Sconnie Sports Talk

Biggest surprise and disappointment for each NFC team


On Wednesday, we gave our biggest surprise and disappointment for each AFC team. Today, we take a look at the NFC through three weeks.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

Surprise: Rookie starters

Even though RB Ezekiel Elliott was touted as the second coming of Adrian Peterson, he was not expected to have the immediate impact he’s had. Elliott is second in the league in rushing yards at the moment with 274, and has rushed for 2 scores as well. Drafted as a long-term project, QB Dak Prescott has dazzled fans after replacing the injured Tony Romo. Prescott has not turned the ball over thus far, and has a passer rating of 93.3 as well as 3 touchdowns.

Disappointment: Passing defense

Defending the pass has been a major weakness for the ‘Boys for some time, but the secondary should have improved with the development of rising star S Byron Jones. Losing 3 of their top pass rushers (Randy Gregory, Greg Hardy, and Demarcus Lawrence) due to suspension can be one of the reasons for their problems on the back end. However, it is time Dallas looks to free agency or trade for corner help.

New York Giants (2-1)

Surprise: WR Victor Cruz

Rookie receiver Sterling Shepard and free agent signee CB Janoris Jenkins were both deserving of this spot, but the fact that Cruz is merely playing NFL football, let alone presenting a threat to defenses, is incredible. The UMass product hadn’t stepped on an NFL gridiron since October 2014 due to a torn patellar tendon, but has posted 195 yards and a touchdown so far.

Disappointment: DE Olivier Vernon

Possibly the most outlandish free agent signing of the offseason, the former Miami Dolphin has not shown the talent that caused the Giants to shell out $85 million for him. Vernon has totaled just one sack and 5 solo tackles this season, which aren’t numbers that should be coming from the highest-paid defensive end in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)

Surprise: QB Carson Wentz

How about the Eagles? An overthought in a weak NFC East, Philly has scored the most points of any team and has also conceded the fewest. While it is hard to point to one specific surprising element, Carson Wentz has been nothing short of incredible. It was easy to dismiss the first two wins as the Eagles were facing the Browns and Bears, but the former North Dakota State signal-caller dismantled a Pittsburgh team that was supposed to contend for the Super Bowl.

Disappointment: RB Ryan Mathews

The Eagles are playing so well on both sides of the ball it is difficult to find a disappointment among them. While Ryan Mathews wasn’t expected to be a star, he should be producing more than 3.2 yards a tote. Both Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner have been outplaying the veteran, and the Eagles shouldn’t rule a committee approach out of the question.

Washington Redskins (1-2)

Surprise: LB/S Su’a Cravens

It has been a rough start for Washington, though a late win over the Giants in East Rutherford prevented a total collapse. Cravens saved the day by diving to pick off Eli Manning on one of the final plays of the game. The latest “moneybacker” to enter the league, Cravens’ rare mix of size and speed allows him to match up with a variety of offensive skill players.

Disappointment: Defense

Cravens and CB Josh Norman aside, the Redskins defense has been abysmal. Washington has let up 92 points (2nd), 1,274 yards (2nd), and 75 first downs (1st). Their 5 turnovers created and 7 sacks are solid yet unspectacular numbers, but with CB DeAngelo tearing his ACL and CB Bashaud Breeland suffering an ankle injury, an already weak secondary has lost most of its depth.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (0-3)

Surprise: LB Jerrell Freeman

While Freeman has been an impact player for some time, the Bears don’t really have another successful player right now. Freeman’s 34 tackles are tied for 2nd in the NFL, and the former Indianapolis Colt has 4 tackles for loss and a pass defensed. When fellow ILB Danny Trevathan returns from injury, the Bears could have a solid linebacking corps.

Disappointment: Yes

Very little has gone right for the Bears this season. Their passing defense is ranked towards the top of the league statistically, but that is mostly due to opposing teams solidifying victory over Chicago early. The combination of Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer hasn’t produced much, and Jeremy Langford failed to make an impact before getting injured in Week 3.

