As the NFL enters Week 6, there are 20 teams either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division. And in seven of the eight divisions, there are either multiple teams tied for first or at least one team within a game of the lead.
"This team is hungry," says head coach Rob Chudzinski of the Cleveland Browns, who are tied for first place in the AFC North with Baltimore and Cincinnati. "I don't see them being satisfied with what they're doing because I see improvement. This is a group of fighters and guys that want to get better and succeed."
Three teams remain unbeaten with perfect 5-0 records: the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints.
Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 36 of the 40 teams (90 percent) that started 5-0 advanced to the postseason.
"We're 5-0 but we also know that we've got a ton of room to improve," says Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. "It's important that we continue to do that."
Since 1990, 229 of the league's 276 playoff teams (83 percent) had a winning record after five games. But nothing is a given in the NFL. Seventeen percent of the playoff clubs since 1990 (47 of 276) had a losing record after five games, including four teams last year (Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Washington).
"We have to seize the day," says Washington defensive end STEPHEN BOWEN, whose team is just a half-game behind Dallas and Philadelphia for first place in the NFC East. "We've still got a chance to turn around this season and it starts on Sunday night."
Some of the key games this weekend:
Oakland Raiders (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-0)
(Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
Terrelle Pryor completed 18 of 23 passes (78.3 percent) for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 135.7 passer rating in Oakland's 27-17 win on Sunday night over San Diego. The Raiders also got a defensive touchdown as safety Charles Woodson returned a fumble 25 yards for a score. It marked the 13th defensive touchdown in Woodson's NFL career, tied for the most in league history with Pro Football Hall of Famer ROD WOODSON and DARREN SHARPER.
"Charles has made a habit of doing that his whole career," says Raiders head coach Dennis Allen about his veteran safety. "That's what we expect out of him. He's been a playmaker for us and will continue to be a playmaker."
With a 26-17 win at Tennessee, the Chiefs improved to 5-0, becoming the first team in NFL history to start 5-0 after losing at least 14 games in the previous season. Running back JAMAAL CHARLES rushed for 108 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:23 remaining in the game.
"This team is very blessed," says Charles. "Nobody expected us to be 5-0."
Green Bay Packers (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
(Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The Packers knocked off Detroit 22-9 last week and evened their record at 2-2. MASON CROSBY kicked five field goals, AARON RODGERS threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to JAMES JONES and Green Bay – led by rookie EDDIE LACY (99 yards) and RANDALL COBB (72) – rushed for 180 yards in the Packers' victory.
"I'm very pleased with the victory," said Green Bay head coach MIKE MC CARTHY after the game.
JUSTIN TUCKER kicked a 44-yard field goal with 1:42 remaining to help the Ravens to a 26-23 victory at Miami. Tucker finished the game with four field goals and running back RAY RICE added two touchdown runs to spark the defending Super Bowl champions.
"We weren't perfect, but we made plays we needed to," says Baltimore linebacker TERRELL SUGGS, who had three of the Ravens' six sacks against the Dolphins.
New Orleans Saints (5-0) at New England Patriots (4-1)
(Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)
The Saints defeated Chicago 26-18 and New Orleans is the lone unbeaten team in the NFC. DREW BREES, who threw two touchdown passes to PIERRE THOMAS, completed 29 of 35 passes (82.9 percent) to extend his NFL-record streak to 11 consecutive games with at least 25 completions. Tight end JIMMY GRAHAM continued his impressive play as he hauled in 10 catches for 135 yards, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. Graham tied the longest such streak by a tight end in NFL history (TONY GONZALEZ, 2000 and Graham, 2011).
"Obviously, Jimmy alone is a great player," says Brees. "I think Jimmy would be the first to tell you that having MARQUES COLSTON, Pierre Thomas, DARREN SPROLES and all these other young wide receivers means teams have a lot of other guys to worry about too. There are a lot of guys who will make plays. So we can beat you a lot of ways."
New England suffered its first loss of the season in Cincinnati in Week 5. But the Patriots hope that returning home will put the team back on the winning track. New England has won 32 of its past 35 regular-season home games, outscoring opponents 1,129-611 during that span for an average margin of victory of 14.8 points per game.
