Biggest NFL Surprises and Disappointments After 2 Weeks

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor ISeptember 21, 2015

Biggest NFL Surprises and Disappointments After 2 Weeks

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    It’s a mere two weeks and only 31 regular-season games as we wait on the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.

    But there’s no doubt that we have all formed some opinions regarding the early stages of the 2015 NFL season.

    In no particular order, we have taken the time to list six surprises and six disappointments when it comes to the season to date. We have not only listed teams but players as well.

    To be fair, we are merely stating that these selections are either off to terrific or not-so-terrific starts. No one is putting anyone into the playoffs or Pro Bowl just yet, and no one is writing off anyone or any team this season.

Surprise: Defense, Washington Redskins

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    For all of the headlines a team that has finished last in the NFC East six of the last seven seasons has made, the Washington Redskins quarterbacking situation has masked the fact that this team has failed miserably on defense.

    We are talking about a unit that in 32 games from 2013-14 allowed a whopping 98 offensive touchdowns and gave up at least 27 points in 18 of those contests.

    Say hello to defensive coordinator Joe Barry and a bolstered defensive front featuring free-agent pickups such as Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean-Francois. In two games this season, Washington has allowed a combined 27 points in its split with the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.

    And if the Redskins can continue to run the football as well as they have in their first two games, this team may be headed upward a lot sooner than anticipated.

Disappointment: New Orleans Saints

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    You can’t blame a building for your issues, unless you’re a landlord.

    The New Orleans Saints have apparently forgotten how to win at home.

    On Sunday, Sean Payton’s team fell again at the Superdome, this time to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 26-19.

    That also makes it six straight home losses for quarterback Drew Brees and his teammates. More significantly, the Saints are 0-2 for the second straight year and the third time in four seasons.

    You have to go back to 2007, Payton’s second year with the club, to find the last time the Saints were held under 20 points in each of their first two games. Brees has completed 62.8 percent of his passes but has already been sacked six times, and his two touchdown passes are offset by a pair of interceptions.

    Disappointing times indeed for a team in transition…and a slow one at that.

Surprise: RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Give the Pittsburgh Steelers some credit. OK, maybe some extra credit.

    Knowing that All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell was subject to suspension early in the season, general manager Kevin Colbert and the organization went searching for a veteran to not only back up Bell but to also possibly begin 2015 in the starting backfield.

    DeAngelo Williams looked like a good selection based on name value, but the all-time leading rusher in the history of the Carolina Panthers came off a season in which he played only six games and totaled 219 yards rushing and zero touchdowns on 62 carries.

    In two games with the Steelers, the 10-year pro has already ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns, with 77 yards and all three scores coming in Sunday’s 43-18 rout of the San Francisco 49ers.

    Bell is slated to return this week as the team travels to St. Louis. It will be interesting to see Williams’ role with this team going forward.

Disappointment: New York Giants

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    If we were doing a piece called “Biggest Surprise Teams Owning Fourth-Quarter Leads after Week 2,” the New York Giants would be at the top of the charts.

    Of course, those leads would disappear by game’s end, and Tom Coughlin’s club would open the season 0-2 for the third straight year.

    “I just asked them to search down inside; we talk every week about finishing,’’ said Giants head coach to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “That wasn’t a finish for me. We talk about ‘don’t keep score, I’ll keep score.’ I’ll let you know when the game’s over, but that’s not what happened again today.’’

    Coughlin was referring to his team’s 24-20 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The Giants owned a 20-10 fourth-quarter advantage only to see Matt Ryan and company score a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

    Sound familiar? With just over eight minutes left a week ago in Dallas, New York squandered a 23-13 lead in a 27-26 loss to the Cowboys.

    And we won’t even discuss quarterback Eli Manning and the team’s peculiar approach to killing the clock.

Surprise: QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Yes, the Tennessee Titans fell hard to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, 28-14. And Ken Whisenhunt’s rookie quarterback took his lumps this week.

    But that doesn’t mean that Marcus Mariota hasn’t surprised us with his play the first two weeks of his NFL career.

    The second overall pick in this year’s draft was sacked seven times this weekend and also lost two of his three fumbles. But Mariota also completed 21 of 37 throws for 257 yards and a pair of touchdown. In two weeks, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 466 yards, six scores and zero interceptions.

    Not bad for a player we weren’t sure could take a direct snap from center.

Disappointment: Baltimore Ravens

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    So let’s get this straight.

    One week after going into Denver and limiting Peyton Manning and the Broncos to 219 total yards, 19 points and zero offensive touchdowns, the Baltimore Ravens allow the Oakland Raiders to score 37 points and amass 448 yards of total offense?

    It all adds up to the Ravens being 0-2 for the first time since 2005, three years before head coach John Harbaugh arrived in the land of crab cakes.

    What is the overall problem? It’s hard to tell, but this is a club that just doesn’t appear to be in sync on both sides of the football. Yes, last week’s loss of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to an Achilles injury was a big blow. But we have seen this team handle such adversity in the past.

    We just haven’t seen a John Harbaugh team get off to such a shaky start.

Surprise: CB Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    He has hardly been a household name during his brief NFL career and current teammates such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson have certainly earned more notoriety.

