The Cincinnati Bengals have emerged as one of the top feel-good stories — on and off the field — through three games.
Undefeated and atop the AFC North standings, the Bengals are the current front-runners in the division race. They're ranked first in the NFL in yards per pass and fewest sacks allowed. Their defense has allowed the fewest points in the league.
Away from the field, they have received an outpouring of support for defensive tackle Devon Still and his 4-year-old daughter, Leah. She had a cancerous tumor removed last week during a six-hour procedure.
Still announced on Instagram that Leah's surgeon removed the tumor, lymph nodes and right adrenal gland. Leah is battling Stage 4 cancer after being diagnosed in June.
"Best news I've received in a long time," Still wrote.
Enjoying their bye week, the Bengals can look back on their first 3-0 start since 2006, a season that ended with them failing to make the playoffs as they ended the year with three consecutive losses.
It's been a mighty rise for the Bengals, but healthy skepticism remains about how they'll perform in the clutch should they reach the playoffs again.
"We were supposed to be 0-16 three years ago," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth told Cincinnati reporters. "For good or bad, those people aren't always right."
Quarterback Andy Dalton is winless in three career playoff games. But this season he's completed 64.5 percent of his throws and ranks second in the NFL with 8.6 yards per attempt.
Defensive tackle Domata Peko cautioned against the Bengals straining themselves with any back-slapping.
"There's a sign in our defensive meeting room that says, 'Ignore the noise,' and that means anything negative or positive," Peko said. "We have to keep working, keep grinding."
The Bengals have outscored opponents 80-33 this season, including a 23-16 season-opening win over the Ravens. They've built a 44-3 scoring margin in the first half.
And they're about to get back wide receiver Marvin Jones from a foot injury, further bolstering a talented receiving corps headlined by All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green.
It's good to be the Bengals right now.
Harrison makes his return
Talked out of retirement, veteran outside linebacker James Harrison is back with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In his prime, Harrison was once one of the most intimidating and effective pass rushers in the game. With Jarvis Jones on injured reserve-designated to return, the Steelers are hoping Harrison can regain a semblance of his old pass-rushing form.
Harrison is expected to see playing time Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Steelers recently brought back veteran defensive end Brett Keisel and he immediately rejoined the defensive lineup. Now, they've got another elder statesman back in the black and gold.
Keisel texted Harrison at 4:30 a.m. to convince him to return.
"He was awake," Keisel told Pittsburgh reporters. "That's when psycho works out. I had to sweet-talk him a little bit, but it didn't take much. I think having the opportunity to finish in the black and gold and, hopefully, get back to where we want to go is big for him."
Gordon has to stay out of trouble
If Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon avoids further brushes with the NFL substance-abuse policy, he'll be back on the field in November against the Atlanta Falcons after his suspension ends.
Should Gordon slip up, he'll be suspended again.
Does Gordon realize what's at stake?
"Without a doubt," receivers coach Mike McDaniel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Now, do I think originally he understood the ramifications of his actions before he ever had a slip-up? Probably not. It doesn't sit well with him that he's in this situation."