"We just have to keep working," says Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK, who can pass CHUCK NOLL (209) and move into fifth-place all-time with 210 career victories (including postseason). "We need to move on to New Orleans. That's what we have in front of us now."
Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at San Francisco 49Ers (3-2)
(Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)
The Cardinals and 49ers enter Week 6 tied for second place in the NFC West, one game behind Seattle. Both teams recorded victories in Week 5 and have won two games in a row.
Arizona, which leads the NFC in rushing defense (79 yards per game), has not allowed a point in the second half in each of its past two games, outscoring opponents 32-0 in the second half of those contests. The Cardinals had seven sacks and three interceptions last week as linebackers DARYL WASHINGTON and KARLOS DANSBY each had two sacks and an interception.
"You can call them ugly wins or any kind of wins you want," says Arizona head coach BRUCE ARIANS. "As long as they're wins, I love them."
The 49ers dominated in a 34-3 win over Houston. San Francisco got a 64-yard touchdown pass from COLIN KAEPERNICK to VERNON DAVIS, rushed for two touchdowns – FRANK GORE and ANTHONY DIXON – and returned an interception for a touchdown (TRAMAINE BROCK).
"We're the 49ers," says Gore. "When we're on, we can do whatever we want to do."
Washington (1-3) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
(Sunday, NBC, 8:30 PM ET)
Last year at Dallas, ROBERT GRIFFIN III passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns as he led Washington to victory. In the Week 17 meeting, ALFRED MORRIS rushed for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns as Washington won the NFC East. After a win in Week 3, Washington comes out of their bye week hoping to build on that momentum.
"We've got a lot to play for," says Washington veteran cornerback DE ANGELO HALL, whose team at 1-3 is still just a half-game out of first place in the division. "We've got a chance to seize the opportunity on Sunday night."
In Week 5, the Cowboys dropped a 51-48 decision to Denver. TONY ROMO passed for a franchise-record 506 yards and became only the fifth player in NFL history with at least 500 yards and five touchdown passes in a game. Three Cowboys had at least 120 receiving yards and a touchdown – TERRANCE WILLIAMS (four catches, 151 yards, one touchdown), DEZ BRYANT (six catches, 141 yards, two touchdowns) and JASON WITTEN (seven catches, 121 yards, one touchdown) – becoming only the second team ever to accomplish the feat in a single game (1961 Houston Oilers).
"I thought we showed that we were mentally tough and handled the success and adversity during the game," says Cowboys head coach JASON GARRETT. "There are a lot of good things that happened in that game for our team. We didn't do enough to win the game and we have to learn from it."
NFL 2013 Week 5 Results
CLEVELAND 37, Buffalo 24
ST. LOUIS 34, Jacksonville 20
Kansas City 26, TENNESSEE 17
ARIZONA 22, Carolina 6
GREEN BAY 22, Detroit 9
Denver 51, DALLAS 48
INDIANAPOLIS 34, Seattle 28
SAN FRANCISCO 34, Houston 3
Baltimore 26, MIAMI 23
OAKLAND 27, San Diego 17
New Orleans 26, CHICAGO 18
CINCINNATI 13, New England 6
Philadelphia 36, NY GIANTS 21
NY Jets 30, ATLANTA 28
NFL 2013 Week 6 Schedule
(All times local)
Byes: Atlanta, Miami
NY Giants at Chicago 8:25 PM (NFLN)
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Jacksonville at Denver 2:05 PM
Tennessee at Seattle 1:05 PM
Green Bay at Baltimore 1:00 PM
New Orleans at New England 4:25 PM
Cincinnati at Buffalo 1:00 PM
Arizona at San Francisco 1:25 PM
Detroit at Cleveland 1:00 PM
St. Louis at Houston 12:00 PM
Oakland at Kansas City 12:00 PM
Carolina at Minnesota 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh at NY Jets 1:00 PM
Washington at Dallas 7:30 PM (NBC)
Indianapolis at San Diego 5:40 PM (ESPN)