Detroit Lions (1-2)

Surprise: WR Marvin Jones

Wow, what a game from Jones in Week 3. Signed as a free agent from Cincinnati to step into the #2 role across from Golden Tate, Jones is leading the league with 403 receiving yards, 83 more than the next closest receiver. Against the Packers in Week 3, Jones caught 6 balls for 205 yards and two scores.

Disappointment: WR Golden Tate

Tate was supposed to have an expanded role this season following the departure of the defense-shredding legend Calvin Johnson. Instead, Jones has taken over as the primary target of Matthew Stafford, and Tate has been outgained by TE Eric Ebron, RB Theo Riddick, and 35 year-old WR Anquan Boldin.

Green Bay Packers (2-1)

Surprise: Rushing defense

The top-ranked rushing defense in the league, the Packers have allowed a scant 128 yards on the ground and only one touchdown. The most impressive stat, however, is their 1.8 yards per carry. No other team allows less than 3.2 yards per carry. They haven’t played any stellar running backs (Adrian Peterson suffered an injury against them in Week 2) yet, but those numbers are otherworldly regardless.

Disappointment: Secondary

With CB Sam Shields suffering a concussion in Week 1 and S Morgan Burnett going down in Week 2, the Pack’s back end has been torched repeatedly. Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs made Green Bay’s inexperienced corners look silly to the tune of 182 yards and a touchdown, and Detroit’s Marvin Jones decided to one-up Diggs by posting 205 yards and two scores. Damarious Randall was expected to be an up-and-coming talent, but has not shown the goods to be a #1 corner thus far.

Minnesota Vikings (3-0)

Surprise: Yes

Losing their franchise quarterback and arguably the best running back of all time would knock most teams out of contention. Yet the Vikes have taken down the division rival Packers and upset the defending NFC Champion Panthers in Charlotte. The defense has a turnover percentage of 25.7%, tops in the league, and have scored two touchdowns and a safety. Not much was expected of new QB Sam Bradford, but the former #1 pick has a passer rating of 107.8.

Disappointment: RB Adrian Peterson

Peterson may be getting up there in age, but he still should be among the top running backs in the NFL. The future Hall-of-Famer was placed on Injured Reserve (eligible to return) 3 days ago after suffering a knee injury in Week 2. However, even when he was playing, Peterson was ineffective, gaining just 50 yards off of 31 carries and failing to score.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1)

Surprise: QB Matt Ryan

Many people had written off Ryan prior to the start of this season after one of his worst statistical seasons last year. The former 1st-round pick and Pro Bowler has looked like the guy that pundits once called the most promising quarterback in the league so far, pacing the NFL with a whopping 119.0 passer rating. A slight regression wouldn’t come as a surprise, as Ryan has faced three of the easiest pass defenses in the league. (Very Honorable Mention: LB Deion Jones)

Disappointment: DE Vic Beasley

The 8th overall pick a year ago, Beasley was supposed to breathe life into one of the league’s flimsiest pass rushes. Instead, the former Clemson Tiger has picked up just 1 sack and totaled 5 tackles. The Falcons unit has only 3 sacks on the year, and one of those was made by CB Desmond Trufant. Atlanta is getting shredded through the air, and the blame falls upon the pass rush.

Carolina Panthers (1-2)

Surprise: CB James Bradberry

The rookie out of Samford was looked as a project when Carolina selected him in the 2nd round, but Bradberry has contributed from the start. The Panthers’ secondary was decimated this offseason when Josh Norman’s franchise tag was rescinded and Charles Tillman retired, forcing Carolina to add 3 corners in the draft. Bradberry has been the best of the bunch, racking up 11 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and an interception.

Disappointment: QB Cam Newton

The reigning MVP has not been bad this season, but is not producing at a level that one would expect after last year’s dominance. His rough statistics don’t show much of a different story from last year, but Newton is currently 22nd in the NFL with a QBR of 52.3 and 25th with a passer rating of 78.0. He is averaging 2 turnovers per game, a rate that must be improved if Carolina wishes to return to the Super Bowl. Two of his games did come against Denver and Minnesota, two of the best defenses in the game.

