Even when the Patriots take a week off, they distance themselves from the AFC East pack.

Let’s see . . . the now 1-3 Dolphins just fired their head coach and the now 2-2 Bills lost by two touchdowns at home and can’t seem to figure out the NFL rules, leading to yellow flag after yellow flag.

We’re entering Week 5 of the NFL season and it already feels like a foregone conclusion that the Patriots are going to win the AFC East once again, despite a 3-1 Jets team (it’s only a matter of time, Jets fans…).

Of course we can think this way, but the Pats have to actually treat each game as if it’s the biggest one of the season.

This week, it’s Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys that stand in the way of a 4-0 start to the season. But they do so without quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant.

 

Here are three things to watch for on Sunday:

 

Greg Hardy returns

If Roger Goodell had his way, Tom Brady wouldn’t be suiting up on Sunday. But you know who returns to the field? Greg Hardy, woman-beater. According to a 2014 testimony from the ex-girlfriend he beat, Hardy threw her around his place, including into a bath tub and then on top of a bed covered in loaded, semi-automatic rifles. He then dragged her by the hair and choked her until she accepted that she was going to die. She didn’t die – and after Hardy was found guilty by a judge, he appealed and the sides settled in a Superior Court. But that doesn’t mean Hardy is innocent. And this week, he was completely unapologetic, even saying that this was “the most awesome period in his life.” He then had the audacity to mention Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, and her sister in the interview. It’s safe to say that won’t sit well with Brady. Patriots by 100.

 

Running out of options

Brandon Weeden is not going to beat the Patriots on Sunday. If the Cowboys have any chance at winning this game, they’re going to do it on the ground. In fact, according to Bill Belichick, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the game. That means not only protection for Weeden, but holes for running backs Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. The Patriots allow an NFL-worst 4.9 yards per carry. Keeping the ball on the ground will keep the clock running and limit Patriots possessions. 

 

Welcome to Dallas

Belichick, Brady and the Patriots make their first trip to AT&T Stadium in Dallas. They’re not only going into enemy territory, but unfamiliar territory. Belichick will make sure he’s aware of his surroundings. “It’s just a familiarity of the 40-second clock, the scoreboard, the location of where things are on the field, like the communication system.”