TWENTY TEAMS WITH .500 RECORD TIE FOR MOST EVER THROUGH FIRST FIVE WEEKS
As the NFL enters Week 6, there are 20 teams with a .500 or better record. That's tied for the most such teams through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history (2001).
"I knew this team had it in them," says Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach RAHEEM MORRIS about the team's 3-1 start. "I'm really excited about the team and how we're improving every day. We're very young and we've got to keep getting better. Winning is bringing this team closer together. We need to keep taking it one game at a time."
Eight teams - Atlanta (4-1), Baltimore (4-1), Chicago (4-1), Kansas City (3-1), New England (3-1), the New York Jets (4-1), Pittsburgh (3-1) and TampaBay (3-1) - lead the way with just one loss.
"We're 4-1 and right on schedule," says Jets head coach REX RYAN. "We want to have the best record in the NFL at the end of the season and right now we're on schedule."
And what a difference a year makes. Five of those one-loss clubs - Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and TampaBay - failed to qualify for the playoffs a year ago.
"We are where we want to be," says Bears defensive end ISRAEL IDONIJE, who had a career-high three sacks last week, about being in first place. "We're 4-1 but moving forward. We're still taking it one game at a time."
In the NFL, the only thing predictable is the unpredictability.
"It's so funny how things can change quickly in this league," says running back THOMAS JONES of the AFC West leading Chiefs, who can match their 2009 win total (four) with a victory this week at Houston.
In fact, two teams - St. Louis and TampaBay - have already matched or exceeded their 2009 win totals and three more clubs - Detroit, Kansas City and Washington - can do so this weekend.
"It's big for us as a team to go out and get the win," says Lions wide receiver NATE BURLESON about Detroit's 44-6 victory in Week 5. "It's a confidence builder and hopefully the start of something special."
Through the first five weeks, seven of the eight divisions have at least one new team either in first place or tied for the top spot. If that holds, it will be the most new division winners in a single season.
2010 LEADER(S) THROUGH WEEK 5
New York Jets
Houston , Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee
New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington
Arizona quarterback MAX HALL, an undrafted rookie, led the Cardinals to a 30-20 win over the New Orleans Saints last week to become the first undrafted rookie QB to start and win against the defending Super Bowl champions since 1967 (KENT NIX, Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay, December 17).
Some of the key games this weekend :
BALTIMORE RAVENS (4-1) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (3-1) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
The Ravens and Patriots will meet for the first time since last year's Wild Card Playoff, won by Baltimore 33-14. In that meeting, Ravens running back RAY RICE rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83-yard score on the game's first play from scrimmage.
"Hopefully we'll be a little more competitive against them than we were in the playoffs," says Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK. "Any time your season is ended, you remember that game. We've moved on but we now have a chance to play them again. It's a new matchup, but hopefully we can learn from some of the things that happened in that game."
New England's defense will have to be prepared for Baltimore's rushing attack as the Ravens amassed 233 total yards on the ground in last week's 31-17 victory over Denver. Rice led the way with 133 yards and two touchdowns while WILLIS MC GAHEE added 67 yards and a score.
"We have the opportunity to be a really good team," says Baltimore head coach JOHN HARBAUGH. "That kind of a football team is in us."
The Patriots had a bye last week and will look to keep the momentum they gained after a 41-14 victory at Miami in Week 4. In that contest, New England's TOM BRADY became the fastest quarterback to reach 100 career wins (131 starts) and the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to score a touchdown on a kickoff return (BRANDON TATE, 103 yards), a blocked field-goal return ( KYLE ARRINGTON, 35 yards) and an interception return (PATRICK CHUNG, 51 yards).
"We definitely have one of the biggest games on our schedule this Sunday," says Ravens linebacker TERRELL SUGGS. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
ATLANTA FALCONS (4-1) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-2) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
Two first place teams will meet in the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday as the Eagles host the Falcons. Philadelphia is currently tied for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins while Atlanta sits atop the NFC South with a 4-1 mark, tied for the best record in the league.
Starting at quarterback for the Eagles will be either MICHAEL VICK, who spent six seasons (2001-06) with the Falcons after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft, or KEVIN KOLB, who guided Philadelphia to a 27-24 victory last week by passing for 253 yards and a touchdown.
In the win over the 49ers, running back LE SEAN MC COY totaled 138 scrimmage yards (92 rushing, 46 receiving) and scored one touchdown. Safety QUINTIN MIKELL was part of an opportunistic defense and returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The 4-1 Falcons come to town after a 20-10 win at Cleveland. Running back MICHAEL TURNER rushed for 140 yards and wide receiverRODDY WHITE had five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown for Atlanta. The Falcons also scored on defense as defensive end KROY BIERMANN returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown.
"That was just a super athletic play to roll in there and score the touchdown," says Atlanta head coach MIKE SMITH.
The game will also mark a homecoming for quarterback MATT RYAN, who grew up in nearby Exton, Pennsylvania and attended WilliamPennCharterSchool in Philadelphia.
TENNESSEE TITANS (3-2) at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-2) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)
Entering Week 6, the four AFC South teams have identical 3-2 records. Two of those teams - the Titans and Jaguars - will meet on Monday night in Jacksonville.
Both teams are coming off road victories. Tennessee won at Dallas 34-27 while Jacksonville defeated Buffalo 36-26.
The Titans got 131 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back CHRIS JOHNSON last week and quarterback VINCE YOUNG passed for two scores in the victory.
Quarterback DAVID GARRARD passed for three touchdowns for the Jaguars, including two to tight end MARCEDES LEWIS, who ties for second in the league among TEs with five receiving touchdowns this year.
"It's two weeks in a row that we found a way to gut out a win," says Jacksonville head coach JACK DEL RIO. "Our best football is ahead of us."