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Jerry Sullivan: Wentz, Watson rising in wild NFL

Column as I see 'em, Week 6:

Talk about parity! The NFL is wilder and more unpredictable than ever before. Heading into the Monday games, there were 26 teams within a game of first place or the wild card. Twenty-four teams had two or three losses.

The only division with all four teams at .500 or better? The AFC East, of course. The only team in the mighty AFC West to win in Week 6 was the Chargers, who were winless two weeks ago. The Raiders have lost four in a row. The only NFC South team to win was the Saints.

The NFC West is a shambles. The Falcons lost at home to the Dolphins. That's two straight home losses for Atlanta, which hadn't trailed in the second half at home since 2015 until the Bills upset them two weeks ago.

The Packers are toast after losing Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone. The Cowboys have lost two in a row. Their defense has been horrible and star running back Ezekiel Elliott could miss six games if his six-game suspension for assaulting a woman is eventually upheld.

Suddenly, the Eagles are atop the conference at 5-1 and looking capable of a Super Bowl run. In Carson Wentz, they have a rising superstar, maybe the best young quarterback in the league. The Eagles are further evidence that if you get the franchise quarterback, success will soon follow.

The Bills should take notice. The Eagles traded five draft picks to the Browns to move up and get Wentz at No. 2 overall in 2016. They gave their first-, third- and fourth-rounders in '16, and their first and second last April. It was a bundle, but it appears to have been worth it.

Wentz has come of age in his second season. He has 13 touchdown passes. The Eagles have won four in a row, the longest current streak in the NFL, and scored 26 points or more in each. Wentz stood in against a persistent Carolina rush and threw for 222 yards and three TDs on Thursday night.

The kid played at a small college program, North Dakota State. Maybe that's why the Browns convinced themselves he wouldn't be a top NFL quarterback. They always find a reason to miss on QBs. Evidently, they were unmoved by Deshaun Watson's talents in the '17 draft.

Watson leads the league with 15 touchdown passes, 12 in his last three games. He's the first NFL rookie ever to throw three TD passes in three straight games. The Texans have averaged 34.2 points in his five starts and are second in the NFL in scoring behind the Rams with 177 points.

Of course, the Browns weren't the only team that didn't think Watson was a franchise guy. The Bills could have taken Watson with the 10th overall pick (which I had recommended), but traded it to the Chiefs, who used the pick on another quarterback, Patrick Mahomes II.

Moments later, the Texans acquired the 12th overall pick from Cleveland and drafted Watson. Houston traded its first-rounder in 2017 and '18. The Chiefs gave the Bills their first in '17 and '18, plus a third in '17.

Time will tell how those deals work out long-term. But the early returns on Wentz and Watson are promising. They're the hottest passers in the league. I doubt the Eagles and Texans regret paying such a high price to move up in the draft and get them.

If you love a quarterback, you do what it takes. That's what the Bills need to do very soon. They have six picks in the first three rounds of the next draft. They have the assets to make the sort of play that the Eagles, Chiefs and Texans made for their franchise QBs.

Passing on Watson was a mistake. In retrospect, you wonder if it was wise to leave Doug Whaley and his lame-duck scouts in place for the draft. But ultimately, the responsibility for that call lays with Sean McDermott, who had total power over the football operation.

Whatever the case, it's up to the new general manager, Brandon Beane, to get it right. Sorry if Tyrod Taylor feels the world has judged him unfairly, but the Bills can't afford to settle any longer.
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With the Bills' passing game in such disarray, it's natural to assume they would be better off if they hadn't traded Sammy Watkins. But based on Watkins's dreadful performances of late, you have to wonder.

Watkins had Buffalo fans moaning when he caught two touchdown passes against the Niners in Week 3. But he has been a shell of himself since leaving the game with a concussion, which is reminiscent of his play when he was hobbled by an injury last season in Buffalo.

Over his last three games, Sammy has two total catches on 10 targets for 28 yards. He had one reception for 11 yards in the Rams' win over Jacksonville on Sunday. He seems lost, as was often the case in Buffalo. A few weeks ago, he said he regretted demanding more targets with the Bills. Then, after getting no catches in a game, he went public with his frustration about not being targeted.

You can blame Bills management for not doing a better job of bolstering their wide receiving corps. But it's become increasingly clear that getting rid of Watkins was the smart thing to do.
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It's unclear whether Jameis Winston will miss next weekend's game in Buffalo with a sprained knee joint. Our old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Buccaneers' backup quarterback, would get the call if Winston sat.

Fitzpatrick made history in relief of Winston in Sunday's loss at Arizona. Fitz threw three TD passes as the Bucs scored 33 points in the final 23:27. One of the TDs went to tight end Cameron Brate, his fellow Harvard graduate. It was the first Harvard-to-Harvard scoring throw in NFL history.

Fitzpatrick also became the fourth man to throw a touchdown pass for seven different NFL teams. The others are Vinny Testaverade, Chris Chandler and Gus Frerotte.
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Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown caused a stir in Steeler Country when he threw a water cooler because he was upset about not being targeted enough in a win over the Ravens.

Brown has responded with two big games in a row. He had 10 catches for 157 yards in a loss to the Jags (albeit, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing five picks) and had eight for 155 yards in an upset win against the Chiefs on Sunday. Brown was targeted 29 times in the two games.

Suddenly, Brown has 48 catches for an NFL-leading 700 yards, on pace for 128 and 1,897. That's better than his average for the last four seasons: 120 catches and 1,579 yards. At this pace, he'll goover 10,000 career yards later this season, before he turns 30. That's faster than Jerry Rice, the career leader with 22,895 yards
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This week's fantasy target in "Is He Owned?" is Giants tailback Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for a career-high 117 yards in an upset win at Denver. Darkwa had a 47-yard jaunt early and a timely 15-yard run when the Giants were at their 1-yard line and nursing a lead in the fourth quarter.

Darkwa was undrafted out of Tulane in 2014. He was signed and later released by Miami, then picked up by the Giants later that season. He made his first start last October, but broke his leg and went on IR.

Two weeks ago, he became the starter and ran eight times for 69 yards. I was surprised to see he was available in both my leagues after the Giants' first win, which came against a Broncos defense that came in ranked first overall and first against the run.
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Colin Kaepernick has little chance of winning his grievance against the NFL owners for colluding to keep him out of the league. But when you look at some of the quarterbacks on NFL rosters, it's hard not to agree that he's being punished for "principled and peaceful political protest."

The Niners started C.J. Beathard in place of Brian Hoyer against the Redskins. With Rodgers out, Green Bay will put its playoff hopes in the hands of Brett Hundley, a 2015 fifth-round pick who was 2-for-10 passing with a Blutarsky-like QB rating of 0.0 before this season.

The Packers' backup will now be Joe Callahan, an undrafted free agent out of Wesley College in Dover, Del. Wesley College?
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Stats Incredible: Tarik Cohen, the Bears' 5-6 rookie tailback, became the shortest NFL player to throw a TD pass since 1934 when he threw a 37-yard strike to tight end Zach Miller ... The Niners have lost five straight by three of fewer points, an NFL record ... Tom Brady won his 187th regular-season game, an NFL record. He also has a record 25 playoff wins ... The Pats are 21-1 in last 22 regular-season games when Rob Gronkowski catches a TD pass ... Atlanta's Matt Ryan had 20 TD passes and 0 interceptions in his last seven games last year, counting playoffs. This season, he has six TDs and six picks ...

 

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