Atlanta has the best record, the Giants still have Eli and the Patriots still have Brady. The Bears’ NFL-best defense seems to be getting better every week. Peyton has resurrected his career in Denver, and, really, did anyone ever really doubt he would?

Thing is, there are a lot of great stories in pro football these days – some them tried and true, and others brand new.

But nothing tops what is going on in Houston, where the Texans are establishing themselves as the roughest and toughest team around. They started out 5-0, just pounding opponents into submission on both sides of the ball. Then, coming off a short week following a road win on Monday Night Football against the Jets, they got embarrassed last week by Green Bay.

Lost 42-24, and got singed for six TDs by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

So, this past Sunday was a test to see how they’d respond.

Suffice it to say, they passed … with flying colors in posting a 43-13 victory. All the offensive stars – QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson – stood out, and the defense didn’t seem to miss a beat, like it had a week earlier, with LB Brian Cushing out. It held the Ravens to just 176 yards of offense, sacking Joe Flacco four times, including a career first by rookie LB Whitney Mercilus. Unproductive up to this point in his initial pro campaign, the first-round pick out of Illinois could factor with Cushing gone for the season with a torn ACL.

If he turns out to be a positive factor, that would only strengthen Houston’s chances to be a real player come this postseason. The 6-1 Texans currently rank among the top five teams on offense and defense, and seem more balanced than any other squad in the NFL. Plus, they just beat up Baltimore.

Who does that, with or without Ray Lewis in the lineup for the Ravens?

The days of David Carr running for his life seem so long ago …


– So much for the Patriots’ plans to phase out Wes Welker in their passing game – the over-achieving little guy currently leads the NFL in receiving with 688 yards after his worst game since the 2012 opener, snaring just six balls for 66 yards. The nine-year pro’s 54 receptions lead the league, too.

– Nice career-day efforts by Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman (420 yards and 3 TDs passing) and WR Vincent Jackson (7 catches, 216 yards, TD), but, next time, guys, it might be nice to try to work in a win with those numbers as well – especially when you’re up 14 in the second quarter.

– Of course, if they and their fellow Buccaneers didn’t have to face Drew Brees, maybe a victory would have been in the offing. Umm, anyone else notice how Mr. Undersized is starting to crank it up? In his last three games, Brees has thrown for 1,193 yards, 11 TDs and just two picks.

– The nation’s capital and the nation in general are going gaga over QB Robert Griffin III and rightfully so. But he ain’t the only rookie producing big time for the Redskins. RB Alfred Morris (who?), out of Florida Atlantic (where?), ranks second in rushing behind Houston’s Foster – by one yard (659 to 658).

– New England coach Bill Belichick may have been right on the money when he emphasized that Jets QB/special teamer Tim Tebow is a “football player.” He’s also a non-factor. In his first seven games for the 3-4 Jets, Double-T has thrown for 32 yards and rushed for 76, accounting for no TDs.