Surprises: The defense that lost Stephon Gilmore in the offseason has not lost a step and they are holding opposing offenses to 14.8 points per game which is the best in the league. And considering who they have played so far, that is extremely impressive. The Panthers have recently shown their offensive capabilities against the Patriots and Lions, the Broncos have moved the ball effectively, and everyone knows how explosive the Falcon’s offense is. The record reflects the defensive effort at 3-2 and currently tied for 1st in the division. The Bills will continue to lean on their defense.
Disappointments: The receiving group lost Sammy Watkins but still but acquired Jordan Matthews and drafted Zay Jones. The wide receivers have been almost non-existent in a passing game that has relied heavily on Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy. Clay will be out multiple weeks with a knee injury meaning someone will have to step up to help Tyrod Taylor. Zay Jones needs to do something with his targets, as he has only 5 catches to show for 23 targets this season.
New York Jets
Surprises: The 3 game winning streak. Everyone thought the Jets were trying to tank this season away, but if that was the strategy, then they are just really bad at executing it. A 3 game winning streak behind decent play from Josh McCown and Jermaine Kearse has the Jets in a 3 way tie for 1st in the AFC East. While two of those wins have been against the Dolphins and the Browns, the win over the Jaguars looks semi-impressive. We’ll see where the Jets go from here.
Disappointments: The fans who are on TV every week with Sam Darnold Jets jerseys. This 3 game winning streak may cost the Jets the prime draft pick their fan base desired and could leave them in mediocrity if they don’t lose out. Sam Darnold has also not looked like the best QB in college football this season so I think those fans wasted their money. (Should have gone with Luke Falk)
New England Patriots
Surprises: The play of Chris Hogan. Someone needed to step up when Julian Edelman went down with an injury and Chris Hogan has proven that the end of last season was no fluke. With 5 TD and 288 yards on 23 catches he has proven himself to be a valuable asset to Tom Brady. The Patriots offense has not been the issue this season thanks in part to Hogan’s consistent contributions.
Disappointments: The defense has been atrocious. A strength of the team last year, the secondary has looked no different than burnt toast at points despite the acquisition of Stephon Gilmore. One of the worst scoring defenses in the league has left Tom Brady without much help and 2 losses as a result. Bill Belichick needs to pull another “On to Cincinnati” with this unit.
Surprises: Jay Cutler has somehow won 2 games so far this season.
Disappointments: Jay Ajayi has been ineffective on the ground, averaging only 3.4 yard per carry and the offense is the worst in the league. It’s also not good when a video of your offensive line coach is released where he appears to be doing drugs.
Surprises: TJ Watt is going to have an extremely bright future in the NFL and Antonio Brown is leading the league in receiving yards. Le'Veon Bell has been productive so far despite the lockout. Ryan Shazier, another young linebacker, is 4th in the league with 45 tackles on the season.
Disappointments: The drama has the Steelers looking like a reality TV show. Le’Veon’s holdout, Antonio Brown’s temper tantrums, and Big Ben saying “Maybe I don’t have it anymore” are just a few instances of the lack of leadership being shown on this team. What was supposed to be one of the best offensive trios in the game has 3 wins against inferior talent and losses to the Bears and the Jaguars. Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 TDs to the wrong uniform against the Jags and he has more interceptions than TDs on the year after he threw 5 last week.
Surprises: The running back by committee approach due to the injury of Danny Woodhead. Terrance West, Javorius Allen, and Alex Collins are competing for snaps at running back and while no one has been able to emerge, keep an eye on Collins if he can get his ball security concerns under control.
Disappointments: The trip to London flipped the script on the season outlook for the Ravens. The defense had been dominant but got thrashed for 44 points by the Jaguars. The Ravens got exposed in that game where Joe Flacco threw for 28 total yards. The AFC North is up for grabs.
Surprises: AJ Green has rebounded well from his hamstring injury from last season, highlighted by his 189 yard and 1 TD day against the Bills on Sunday. Tyler Kroft has also filled in well at tight end for the injured Tyler Eifert with 2 TDs, 14 receptions, and 139 yards so far.
Disappointments: The running game has been completely absent with a team average of 3.2 yards per carry and Andy Dalton has not had a good season so far. Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat as the Bengals appear to be headed for another 8-8 season at best.
Surprises: Myles Garrett got a sack on his very first snap, showing that maybe the Browns made a good draft pick. Duke Johnson has also shown his value as a dangerous weapon for the Browns and appears to be the go to offensive player at the moment. Additionally, David Njoku has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie tight end with 3 TDs through 5 weeks.
Disappointments: The Browns still do not have an answer at QB. Deshone Kizer has 9 interceptions and Kevin Hogan is not much of an upgrade. An 0-5 record with no indication of a potential turnaround has Cleveland headed back towards the top of the draft.
Surprises: The defense is one of the best in the NFL and just picked off 5 Ben Roethlisberger passes and took 2 to the house in a dominant win over the Steelers. Combine that with crushing the Ravens in London and the Jags have a legitimate chance in the AFC South. Leonard Fournette has allowed the offense to be less dependent on Bortles while he runs over defenders. The 3-2 Jaguars are one of the more intriguing stories so far this season.
