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Sunday was the first real chance for NFL teams to separate themselves from the pack, but it was the surprising Green Bay Packers who ended the day among the league’s elite.

Just three weeks into the season, only five undefeated teams remain; previously unbeaten Houston, Detroit, Washington, San Francisco and Denver all saw their early perfect records upset and their early season hype muted slightly.

The Packers and Dallas Cowboys, both underdogs on Sunday, kept their winning streaks alive with upsets and helped distance themselves early in their respective division races.

The AFC still boasts the more impressive slate of perfect records. The New England Patriots again rolled over their latest opponent, this time the Buffalo Bills, with their third straight 38-point game. QB Tom Brady has thrown 10 TD passes, five more than his defense has allowed.

In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh defense has allowed only two touchdowns on the year en route to a 3-0 record.

The Steelers, who didn’t get their third victory of 2006 until their ninth game, are 3-0 for the first time since 1992. Not coincidentally, that was ex-coach Bill Cowher’s first season on the job.

“We’ve got a lot of the same guys, so who’s to say if Bill was here that we wouldn’t be 3-0?" All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said. “That’s a what-if game you can’t play. But Mike [Tomlin] and his staff have come in and done a good job and gotten us to 3-0."

The defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis won its first three for the third year in a row, although close victories over Houston and Tennessee have made the Colts appear vulnerable.

Those AFC unbeatens were expected; almost no one outside Wisconsin predicted the Packers would upset San Diego this week, especially with the alleged high-powered Chargers offense coming off a 24-point loss to New England.

The Green Bay defense has been the difference. On Sunday, it allowed 24 points but largely held RB LaDanian Tomlinson in check, limiting him to one touchdown and 62 rushing yards. In the fourth quarter, the squad forced two punts and intercepted a pass while the offense scored two late touchdowns.

“It’s a very big win for us, one you can point to as far as building your program,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the Packers extended their NFL-leading winning streak to seven. “Our confidence is real. It’s building.”

“I think people watching us or the film will see it wasn’t a fluke," said QB Brett Favre, who seemed relieved that his record-tying 420th touchdown pass took a back seat to the fervor generated by the victory. “It’s hard to luck into three straight wins like this. When you win a game like that it builds, ‘Hey, maybe we can.’ ”

Two weeks ago, the Packers held the Philadelphia offense in check and scored 13 points off turnovers in a 16-13 victory. Last week, they held the New York Giants to 13 points.

The impressive record leaves Green Bay two games ahead of the preseason pick to win the division, the Chicago Bears. Chicago’s vaunted defense surrendered 27 points in a 34-10 loss to Dallas Sunday night, leaving the Bears at the bottom of the standings and Dallas at the top.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips’ defense has looked erratic at times — it is surrendering almost 22 points a game — but the offense has looked unstoppable. It has outscored opponents by an average of 17 points a game and RB Marion Barber has a touchdown for every 10 carries so far.

Dallas’ unblemished record could be marred when the Cowboys square off against New England in two weeks, or even when they face the Packers later this season. And the Patriots also see both the Colts and Steelers on their schedule later this year, making a perfect season for New England less likely.

Instant replay: This week, AFN Sports will feature two of the remaining undefeated teams: At 2 p.m. Wednesday Central Europe Time, watch the Colts hold off the Texans 30-24 behind a two-touchdown day by RB Joseph Addai.

At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, catch the Packers’ victory over the Chargers, including three touchdown passes by QB Brett Favre to tie Dan Marino’s career record. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers threw three as well, leaving him 392 behind the top two.

On Thursday at 2 p.m., catch the Seattle Seahawks’ last-minute victory over Cincinnati. The game featured four fourth-quarter lead changes before Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed the game-winning, 22-yard score.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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