Especially in this fantasy-fueled age, the NFL knows its product is at its most popular when face-of-the-franchise quarterbacks are throwing for gobs of yards and TD after TD.

So when guys such as Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo and Drew Brees are missing time with injuries, the league might think it needs to try something new to protect QBs. Here's the problem with jumping to the conclusion that leaky offensive lines are to blame: Heading into Monday night, games are averaging only 3.98 sacks, tied with 2010 for the second fewest through Week 3 since 1970, according to STATS.

Pittsburgh's Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champ, was the latest high-profile passer to go down, hurting his left knee in the third quarter of the Steelers' 12-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

More from FoxSports

''I've never seen him down,'' receiver Antonio Brown said about Big Ben, ''so I was a little shocked.''

Roethlisberger reportedly could miss about a month. That's about half as long as the Dallas Cowboys might be without Romo, whose collarbone was broken last week. No surprise here: Without Romo on Sunday, Dallas lost for the first time this season.

The New Orleans Saints played without Brees, who has a shoulder problem; they lost, too. The Chicago Bears didn't have Jay Cutler and not only did they lose, but, boy, was it ugly: They punted all 10 times they had the football.

Then again, the Saints and Bears are a combined 0-6, so it might not really matter who's playing quarterback.

NBC must be thrilled about its potential prime-time QB matchup next week: New Orleans' Luke McCown (if Brees can't return) against Dallas' Brandon Weeden. Got to set the DVR for that one, right?

In case you missed it, here are other hot topics after the NFL's third regular-season Sunday:

MEGA-JULIO: There might be a new ''best receiver in the NFL'' right now - not Calvin ''Megatron'' Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, but Atlanta's Julio Jones. His 12 catches for 164 yards and a pair of TDs helped the Falcons beat the Cowboys 39-28 and become the first NFL team to open 3-0 after overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit in each game. Jones gained at least 135 yards through the air in every game - the first time anyone has done that. And his 34 catches are a record for a season's first three games. (By the way, Cincinnati's A.J. Green isn't too shabby, either; he grabbed 10 passes for 227 yards and two TDs for his 3-0 club, which beat Baltimore 28-24.)

FLOPS: Baltimore and Detroit joined New Orleans and Chicago at 0-3. One of these is not like the others, though: The Ravens won a playoff game last season ... and they have never been 0-3.

ALL DAY: At least for a day, Adrian Peterson once again appeared to be, well, Adrian Peterson, after missing nearly a full season because of a child-abuse case. He bounced off defenders, sped around them or just plain knocked them aside, running for 126 yards and a couple of scores on 20 carries in Minnesota's 31-14 victory over San Diego. ''Yeah, I think I'm back,'' the 2012 NFL MVP declared.

TIP O' THE KAEP: Remember back when the zone-read option was all the rage and Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick were in the spotlight? Seems so long ago, doesn't it? RG3 hasn't been active this season for the Redskins, while Kaepernick turned in one of the most abysmal performances in NFL history in San Francisco's 47-7 loss to Arizona: Two of his first four throws results in pick-6s; four interceptions in all; 9 of 19 for 67 yards; quarterback rating of 16.7.

---

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

---

Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL