It has already been a year of surprises in the NFL, both good and bad. The elation felt by the fans of the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers has been matched by the despair felt by fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Not all early season surprises end up panning out, of course. Those teams that are off to a hot start are just as likely to fall on their collective faces as they are to continue their climb.
When it comes to the following teams, however, the solid play will only continue.
To me, the Bills are the most "for real" of any of the surprise teams in the early going. They are much more than just a feel-good story at this point.
Their offense, which was so often a weak point for Buffalo, is among the best in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid starting quarterback and Stevie Johnson is an elite receiver. They've also got a full complement of nice role players on that side of the ball, including Fred Jackson, David Nelson and Scott Chandler.
Their defense is still very much a work in progress, but they are getting there. Nick Barnett is a nice leader to have at linebacker and Marcell Dareus gives them a building block on the defensive line. The Bills are here to stay.
San Francisco 49ers
I'm not sold on the 49ers being a highly talented team that can make a long run through the postseason, but I am sold on the 49ers as a real contender in the NFC West.
No one else in that division seems interested in trying to win it. The Rams are off to an 0-4 start, the Seahawks are 1-3 and the Cardinals are 1-3. Why not the 49ers?
The offense isn't explosive, but they play within themselves. Alex Smith has kept his mistakes to a minimum for the most part, their receivers are all steady and they lean on the running game for better or worse. At the very least, a ball-control offense like that will keep the opposing offense off the field.
Given how weak their division is, the 49ers have a real shot at being in the postseason.
It's a little hard to consider the Raiders a huge surprise because they went 8-8 last season, but I don't feel like the expectations for them were very high.
The Raiders will have a fight on their hands to make the postseason, but they have the potential to be one of those teams that wins a bunch of games in an ugly fashion and ends up with a good record when it's all said and done.
They will go as far as their running game will take them. Based on what we have seen so far from Darren McFadden, it can take them a long, long way. Quarterback Jason Campbell needs only to not lose games with turnovers.
The Raiders are sitting at 2-2, but their upcoming schedule is littered with games against weak teams. It wouldn't take much to get them to nine or 10 wins.
Joseph Healy's NFL Power Rankings Going into Week 5
12. New York Jets
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Buffalo Bills
15. Oakland Raiders
16. Chicago Bears
17. Dallas Cowboys
19. Philadelphia Eagles
20. San Francisco 49ers
25. Cleveland Browns
26. Seattle Seahawks
28. St. Louis Rams
30. Denver Broncos
32. Miami Dolphins