Surprises: The consistent play of Carson Wentz has elevated this team to the top of the NFC. Road wins against the Redskins and Panthers have built up an impressive resume for the Eagles. Wentz has 13 TDs to just 3 interceptions and Nelson Agholor is stepping up alongside Ertz, Jeffrey, and Smith as viable options. The Eagles look like a complete team through 6 weeks.
Disappointments: The pass oriented offense that throws almost 35 times a game. The run game has not been terrible but I don’t think they incorporate effective balance into the play calling. The Eagles will want to give LeGarrette Blount more carries to keep defenses honest.
Surprises: Vernon Davis is having a strong season so far despite playing alongside Jordan Reed, which gives Kirk Cousins a potent 2 TE set to work with. Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor are also starting to emerge as targets for Cousins. This comes after the departures of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The fact that new faces have emerged and Kirk Cousins is still having success speaks to his potential value to the franchise.
Disappointments: The Josh Norman injury could be problematic with the Eagles and Cowboys up next on the schedule. The Redskins lack a dominant running back which could hold them back in tougher matchups. Still, the Redskins are pushing the Eagles for top of the NFC East.
Surprises: Demarcus Lawrence is leading the NFL with 8.5 sacks, giving the defensive line a quality pass rush. Jourdan Lewis, the rookie corner out of Michigan, has played well for the secondary despite giving up the game winning TD in the Packers loss. Dak Prescott is building on his rookie season success and has become the clear leader of the Cowboys offense.
Disappointments: The drama surrounding the Elliott suspension is still ongoing and the Cowboys are in trouble if he is suspended the next 6 games with a daunting schedule that includes the Redskins, Chiefs, Falcons, and Eagles. The offensive line has not performed at the same level they did last year and Dez Bryant has not dominated a game yet this season. The offense appears to have taken a step back which must change if they want any hope at defending the division title.
New York Giants
Surprises: Rookie tight end Evan Engram has held his own in the NFL. On Sunday night he was the dominant receiver against the talented Broncos defense with 5 catches for 82 yards and a score. He will continue to see the bulk of the targets in the passing game and we could have a future star on our hands.
Disappointments: The injuries that occurred almost simultaneously have decimated the Giants offense. Beckham, Marshall, Shepherd, and Harris were all lost in the same game and created a nightmare scenario for a winless team. The Beckham injury is a disappointment for all football fans who will be without one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game. The offensive line has simply been awful. Ereck Flowers has been a disaster at left tackle. Eli Manning has little time to throw and the running game hasn’t had any room to operate. We will see if the Broncos victory is a fluke or if the Giants have somehow risen in the face of adversity.
Surprises: I would have said the instant success of Dalvin Cook, but he unfortunately suffered a season ending ACL injury. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have broken out as legitimate receiving threats even with Case Keenum running the show at QB. Theilen has 38 catches and 489 receiving yards and Diggs has 395 yards and 4 TDs on 23 catches. When Bradford or Bridgewater return, their numbers could only continue to improve.
Disappointments: The Vikings got off to a hot start last year and were derailed by injuries. Once again, the Vikings can’t seem to avoid the training room. Sam Bradford has missed a significant amount of time since the first game when the Saints had no answer for him. Dalvin Cook went down after a strong and encouraging start to his rookie year. The good news is that Bridgewater could be back soon to compete with Case Keenum at QB, and Bradford’s status is still uncertain. Despite the injuries, the Vikings have stayed afloat and are competing for the division title.
Green Bay Packers
Surprises: Aaron Jones may give the Packers a viable running back to complement their plethora of receivers. His game against the Cowboys showed the potential for the rookie running back out of UTEP and would allow Ty Montgomery to play a change of pace style, which suits his skill set as a receiver more than a power runner. The Packers will need something from the run game without Aaron Rodgers.
Disappointments: The season ending injury to Aaron Rodgers leaves the Packers at 4-2 and without room for error. The suspect defense won’t have the offense to lean on and the run game will be forced to make plays. Brett Hundley threw 3 interceptions in relief of Rodgers against the Vikings. The Packers are in trouble.
Surprises: The defense is making plays with 9 interceptions and 5 recovered fumbles on the year. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis has been a key piece for the defense. I was extremely impressed with the debut of Kenny Golladay, but a hamstring injury has limited his ability to get on the field. Matt Stafford has proved he is worth the contract he signed in the offseason and he will continue to compete in the suddenly wide open NFC North.
Disappointments: The same problem for the Lions has been the lack of a running game to take pressure off Stafford. The Lions average 84 rushing yards a game, good for 28th in the NFL. This problem doesn’t appear to have a solution for this season, but as long as Stafford is healthy, the Lions will survive.
Surprises: Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are an extremely effective running back duo. Teams know the Bears are looking to run the ball but haven’t been able to stop them. Mitchell Trubisky finally brings excitement to the Bears and gives them something to be optimistic about for the future. His development will be fun to watch.
Disappointments: It took four weeks for Mike Glennon to lose his starting job. The Bears needed some time to get Trubisky ready to go, but four weeks may have been excessive. The Texans waited one week for Watson to take over and he is lighting it up in Houston. The idea of Glennon actually being the long term starter was unrealistic. The Trubisky Era is underway.
