NFL First Quarter Report: 10 Biggest Surprises After Four Games
We are four weeks into the 2010 season and there have already been a number of curveballs thrown our way.
Arian Foster is the real deal and his running ability makes Houston a serious threat in the AFC. The Bears looked good for three games only to look like… the Bears in their fourth outing. How about the Rams? They were picked by many to finish like they did in 2009, at the bottom. The Cowboys and Vikings are off to slow starts and The Chiefs have the best record in the NFL!
We’ve seen the re-emergence of a few stars whose careers appeared over and one rookie quarterback is proving he’s worth all $68 Million his team invested in him.
Here are 10 first quarter surprises we didn’t see coming.
10. Pete Carroll's Impact On The Seahawks
His last run in the NFL saw him fired by both the Jets and the Patriots and posting a mediocre record of 33-31.
He followed that up by becoming one of the most successful college football coaches in recent memory. When he returned to the NFL this year many believed it was to avoid the sanctions that were about to hit the University of Southern California.
Carroll has looked strong in his four games as coach of the Seahawks but more than anything he appears to be really enthused about his job and team. Most professional coaches are stone-faced during games and rarely crack a smile even after a victory. Carroll is running around, bumping chests with players and brings a high energy to the field.
At 2-2 the Seahawks are tied for first place in the division and have a victory over division favorite the San Francisco 49ers and the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.
9. Kyle Orton Leading the League In Pass Yards
When the Denver Broncos traded for Brady Quinn and drafted Tim Tebow in the first round it was assumed Kyle Orton’s tenure with the team was all but over. After four weeks, Quinn has yet to step on the field and Tebow was demoted to third string.
Through all the hoopla Orton has maintained his focus and started out the season strong. He's led the Broncos to a 2-2 record and leads the league in passing with 1,419 yards. Orton is a stat machine. He has thrown for over 300 yards three times already, including a season high 476 yards in a loss to Indianapolis.
What’s most amazing about Orton’s stats is the fact the Broncos shipped star receiver Brandon Marshall to Miami before the season.
If he keeps this pace the entire season, Orton will finish with over 5,600 yards passing that would shatter the NFL single season record.
8. San Francisco Winless
Coming into the season the 49ers were the popular pick to win the NFC West. After four games they are the only winless team in their division and are searching for answers. The 49ers have lost two heartbreakers, first to New Orleans and most recently to Atlanta.
It seems as nothing has bounced the 49ers way just yet. All the promise that the team showed towards the end of last season looks like a mirage at this point. The defense thought to be the team’s strongest asset has so far played inconsistent. They allowed thirty-one points to Seattle and Kansas City but were able to hold the high-powered offenses of Atlanta and New Orleans to under twenty-five points.
The offense does not appear to be worth much outside of Frank Gore who leads the team in rushing and receiving. Michael Crabtree has yet to score and Alex Smith is again struggling in his role as a starter.
Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was fired last week, after the team scored the second fewest points through three games. Head Coach Mike Singletary may be the next one out the door.
7. Arian Foster's Success
Every year in the NFL great players seem to pop up from under rocks all around the league. Last year it was Miles Austin in Dallas. This year it is Arian Foster in Houston. Foster is an undrafted second year running back that has lit the league up this season.
Foster began the year by running for 231 yards in week one. The total was the second most by a runner on opening weekend. He leads the league in rushing with 537 yards and 134.3 yards/G. The next closest rusher is Rashard Mendenhall with 411 yards.
The Texans are 3-1 and Foster is a huge reason why. Assuming he can keep running the ball well, the Texans will be a serious contender in the AFC.
6. Minnesota's Lackluster Start
Brett Favre isn’t the only one scratching his cranium as the Vikings have stumbled out of the gate.
Minnesota was very close to winning last year’s NFC Title game. They were one of the favorites to win the conference title again this year and for good reason. The defense was supposed to be one of the top units in the league, Adrian Peterson is one of the top back’s in the game and Brett Favre decided to return for one more championship run.
So far, Minnesota has struggled to put up points and Favre looks every bit of his forty years of age. A lot of his failures have been blamed on the injury to top receiver Sidney Rice but it may have more to do with the fact that Favre missed all of training camp. His timing seems to be off and his report with his receivers just isn’t there.
