Biggest Surprises Of This NFL Season

Through 12 weeks, we have been treated to some great games, standout performances, and some big time surprises.  Both good and bad, of course.  Some have been individual performances and some have been entire teams as a unit.  These are the kind of surprises that make each and every NFL season better than the previous one.

We’ll start with the good surprises.

Oakland Raiders

This team has been atop this year’s biggest surprises in my opinion.  People knew this team had a real shot at the division title this year and could probably muster a winning record.  However, I don’t think many people, except Skip Bayless, could have seen them repping a 9-2 record and a top 5 offense.  To add to that, they are sitting pretty at the No. 2 spot in the conference behind Tom Brady’s squad.

Derek Carr is having an MVP type of season and has efficiently lead his offense up and down the field.  One thing that scares me about this team is its weak secondary.  The boys up front are playing their hearts out but haven’t gotten much help behind them.  The inability to hold their own against the pass is the reason I’m skeptical.  Great offense or not, defense wins championships.

In a division with 3 teams above .500, the Raiders have their work cut out for them but should be able to hold strong.  I like them to clinch a first round bye.  Unfortunately for Raiders fans, I don’t see them nabbing that 1st seed. Go Pats.

Dolphins (Jay Ajayi)

When this team was 1-4 through week 5, I just laughed them off.  Now that they have won 6 straight, I am now seeing why no one should be surprised.  Both of their first two games were against eventual top-5 teams and they kept them close.  Very close.  The next three weeks weren’t the prettiest for them but then here came Jay Ajayi.

The Boise State alum racked up 418 yards on the ground and 3 TD’s over a span of two games. That was apparently just the spark they needed as they are now in the 6th spot in the AFC looking up.  Despite still having Ryan Tannehill, this team has a shot thanks to one of the biggest individual surprises of this season.

Now for the disappointing surprises.

Carolina Panthers

What in the world happened to this team?  It baffles me how one team can go from a 15-1 season, Super Bowl favorite to last place in the NFC south with little to no chance of making the playoffs.  Cam Newton is not nearly as threatening as last year and the defense looks like it’s full of rookies (except Kuechly and Davis).  After a 1-5 start, they looked like they were starting to turn things around.  That changed fast.  6 of their last 7 games have been decided by a field goal.  The problem is that they are 2-4 in those games.

Last year’s Panthers squad rarely had to deal with close games.  Now that they are heavily involved in them, they are losing.  The inability to put together game winning drives or prevent the opponent from doing the same has all but cost them the season.  It’s a tough road ahead and frankly, I don’t have and confidence in them to drastically turn things around.  The Carolina bandwagon from last year is looking pretty empty right about now.

Arizona Cardinals

The 2015 NFC championship game must have been cursed or something.  Ever since that lopsided game between the Panthers and Cards, Neither team has played well.  With combined records of 28-4 last season, these guys are a combined 8-13-1.  Yikes.

I’m not exactly sure what is going on with the Cardinals.  Maybe it’s injuries.  Maybe this year is just a fluke and they will go 16-0 next year.  Who knows.  What I do know is that if Arizona wants to even think about making the playoffs, they need to get their act together.  My idea is that the ball goes to either David Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald every single play.  After all, that is the only place they have been having success.