1. Ninety-nine points, 1,039 total yards of offense, 12 touchdowns, and Tony Romo's 500-yard-passing day
That was the bill of carnage from Week Five's Broncos-Cowboys tilt, a 51-48 Denver victory that was the second-highest-scoring game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. It also resulted in a fifth straight win for Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who continue to scorch the earth in pursuit of a perfect season and every offensive record in the NFL history books.
Manning was his usual robotically dominant self, throwing for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He even rushed for a touchdown, his first running score since 2008, because he's apparently grown bored with destroying his opponents from the air. Through five games, Manning now boasts an utterly absurd 20 touchdowns and 1,884 yards; that puts him on pace for 6,028 yards and 64 touchdowns on the season. You don't need me to tell you that would be an NFL record by a long margin.
Though Sunday's game included Manning's first interception of the year, it was a pick by Romo that sealed the game. With just over two minutes left and the game tied at 48, Romo dropped back on 2nd-and-16 and flung a pass that was caught by a lunging Danny Trevathan, who, unfortunately for Romo and Cowboys fans, is a linebacker for the Broncos. Denver bled out the clock before booting a field goal as time expired to win it.
2. Peyton's perfect, but so are we
Two other teams kept their unbeaten streaks alive, as the Saints and Chiefs each went to 5-0 on Sunday. Drew Brees and New Orleans had their way with Chicago's defense, then weathered a late Jay Cutler rally for a 26-18 win. Brees finished 29-of-35 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Whatever dark defensive magic head coach Sean Payton learned during his one-year suspension is doing wonders for the Saints; they've gone from having one of the worst defenses in NFL history to one that can keep opposing offenses off the field and let Brees do his thing.
Kansas City, meanwhile, kept pace with Denver in the AFC West by knocking off Tennessee, 26-17, behind the competent professionalism of Alex Smith, who probably drives a Toyota Corolla and prefers his coffee with Sweet 'n Low instead of sugar. Smith was 20-of-39 for 245 yards with no turnovers, and Jamaal Charles rumbled for 108 yards and a score on 20 touches. The Chiefs' defense had little trouble with Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, picking him off twice and sacking him three times.
With a 5-0 record, the Saints are now four wins clear of Carolina and Atlanta in the NFC South. Kansas City would likely be in a similar position in the AFC West, were it not for Peyton Manning being in Terminator status. As it is, we're clearly headed for the Chiefs finishing 15-1 and ending up a wild-card team, which might cause the heads of NFL columnists nationwide to explode.
3. These teams are decidedly not perfect
As the Broncos, Chiefs, and Saints continued to rise to Olympian heights, the Giants and Jaguars continued to spiral into Stygian depths. (And they said my liberal-arts education would never be useful.) At 0-5, each team's season is more or less over already.
For the Jaguars, you could argue their season was over the moment it started, or the moment the preseason started, or the moment last season ended. Regardless, they have to play the games anyway, and for Jacksonville, that meant a 34-20 loss to St. Louis in which nominal starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert was benched in the third quarter because he is an atrocious failure of a hamstring injury. Before that, he went 9-of-19 for 181 yards, a touchdown and two horrific interceptions. For the season, Gabbert has 481 yards, a mark Tony Romo eclipsed in just four quarters Sunday.
Everyone expected the Jaguars to be a veritable dumpster fire this year; no one expected the Giants, though, to be this bad. New York's season hit a new low Sunday with a 36-21 loss to division rival Eagles in which the defense was torched by Michael Vick and, after Vick left with a hamstring injury, backup quarterback Nick Foles. The Giants' loss also featured Eli Manning throwing three interceptions, giving him 12 on the season, plus him pouting on the sidelines like someone just told him his bedtime had been advanced an hour.
Jacksonville, Tampa (0-4), and Pittsburgh (0-4) are the frontrunners in the race toward the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. As for the Giants, despite being 0-5, they're only two games out of first place in the NFC East. That said, no team that started a season 0-5 has ever reached the playoffs, and the Giants have already lost to the Cowboys and Eagles.
4. The streak is dead, long live the streak
Sunday's loss to Cincinnati wasn't just a bad day on the field and a bad hair day for Tom Brady. It also marked the end of a 52-game touchdown streak for Brady, the second-longest in NFL history. With the Bengals' defensive line constantly in his face and the rain pouring down in the fourth quarter, Brady could muster just 18 completions in 38 attempts, with 197 yards and a last-minute interception. His quarterback rating of 52.2 was his lowest since he posted a 51.5 against the Jets back in 2007.
Thanks to that bad performance and a cast of characters on offense that can charitably be described as "not Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez," the Patriots lost their first game of the season and are now 4-1 ahead of a Week Six showdown with New Orleans. By the way, the record holder for consecutive games with a touchdown? Drew Brees. That Sean Payton dark magic is working something fierce.
5. "Houston, we have a problem" is a lazy joke, but it works here
For most of his career, Matt Schaub has been one of the NFL's most unassuming quarterbacks. As the signal caller for the Texans' offense, his job has never been more complicated than hand the ball off to Arian Foster, occasionally throw it at Andre Johnson, and don't screw up in between. This season, however, Schaub has gone haywire, committing turnovers left and right as Houston lost to the 49ers, 34-3, on Sunday night and stumbled into a 2-3 hole to start the year.
How bad has it gotten for the University of Virginia product? Against San Francisco, Schaub went a staggering 19-of-35 for 173 yards and three interceptions, the first of which was returned for a touchdown on the third play of the game. Schaub was mercifully benched after his third pick at the end of the third quarter for backup T.J. Yates. He now has nine picks on the season, five of those coming in the last two games. It's anybody's guess whether he starts in Week Six against St. Louis.
While 2-3 isn't the worst start imaginable, and next Sunday's game versus the Rams should get Houston back to .500, the two games after that loom large for the Texans. After St. Louis, Houston faces Kansas City on the road, and then has a pivotal division showdown with Indianapolis at home. At 4-1 thanks to a comeback win over previously unbeaten Seattle on Sunday, the Colts have already built a two-game lead in the AFC South. A win over Houston could bury the Texans at the season's midpoint.
There are other problems plaguing Houston aside from Schaub. The defense has slipped from last season's elite level, and the special teams' play (particularly kicker Randy Bullock) has been dreadful. But Schaub is the biggest concern. Unless the Texans can fix what ails him, they'll be long shots to repeat as AFC South champions.