Eight weeks are in the books for the 2013 National Football League season and it’s time to grade the three franchises—the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints— closest to Southeast Texas at the half-way point.

About half of the 32 NFL teams have played all eight weeks of the season while the other half have enjoyed the bye week each team has on its respective schedule.

The Houston Texans had their bye week Sunday and really needed a break from their current five-game losing streak that could very well be extended to six in a row if the Indianapolis Colts come to Reliant Stadium Sunday playing as well as they did against the Denver Broncos in their last game.

This was supposed to be Super Bowl years for both the Texans and the Atlanta Falcons and ironically both teams are sporting identical 2-5 records going into this week’s action.

The Falcons have had several injuries to key players while the Texans have merely under-performed in all seven games so far this season and have had several injuries to key personnel in the last couple of games during the losing streak.

The big question loyal Texans fans continue to ponder is how will the team get turned around and get back to their winning ways.

Quarterback Matt Schaub, who is rated as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, should be recovered from his leg injury and ready to play. But his back-up, second year University of Houston star quarterback Case Keenum, performed admirably against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and has earned the right to start Sunday.

Trouble compounded for the Texans two weeks ago at Kansas City when three back-up players, who busted their butts to make the final cut after training camp ended, were dismissed from the team for breaking team rules.

This probably would have been swept under the rug last season when the Texans started the season with a gigantic winning streak, but when a team is losing, it must be addressed harshly and that’s why Head Coach Gary Kubiak gave the trio their walking papers.

This week Kubiak sifted through the scrap-heap of players who are playing on some team’s practice squad, were recently released or maybe are even out of football. The bottom line is that those five players added to the Texans’ roster Monday will do little to strengthen an already weakened team.

Kubiak, himself, should be on shaky grounds as far as his job security is concerned, and is very lucky that owner Bob McNair is not one who favors changing head coaches during the middle of the season. But there are just so many more losses he will tolerate before making a move.

The Dallas Cowboys thought their defense was much improved until they played the Detroit Lions Sunday and allowed 24 fourth-period points to be scored and 623 total yards to be amassed by Detroit.

Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson riddled the Cowboys’ defensive secondary for 329 yards—the second most in NFL history—on 14 receptions as Dallas blew a 30-14 lead with 6:435 left in the game and lost 31-30 on a touchdown and extra point with just 12 seconds left in the game.

Fortunately, the other three teams in the NFC East Division are just as lousy on defense as the Cowboys, who still enjoy the top spot in the standings with a not-so-impressive 4-4 record, but they have swept the other three division members the first time around.

However on offense the Pokes are averaging 29 points per game to rank second in the league.

Tony Romo continues to do an impressive job at quarterback, finding his favorite target Dez Bryant when the talented wide receiver is not raising a ruckus at his teammates on the Dallas bench.

The New Orleans Saints seem to have all their ducks in a row during the first half of the season now that Head Coach Sean Payton had returned from his one-year suspension and Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator after the team ranked near the bottom in most defensive categories last season.

Ironically, the Dallas Cowboys also were one of the worst defensive teams last year with Ryan as the coordinator.

The Saints have a comfortable two-game lead in the NFC South Division standings with a 6-1 record after posting huge victories over Atlanta (23-17), Tampa Bay (16-14), Arizona (31-7), Miami (38-17), Chicago (26-18) and Buffalo Sunday (35-17). Their only loss was at New England (30-27) before their bye week.

Quarterback Drew Brees, who threw five touchdown passes against the Bills Sunday, was not happy with the Saints’ handful of pre-snap penalties and the two flags for only 10 men on the field that cost them two scoring opportunities.

“If we continue to repeat these mistakes, they will get us beat,” he told the Associated Press after Sunday’s game. “We’ve set the bar high, we have a high standard and we want to be as perfect as we can out there.” Brees holds the NFL record with eight career games with five or more touchdown passes. His record is 16-4 at home since 2011.

Brees was sacked four times by the Bills with former Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams recording his 11th sack of the season.

But the Saints defense, which was last in the NFL a year ago, has held six of their seven opponents under 20 points.

KWICKIES…Kansas City Chiefs’ Alex Smith is the first NFL quarterback to win his first eight games with a new team since Dieter Brock won seven straight with the 1985 Rams.

Second-round pick Geno Smith of the New York Jets is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger of the AFL-NFL to have four winning drives in the first seven games of his career. But the Jets were plastered 49-9 Sunday in a game he was certain not to get his fifth winning drive of the young season.

And while on the subject of quarterbacks, Peyton Manning continues to add records to his legacy by throwing for 2,919 yards so far this season—the most through eight games in NFL history.

Five teams in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll suffered defeats, with three of the losses going to teams playing other Top 25 teams. Missouri fell from the ranks of the undefeated as No. 20 South Carolina won 27-24 when Mizzou’s attempt for a tying field goal in the second overtime period hit the goal post, sending the Tigers from No. 5 to No. 10. The top four teams (Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State) retained their positions in this week’s poll, Baylor moved up one notch to No. 5, Stanford moved up two places to No. 6, Miami stayed at No. 7, Auburn came up three spots to No. 8 and Clemson stayed at No. 9.  LSU and Texas A&M each moved up two spots to No. 11 and No. 12, respectively and Texas Tech dropped five places to No. 15.

High school results from last weekend that may be of some interest to Southeast Texas fans: Crosby 58, Kingwood Park 34; Dayton 23, Barbers Hill 20; Humble 21, New Caney 7; Splendora 35, Tarkington 34; Huffman 21, Shepherd 7; Coldspring 60, Liberty 21; Brenham 55, Magnolia 20; Carthage 41, Jasper 20; Center 28, Huntington 6; La Marque 35, Dallas Bishop Lynch 28; Navasota 42, Rockdale 21; Waco Connally 79, China Spring 52; Waco La Vega 61, West 27; Cameron Yoe 41, Troy 0; Corrigan-Camden 39, Groveton 14; Daingerfield 35, Mount Vernon 0; Humble Summer Creek 48, Porter 0.

JUST BETWEEN US…Lumberton native Clay Buchholz turned in a brief but very effective start Sunday in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series as his Boston Red Sox evened the series at 2-all with a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis. He allowed only an unearned run in his four innings of work, leaving the game with the score tied at 1-1. The Red Sox win assured the series will be decided later this week in Boston.