The Vikings are coming off a bye week but on paper, their next four games look brutal.
The Vikings play, at Jets, Dallas, at Green Bay and at New England.
5. Pittsburgh 3-1 Without Big Ben
They look like a team on a mission to prove that last season was simply an aberration.
Without Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers probably would have settled for a 2-2 start under backup Dennis Dixon. He got them to 2-0. Then when Dixon went down to injury, veteran Charlie Batch came in threw for 3 touchdown passes and led Pittsburgh to its third victory.
The Steelers only loss came this past Sunday in a defensive struggle against the Ravens. The defense has allowed only fifty points this season, an average of 12.5 per game and have yet to allow any team to score more than seventeen points in a game.
The Steelers will get a week to rest and heal up then Big Ben returns for a home game against the Browns.
Pittsburgh looks like the best team without Roethlisberger and with him, they will only get better.
4. The Colts Are 2-2
I know the old adage about the Super Bowl loser curse but who saw this coming? The Colts have won twelve games or more the past seven seasons and usually are vying for the best record in the league. Chances are they still will finish with one of the top records but this is a surprise nonetheless.
After a month of football, the Colts find themselves at the bottom of the AFC South! They are also 0-2 in the division. While it is too early to panic and they should right the ship, one has to wonder if this is the year they finally drop.
Peyton Manning is steady as always with his only interception coming as a result of a bobbled pass. Reggie Wayne leads the league in receptions and Joseph Addai is running strong.
The biggest questions about the Colts are on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Bob Sanders is out indefinitely (no surprise there) and his backup Melvin Bullitt is also out for the year. The defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and yards per game.
Maybe even the great Peyton Manning cannot overcome the Super Bowl curse… I mean lousy defensive play.
3. Ladanian Tomlinson
After nine years and over 2,500 carries it seemed as though father time had finally caught up to LaDanian Tomlinson. He cried at a press conference after he was let go by the San Diego Chargers, a team he had won an MVP award with and represented in five Pro Bowls. The release and tearful goodbye seemed to signal the end to a Hall of Fame career. Not exactly, the New York Jets brought the veteran in to spell second year back Shonn Greene.
Tomlinson seemed unwilling to comply with that role. After just one game he took over as starter and appears to still have some juice left in those legs.
Tomlinson has averaged over four yards per carry in every game this season. He is in the top ten in rushing yards with 341 and has three rushing touchdowns on the year. Tomlinson’s best game was a week four stomping of Buffalo. L.T. carried the ball nineteen times for 133 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Tomlinson looks reinvigorated and fresh. If he keeps it up Chargers GM A.J. Smith might want to practice his high-dive off the Coronado Bridge.
2. Michael Vick
His career appeared to be flat-lined. He was designated to clipboard duty long before the season kicked off but after Clay Mathews bounced Kevin Kolb’s head off the turf, Vick got his shot at redemption.
Unable to bring the Eagles back against the Packers, Vick led the Birds to two straight victories and showed flashes of brilliance. Dare I say he looks better than the Vick from Atlanta? Well he does. This Vick is still able to scramble out of the pocket and fly downfield at a moment’s notice. Only now he can sit back in the pocket and dissect defenses with his arm.
Vick has the third highest QB Rating in the league he is behind only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He has thrown for six touchdown passes and has rushed for 187 yards and another score. Most impressively, Vick has yet to turn the ball over.
Unfortunately Vick’s season took a downturn when he was injured Sunday against the Redskins. Vick could miss up to two weeks but when he returns it will be to the starting lineup.
1. The Chiefs Are The NFL's Only Undefeated Team
Not the boldest K.C. fan in the world had the cojones to pick this one.
Yet after four weeks the Kansas City Chiefs are the only NFL team without a blemish on their record. They used great special teams play to secure a victory over San Diego at home in week one. It was an ugly affair but they used a strong running game and defense to beat Cleveland in week two. Then they went out and crushed San Francisco in week three.
Bringing in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was a good move but the greatest addition to this team might be defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Crennel has this defense playing with a new attitude and a newfound confidence, a confidence that appears to have rubbed off on the whole team. This Chiefs team believes it is supposed to win and may very well continue to do so.
For the time being they are the best team in the NFL and anyone who wants to argue with that just look at their record.