IRVING, Texas - Excuse Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for wondering what all the fuss is about.
Sure, they find it interesting their game today against the Dallas Cowboys is just the fifth in NFL history between unbeaten teams with at least five wins. However, they were part of the last such meeting.
The Patriots also can appreciate all the star power that will be on display: Brady and Randy Moss on their side, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens on the other, both at the top of the NFL scoring list.
But, c'mon. This is October. The Red Sox play meaningful, historic games this time of year, not the Patriots. The only dates circled on New England's calendar are the trip to Indianapolis in three weeks and an expected trip to Arizona in February.
"It's another regular-season game for us and there have been a lot of big games around here," Brady said. "I don't think we're building this to anything more than it really is, which is another game on our schedule. It's another game that we're hoping to play our best and make improvements."
That's certainly not the perspective in Dallas.
From players to fans, anyone aligned with the Cowboys sees this as a tantalizing matchup, a chance to show that "America's Team" is headed back to the top. With Romo leading them to their best start since 1983, this game should show whether they're as good as they think they are.
Even impartial observers are calling this a possible Super Bowl preview. If nothing else, it will show how one of the NFC's best stacks up against one of the AFC's big boys.
"This is one of those games you dream about," Dallas linebacker Bradie James said. "To get to where those guys have been, we've got to beat these guys, the guys who are considered the best."
This is easily the Cowboys' most anticipated regular-season game at Texas Stadium since 1995, when the San Francisco 49ers visited in a matchup of teams that had met in the previous three NFC title games and combined to win the past three Super Bowls. San Francisco won that game; Dallas went on to win that season's Super Bowl.
Cowboys home games are known for the hole in the roof and the cheerleaders, not for boisterous fans. But the parking lot will open six hours before kickoff and the turnstiles three hours early, obvious invitations for folks to get into the spirit - and into the liquid spirits - in plenty of time to create an atmosphere that lives up to the caliber of these teams.
"This is why you work so hard, why you do all the things you do in the off-season, to get to this point so you can play in big games," Romo said.
From quarterbacks to receivers, coaches to even the owners (Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft, each with three Super Bowls), everyone has bragging rights on the line today.
Oddsmakers are leaning toward New England. History leans toward Dallas, as the home team is 3-0-1 in previous matchups of teams 5-0 or better.
Like Owens said in the postscript on a sign he left for reporters, "Getcha popcorn ready."
BATTLE OF 81S
How Moss, Owens have fared head-to-head:
Sept. 25, 2005
Player Rec. Yards Avg. TD
Moss 5 86 17.2 0
Owens 9 80 8.9 1
Result: Owens' Eagles def. Raiders, 23-20
Sept. 20, 2004
Moss 8 69 8.6 1
Owens 4 79 19.8 1
Result: Owens' Eagles def. Vikings, 27-16
Sept. 28, 2003
Moss 8 172 21.5 3
Owens 5 55 11 0
Result: Moss' Vikings def. 49ers, 35-7