Thirteen teams currently have at least a share of first place in their respective divisions, the most in NFL history through the first six weeks of a season.
"We’re 4-2 and tops in the division," says Houston Texans guard WADE SMITH. "That’s where we want to be."
Ten of those 13 clubs did not win their divisions a year ago, and all 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.
"Our goal is to take care of our team and stay on schedule," says New York Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN, whose club is tied for first place in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles. "We’re 4-2. I wish we were 6-0, but we’re not. We’ve earned the 4-2 record and we’ve battled our way back from a 1-2 start. Let’s hope it keeps going."
There are 21 teams with a .500 or better record. That’s tied with 2008 for the most such teams through the first six weeks of a season in NFL history.
"There are a lot of good football teams in this league," says quarterback DREW BREES of the 4-2 New Orleans Saints. "On any given Sunday, as the saying goes, anybody can beat anybody. You see it every week."
"5-1 is good enough to be in first place and to have the best record in football," says Jets head coach REX RYAN. "The record says we’re the best team in the league. But I think we can really improve in all aspects. We need to improve as a team, and I think we will. We have an opportunity to get better and better as the year goes on."
The Jets have a bye this weekend, but other teams will look to get better in Week 7. Some of the key games this week:
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (4-1) at MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-2) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
The Steelers improved to 4-1 and moved into first place in the AFC North with a 28-10 victory last week over the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER threw for three touchdowns in his first game of 2010, connecting on scoring passes to MIKE WALLACE (29 yards), HINES WARD (8) and HEATH MILLER (14).
"Any time you get an AFC North win, it’s good," says Steelers head coach MIKE TOMLIN. "It’s good to have a victory coming off the bye week and it keeps us in the hunt."
Pittsburgh travels to Miami this weekend for the first of three consecutive road contests (at Mia., at NO, at Cin.).
"We’ve got three straight coming up on the road," says Steelers linebacker JAMES FARRIOR. "That’s a tough challenge ahead of us. We just have to stay focused and take it one game at a time. Miami is next. That’s all we have to focus on."
There were three touchdown receptions of at least 80 yards on Sunday – Detroit’s CALVIN JOHNSON (87 yards), Green Bay’s GREG JENNINGS (86) and Philadelphia’s JEREMY MACLIN (83). That marks the most touchdown catches of 80 or more yards in one day since November 23, 2003.
The Dolphins, who are a perfect 3-0 on the road, are seeking their first win at home. Last week, Miami knocked off the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in overtime as DAN CARPENTER kicked a 44-yard field goal in the extra session.
"Fifty-three players and every coach in that locker room believed we could come in here and get this done," Dolphins head coach TONY SPARANO said after the game. "It didn’t matter how long it took.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-2) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-2) (Sunday, FOX, 4:05 PM ET)
"It’s like the playoffs," says Arizona defensive end CALAIS CAMPBELL. "Needing to win gives you a little more motivation. I like the competition. If we take care of our own business, we’ll be where we need to be."
These two teams have combined to win each of the past six NFC West titles, with the Cardinals winning the past two.
Last week, the Seahawks pulled out a 23-20 victory at Chicago to move into a first place tie with idle Arizona
"I think we made a statement to ourselves," says Seattle safety LAWYER MILLOY. "The toughest thing to do is to win on the road in this league. This is a young team that’s coming together. This is a big step in our development."
For Arizona, rookie quarterback MAX HALL will look to continue the momentum gained from his first victory in Week 5 when he became the first undrafted rookie QB to start and win against the defending Super Bowl champions since 1967.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-3) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-3) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)
Two NFC North rivals will meet on Sunday night in a key divisional contest.
The Vikings defeated the Dallas Cowboys 24-21 in Week 6 to improve to 2-3, just a half-game behind the 3-3 Packers. Minnesota’s PERCY HARVIN returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and linebacker E.J. HENDERSON had two interceptions. Vikings running back ADRIAN PETERSON rushed for 73 yards and tied JAMAL LEWIS to become the fifth-fastest player to reach 5,000 career rushing yards (51 games).
"It was a hard-fought game between two teams that were scrapping," says Minnesota head coach BRAD CHILDRESS. "Different games you win different ways. We know that this is a process. We just want to continue to improve and improve enough to beat the Packers on Sunday night."
The Packers dropped a 23-20 overtime decision to Miami last week but know there is still plenty of time left in the season. Last year, Green Bay started 4-4 before finishing 7-1 and earning a Wild Card berth.
"We have time, but time is of the essence," says Green Bay wide receiver GREG JENNINGS, who had a career-long 86-yard touchdown catch last week. "Every win is important."
MILESTONE ALERT: Vikings quarterback BRETT FAVRE will start his 119th career game at Lambeau Field. That is the most starts by a quarterback at a stadium in NFL history. Favre is currently tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY, who started 118 games at Denver’s Mile High Stadium.
NEW YORK GIANTS (4-2) at DALLAS COWBOYS (1-4) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)
The Giants and Cowboys will meet on Monday night. For New York, it will mark the first division game of the season.
"This is different," says Giants defensive tackle CHRIS CANTY. "We’re six games in and we haven’t played a division opponent. We’ve got some tough challenges ahead of us, but I think this team is looking forward to improving."
The Giants won their third consecutive game last week with a 28-20 win over the Detroit Lions. Running back AHMAD BRADSHAW, who tops the NFC with 582 rushing yards, led the way with 133 yards on the ground and quarterback ELI MANNING improved to 19-4 (.826) in the month of October, the best mark by a starting quarterback who began his career in the Super Bowl era (minimum 20 starts).
Dallas will look to turn its season around after the Cowboys dropped their fourth game by seven or fewer points last week. Despite a 1-4 record, Dallas enters the contest with the NFL’s No. 3 ranked offense (400.0 yards per game) and No. 4 ranked defense (281.4 yards per game).
"They’re obviously very talented," says Manning about the Cowboys. "They are going to be playing fast and it is going to be loud in Dallas at that stadium. Their defense has great players all around and their offense is explosive."