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Jerry Sullivan: Bills' schedule doesn't seem so daunting

Column as I see 'em, Week Three:

A dozen of the Bills took a knee before Sunday's game against the Broncos. Good for them. Then the team took a step forward. When the day was done, things were looking up, partly because a schedule that appeared so daunting before the season didn't seem quite so intimidating anymore.

They do have games left against the NFL's only two remaining unbeaten teams, the Chiefs and Falcons, starting with Sunday's game in Atlanta. But several of their future opponents looked positively dreadful on Sunday, and if the Bills' defense keeps playing this well, they can compete with all of them.

The Bengals, who host the Bills before the bye on Oct. 8, remain winless after blowing a 14-point lead in Green Bay. They actually scored a touchdown for the first time, but they're still one of the worst teams in the league.

Tampa Bay, which visits Buffalo on Oct. 22, got drilled in Minnesota, 34-17, as former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston threw three interceptions and the Bucs rushed for 26 yards. The Vikes' Case Keenum passed for 369 yards and three TDs on a Bizarro world day in which several marginal QBs had big days.

Head coach Dirk Koetter and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not looking so good early on. (Getty Images)

The Raiders, who come to New Era the week after the Bucs, were embarrassed Sunday night in Washington, gaining 128 yards and going 0-for-11 on third down in a 27-10 loss. Derek Carr, an MVP candidate a year ago, threw for 118 yards in the second-lowest rated game of his career.

The Chargers remained winless under Anthony Lynn, losing in LA to the Chiefs, 24-10. KC picked off Philip Rivers three times in the first quarter. Rivers finished with a 37.2 passer rating, his worst since the 2014 season.
The Chargers, who host the Bills on Nov. 19, have lost seven in a row to KC.

Oh, and we couldn't forget the Dolphins, who lost 20-6 at the Jets, allowing Josh McCown to go 18 of 23 passing for 249 yards with no interceptions. Jay Ajayi rushed 11 times for 16 yards for Miami. Jay Cutler averaged 5 yards per pass attempt. So much for an 0-16 season for the Jets.

Fortunes can shift in a hurry in the NFL, of course.  The Dolphins were left were dead when they started 1-4 last season, then won nine of 10 to make the playoffs. The Bucs started 1-3 and won nine games. The Lions were 1-3 and made the playoffs. The Broncos started 4-0 and missed the playoffs.

Still, if the Bills' defense plays the way it has in the first three weeks, most of these games are winnable. They have a long road ahead, but they have a decent chance to be 6-4 after 10 games for the first time since 2000.

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One game that looms as a formidable challenge for the Bills is at Kansas City on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Chiefs are always tough at Arrowhead, but they look like one of the Super Bowl favorites after a 3-0 start that included a stunning win at New England in the season opener.

The Bills were hoping KC would collapse when they traded for the Chiefs' No. 1 pick in next year's draft. Now it looks as if that pick could be very late. Through three weeks, the Chiefs look like the most complete team in the NFL, capable of striking fast on both sides of the football.

The Chiefs are first in the league in yards per play, rushing yards and yards per rush. They're second in scoring, third in total offense and third in scoring differential. They're tied for second in sacks and third in opponents' quarterback rating at 64.1

Rookie running back Kareem Hunt leads the NFL with 401 yards rushing and is averaging a staggering 8.5 yards a carry. He also has 137 receiving yards and leads in combined yards. Alex Smith leads the league in QB rating at 132.7. He has completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 7 TDs and no picks.

KC has won 12 games in a row against AFC West competition. They've become the Patriots of their division. Their last divisional loss was to Denver in Week Two of the 2015 season. Oakland has lost to them five times in a row.
The only game in which Derek Carr rated lower than Sunday night's debacle in Washington? A loss to KC last year, when he went 17 for 41 for 117 yards.

So the road to the Super Bowl might go through Arrowhead this year, and it'll be a tough road for the Bills when they show up on Nov. 26.

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It's discouraging to see the level of disdain some people have for NFL players. After the anthem protests on Sunday, one guy suggested on social media that 95 percent of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem do nothing to give back to their communities or to work for social change.

Well, I don't have numbers, but the fact is that NFL players have become more socially active in the year since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee. There's a group of some 40 NFL players, including recently retired Anquan Boldin, who are working to effect change in the criminal justice system.

Countless players contribute to their communities in a variety of ways, which often go publicly unacknowledged. Minutes after making his impassioned remarks about President Trump after Sunday's game, Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander was back on the field, giving back.

Alexander spent a good half hour with members of a regional boys flag football team. It's one of many groups that Alexander supports through his ACES foundation, which he created to help youth in the community.

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Is He Owned? This week's featured fantasy find is Bruce Ellington, a wide receiver for the Texans. Ellington emerged as Deshaun Watson's second-favorite target in a Week Three loss to the Patriots, catching four passes for 59 yards and a 29-yard touchdown.

Ellington, who played basketball and football at South Carolina, was a fourth-round pick of the Niners in 2014. He caught 13 passes in 2015, but spent last season on injured reserve. But with Will Fuller hurt and Braxton Miller underachieving, he could be the No. 2 wideout for Watson.

They seemed to have a bond against the Pats. When Ellington scored his TD, he dropped the ball to the ground, bounced off imaginary wrestling ropes and dropped his elbow on the ground, emulating The Rock's famous finishing move.

Rookie QB Watson came along and played wrestling ref, counting the ball out. Ellington is available in most leagues. Get in on the fun!

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Speaking of fantasy, the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell certainly isn't justifying his universal selection as the first or second overall picks in most drafts.  After three games, Bell has 52 carries for only 180 yards, or 3.4 yards a carry. He averaged 4.9 a pop last season, when he rushed for 835 yards over the last six weeks, including a 236-yard effort against the Bills.

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Stats Incredible: Aaron Rodgers was 0-7 in his career in overtime before Sunday's OT win over the Bengals ... Sean McDermott is the first Bills head coach to win his first two home games ... The Bills tied a team record by allowing only two TDs through the first three games. It happened in 1981, '82 and '83 ... Case Keenum, Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles, Josh McCown and Jared Goff completed a combined 73.4 percent of their passes, with 12 TDs and 0 picks. They all won ... So much for the league's scoring woes. Heading into Monday, 20 of 30 teams had scored at least 24 points this week, and 10 had at least 30. A wild Week Three in so many ways ...

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