Every NFL season a handful of teams will emerge from out of nowhere and defy even the savviest of analyst's expectations. Last year's poster child for this phenomena were the Buffalo Bills. This season there are more than a few candidates who could be called the same. Here's a look at the most surprising NFL teams at the season's quarter mark.
San Diego Chargers (3-1)
With running back Ryan Mathews injured to start the year and the arrival of Peyton Manning in Denver, the San Diego Chargers entered the 2012 season with the least amount of hype in recent memory. The team has responded with a 3-1 record to start the year.
This season marks just the third in six years where the Chargers have started with a winning record through their first five games. Alright, technically the lightning bolts haven't played their fifth game yet, but first-grade math shows us that it's impossible for them to have a losing record after Week 5.
Defeating Kansas City, Tennessee and Oakland might not be the most impressive of feats, but the Chargers are winning the games they need to win, which wasn't exactly expected from them.
Even with the Saints at 0-4, a victory this week on NBC's Sunday Night Football would be a statement win for Norv Turner's team and show just how surprisingly good San Diego is.
Minnesota Vikings (3-1)
If you polled 100 NFL-knowledgeable people before this season started and asked all of them how many wins the Vikings would have through four games, I'd guess not a whole lot would have said three.
Like San Diego, Minnesota's star running back, Adrian Peterson, entered 2012 with injury concerns but has done everything possible to make the audience forget. The man known simply as "All Day" has already racked up over 330 yards.
Peterson and the Vikings have taken down the likes of the Detroit Lions and defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers. Just a refresher, those teams finished 10-6 and 13-3 respectively last year compared to Minnesota's 2011 record of 3-13.
Over the next six weeks, the Vikes play Detroit again along with Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Arizona and Seattle. Don't be surprised if they win at least three of those contests.
Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
After their hot start, fans and analysts alike have been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Cardinals this season and St. Louis was more than happy to oblige them onThursday Night Football.
Even with that loss though, the Cardinals early-year run cannot be discounted.
Despite how they looked this week against the Rams, this is the same team that walked into Foxboro and defeated the New England Patriots. It's also the same team that defended its home turf and defeated the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles rather handily a few weeks back.
We've probably seen the end of Arizona's 15 minutes of fame this season when you consider the team still has to play San Francisco, Minnesota and Green Bay over the next month. Still, even if this is the end of the road for the Cards, they deserve to be credited for their early heroics.
Washington Redskins (2-2)
The Redskins make this list for the same reason they have posted two wins early on this season: Robert Griffin III.
In his first four NFL games, the former Heisman Trophy winner has a near-70 percent completion rate, eight total touchdowns and just one interception to his name.
Griffin hasn't often looked like the rookie he is so far, showing the ability to make smart decisions with the football, whether that's throwing it to the No. 3 option on a passing play or tucking the ball and running when a play has collapsed.
Washington's defense hasn't been the most impressive this year considering it's already given up 123 points this season, but Griffin has made up for the unit's shortcomings.
With the No. 2 overall NFL draft pick calling the shots under center, the D.C. faithful finally have an offense that looks to have the potential to be great sooner rather than later.
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