There are things we expect to happen every season in the NFL. Player ‘A’ is going to be an unstoppable beast. Team ‘B’ is going to win the Super Bowl and Team ‘C’ will no longer be terrible. Team ‘D’ will come back down to Earth after having such a great season last year. Let’s not forget ‘E, F, G, and H’ who are all going to have breakout years.
But then the season starts and Players ‘I, J and K’ dominating the competition while Teams ‘L, M, and N’ shock the world.
We may think the predictions we make are going to be spot on once the season starts, but there is only one thing we can honestly count on when it comes to sports and especially the NFL.
Someone or some team is going to come out of nowhere and surprise us all.
This season is no different. Plenty of players and teams have played surprisingly well or surprisingly bad this season. The following are some of the more notable surprise performances to date:
Los Angeles Rams: Anyone that says they expected the Rams to play phenomenal offense this season is kidding themselves or working for the Rams. The unit was terrible last season. But with a new head coach and quite a few new weapons, the offense looks nothing like it has the last couple of years.
Jared Goff (easily the most surprising player in the NFL this season) appears competent, Todd Gurley is running like the beast he was as a rookie, and the defense is playing well enough. If they can keep this going, who knows how much damage they might do this season.
Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan was supposed to transform the Bills defense into a juggernaut but didn’t even come close. When the team traded away two of their better players (Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby) for draft picks it appeared like they might be looking past the 2017 season already. As bad as the offense is, it seems like they could look ahead to next season — were it not for the defense.
They are tenth in yards allowed, but they have allowed a league-best 13.5 points/game so far. To be fair, three of the four teams they’ve played are not known for being offensive powerhouses (Jets, Panthers and Broncos). But they held the mighty Atlanta Falcons offense to just 17 points and forced three turnovers.
The offense will need to get better for them to make any actual noise this season, but they could still make things hard on a lot of other teams even if they don’t.
New England Patriots: With the trades and free agent moves the Patriots made during the offseason, everyone expected the Patriots to waltz into the Super Bowl. Offensively, they aren’t great at running the ball, but that doesn’t matter since they have Tom Brady. But for some odd reason, the once proud defense has become the worst in the NFL (after four weeks).
What could be problematic for the Patriots in the long term is the lack of communication on defense. This has been especially true in the secondary. If they can’t get it figured out, they could actually lose the AFC East and be forced to play in the Wild Card round.
Then again, they had the No. 31 defense in the league back in 2011 and still made the Super Bowl (where they lost to the New York Giants).
New York Jets: After the massive player dump the Jets engaged in during the offseason, the expectation was for them to be the worst team in the NFL by far—but they aren’t! Josh McCown is a capable quarterback (as long as things go right) and the defense is still rock solid.
They are not going to make the playoffs, but they might not be as painful to watch as expected.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags have had a good defense, but the offense has been terrible. Four games into the season they are on top of the AFC South (2-2). The offense is still suspect, but they are doing what they can to limit the amount of damage Blake Bortles can do. With how well their defense is playing, it seems to be working.
Chances are the good times are not going to last for the Jags. Offenses in the NFL need to be able to pass, and they struggle to do so. Eventually, they will need to lean on Bortles to get a passing game going, but there is no reason to think he’ll succeed.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: After the performance he gave in Week Four against the Tennessee Titans, the football-loving free world is wondering why Watson didn’t start the season behind center. What in the world did Bill O’Brien see in Tom Savage that he didn’t see in Watson?
What we saw against during Game 1 and Game 2 could explain why. With how Watson played in the second half against Jacksonville and against the Cincinnati Bengals, it looked like the Texans still needed a quarterback. But then something clicked against the New England Patriots and rolled into an explosive game against the Titans.
Assuming he can keep it up, the Texans are going to make some noise this season.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: We have high hopes for first round picks in their rookie years. When it comes to middle round guys, we expect them to make the roster, contribute, and maybe even start. We don’t expect them to blow up on the defending Super Bowl champs and we certainly don’t expect them to lead the league in rushing four weeks into the season.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Smith has lived with the label ‘game manager’ throughout his career. He’s been the kind of guy that can keep a team competitive. But he wasn’t great at pushing the ball downfield. As a result, when the team got behind and needed to pass, it struggled to catch up.
But then the craziest thing started to happen after Smith watched Patrick Mahomes sling the ball around during the preseason. He began to throw downfield—and actually connected with his receivers!
Four games into the season, Smith leads the NFL in completion percentage (76). He also ranks third in yards/attempt (8.82) and is the highest rated quarterback (124.2) so far. If he keeps this up, not only will the Chiefs go far but his name will come up in MVP-talks.