New Orleans Saints (0-3)

Surprise: LB Craig Robertson

There have been few bright spots for a New Orleans team that relies very heavily on the arm of Drew Brees. The defense is one of the worst in the league, but ILB Craig Robertson has been making plays in the middle. The fifth-year ‘backer has amassed a league-leading 35 tackles and a pass defensed.

Disappointment: Rushing defense

The Saints put a focus on fixing their porous defense this offseason, adding 300-pound run stuffer DT Nick Fairley and veteran tackle machine LB James Laurinaitis in free agency as well as hard-hitting S Vonn Bell in the draft. While those three have been solid, the defense lets up an average of nearly 150 yards a game, tops in the league.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)

Surprise: LB Kwon Alexander

A 4th rounder in last year’s draft, Alexander was in the talks for Defensive Rookie of the Year before being suspended for breaking the league’s substance abuse policy. While ILB Lavonte David gets most of the publicity, Alexander has quietly been more productive, with 31 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pick-six.

Disappointment: WR Vincent Jackson

Yeah the defense has been terrible, but everyone knew it would be terrible. Jackson, on the other hand, was supposed to be a solid complement for Mike Evans, but has made little impact on the field. The 3-time Pro Bowler has just 9 receptions for 99 yards, and has been outgained by former undrafted free agent WR Adam Humphries and RB Charles Sims.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (1-2)

Surprise: Pass rush

The Cardinals sack leader last season was the aging vet Dwight Freeney, who totaled just 8 quarterback takedowns. 3 games into the season this year, the Cards already have two players with 3 sacks; DE Chandler Jones and OLB Markus Golden. Jones arrived in trade over the offseason from New England, and gives the Cardinals a real threat off of the edge.

Disappointment: WR John Brown

An emerging star, Brown has struggled to produce this season. After gaining 1,003 yards and scoring 7 times in an offense where he had to compete for catches with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Brown has been quiet this year. The former Pittsburg State wideout is the Cards 5th leading receiver this year, and has yet to break 100 receiving yards on the season.

Los Angeles Rams (2-1)

Surprise: They’re leading the NFC West

Other than maybe Kenny Britt leading the team in receiving with 189 yards, I can’t see any reason for this team playing better than expected. Even their biggest strengths, the front seven and their superstar running back, have been struggling. Yet somehow, the Rams are in first place in a division with two of the league’s best teams in it.

Disappointment: QB Jared Goff

The 1st overall pick narrowly edges out RB Todd Gurley for this unfortunate distinction after Gurley played well in a Week 3 win over Tampa Bay. Los Angeles’ current starter is Case Keenum, who has a passer rating of 66.7 and has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns. It does not make Goff look very good if he can’t take over the job from the ineffective journeyman, especially with his counterpart Carson Wentz excelling in Philadelphia.

San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

Surprise: RB Carlos Hyde

Still considered a young talent, Hyde is showing he is ready to leap into the upper echelon of running backs this year. He has been tremendous in the red zone, scoring all 4 of his touchdowns from within the 20. Hyde allows the 49ers to not rely on the inefficient arm of Blaine Gabbert as the offense’s focal point.

Disappointment: WR Torrey Smith

Smith was a trendy sleeper pick in fantasy circles during the preseason, as he was the only established vertical threat on a 49ers team that looked to be behind in most games. San Fran has scored a lot of points, but Smith has scored just one touchdown and posted only 103 yards. TE Vance McDonald has taken over the red zone role, and WR Jeremy Kerley has been the target on short and intermediate routes.

Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

Surprise: RB Christine Michael

A former 2nd round pick of Seattle, Michael was largely looked at as bust. After playing sparsely in Seattle and Dallas over his 5 year career, Michael was never handed a starting running back job. With RB Thomas Rawls both injured and underwhelming, Michael fully took over the reigns and rushed for 106 yards and 2 scores against San Francisco in Week 3.

Disappointment: The other running backs

After Marshawn Lynch shockingly retired, the Seahawks expected Rawls to be their guy in 2016 after rushing for 830 yards in 7 games at the end of 2015. A lack of faith in the 2nd year rusher began to develop in the offseason, leading the front office to select 3 running backs in the draft. Two of them, CJ Prosise and Alex Collins are on the active roster, but have had little to no production thus far.

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