We’ve completed a quarter of the NFL season and there have been a few teams that have been a shock to the league. Some have performed well above expectations while others…not so much. Here is my list of the five most surprising teams in the NFL.
Five Most Surprising Teams in the NFL
The Bills are going into week five with a 3-1 record with second-year quarterback Josh Allen at the helm. While Allen has been less than stellar (terrible, honestly), the run game has been solid. Frank Gore continues drinking from the fountain of youth leading the Bills as the fourth-ranked rushing offense thus far.
Outside of the run game, this Bills defense has been amazing. They rank sixth in points allowed and second in total yards allowed. The Bills had their share of doubters because of their strength of schedule, but they played the New England Patriots tough only giving up 16 points to Tom Brady and crew. The Bills are showing that old school football still gets the job done in this age of passing. Watch for them to compete for a wild card spot.
Detroit began the season looking like the same old Lions when they finished in a tie to the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, they have looked like they belong in the conversation for the NFC North champions. Every game, they have played has come down to the wire and the Lions have found a way to win two against playoff contenders Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. Their mental toughness has been on display all season.
The defense must work on creating more turnovers. Having only two interceptions going into week five is low for a defense with so much potential. On the other hand, the offense has been balling. Ranked tenth in points, the Matthew Stafford led offense may have found the next breakout receiver in Kenny Golladay. Golladay has put up good numbers with 19 receptions for 243 yards and four touchdowns and has been Stafford’s primary target. Look for the Lions to continue their upward trend.
San Francisco 49ers
If someone said a team would give up five turnovers and still win the game, not many would believe them. That sums up what the 49ers have been this season. We all were anticipating Jimmy Garoppolo to show us why Bill Belichick reportedly didn’t want to let him go. Let’s just say we’re still waiting.
Although their offensive rankings may be deceiving, (third in points per game and fourth in total yards) the 49ers have been great on defense. Ranking eighth in points allowed per game and third in total yards allowed per game, teams have to watch out for this secondary. A lot of experts counted Richard Sherman out once he left the Seattle Seahawks, but he has shown that he’s far from done with four pass defenses and a pick-six. The 49ers’ first real test may come this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
I never had lofty expectations for the Bengals, but they look pathetic. New head coach Zac Taylor was brought in from the Los Angeles Rams to be the next Sean McVay. That clearly isn’t working out as the Bengals hoped. The Bengals have given up 27.5 points per game while only scoring 14.2 points per game. Their offensive line is one of the worst in the league allowing 19 sacks in four games. Kind of reminds you of the movie “Any Given Sunday” when the line refused to block for Willie Beamon, though I doubt that’s the case here. The line has done no favors for the run game either as the Bengals only average 2.8 yards per carry.
Injuries play a role in this season’s struggles. First-round lineman Jonah Williams, star receiver A.J. Green, and lineman Cordy Glenn have all been sidelined this season with injuries. Key players watching from the sideline can’t even help this team’s morale.
It seems as though Matt Ryan is being Matt Ryan again. He only looks like an all-pro in contract years. Ryan is like the kid who cleans up his room last minute so he can play outside instead of keeping his room tidy daily. Ryan throws a lot of what I call “empty yards”. He’s averaging over 40 pass attempts per game and has 1,325 passing yards on the season. However, Ryan has only eight touchdowns and the Falcons are 1-3 and averaging 17.5 points per game. Dan Quinn needs to figure out a way to balance this offense and put up some wins or he’ll be a defensive coordinator candidate in January.
Three Quarters Remain
The first quarter of the NFL season usually separates the real from the frauds. Out of these five most surprising teams, I expect the Bills and the Lions to remain the Cinderellas of this season. I’m anticipating what will become of these teams and the resulting fallout. I’m also looking forward to next quarter’s most surprising teams.
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