Surprises: The breakout of Devin Funchess gives the Panthers 2 big, physical receivers to target downfield and help Cam Newton while Greg Olsen is out. Funchess will continue to improve as the season progresses and should find mismatches as Kelvin Benjamin demands attention and Olsen returns to the field. Funchess could lead the Panthers receivers in TDs by the end of the season. Christian McCaffrey has also sparked the offense as a rushing and receiving threat. He serves a versatile role including as a diversion to free up receivers like Funchess and Benjamin. The Panthers offense has them looking for a shot to take back the division crown.
Disappointments: The Panthers can be inconsistent at times. In both home losses to the Saints and Eagles, Cam Newton threw 3 interceptions. In both road wins against the Patriots and Lions, Newton threw 3 TDs. If the Panthers want a shot at the NFC South title, they have to find consistency, starting at the QB position.
New Orleans Saints
Surprises: The last 3 games. The Saints are on a 3 game winning streak and owe a large part of that to the play of their defense. They held the Panthers to 13 points on the road and shutout the Dolphins. Despite surrendering 38 points to the Lions, the defense redeemed themselves by scoring 3 TDs of their own. Drew Brees has the Saints offense operating at a high level, and the running game is starting to distinguish itself with the combo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The Saints find themselves in a position where they have winnable games against the Packers, Bears, Bucs, and Bills in the next four weeks. If the defense can continue to contribute, the offense can take care of most teams. The NFC South looks like the most competitive division in the NFC.
Disappointments: The Adrian Peterson acquisition was mostly a flop. He was clearly the 3rd running back on the depth chart behind Ingram and Kamara. He had 81 yards on 27 carries during his time in New Orleans. The most memorable moment of his tenure was probably the back and forth between him and Sean Payton during the Minnesota game. I give credit to the Saints for moving on from a situation that didn’t work out.
Surprises: I have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Austin Hooper at tight end. He’s caught 17 of his 22 targets on the season and has become a reliable target for Matt Ryan. The offense has taken a step back from a season ago and Hooper could be a big part of getting those numbers back up.
Disappointments: I expected the Falcons to come out and storm through the first 5 games. Instead, we have seen a team that could be 2-3 depending on if that Lions touchdown call goes the other way. One of their wins was a nail biter against the Bears. This team has not played at a high level for a group that returned most of the key players from the Super Bowl roster. The offense hasn’t looked the same without Kyle Shanahan. Their most recent loss, a blown 17-0 lead to the Dolphins at home, is not the kind of inspiring performance you look for before your rematch with the Patriots. The Falcons need to play to their potential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Surprises: Desean Jackson and Cameron Brate have joined Mike Evans as viable threats in the pass game alongside Mike Evans. Jameis Winston has proved his importance to this team despite their current 2-3 record. I had high expectations for this Bucs team and it will be interesting to see if they can win some close games to avoid falling behind in the NFC South race.
Disappointments: Doug Martin returned from suspension for one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL. Between him and Jacquizz Rodgers, someone has got to step up to help Winston, especially if he is limited with a shoulder injury. I think the Bucs are close to being competitive, but they will need more balance offensively.
Los Angeles Rams
Surprises: New coach Sean McVay has helped Jared Goff emerge as the kind of QB the Rams had hoped for when they drafted him. I never understood why people wrote him off as a bust last season when it was his first year on a very bad team. With some receiving weapons and the help of a strong season from Todd Gurley, Goff is operating one of the highest scoring offenses in football. It should be exciting to see his continued development alongside his young head coach.
Disappointments: I wasn’t a big fan of the Aaron Donald holdout. He is one of the most dominant defenders in the game and he will no doubt be paid in the near future, but I think his presence at practice could have helped with the collection of young talent and the new coaching staff the Rams have. It’s not much of an issue since the defense is still strong, but I think they could be even better.
Surprises: This team will go where their defense takes them. The offense looks unreliable at times but the defense has given them a chance to win games. Apart from the Tennessee game, it has been a dominant unit. If the offense is able to consistently score points, the Seahawks shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Disappointments: The offensive line is keeping this team from scoring points. Russell Wilson is always under pressure and the running game isn’t generating points either. Getting the offense on track will revolve around the Seahawks ability to execute their blocking schemes.
Surprises: The Adrian Peterson trade. Once David Johnson went down for injury it was clear the running game was not going to be able to sustain success. The Cardinals made a last ditch effort by trading for Adrian Peterson and it worked, at least for one game. Peterson had 134 yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries against the Buccaneers. We don’t know if Peterson will be able to replicate this performance, but it gives the Cardinals hope and injects some energy into the offense.
Disappointments: Lofty expectations for the Cardinals were knocked off course by the loss of David Johnson. They’ve won some close games against some not so good teams. Wins against the Colts and 49ers aren’t eye popping and the win against Tampa Bay saw Jameis Winston fall to injury. The 3 losses haven’t been close. The Cardinals are still in the thick of the division race, but they need to pick it up if they want to actually make some noise.
San Francisco 49ers
Surprises: CJ Beathard looked encouraging on Sunday in Washington. Beathard, the rookie QB out of Iowa, will get more looks after he held his own. The 49ers are banking on the development of young talent this season to pay off long term, and Beathard has a chance to prove he belongs in the discussion as part of that future.
Disappointments: The close losses are agonizing. They lost week 1 to Carolina 23-3, but the next 5 losses have been by a combined 13 points with 2 of those losses coming in overtime. The 49ers haven’t won a game, not because they are a bad team, but because they are just unable to finish games and execute in the clutch. Kyle Shanahan has this team headed in the right direction despite the 0-6 record.