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Column as I see 'em, NFL Week Three: Another ghastly mistake by the lake

Jerry Sullivan

Column as I see 'em, Week Three:

Bills fans are on a high after Sunday's big win over the Cardinals. But if they're feeling low, it always helps to look to the other side of Lake Erie and take comfort in the fact that they're not rooting for Cleveland.

Imagine being a Browns fan right now and being tortured by the fact that your team passed up a chance to draft Carson Wentz in last April's draft. Cleveland, dubious about Wentz as a potential franchise QB, traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Eagles, getting five picks in return.

Through three weeks, Wentz has been the story of the NFL, playing the game's most vital position with skill and poise beyond his years and leading the Eagles to a 3-0 start. He has completed 66 of 102 passes (64.7 percent) for 769 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and a rating of 103.8.

Wentz, who played at North Dakota State, is the first rookie in league history with at least one TD pass and no picks in each of his first three starts. On Sunday, he was 23 of 31 passing for 301 yards, soundly outplaying veteran Ben Roethlisberger as Philly drilled the Steelers, 34-3, in a battle of in-state rivals.

Meanwhile, the Browns have started three different QBs in their three losses. Robert Griffin III hurt his shoulder in the opening loss to Wentz and the Eagles. He's out out for the year. Josh McCown started in Week Two and broke his collarbone. Rookie Cody Kessler, a third-round pick, got the nod Sunday against the Dolphins, completing 21 of 33 in a 30-24 loss.

Terrelle Pryor, who caught eight passes for 144 yards against Miami, got some time at QB and went 3-for-5 for 35 yards. When you're the Browns, you never stop searching.

Cleveland has now started 26 starting quarterbacks since the NFL gave them back a franchise in 1999. Everyone from Derek Anderson to Kelly Holcomb to Brady Quinn to Spergon Wynn, enough to fill the entire alphabet if they had all the letters covered.

That makes the Bills seem positively rock-solid at the position by comparison. What's troubling for the Browns -- and the Bills -- is seeing how many first-time starting quarterbacks are thriving in the early part of the 2016 season.

It's not just Wentz. Denver's Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015, has led the defending Super Bowl champs to a 3-0 start. On Sunday, Siemian led the Broncos to a 29-17 comeback win at Cincinnati, posting a perfect fourth-quarter rating and becoming the first QB ever to pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns in his first road start.

Dallas rookie Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick, went 19 for 24 for 248 yards and no picks in the Cowboys' 31-17 win over the Bears on Sunday night. He has attempted 99 passes and, like Wentz, has yet to throw an interception. He's averaging a healthy 7.7 yards per throw and has fans in Dallas wondering if he should be the man even when Tony Romo returns.

Of course, we can't forget the Patriots young starters, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, who have led New England to a 3-0 start during Tom Brady's deflation suspension. One of them will likely be the starter when the Bills visit Foxboro on Sunday.

Philly, Denver, New England and Dallas are a combined 11-1 so far, with all the games quarterbacked by rookies or players who had never started an NFL game before.

It's early, and there's no guarantee that any of them, even Wentz, will become elite quarterbacks or franchise guys. But it makes it even more imperative for the Bills to be right about Tyrod Taylor, because if Taylor doesn't make it, they'll be even further behind the rest of the league than they imagined.

* Here's a testament to the fragile and unpredictable nature of modern NFL running backs, and why they cause fantasy football owners (and real owners) more grief than any other position.

None of the running backs who finished in the top five in rushing last season is in the top 16 after three weeks this year. In fact, only one of the backs who finished in the top 10 in rushing yards a year ago is currently in the top 10. That's the Steelers' DeAngelo Williams, who is sixth this year and finished 10th last season. And he's nominally a backup.

A look at last year's top five rushers and how they're doing three weeks into the new season. The short answer is "not well."

Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had 31 carries for 50 yards before having surgery on his right knee and going on injured reserve. Tampa Bay's Doug Martin had 85 yards through two games and missed last week with hamstring injury. The Rams' Todd Gurley, a fantasy darling a month ago, has 183 yards on 63 carries, a 2.9 yard average, with long run of 16 yards.

Darren McFadden, who had 1,089 yards for the Cowboys last season, is out with a right elbow injury and might not play this year. Chris Ivory, who signed with the Jaguars after rushing for a career-high 1,070 yards for the Jets, missed the first two games with an undisclosed
medical issue and came back for 12 carries and 14 yards Sunday against the Ravens.

So last year's elite five have a combined 332 yards on 131 carries (2.53 a carry) through three weeks. My strategy in fantasy these days: Build your team around wide receivers.

* The Vikings were the team to beat in the NFC North, even after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the year. The reason was their defense, a young and talented group that led Minnesota to its third straight win on Sunday, a 22-10 road thrashing of Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Minnesota sacked Newton eight times, intercepted him three times and held the defending NFC champs scoreless after the first quarter, ending Carolina's 14-game home winning streak. A week earlier, they beat the Packers, 17-14, holding Aaron Rodgers to 20 of 36 passing for
213 yards. They have held seven consecutive teams to 17 points or fewer over two seasons, including a 10-9 loss to Seattle in the playoffs.

The Vikings' defensive coordinator is George Edwards, who was Chan Gailey's coordinator in Buffalo from 2010-11. Edwards was replaced by Dave Wannstedt, who was a one-year disaster as coordinator in 2012. Head coach Mike Zimmer is the acknowledged mastermind of the Vikings' D, but Edwards is doing a nice job there.

* Marvin Jones is making Lions fans forget the retired Calvin Johnson. Jones leads the NFL with 408 yards receiving after grabbing six balls for a career-high 205 yards against the Packers. Johnson had 199 yards after three games last season. Jones left the Bengals for a
five-year, $40 deal with the Lions in the offseason.

I know, the Bills sure could use that kind of weapon in their receiving game. They have no one in the top 80 in the league in receiving yards. Marquise Goodwin leads them with 118 yards, 84 coming on one long bomb against the Jets.

It's hard to believe, but Pittsburgh's 34-3 loss to the Eagles was its most one-sided since 1989, when Chuck Noll was coach. That year, the Steelers lost to Cincinnati, 41-10, in Week Two, after getting blown out, 51-0, by the Browns in the opener, 51-0. And made the playoffs.

The Bills have lost by 31 points or more 12 times during the 16-year playoff drought.

* Passing yards, which pile up at times when a team is behind, can be deceiving. Through three weeks, six of the top seven in NFL passing yards are on teams with 1-2 records (Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford). Eli Manning and the Giants are 2-1.

Still, it would be nice to see Tyrod Taylor throw for 300 yards at some point.

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