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NFL Surprises and Disappointments

Michael Katz |
October 19, 2011 | 2:50 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Frank Gore leads the way for the 49ers' offense. (John Martinez Pavliga/Creative Commons)
Frank Gore leads the way for the 49ers' offense. (John Martinez Pavliga/Creative Commons)
Every year, a few NFL teams exceed expectations and make surprise runs towards the playoffs. At the same time, many teams fall by the wayside and end up well below where experts expected. For every team that succeeds, it seems that there are 10 more that underperform.

With that being said, here is a look at a few teams I think are surprises thus far in the 2011 season, for better or worse.

Pleasant Surprises

San Francisco 49ers: I'm not going to lie; this one caught me completely off-guard. Jim Harbaugh has the Niners at 5-1, coming off a great win against another team that will be featured on this list. Alex Smith is having a great year thus far, and Frank Gore has been on fire the past few games. I can’t believe I'm saying this, but they could make quite the playoff push if they keep this going.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (DonkerDink/Creative Commons)
Lions WR Calvin Johnson (DonkerDink/Creative Commons)

Detroit Lions: I will say this: Before the season started, I thought the Lions would be pretty good this year as long as Matt Stafford stayed healthy. Low and behold, they are 5-1 and look rather formidable.

The Stafford-to-Megatron connection has been lethal this season: Calvin Johnson (left) has nine touchdown catches already, and Stafford has thrown 15 on the year. They are looking like a serious threat to take the NFC North.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills just know how to get the job done. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and RB Fred Jackson are tearing it up, and although they have struggled in a few games, the Bills still sit at 4-2 and beat the Patriots in their head-to-head matchup. Their schedule isn't too harsh either, so a wildcard spot is not out of the question.

Terrible Disappointments

Philadelphia Eagles: No list of disappointments would be true without including the "Dream Team." The defense has been a complete disaster (except for their showing against the Redskins), and the offense looks inconsistent. Michael Vick has thrown nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, and outside of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the receivers have not been great.

The real story is the defense, though: they have only seven interceptions on the year and are giving up 24 points per game; for a team that has been tabbed as potentially great, they certainly are not looking that way.

Rams RB Steven Jackson (Sabot Images/Creative Commons)
Rams RB Steven Jackson (Sabot Images/Creative Commons)
St. Louis Rams: After finishing a win away from the playoffs last season, expectations were high for the Rams. This season has been, to say the least, forgettable thus far. Sam Bradford is struggling mightily, as is that entire unit: the offense has yet to score 20 points in a game. Ouch.

RB Steven Jackson (right) is banged up, and QB Sam Bradford only has three passing touchdowns on the year. Yes, three. That's less than Curtis Painter. Not the kind of company Sam wanted to be in when the season started. The Rams need to turn it around fast, as the 49ers are dominating and look to be taking the NFC West pretty easily.

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan's Falcons are 3-3, which really is not that bad. However, considering they have already lost as many games as they did all of last year, this has to be somewhat disappointing. Ryan has been off, as have receivers Roddy White and first-round pick Julio Jones. Their run defense has been great, but their pass defense is 27th in the league. The Bucs and the Saints are winning in the NFC South, so unless the Falcons turn it around, they could easily miss the playoffs this year.


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