5 NFL Stars Who Have Exceeded Expectations This Season

Matthew WolfeCorrespondent IIIDecember 27, 2012

5 NFL Stars Who Have Exceeded Expectations This Season

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    As the NFL season comes to a close, it is always fun to look back at the stats some of the league's big-name players had.

    The NFL is filled with superstars, most teams having multiple, and they are always expected to perform at the highest level.

    While all of the people on this list were expected to have great seasons, it was tough to predict that they would have seasons this spectacular.

    Here is a look at five NFL superstars who exceeded our expectations this season.

Adrian Peterson

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    When Adrian Peterson tore his ACL last December, many people questioned whether he would be able to return to his old form.

    Well, Peterson has proved all of those people wrong this season.

    The 27-year-old defied medical certainties when he recovered from his injury as quickly as he did, and it appears to have somehow made him better than he already was.

    Peterson is just 102 yards away from breaking 2,000 yards this season, and he has his sights set on breaking Eric Dickerson's rushing record of 2,105 yards.

    Never in a million years did NFL fans and experts believe that Peterson would be having the kind of statistical season that he is currently having, and that alone earns him a spot on this list.

    Him being the focal point of a Minnesota Vikings offense that is in the midst of a playoff run doesn't hurt either. 

Brandon Marshall

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    Despite the questions about his personality and off-the-field issues, Brandon Marshall has always been able to perform on the field and is one of the NFL's most dominant receivers.

    After being traded to the Chicago Bears this offseason, expectations were high for Marshall as he was reunited with his old quarterback Jay Cutler.

    Marshall has played in every game so far this season and has caught more passes than he ever has in his career, registering 113 receptions going into Week 17.

    He is knocking on the door of 1,500 receiving yards this season and is second in the league with 1,466.

    Marshall has been the primary option for the Bears this season, hauling in 11 touchdowns and exceeding all expectations.

Drew Brees

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    It's no secret that the Saints had a bit of a crazy offseason this summer.

    After New Orleans lost head coach Sean Payton to a suspension, some thought Drew Brees would regress.

    He got off to a rough start this season, and so did the Saints, but he was able to finish with an under-the-radar campaign.

    Brees is currently leading the league in passing yards with 4,781 and touchdowns with 39. That is not bad for a guy who had a lot of weight on his shoulders to start the season.

    Although the Saints are going to fall short of the playoffs this season, Brees did his part and then some.

Calvin Johnson

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    The second and only other receiver on this list is the only guy who had a better statistical season than Brandon Marshall.

    Coming into this season, expectations were extremely high for Megatron, who was coming off a career season in which he caught 16 touchdowns.

    Johnson was able to shake the "Madden Curse," and he shook it with style.

    Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record of 1,848 yards and now has his sights set on 2,000.

    Although Johnson has only caught five touchdown passes this season, he is leading the league in receiving yards with 1,892 and receptions with 117.

Peyton Manning

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    Expectations were all over the place for Peyton Manning this season when he returned from his neck surgeries and in a new uniform.

    It is pretty safe to say that he has far exceeded what was expected of him this year.

    Manning has taken a Denver Broncos team that snuck into the playoffs last season and turned them into a Super Bowl favorite.

    He has started in every game this season, and he is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

    When word started going around that Manning would be returning to the field for a different team, people were not sure what to think.

    Manning is now in the running for both Comeback Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. That's pretty good for a 36-year-old who missed all of last season.