The Falcons gave up a ton of draft picks to move up an pick receiver Julio Jones last April. Then he was held without a touchdown as Atlanta opened 2-3. And then the Falcons went 2-0 as Jones sat out with a bum hamstring. Concerning. Fret no longer. Jones returned Sunday with a 131-yard, two-TD performance in a 31-7 victory against the still-winless Colts. That came on three total receptions, so he averaged 43.7 yards a catch. Even against the Colts, that's impressive. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Has the tide turned?
John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens have historically enjoyed little mid- or late-season success against Pittsburgh. That appeared to be the case again on Sunday night as the Steelers took a 20-16 lead with 4:59 to play. But QB Joe Flacco turned in the drive of his life, taking the Ravens 92 yards in 13 plays, hitting Torrey Smith with a TD pass with 8 seconds to play for a 23-20 Ravens victory and sweep of the season series. Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Where Peyton comes up short . . .
Little brother Eli Manning steps up. The New England Patriots have long been a thorn in the side of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. But Eli Manning has flipped the books. He spoiled the Patriots’ perfect season with a shocker in the Super Bowl four seasons ago, and on Sunday, in the teams’ first meeting since, he led the Giants to 14 points in the game’s final 3:03 to win at Foxboro. His 1-yard strike to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds to play gave New York the 24-20 victory and a 6-2 record, good enough for a two-game lead in the NFC East. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
In opposite directions
That is where the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers appear headed. Both entered the season considered among the elite of the NFL signal callers, both teams carrying Super Bowl aspirations. But while Rodgers continues his ascension to the top of the QB pecking order (bringing his 8-0 Packers with him), Rivers continues to struggle with turnovers. On Sunday, Green Bay dropped 45 points in San Diego thanks in part to two Rivers interceptions returned for Packers scores in the first quarter. When the late-rally dust had settled, the Packers won 45-38, the Chargers fell to 4-4 and Rivers added three interceptions to his league-high total. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
About that Rookie of the Year award . . .
Cam Newton likely will run away with the prize, but another first-year wonder doing plenty of running is the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson. The cornerback out of LSU continues to amaze with his explosiveness, his latest big play by far his most amazing. After the Arizona and St. Louis offenses spent more than 60 minutes seemingly trying to avoid the end zone, the Rams punted to Peterson in overtime. The rookie caught the ball at his own 2-yard-line, made a host of Rams ‘tacklers’ miss and headed into the end zone with not only a 19-13 Cardinals victory in hand, but his third punt return for a touchdown this season — tying the franchise career record. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Hey, Tebow's good again!
The up-and-down world of the perhaps NFL’s most famous QB took a swing in the right direction on Sunday, as Tim Tebow, making his second start of the season, ran for nearly as many yards as he threw (118 on the ground, 124 in the air) and threw for a pair of scores while going turnover-free. A trio of big plays by his teammates (two long Will McGahee runs and an Eddie Royal 85-yard punt return) sealed the deal for the Broncos, and Denver came from 10 points down in the third quarter to win 38-24 at Oakland to move within a game of first place. Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Dalton’s legend grows
Replace a franchise QB? Check (even getting said franchise QB shipped off to Oakland). Start from Day 1 and gain the trust of your teammates before the midway point of your first season? Check, check. Revive arguably the biggest laughingstock in the NFL over the past 20-plus years into a bona fide contender? Check, check, check. Andy Dalton on Sunday did something no Bengals QB has done in 23 seasons in leading his team to a 24-17 victory at Tennessee — he led the franchise to its fifth consecutive victory. The last time the Bengals won five in a row? 1988 — when Boomer Esiason, Ickey Woods and Anthony Munoz led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl. Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
The Saints own third-and-whatever
New Orleans is converting 56 percent of its third downs, which would be an NFL record if that rate holds up all season. The Saints kept it up Sunday in a 27-16 win against Tampa Bay, going 5 for 10. Why are they so effective? Play defensive coordinator for a second and pick who you're going to try to stop on third down. You can't, can you? The Saints don't have a clear go-to guy, which means quarterback Drew Brees could look anywhere on third down. It's a true team effort. On Sunday, Brees scrambled for one conversion, Chris Ivory ran for another, running back Darren Sproles had a catch for one and so did receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore (pictured on a TD reception). Pick your poison. Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
The Texans play defense, too
The Texans' offense gets the bulk of the attention in Houston, for good reason. Two running backs, Ben Tate and Arian Foster, surpassed 100 yards in their 30-12 rout of Cleveland on Sunday. But how about some love for a much-improved defense? They rank in the NFL's top 10 in average points allowed (17.4 a game), yards (274) and third-down conversions (32 percent). They have overcome the loss of pass rusher DeMario Williams with playmakers such as linebacker Brian Cushing (pictured sacking Colt McCoy). We're running out of reasons to doubt this team. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Harbaugh travels well
In Jim Harbaugh's first season as an NFL coach, the 49ers have won four games in the Eastern time zone. Picking another West Coast coach for comparison's sake, Norv Turner has won four Eastern games in five seasons with the Chargers. Harbaugh made his reputation as an offensive guru, but the 49ers are winning with fundamental, tough football. They won 19-11 at Washington on Sunday by winning the turnover battle, by controlling the clock and by holding the Redskins to 52 yards rushing. In a sense, the 49ers are practicing under Harbaugh what former coach Mike Singletary preached during the week but couldn't make happen on Sundays. Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Gang Green is back
The New York Jets had a defining game Sunday. They were on the road, in division and facing the up-and-comer of the AFC East. And the Jets spanked the Buffalo Bills 27-11 for their third straight victory. The Jets put themselves back in the playoff picture by forcing three turnovers, including the fumble recovery by safety Jim Leonhard (pictured), and giving so many different defensive looks that Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick might have been longing for another economics midterm at Harvard. Looks like we'll have plenty of Rex Ryan quotes come January. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
The Cowboys' field has expanded
The emergence of rookie running back DeMarco Murray has given the Cowboys' offense a new dimension. Defenses now have to account for the running game, which has given quarterback Tony Romo time to look beyond the middle of the field and tight end Jason Witten. Suddenly, receivers Dez Bryant (pictured) and Miles Austin can stretch the field. They combined for only six catches in Sunday's 23-13 victory over Seattle, but those were for an average of 21.5 yards. Go deep! Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
This isn't anti-1972
The Dolphins had their perfect season in 1972. This year's squad looked like it might be the mirror image. Each week brought more misery. This week, however, the Dolphins caught a deflated Chiefs team coming off an emotional high, their Monday night overtime victory over the Chargers. Instead of building off that win, the Chiefs came out flat and were dominated. Tight end Anthony Fasano (No. 80) and center Mike Pouncey celebrated the Dolphins' good fortunate after Fasano scored a touchdown. Miami won 31-3 as Matt Moore was an efficient 17 for 23 passing. It was 1972 all over again, for a day. Game Trax | Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard | Standings