Disappointments: There have been inconsistent performances in between the dominant ones. Losses to the Titans and Jets are hard to comprehend given what we saw against the Texans, Ravens, and Steelers.
Surprises: Deshaun Watson looks like the real deal and he has 12 TD passes for the 4th highest scoring team in the league. His chemistry with Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller were on display in the loss to the Chiefs but Bill O’Brien has put Watson in position to be successful. He should only continue to improve as the season progresses.
Disappointments: The defense was ravaged by injuries to JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus in Sunday’s loss and both are out for the season. The Watt injury is especially unfortunate considering how much of a beacon of hope and support he was for Houston post-Harvey. The injuries will be tough for the team to handle and they will have to lean more heavily on the abilities of Deshaun Watson.
Surprises: Rishard Matthews has continued to be productive despite the addition of Eric Decker to the offense, which is important for a team trying to overcome the hamstring troubles of Corey Davis. Marcus Mariota has also played well when healthy. The Titans looked good in their first 3 games.
Disappointments: The last two games have been horrific. The Texans obliterated the Titans and disaster hit when Mariota went down with a hamstring injury. The loss to the Dolphins was as sloppy as they come, as Jay Cutler threw for 92 yards and won. The Titans need Mariota back fast and must find a way to get the offense back on track if they don’t want to lose pace in the division race.
Surprises: The trade for Jacoby Brissett kind of worked. He is 2-2 as a starter with a close loss to Arizona. While the wins are against the winless Browns and 49ers, they were important wins to stay alive in the AFC South and tread water until Andrew Luck returns. Brissett has winnable road games against the Titans and Bengals sandwiched between a visit from the Jaguars. Frank Gore and Adam Vinatieri are still going strong which is impressive in itself.
Disappointments: The Colts have one of the worst defenses in the league, which is the wrong problem to have for a team that struggles to score. They need Andrew Luck back.
Kansas City Chiefs
Surprises: The success of the offense. For a team that got rid of Jeremy Maclin and Jamaal Charles, it is surprising that there have been absolutely no offensive issues. Alex Smith appears to have harnessed Patrick Mahomes’ deep ball from Texas Tech and Kareem Hunt has been sensational. Tyreek Hill is faster than anyone that tries to line up across from him and Travis Kelce is in the conversation for league’s top tight end. The best offense in the league has thrown its conservative nature to the side and has fueled the Chiefs success. Marcus Peters is making a case that he is the best corner in the NFL.
Disappointments: Injuries. Eric Berry was lost in week 1, Spencer Ware was lost before the season started, and the offensive line has had guys in and out. But the Chiefs are still 5-0.
Surprises: The running game that was wildly ineffective in 2016 has been a bright spot for the team this season, as the Broncos are 3rd in the league in rushing yards. Trevor Siemian has gotten the job done at QB for a team that doesn’t need to score many points to win games. The Denver defense is capable of carrying the team to the playoffs but any contributions from the offense are much appreciated. Vance Joseph is off to a nice start in Denver.
Disappointments: We haven’t gotten to hear from Sergio Dipp since week 1 and that’s disappointing in my opinion. Demaryius Thomas has not caught a TD pass through 4 weeks, which should change in the near future. While Thomas’s failure to reach the end zone is disappointing, the offense has capitalized on the decreased defensive attention to the run game and Siemian has done a good job utilizing his other receivers in the meantime.
Surprises: Michael Crabtree has been phenomenal so far this season for the Raiders offense. The Raiders looked unstoppable for 2 games before a loss to the Redskins seems to have exposed some weaknesses. When Derek Carr is healthy again they will need him to be his 5 TD and no INT self from the first 2 weeks if they want to live up to the high expectations they had coming into the season.
Disappointments: The 2-3 record as a result of sloppy offensive line play, the Derek Carr injury, and inconsistent defense are disappointments considering the lofty goals this team had. They’ll need a turnaround quickly in order to show those goals are still within reach and it starts with the stars on this team stepping up. Amari Cooper has been a bust this year and the passing game needs him to be productive. It looks like the Raiders are trying to save gas in the tank for Marshawn Lynch by limiting his workload but without Derek Carr they need to find a viable ground game to depend on.
Los Angeles Chargers
Surprises: Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are a terrifying combo for offensive lines to handle and they have 12 sacks between the two of them while Jatavis Brown has gotten in on 46 tackles so far. The Chargers are also relatively healthy compared to the last few seasons but that hasn’t seemed to matter much yet.
Disappointments: I hate having to correct myself everytime I say “San Diego Chargers” and honestly, I don’t even know if calling them the Los Angeles Chargers is worth the breath. The Chargers play in a 30,000 seat stadium and hear more cheers from fans of the road team than their own. It’s a disappointment to see a city that clearly doesn’t care for the Chargers. The inability to sell out a soccer stadium shows how the Chargers lack a true fan base after their San Diego exit. The Chargers are a disaster.