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NFL news and notes, Week 4

The NFL season is only 3 weeks old, yet there are only three undefeated teams, and all of them are surprising. Since the playoffs expanded in 1990, 79 of 105 teams (75.2 percent) that started 3-0 have made the playoffs. But in eight of the past 10 seasons, at least one 3-0 team has missed the playoffs, including last year's Giants, who started 5-0 and ended up 8-8 and out of the hunt. Here's a look at the three 3-0 teams, how they got there and where they will go from here.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

It's not a shock to see a Steelers team at 3-0, but it is when you consider they've done so without suspended QB Ben Roethlisberger. Led by Steelers football (running the ball with RB Rashard Mendenhall, above, and playing defense), they are looking to start 4-0 for the first time since 1979 — the season they won their fourth Super Bowl. The perfect record could end today with a home game against the rival Ravens. The good news for Pittsburgh is this is the last game without Roethlisberger. And he returns just in time. Four of the next five games are against the Dolphins, Saints, Bengals and Patriots. Still, who would've thought the Steelers would go even 3-1 without Big Ben?

Kansas City Chiefs

After going 4-12 last season, the Chiefs are easily the most shocking 3-0 team. The schedule hasn't been exactly a Murderers' Row with the Chargers, Browns and 49ers. Those three teams are a combined 1-8. Still, are the Chiefs building the Patriots of the Midwest? The defensive coordinator (Romeo Crennel), offensive coordinator (Charlie Weis) and quarterback (Matt Cassel) are ex-Patriots personnel. Former Largo High RB Dexter McCluster, above, has been a major spark. And the defense is full of young and impressive talent. The Chiefs are off this week and return to play the Colts and Texans, but then the rest of the schedule is soft. This could be the surprise playoff team in the NFL this season.

Chicago Bears

Okay, give the Bears credit. They are 3-0. But they are this close to being 1-2. Only a goofy rule kept them from losing to the Lions in the opener, and the Packers committed 18 penalties, dropped two easy interceptions and essentially handed the Bears a victory Monday night. Enigmatic QB Jay Cutler, above, has been more consistent so far this season but fell back into bad habits last week against Green Bay. He was intercepted once, but it could've been more like five. If he learned his lesson and doesn't try to be Superman on every play, he might finally fulfill his big potential. The strange thing is, while the Bears are lucky to be 3-0, they might have the best chance of being the league's last undefeated team because of a schedule that is not all that daunting.

Number of the day

250 The Titans' Jeff Fisher will coach his 250th regular-season game with the franchise today, making him just the eighth NFL coach to reach that mark with one team. The others:

George Halas, Bears 497

Tom Landry, Cowboys 418

Don Shula, Dolphins 392

Chuck Noll, Steelers 342

Curly Lambeau, Packers 334

Steve Owen, Giants 268

Bud Grant, Vikings 259

He said it

"It counts a little more than one game in the standings."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick about today's Pats-Dolphins game. Both AFC East teams are 2-1.

Return of the day

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb returns to Philadelphia today to play the Eagles — the team he led for 11 years. McNabb is the Eagles' leader in passing yards, completions, attempts, victories and touchdown passes. But the Eagles have found an old quarterback of their own: Michael Vick, who has passed for 750 yards and six touchdowns, plus rushed for 170 yards and a score. Vick has plenty of fans, including McNabb.

"I'm happy … the organization gave him the opportunity to showcase his talents," McNabb said of Vick. "I've moved on, and I'm focused on the job at hand."

Meantime, it will be a bittersweet return for McNabb and for the Eagles.

"I think the world of Donovan," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He did phenomenal things for this organization, and that's not forgotten. But at the same time, he wants to beat the Eagles. And we want to beat the Redskins."

Power rankings

1. Steelers

2. Colts

3. Ravens

4. Bears

5. Eagles

6. Packers

Milestone watch

Steelers WR Hines Ward needs one more touchdown for 81 to pass Jerome Bettis for second in team history. Franco Harris scored 100 touchdowns from 1972 to 1983.

Upset alert

Rams over Seahawks: There is no reasonable explanation for this pick. Call it a gut feeling based on the belief that the Seahawks are not as good as their 2-1 record says they are.

This and that

There have been five 400-yard passing performances, the most ever in the first three weeks of the season. … Sure bet of the day: Packers at home over the Lions. Green Bay has won nine straight overall and 19 in a row over Detroit in Wisconsin.

NFL news and notes, Week 4 10/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 2, 2010 5:39pm]
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