So we are officially eight weeks through the 2022-23 NFL season and truth be told, there have been few surprises so far. Sure there are teams that were thought to do good that aren't but for the most part, the good teams are still good and the bad teams are still bad. This made me think of an interesting idea. Instead of making another boring rankings list stating the best teams in the playoff hunt and who's vying for the #1 pick come April, I'm going to list the biggest surprises that have happened this year. This may include great teams who came out of nowhere, players having the best year of their careers or maybe a trend making it's way to the forefront of team strategy.
Surprise #1: Success in the Big Apple
The New York Giants and the New York Jets both sit at #2 in their respected divisions and are 4 and 2 games above .500 respectively. The last time both teams ended the season with a positive record was 2010 and both teams were in the middle of their best 5 year stretches in the 2000's.
Both teams got a loss in week 8 and it's easy to predict a losing streak here but what's incredible is both teams defense is far better than anyone predicted which is a great sign.
Surprise #2: McDaniels sinking in Las Vegas
In Josh McDaniels second stint as an NFL head coach, he joined the Las Vegas Raiders and made several big splashes in the offseason including trading for receiever Davante Adams and signing edge rusher Chandler Jones. This team was a playoff team with an interim head coach last year so the sky was the limit this year right?
Well.... The team has started 2-5 and have several key holes in their roster that haven't been addressed through the season. Besides Adams whose having a bad season for him but a good season for an average starter, the Raiders have almost no receiver making noise at all. Josh Jacobs is their lone light on offense and he's only been great over the last three weeks. Their defense has been trash, letting up the 8th most points and yards. McDaniels needs to turn things aroudn and do them fast.
Surprise #3: Brady and Rodgers should've retired?
For the first time in Tom Brady's career he has lost 3-straight games. His counterpart for the last decade and a half, Aaron Rodgers is on a 4-game skid and both hall of famers are under .500.
Both QB's and teams will most likely turn it around and make the playoffs but with both players in their 40s, it's not unreasonable for them to retire after this year especially with everything going on in Tom Brady's life personally.
Surprise #4: Eagles flying high
The Eagles have started the season 7-0 and are the last undefeated team. Led by Nick Sirianni and their explosive running game, this team has gotten off to an electric start and not looked back as 3rd-year QB Jalen hurts is having a tremendous season with 2100 yards, 16 touchdowns and only 2 total turnovers.
Their core units in their team philosophy has always been their o-line on offense and secondary on defense, and both units rank first or second in the NFL. This team is built to dominate teams and while it's difficult to predict this type of success throughout the rest of the season they don't seem to be slowing down at all.
Surprise #5: CMC hasn't gotten hurt
Christian McCaffrey has made the news lately as he was shipped out of Carolina to the bay with the 49ers and for a lot of draft capitol ion return. Remarkably the reason he was able to garner the amount of picks Carolina deemed him worthy of was his best ability on the field, availability.
McCaffrey has had over 900 yards and 6 touchdowns including his first ever passing touchdown this week as a 49er. He's averaging 19.7 touches per game which is a bit lower than his MVP-caliber season of 2020 but is a great pace for an elite running back in this league.
Surprise #6: Geno Smith > Russell Wilson
SEAHAWKS COUNTRY... LET'S RIIIIIIIDEEEEE.
Seriously though Geno Smith has been playing out of his mind and has backpacked a Seahawks team many people predicted would earnt he #1 draft pick this year to a 5-3 record and #1 standing in the NFC West this year.
Geno has 1924 yards, 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while Wilson has 1694 yards, 6 touchdowns with 4 interceptions with his Broncos sitting at 3-5. Wilson is also getting paid $242 million over the next 5 years while Geno is getting $3.5 million on a one-year deal. I think Pete Carroll is pretty happy with his decision especially when you add the 2-1sts's, 2-2nd's, a 5th rounder and two starters they got in the trade.
Surprise #7: Tua rising to the challenge
Before taking a gruesome head injury in week's 4 and 5, Tua Tagovailoa has been a MVP candidate in Miami. Tua was in a make-it or break-ityear after the Miami organization surrounded him with offensive talent over the last two offseason and Tua is showing that it was worth it.
The Dolphins are 5-0 when he plays the entire game this year and Tua along with new star receiver Tyreek Hill are both at the very top of their positional stats lists. So far, Tua has 1678 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on a league leading 112.7 QBR.
Surprise #8: Running balance coming back?
Here me out because this is a true analytic stat. The average rushing yards per game for each team in the NFL is 120.1 yards, which is the highest since 1988 and a full 5 yards oer game greater than last season's average. Teams are doing this on the same or less amount of carries, as the average carries in a game per team is 26.5 right now, which is .1 off the average of the stat over the last ten years.
Passing attempts per game for all 32 teams is also at it's lowest number since 2010 at 33.9 with the average during that time being 34.7. Does this mean team's are taking a step back and play smash mouth runnning football? Or could it be that the NFL has turned into such a passing game nowadays that defenses have been completely wired for throwing the ball and coaches are now taking advantage of it as the pendulum comes back around.
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Stay tuned as we continue coverage of the 2022-23 NFL season until Super Bowl 57.