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Sleepers no more: Rookie receivers catching on fast

Even though there wasn't a wideout selected in the first round of last April's NFL draft, some rookies are catching on fast.

St. Louis' Donnie Avery, who at No. 33 was the first receiver taken, had a breakout game last Sunday with six receptions for 163 yards and a 69-yard scoring pass from Marc Bulger, in a 23-16 loss to the New England Patriots.

And he's just the latest first-year receiver to enjoy a coming-out party.

Denver's Eddie Royal leads all rookies with 39 receptions, for 392 yards and two scores, and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is close behind at 3 2/5 0 5/1 . All were tabbed within 16 selections of one another in the second round -- Avery from the University of Houston, Royal from Virginia Tech and Jackson out of California.

That's pretty outstanding production considering this was the first wide receiver-less first round since the common draft began in 1967. Since then, the latest the first wideout had been taken was when the New York Jets grabbed Rob Moore out of Syracuse with their supplemental pick (No. 26 overall) in 1990. And Moore didn't disappoint as a rookie with 44 receptions for 692 yards and six touchdowns.

All but six of Avery's catches have come in the past three games, since Bulger was reinstated as the starting quarterback following Jim Haslett replacing Scott Linehan as head coach.

With the Cougars, Avery caught 210 passes for 3,289 yards and 19 TDs, cracking the century mark in yardage seven times in 13 games as a senior.

Jackson and Royal made more of an immediate impact. All but 10 of Jackson's catches came in the first four games but he's accumulated 71 yards or more in five of his first seven games.

Royal scored in both his first two games, and has caught nine passes in a game three times so far. But he needs to develop more consistency, evidenced by the fact he's averaged 107 receiving yards in those three games, but just 23.7 in three other contests.


Sorting the Bills

New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre hasn't forged a Hall of Fame career based on his performances against the Buffalo Bills.

In five career games against Buffalo, he's 102 of 173 (59 percent) for 1,040 yards with nine touchdowns, five interceptions and nine sacks for 61 yards in losses. His average of 208 passing yards versus the Bills is lower than his career average (239.6), as is his completion percentage (career 61.6). He went 2-3 against Buffalo with Green Bay, and the Packers averaged just 12.7 points in the last three meetings.

The Jets rank fourth against the rush, allowing 82.6 yards per game, and haven't allowed an opponent more than 74 (Oakland's Justin Fargas in Week Seven). The opposition's top rusher has averaged just 46.3 yards against New York and he's been held to 29 or fewer yards three times.

The Jets are 12th in total defense (315.3), 23rd against the pass (232.7) and 19th in scoring defense (24.3 points per game). Much of the damage through the air came when Arizona's Kurt Warner piled up 472 yards in Week Four, but 373 came after his team fell behind, 34-0, at halftime.

Bills running back Marshawn Lynch had 44 carries for 159 yards during the 2007 series sweep of the Jets.


Since you asked

Q: With the New Orleans Saints off this week I have to replace quarterback Drew Brees. My choices are Cincinnati's Ryan Fitzpatrick or Seattle's Seneca Wallace. Am I in trouble?

A: Perhaps not. Cincinnati hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are just 22nd defending the pass (230.6 ypg) and have given up six pass plays of 40 yards or more. Seattle is at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, who rank 12th (197.9) but have surrendered just nine TD passes, compared to 12 by the Jags. This could be a week in which Fitzpatrick limits the damage.


Week Eight eye-popper

Washington's Clinton Portis carried 24 times for 126 yards in a 25-17 win over the Detroit Lions. Nothing outwardly special, but it was his fifth straight game of 120 yards or more.

He joins Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson as the only players to do that on two different occasions.


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