    But Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman has certainly garnered attention in some circles and is off to a terrific start for his 2-0 team. In two games, the fifth-year pro has totaled 10 tackles, knocked down four passes, returned an interception 30 yards for a score, forced one fumble and grabbed a fumble recovery.

    On Sunday in the team’s 24-17 win over the Houston Texans, Norman racked up five tackles and knocked down two passes. It was a good effort by both him and a unit that was minus Kuechly, who sat out the game after suffering a concussion last week at Jacksonville.

    The emerging Norman is part of a Carolina defense that has picked up where it left off late last season, which is very bad news for the rest of the NFC South.

Disappointment: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Where to begin?

    We could have actually done an entire piece on the Philadelphia Eagles and their 0-2 start, the first by the team since 2007. After watching this team during the preseason (we know, we know), you would have thought Chip Kelly’s team, at the very least, would not come stumbling out of the gate as it has.

    In two games, the Eagles have scored a total of three points in the first half. The Birds have rushed for a combined 70 yards as a team, and prized offseason pickup DeMarco Murray has totaled 21 carries for 11 yards.

    Yes, you read that right.

    Meanwhile, well-paid cornerback Byron Maxwell was hoping to solve the team’s problems in the secondary. Instead, he’s become a bit of a problem. And on Sunday at home, the Eagles couldn’t beat the Dallas Cowboys, who came into the game without wide receiver Dez Bryant and didn’t finish the afternoon with quarterback Tony Romo.

    It’s a mess that the Philadelphia fans have already voiced their displeasure about. Yes, those boos you heard on Sunday were all coming from the City of Brotherly Love.

Surprise: RB Dion Lewis, New England Patriots

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    This offseason, the New England Patriots were hoping to find a suitable replacement for running back Shane Vereen, who signed with the New York Giants.

    Enter Dion Lewis, who was actually under the Pats’ nose for more than a few months. The free agent was signed to a future contract on the final day of 2014, and who knew he would emerge as the threat he has early this season?

    In two games this year, the 2011 fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles has touched the ball 32 times and totaled 258 yards from scrimmage during New England's 2-0 start.

    On Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, Lewis’ biggest impact came as a pass-catcher, which was Vereen’s specialty. Yes, he ran seven times for 40 yards and a touchdown. But he was targeted nine times by quarterback Tom Brady and responded with six receptions for 98 yards.

    Yep, just what the Patriots needed: another option on offense. And given head coach Bill Belichick’s track record, is there ever anything really that surprising that this team comes up with?

Disappointment: Seattle Seahawks

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Anyone remember the last time the Seattle Seahawks won a football game?

    It was last year’s NFC title game, a 28-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Then came the heartbreak of Super Bowl XLIX and that controversial play call late in the game.

    With an offseason to clear their heads, many felt that this was a club capable of reaching a third consecutive Super Bowl. Now if the Seahawks are to accomplish that feat, they will have to do it the hard way.

    How difficult? Only four teams have reached the Super Bowl after losing their first two games of the season. But following a 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams and now a 27-17 setback to the Green Bay Packers, both on the road, Pete Carroll’s team is reeling.

    Yes, the absence of strong safety Kam Chancellor is a big factor. But so is the failure of the offensive line to open holes. The Seahawks have run for a combined 243 yards in two games this season, but almost half (109) have come from quarterback Russell Wilson, who’s been sacked eight times in two weeks.

    Perhaps a little home cooking against the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Seattle will help.

Surprise: Atlanta Falcons

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    While they certainly had their flaws, it was hard to believe that a team with as much talent as the Atlanta Falcons could go from 13-3 and tied for the NFL's best record in 2012 to a combined 10 wins the next two seasons.

    Now welcome to the new-look Falcons, a far more aggressive and physical team embodied by their first-year head coach Dan Quinn.

    Two weeks in and this team has shown its resiliency, owning and blowing leads only to rally to beat both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. And how’s this for perspective? Last season, the Falcons finished 6-10 and their record outside of the NFC South was a sorry 1-9. This year, the team has already beaten a pair of NFC East teams.

    It’s certainly not a shock that the Falcons are better. But perhaps it’s a little surprising that this team looks this solid so soon with their new and unproven head coach.

Disappointment: Defensive Line, Miami Dolphins

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The sky isn’t falling in South Florida…yet. But for those expecting the Miami Dolphins defense to come out this season and make a statement on defense, it just hasn’t happened yet.

    Yes, Joe Philbin’s club is 1-1, and in their split with the Washington Redskins (17-10 win) and Jacksonville Jaguars (23-20 loss), the team has allowed a combined 33 points.

    But where is the fierce front four we have all been waiting for? In Miami’s Week 1 win at Washington, the Dolphins gave up 161 yards rushing and sacked Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins just once. On Sunday at Jacksonville, the Jaguars totaled 123 yards on the ground on 33 carries and the Fins failed to sack quarterback Blake Bortles.

    So if you’re waiting for the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon to turn it up a notch, that’s exactly what you’ve been doing. And that’s waiting.

    All free-agent information and player signings/transactions are courtesy of Spotrac. Depth-chart information comes via Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com.