Against All Odds: 5 Surprisingly Successful Teams in 2010
Even with all the in depth analysis that goes into preseason NFL predictions, every year is full of many surprises. After seven weeks, the NFL standings look quite different than what many experts anticipated.
Everyone knows how disappointing teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and the San Diego Chargers have been, but what about the most surprisingly successful teams?
Let's take a look at the five NFL teams that have defied the odds and proven that preseason predictions are ultimately meaningless.
5. The Kansas City Chiefs
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Coming off of a 2009 season where they finished last in the AFC West with a 4-12 record, it was unlikely that the Kansas City Chiefs would perform much worse in 2010. However, with a 3-2 record after five games, and two competitive losses to the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans, the Chiefs have outperformed nearly the most optimistic of preseason expectations.
The Chiefs made numerous offseason moves in an effort to improve on the disappointing 2009 season. Kansas City added former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis to call the plays and the NFL's third leading rusher Thomas Jones to pair with the explosive Jamaal Charles in the backfield. They also picked up a dynamic playmaker in Dexter McCluster in the NFL draft.
So far, these additions have paid off. If not for a late touchdown by the Houston Texans, the Chiefs would be sitting pretty at 4-1. Even with the loss, they still lead their division at 3-2 with six of their final eleven games coming against teams with losing records.
4. The Seattle Seahawks
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The Seattle Seahawks ended the 2009 season by losing their final four games and ended with a 5-11 record. With all the changes that took place in the 2010 offseason, most experts weren't predicting the Pete Carroll era to start off with anything other than limited success.
Contrary to predictions, the Seahawks opened the season with a convincing 31-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. After six weeks, they sit tied with the Arizona Cardinals atop the NFC West standings.
If the recent addition of Marshawn Lynch can improve on Seattle's stagnant running game and Matt Hasselbeck can remain healthy, the Seahawks have a chance to do great things in Pete Carroll's first year.
3. The Chicago Bears
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Jay Cutler and the 2009 Chicago Bears were one of the NFL's most disappointing teams last season. With Cutler often appearing to be throwing to the wrong team, and Lovie Smith's defense no longer the dominant force from a few years ago, the preseason predictions didn't look well for fans in the windy city.
In the 2010 offseason, the Bears went out and hired offensive guru Mike Martz to help improve the offense, and hoped that the return of a healthy Brian Urlacher would rejuvenate the defense. Unfortunately, after finishing the preseason at 0-4, the 2010 Bears didn't look much different than the Bears of 2009.
However, once the season began, Chicago flipped a switch and began to look like a different team. They reeled off three consecutive wins to start the season, and until the week four game against the New York Giants where Cutler suffered a concussion, they looked like the team to beat in the NFC North.
If the Chicago Bears can figure out a way to solve their offensive line woes, they can still accomplish great things in 2010.
2. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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With a roster made up of 29 players that have arrived since the firing of Jon Gruden after the 2008 season, expectations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expectedly low. Most preseason standings didn't have them faring much better than their 3-13 record in 2009.
Quarterback Josh Freeman has made tremendous strides in his second season in the league, and rookie Mike Williams has shown he was well worth the fourth-round pick that Tampa Bay used to acquire him. Because of their contributions, the Bucs have already matched their win total from last season in only five games.
With their mediocre running game and average defense, it's not quite time to crown the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as playoff contenders, but at 3-2 they are definitely one of the more surprising teams so far in 2010.
1. The St. Louis Rams
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Some may say that it's unfair for a team with a .500 record to be considered the league's most surprising success story, but given their performance in recent years, this season has been quite unexpected.
At 1-15, the 2009 St. Louis Rams were the worst team in the NFL. Luckily, their terrible record allowed them the opportunity to select Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Even still, the Rams weren't expected to be very competitive with a rookie quarterback and no proven wide receivers.
With Steven Jackson anchoring the backfield, the Rams were expected to rely on their running game and bring Sam Bradford along slowly. However, Bradford has been a pleasant surprise through six games, and the Rams are within striking distance of first place in the NFC West.
If Bradford can continue to improve as he gains more experience and the defense can keep holding opponents to under 19 points per game, the St. Louis Rams could very well end the season with a division title.