Battle of the Unbeatens

Although the Super Bowl doesn't take place for another four months, a very rare matchup between 5-0 teams from opposite conferences has stirred talk of that game this week.

The New England Patriots look to match the best start in franchise history Sunday when they face the Dallas Cowboys - one of the NFL's two other unbeaten teams - at Texas Stadium.

This is only the fifth time in league history that two undefeated teams with five or more wins will face each other. The 5-0 Patriots beat the 5-0 New York Jets 13-7 on Oct. 24, 2004 in the most recent matchup.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made New England -5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 53.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 86% of bets for this game have been placed on New England -5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

While it may be hard to avoid talk of this being a potential Super Bowl preview, most of the players are quick to downplay any such notion.

"Let's not make it more than what it is," New England's Ellis Hobbs said. "This isn't determining the playoffs. This is not, quote, unquote, the Super Bowl matchup or whatever. We're going into Week 6 and this is the next game."

There will be only two unbeaten teams remaining late Sunday because 5-0 Indianapolis has a bye this week.

"Both of us are 5-0 - I don't care what the situation is," Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens said. "We're going to be ready on Sunday, period. We're going to play like we've been playing. Nothing's going to change, and nobody's going to come in here and dictate how we're going to play."

Making this game even more intriguing is the manner in which the teams have reached this point.

The Patriots have dominated their first five opponents, scoring at least 34 points and winning by 17 or more in each game. They have trailed only once this season and that was for 12 minutes, 36 seconds against Buffalo on Sept. 23 before they reeled off 35 unanswered points in a 38-7 victory.

Sunday, though, will provide New England with by far its toughest test of the season. The Patriots have wins over the Jets, San Diego, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Cleveland - teams with a combined 7-17 record.

"I don't think of it as a measuring stick," Hobbs said. "We think of it as a big game because it's the next game. Obviously, from the record standpoint this is the best team we've faced up to this point."

Although they remained perfect, the Patriots weren't entirely pleased with their performance in Sunday's 34-17 victory over Cleveland.

Tom Brady threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns while Sammy Morris rushed for 102 yards - the second straight game he has gone over the 100-yard mark in place of injured starter Laurence Maroney. The Patriots, though, had their smallest margin of victory, failed to score in a quarter for the first time this season and were unable to get star receiver Randy Moss involved in the offense consistently.

"We weren't as sharp as we would have liked to have been," Brady said. "We're going to have to come back and learn from our mistakes and try to play better next week."

Brady tied Steve Young's NFL record with at least three TD passes in each of the first five games of a season.

Moss was limited to season lows of three receptions for 46 yards, and failed to catch a touchdown for the first time in five games.

Moss, though, seems to save some of his best efforts for the Cowboys. In six games against Dallas - all wins - he has 29 catches for 675 yards and 10 scores.

Another subplot to this heavily hyped matchup is the presence of Moss and Owens on the same field. Besides being two of the best receivers of their generation, they also are two of the league's most controversial players whose reputations often overshadow their enormous ability.

"They're both hard to cover," Morris said. "They're both tall and have long arms and they both play the deep ball really well."

Brady and Moss pace New England's second-ranked offense, which trails only Dallas in total yardage. Both teams also possess strong defenses, with the Patriots ranking second in yards allowed (251.4) and the Cowboys eighth (285.4).

A victory Sunday by the Patriots would match the Super Bowl-winning 2004 team for the most consecutive wins to open a season in franchise history.

This game nearly lost some of its luster Monday night with Dallas apparently headed for a surprising loss at Buffalo. The Cowboys, however, scored nine points in the final 20 seconds and pulled out a wild 25-24 victory on rookie Nick Folk's 53-yard field goal as time expired.

"I haven't been around anything like that, and that's 31 years I've been in the league," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.

Most stunning was Dallas even being in position to win after Tony Romo threw five interceptions and lost a fumble. Two of Romo's picks were returned for touchdowns in the first half, while his fumble and fifth interception came during the fourth quarter.

"That's a sign of a pretty resilient team," Romo said. "I think our team, outside of me, played an outstanding football game. They dug me out of it. It was tough to go through that, especially on Monday night."

Romo - the NFC offensive player of the month for September - had thrown 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions in his first four games this season.

"I just think he had a bad day," Phillips said. "I will say this for him: At the end of the game he was still in there. That is what we preach. No matter what the stats are the most important thing is winning the game."

Romo is second in the NFL in passing yards (1,508) behind Brett Favre, one spot ahead of Brady, while ranking second to Brady (16) in touchdown passes with 13.

This is the first meeting between the teams since New England posted a 12-0 victory at home Nov. 16, 2003. The Patriots are 0-4 in Dallas.

By: Staci Richards - - Email Us

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