans.
- Buccaneers (3-2): Showed that they were not ready for “Prime Time” losing badly to the Colts. Will have to contain V.Y and the Titans defense in an intriguing week 6 match-up.
- Ravens (3-2): In a defensive struggle, they did just enough to beat the Niners and former Ravens Super Bowl quarterback Trent Dilfer. They will try and get their offense on track versus the hapless Rams in Baltimore.
- Redskins (3-1): They showed me something by destroying the Lions with a great defensive effort and a physical running game. Travel to Green Bay in their quest to show everyone they are a contender.
- Seahawks (3-2): Looked like real pretenders against the Pittsburgh not even scoring a point. Should get back on track at home against the reeling Saints.
- Chargers (2-3): Went to Denver and absolutely dominated their division rival Broncos. Will take on the surprising Raiders in a battle for top honors in the AFC West.
- Bears (2-3): Went to Green Bay and handed the Packers their first loss on Sunday Night Football. Will have a home battle against the Vikings and they will need to continue to win to get back in the NFC North race.
- Giants (3-2): Showed that they may have turned the corner by coming back on the Jets fueled by 2 INTs by rookie DB Aaron Ross. Should win in Atlanta on Monday Night against the tough luck Falcons.
- Cardinals (3-2): Without Leinart and with deja vu QB Kurt Warner at the helm they got past the winless Rams. Have a tough battle against the defensive minded Panthers at home.
- Texans (3-2): Kicked their way past the hapless Dolphins as Kris Brown made 5 field goals. Travel to Jacksonville to take on the physical Jags in a divisional battle.
- Panthers (3-2): Squeaked one out against the reeling Saints, but a win is a win. Will travel to Arizona to take on the rejuvenated Cardinals in battle of division leaders.
- Raiders (2-2): Had a bye to acclimate new QB Daunte Culpepper to the playbook and they get RB Dominick Rhodes back. Travel to San Diego to revive an old fashioned AFL rivalry against the Chargers.
- Lions (3-2): They are now 0-21 in Washington as the Redskins dominated the “Kitty Cats”. Will have a bye week to figure out how to protect QB Jon Kitna and fix their problems in defensive coverage.
- 49ers (2-3): Lost to the Ravens in probably the most unoffensive game of the season. They have a bye week to get QB Alex Smith healthy and get RB Frank Gore back on track.
- Chiefs (2-3): Looked terrible in a home loss to the Jags as their workhorse LJ never got out of the stall running for only 12 yards. Will face the equally bad Bengals at home in a battle of playoff teams from last year that have been extremely disappointing this year.
- Broncos (2-3): The motivated Chargers led by a running game that had over 200 yards demolished the Broncos in Denver. Have a bye week to figure out are they the team that started 2-0 or the one that has lost three straight.
- Eagles (1-3): Had a bye week to heal their many injuries, but it may have been their swagger that needed fixing. Will take on the Jets in the Meadowlands and hopefully it will be a better visit than the last time they were there.
- Vikings (1-3): Had a bye week to try and get QB T.
Jackson ready for week six. Will be facing the tough Bears in Chicago in a classic NFC North black and blue battle.
- Browns (2-3): The Patriots showed the Browns that they have work to do. Have winnable game at home against the Dolphins who are still looking for their first win.
- Jets (1-4): Lost a tough battle to the Giants due to turnovers and not stopping the run. In a game that could be a season breaker they take on the Eagles at home.
- Bengals (1-3): Had a bye week to figure out how to not get so many penalties and heal up. They travel to KC to face an unequally desperate Chiefs team.
- Falcons (1-4) – They fought, but neither of their quarterbacks Harrington and Leftwich could get it done versus the Titans. Now host the Giants in a Monday Night Football game that looked better in April.
- Bills (1-4): You had to feel for the Bills as they lost in their first home MNF game in 13 years to the gift giving Cowboys. Have a bye week to heal the NFL’s most decimated roster due injury.
- Saints (0-4): Still had too many turnovers and penalties on their way to losing to the Panthers, who tried to give the game to them. Travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a game of two teams that have not lived up to expectations.
- Rams (0-5): The poor Rams fought and clawed against the Cardinals, but they have too many injuries and they seem destined for the top of the NFL Draft. Have to travel to Baltimore to take on an ascending Ravens squad.
- Dolphins (0-5): Just didn’t have enough to get their first win against the Texans. Will try to win their first game as they travel to Cleveland.
Byes: Buffalo, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco.