• Surprises and Not So Fast

    This is the first weekend this season that I have had the opportunity to sit down and watch NFL games. A few surprises hit me; the winless Rams complete and utter domination of the Saints tops my list, I thought that the Giants and the Ravens would have walk-overs at home ... not so fast, (both should have lost), Dick LeBeau completely going to a different strategy against Tom Brady turned out to be genius ... great job coach!! The Bills easy win over the Redskins in Toronto caught me by surprise. I thought that Dallas would put up a better fight against the Eagles after all of the testosterone yak during the week, and finally, Philip Rivers fumbling away a center snap on the Chiefs +15 yd line with 48 seconds remaining in a tied game was well ... surprising to say the least, that doesn't happen in the NFL. All of this got me thinking about the first half of the season, there are some surprising storylines and some not what I expected storylines going on.

    Top/Best Storylines of First Half

    1. Mike Brown - I never thought that Mike Brown would pull off the coup of the first half and probably the season. Getting a 1st round draft pick next year and a 2nd (possibly first in 2013) for Carson Palmer was genius. Bengals fans have a pulse again, the future looks so bright ... I need to wear shades. Don't kill the momentum Mike, keep it going. It's great to see Bengals fans excited about football again! Nice job Mike!!

    2. Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers - What a story. A college coach coming into the NFL and taking a fractured team to a division title and becoming a Super Bowl contender. He has instilled a bravado attitude throughout the locker room. His defense is ranked #1 in fewest points allowed, the team is 6th in points scored, his special teams are playing ... special, his run game is power-ful, and his once turnover laden QB is not turning the ball over. Oh, did I mention that he can get under an opposing HC's skin as well?

    3. Cam Newton - I was completely wrong about Cam going into the season. He has been sensational on a bad team. He has brought excitement and hope back to Panthers fans. If Cam stays healthy, he will shatter the record of most passing yards in a season by a rookie QB. He is completing 61% of his passes, thrown for 2,393 yds, has 11 TD passes and has run for 7 more TD's. If the Panthers defense wasn't so bad, the Panthers would have 4 wins. Landslide rookie of the year winner!

    4. Buffalo Bills chip on their shoulder story - Talk about a bunch of men who were shunned, devalued, or told they couldn't make it. This story permeates throughout the Buffalo Bills team, starting with their GM Buddy Nix and HC Chan Gailey. The offense (3rd in pts scored,10th in yds) is full of low or undrafted players led by 7th round draftee QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Throw in Pro Bowl bound undrafted RB Fred Jackson, a slew of low to no draft choice WR's and TE's, some unheralded offensive lineman and you have one exciting offense to watch. On defense, a former undrafted WR, now a safety, George Wilson leads this unit, as well as the locker room ... a great teammate! Oh, I forgot to mention that they lead the AFC East and broke a 15 game losing streak to the Patriots?

    5. Cincinnati Bengals - Who would have predicted that this team would be 5-2 after week 8 with a rookie QB? Not me. Cam Newton is heads above the rookie QB class but Andy Dalton is next in line. The defense ranks 4th in total yds (2nd vs the run) and 4th in fewest points given up. The offense is ok but they aren't turning it over, and Dalton to AJ Green is going to be a formidable combo for years to come.

    6. Detroit Lions - Not a surprise that they are a good team but the 5-0 start was a bit of a surprise. All of those 1st round draft picks are finally paying off. I'm glad Lions fans have a lot to cheer about, like Bills fans ... they have been down for too long.

    7. Eli Manning - The Giants have been hit hard by injuries. Their secondary has been decimated by injuries, their receiving corp has been a mash unit, RB Brandon Jacobs has been out and their O-line has been banged up. Throughout all of this Eli is carrying this team. The Giants are in first place in the NFC East because Eli is playing the best football of his career. Eli has always had talent, but he would make bonehead mistakes that would cost his team games. He often played reckless and threw too many Int's because of it. This year Eli is playing much smarter (only 5 Int's), his decision making has been superior to any other season he has played, and because of that, he is giving his injury riddled team a chance to win. If it weren't for A. Rodgers, I would put Eli in the running for MVP right now.

    8. KC Re-emergence - I thought that the Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL after the first couple of weeks. I would never have predicted that they would be tied for first after week 8, I thought that this young team would collapse ... boy was I wrong. Todd Haley has done a masterful job getting this team turned around, I don't know if he changed his ways or not, but there was talk of friction between Todd and some players. Whatever he did, he pushed the right button!

    Not So Fast

    5. "Dream Team" - I don't think that Philly fans, NFL fans, and especially the organization, coaches, and players thought that this team would be 3-4 after week 8. They looked great this past weekend but 1 game does not make a season. A lot to prove still!!

    4. Interception Bug - With playoff and Super Bowl aspirations dancing in their heads before the season started, Philip Rivers (11), Josh Freeman (10), and Drew Brees (10) have thrown more Int's than any other QB's in the league. If this trend continues, none of these teams will make the playoffs. Time for these "Stars" to stop making bad decisions and throws.

    3. St Louis Rams - Many people thought that this was a playoff contending team going into the season. I know that they have had injuries but up until this past week, this team has looked and played awful. Will this past weeks team show up for the 2nd half of the season or are they headed for a top 5 draft position again?

    2. Chris Johnson - Did somebody kidknap the real Chris Johnson and put on his Jersey? Can someone that talented really shut it down like that after getting a "lottery ticket" contract? What a ginormous bust Johnson has been for new HC Mike Munchak. Not to mention all of you fantasy footballers. Cam Newton has more rushing yards than Johnson. Can he really sleep comfortably at night?

    1. Indy Colts - I knew that it wouldn't be easy with Peyton Manning out, but an 0-16 season is staring this team and organization right in the face. Has the coaching staff been exposed in all of this? the organization? or both. The Patriots won 11 games without Tom Brady, I am surprised that this perennial division winner and Super Bowl contender can't win a game just because their QB is out. I am also surprised that they still run Peyton's no huddle offense without Peyton taking the snaps.

    What's caught your eye in a surprising way ... good or bad.

    Comments 24 Comments
    1. brauneyz's Avatar
      Woohoo! Turk's back!

      I am surprised that the predictions we made about the lockout affecting good teams positively and bad teams poorly is blowing up in our faces. Pats, Ravens, Saints and Falcons look shakier than I ever could have imagined, while 9ers, Panthers and Bengals have so many reasons for optimism.

      Nothing surprising about the dominance of the Pack, or the overall suckiness of the Phins. Saw that a mile away.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      On Chris Johnson, I think a short offseason, then holdout is the culprit. I always hate when players holdout. I think it's a stupid ploy that hurts them and, more importantly, the team. Agents who suggest holding out should be fired. I agree about the Colts as well. I think the coaching has been exposed in a way. Peyton ran this team. My surprises have been the Bills (I remember Bills fans commiserating before the season started), Bengals (of course), and Eagles (in a bad way). I also didn't expect Donovan McNabb to be as bad as he was and lose his job so quickly.
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Turk - are you as shocked as I am that Nix and Gailey suddenly seem to be masters of the game?

      This team's success has seemingly come out of left field. Personally, I am so full of crow from my lambasting of the Lee Evans trade that I may not be eating again until the (dare I say the word?) "playoffs".
    1. Swami's Avatar
      I am not shocked by the success of Nix and Gailey. Nix was old but associated with past success. Gailey made the playoffs both years he coached in his first kick at the can. I am pleased that my high hopes (I'm always optimistic about my Bills) seem to have had some substance.

      I am surprised just how brutal the Redskins appear to be in Shanahan's second season, which is the one to hold him to a high standard on.

      I am surprised that Harbaugh's the real deal and the 49ers appear to be a solid team, not a fluke story.

      I am surprised at how badly the Chargers are playing given how highly they ranked statistically last year. Rivers might be having one of those "I'm not injured" seasons that finishes with an announcement the Monday after week 17 that he's having shoulder surgery.

      I am surprised at how proficient Andy Dalton seems to be.

      I am surprised that Carson Palmer was dealt for two top draft picks. No, make that shocked.
    1. Polishguy00's Avatar
      Great to see you back Turk.
    1. Turk Schonert's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
      Turk - are you as shocked as I am that Nix and Gailey suddenly seem to be masters of the game?

      This team's success has seemingly come out of left field. Personally, I am so full of crow from my lambasting of the Lee Evans trade that I may not be eating again until the (dare I say the word?) "playoffs".
      Neither one is a shock to me. I know Buddy from my first stint with Buffalo. I always thought that he was a good talent evaluator. Chan Gailey has always been a good offensive mind.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      The biggest surprise to me is the turnaround in Kansas City. The team I watched last night bears little resemblance to the team I watched get mauled by the Lions in week #2.

      And welcome back, Turk.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      The biggest surprise to me is the turnaround in Kansas City. The team I watched last night bears little resemblance to the team I watched get mauled by the Lions in week #2.

