It’s been a season full of surprises in the NFL so far. Some teams thought to be decent have either been absolutely humiliated or have completely fallen apart, like the Bills and Steelers. Other teams expected to be cellar dwellers, like the Dolphins, sit atop their divisions. Other teams have been decidedly (and disappointingly) mediocre, including the Patriots. The DC Sports staff breaks down their picks for the most surprising–good or bad–team in football so far this season.
Jorge Eckardt, Campus Correspondent
The biggest surprise of the season so far has been the Arizona Cardinals. Going into the season, everybody knew they were going to be bad. Ranked No. 26 by NFL.com and No. 24 by ESPN.com in their preseason power rankings, no one had high hopes. However, no one really expected them to be this bad. They have scored six points in two games. SIX. Even Buffalo had over three times as many points in week 2 alone. It’s not just points either, as Arizona is also dead last in total offense with just 350 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had more passing yards in each of the first two games. Their best player, David Johnson, has managed just 85 yards on the ground, which is less than Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton. The defense is nothing special either, giving up 58 points, the eighth most in the league. The Cardinals are one of, if not the, worst team in the league.
Amir Clato-Day, Campus Correspondent
The team that has had the most mind-boggling start to the 2018 NFL season is the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the past few years, and this season more than ever, the Steelers have been looked at as the No. 1 threat to the AFC throne, currently belonging to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. At this point, however, it’s looking like their main concern will be just making the playoffs. After a tie with the Browns and a loss to the Chiefs, there are reports that Mike Tomlin has lost the locker room. According to an assistant coach in the NFC South, “It’s a circus there and Mike has no control over it.” Between Le’Veon Bell having yet to report back to the team and Antonio Brown responding to a tweet suggesting that he wanted to be traded, Pittsburgh seems to have a lot of problems that virtually no one saw coming.
Conner Gilson, Campus Correspondent
The biggest surprise thus far in the season has been the rough start for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints came in with a 5 defense and a top 3 offense. Put these together, plus the fact that their first two games were against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, and you’d think that the powerhouse Saints would be 2-0. Instead, they sit at 1-1. The Saints lost their season opener against a Bucs team led by Ryan FitzMagic, who made the Saints’ top tier defense look like it belonged in Pop Warner. The Saints offense was strong, but it was ultimately not enough to get the win. Their next game was against the woeful Cleveland Browns, a game which the Saints would have lost had it not been for Cleveland’s kicker missing two PATs and a crucial field goal. Overall the Saints have not performed to their expectations, and should realistically be 0-2, something nobody expected of the Super Bowl hopeful team.
Neil Simmons, Campus Correspondent
Obviously the biggest surprise has been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Who saw this coming? Who saw Ryan Fitzpatrick, of all people, torching two of last season’s best defenses? He’s completing almost 79 percent of his passes for over 800 yards, eight touchdowns and one pick in two games! Tampa has shocked the league by upsetting two of the NFC’s best teams, racking up 75 points and almost one thousand yards of offense. DeSean Jackson has come back to life and is scorching defenses left and right. The defense isn’t anything special and is ranked second to last through two games, but with the way the offense is moving, it almost doesn’t matter. Is this sustainable? I highly doubt it, but it has been exciting to watch.
Matt Severino, Campus Correspondent
Nobody thought the Cleveland Browns would win either of their first two games of the season. Everybody was right. But just barely right. The Browns should be undefeated, 2-0, and have more wins in two weeks than they have had in the past 1000 days. Except they don’t. Simply because they have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot on special teams; more specifically, kicking the ball. With all that being said, it has been a far better start to the 2018 season than anyone could have imagined. They have brought the Steelers and Saints, two favorites to reach the Super Bowl, down to the wire. The offense hasn’t been stellar, but that was expected. The defense is the main reason why the team has been in games in the fourth quarter. With a new kicker coming in and a much more favorable schedule on the horizon, I believe the time is now for Cleveland to put the years of misery to rest.
Danny Barletta, Campus Correspondent
For me, the biggest surprise of the young season is the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs came into this season with a bit of uncertainty, with a new QB under center and a less formidable defense than years past. But here they are in 2018, 2-0 so far and absolutely scorching teams. Patrick Mahomes has been everything the Chiefs could have hoped for and then some. Ten touchdowns in two games is a rare accomplishment, and it has led them to the league’s best scoring offense. They are averaging 40 points per game, which is completely unsustainable, but still impressive. They have beat two playoff caliber teams in the Chargers and Steelers on the road, and I believe at this moment they are the favorite to win the AFC West. So although their defense hasn’t been terrific, their offense has more than made up for that. It will certainly be fun to see how this team progresses throughout the season.
Dakota Melvin, Campus Correspondent
This year, the most surprising team to me is the Buffalo Bills. Granted, most people did not think they would be able to replicate their playoff result from last year especially with the losses of Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn. But I don’t think anyone expected them to be this bad. They were blown out by a Ravens team that preceded to lose to the Bengals the following week, then followed it up with a lackluster performance against the Chargers. I mean it is week 2 and I am already hearing people talking about how they are the favorites to have the top pick next year. Maybe it is just growing pains of a new rookie quarterback or the distraction of the Lesean McCoy situation, but if they do not pull it together soon, the surprise playoff team from last year could very well be the surprise top pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Colin Reilly, Campus Correspondent
The Cincinnati Bengals are the most surprising team in the NFL so far. Going into the season, the Bengals were not expected to be a playoff contender. In their pre-season rankings, ESPN.com ranked them 27th in the league. After two games, the Bengals are 2-0. They defeated the Indianapolis Colts (34-23) in Week One, and they beat the Baltimore Ravens by the same score in Week 2. Second year running back Joe Mixon is a huge part of the Bengals’ early success. Thus far, he is second in the NFL in rushing yards with 179 yards through two games. The Bengals will have to rely on backup running back Giovani Bernard for at least the next two games, as Mixon will be sidelined with a slight meniscus tear. The Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs since Head Coach Marvin Lewis began his tenure with the team in 2003. If they stay hot, they may be able to end their playoff losing streak this season.
Nate Fields, Campus Correspondent
Two years ago, this team made it to the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons with a wild-card matchup against the Houston Texans. Their quarterback threw for 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions. It was the franchise’s best season in a long time. The Oakland Raiders were slowly making their way back to the top of the NFL, with a rising QB in Derek Carr, offensive studs such as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and one of the best linebackers in the game in Khalil Mack. Once Derek Carr tore his ACL at the end of the 2016 season just before the playoffs, it seemed as if the Raiders lost their mojo. The team hasn’t been the same since, and the 2017 season can prove it, as they went 6-10 and weren’t even in contention for a playoff bid. This past offseason the Raiders hired ESPN play-by-play announcer, Jon Gruden, who was the head coach of the organization during the early 2000’s and he led the team to much success. Jordy Nelson, long time No. 1 receiver for the Green Bay Packer and Aaron Rodgers, soon came next as he agreed to short two year deal. However, just before Raiders fans could get too excited for the upcoming season, Khalil Mack came to terms with the Chicago Bears on Sept. 1, ending his time in Oakland. Now, two weeks into the season with Gruden calling the plays and Carr fully healthy, the Raiders find themselves 0-2 and there’s nothing really to cheer about. Carr hasn’t had the best start either, throwing only one touchdown and three interceptions. Though the Raiders defense certainly have lost a step after the Mack trade and their offense hasn’t been able to ignite the same fire like it used to. My biggest surprise for 2018 so far, and also biggest disappointment, the Oakland Raiders.