      And welcome back, Turk.
      After week 3, I had them ranked 32nd in my recap. Now they're in first place.
    1. SpartaChris's Avatar
      My biggest surprise is the Bengals actually trading Carson Palmer. The shocker was getting two very high round picks for him.
    1. Turk Schonert's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by brauneyz View Post
      Woohoo! Turk's back!

      I am surprised that the predictions we made about the lockout affecting good teams positively and bad teams poorly is blowing up in our faces. Pats, Ravens, Saints and Falcons look shakier than I ever could have imagined, while 9ers, Panthers and Bengals have so many reasons for optimism.

      Nothing surprising about the dominance of the Pack, or the overall suckiness of the Phins. Saw that a mile away.
      Thanks for the Woohoo brauneyz. I'm glad we were wrong about that, makes for a compelling 2nd half.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Turk who? I once knew a guy named Turk but he moved to Vegas. I know how he usually does in Vegas. Did you walk home?
    1. Turk Schonert's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris Collinsworth View Post
      Turk who? I once knew a guy named Turk but he moved to Vegas. I know how he usually does in Vegas. Did you walk home?
      It was a group effort ... taxi, donkey, stolen horse, hitch hiking, and once I got close to Buffalo ... snow mobile. And can you believe it, I still had two quarters left in my pocket. Boy is it nice to be home!!
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Welcome back in the saddle Turk.

      I think Cam Newton is surprising people and they are forced to admit he's good. He's stepped up against teams on the road and at home and looked poised and consistent. I like seeing young talent succeed and make their teams look good with their performance. BUT this is how we get spoiled. If Cam digresses next year and has erratic performances and games, we will all wonder what is wrong with him and forget the Sophomore Slump. But for now, I'm enjoying Cam's success with a team that is doing a Construction Job in 2011.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      The Bills are a nice story, but I don't see them making the playoffs. The schedule will eventually catch up to them and I just don't see this team making strides long term. Still, its an interesting story.

      I still don't get how the Bengals got two high draft picks for Carson Palmer. That combined with the Bengals great start is gonna covnince Mike Brown that he is doing things right, which means I don't see a high ceiling for the Bengals in the future.

      Jim Harbaught's success is a big shock. I didn't think he would translate well in the NFL. But that is probably the biggest surprise in 2011. That being said, the Niners had a lot of talent and were the most talented team in the NFC West. The fact that Singletary bungled that talent says a lot about Singletary too.
    1. Swami's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris Collinsworth View Post
      Turk who? I once knew a guy named Turk but he moved to Vegas. I know how he usually does in Vegas. Did you walk home?
      Cris, he drove into Vegas in a $5,000 Ford Taurus and left in an $800,000 Greyhound bus.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Cam Newton to Steve Smith. I can watch highlight reels of those two all day.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      Mike Brown has had a good run. Getting AJ Green with the 4th pick was a good move. He resisted trading up into the late first round for Dalton after 4 QBs were taken in the top 12 picks because he would have been OK with taking Ryan Mallett. It worked out for him as Dalton fell in their lap at #35. Then Dalton proves he is more than capable so Mike jumps at the offer Hue Jackson gives him for Carson Palmer. The young team is playing hard and smart. He has multiple high picks in the next two drafts to add depth to its talent. Has anyone had a better run?
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Flags.

      I am really suprised that EVERYONE notices the same trend and broke stories on the same day last Thursday, I haven't a clue what could have precipitated Thursday. But I think the League offices are going to be making some conf calls to swing the tide back in the next few weeks.
    1. mango's Avatar
      Turk, good to have you back. You didn't mention my lowly Dophins. We might be in south Florida but it's feels like a north wind cutting through your soul watching this team play.
      I completely put the blame on the coaching staff because after the scripted plays and the second half starts they don't seem to have a clue how to counter the other teams half time ajustments. Worst 4th quarter team i've seen in a long time, whats your opinion?
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by mango View Post
      Turk, good to have you back. You didn't mention my lowly Dophins. We might be in south Florida but it's feels like a north wind cutting through your soul watching this team play.
      I completely put the blame on the coaching staff because after the scripted plays and the second half starts they don't seem to have a clue how to counter the other teams half time ajustments. Worst 4th quarter team i've seen in a long time, whats your opinion?
      I blame the Ownership, which basically neutered Sparano in the offseason. Sparano isn't a great coach, but he isn't the worse coach either. But having your owner openly court Harbaugh and then come back, isn't the best way to inspire confidence.