Ranking the largest surprises of the 2022 NFL season for all 32 groups



Whereas an NFL season is not decided in two video games, a few video games is an applicable pattern to begin selecting up on some tendencies. Some are anticipated and others are a little bit of a shock, and it is the latter class that we’re tackling beneath, as our NFL Nation writers are selecting out which shock tendencies have actual endurance and that are a mirage, a blip on the 17-game NFL radar.

A few of the tendencies listed beneath have followers feeling fairly good, just like the Detroit Lions racking up bushels of touchdowns, Jalen Hurts enjoying at a possible MVP clip for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills being superior at just about the whole lot. Others elicit a bit extra concern, from the Cincinnati Bengals‘ lack of first-half touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams irritating fantasy house owners with their utilization of operating backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr.

Let’s get to the real-or-mirage assessments, beginning with the NFC East:

Leap to a staff:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


The early shock: Solely two touchdowns allowed in two video games

The decision: Actual. OK, the Cowboys will permit greater than 17 touchdowns this season, however the second-year bounce of the protection underneath Dan Quinn is actual and what they anticipated. They’ve slowed down offenses quarterbacked by Tom Brady and Joe Burrow within the first two video games. Whereas these groups produce other points, the accomplishment cannot be taken frivolously. For the Cowboys to succeed, even when Dak Prescott had been wholesome, the protection has to hold the day, and with three of the subsequent 4 video games in opposition to NFC East foes with various ranges of QB play, issues are organising decently for Dallas. — Todd Archer

The early shock: Richie James is the main receiver

The decision: Mirage. James leads the Giants with 10 catches and 110 yards. It is fairly the revelation contemplating he appeared to be on the roster bubble all through the summer season. However James has rapidly change into a favourite of quarterback Daniel Jones. It is simply exhausting to think about this persevering with all through the season. Kadarius Toney performed a much bigger function in Week 2, and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) needs to be again inside the subsequent couple of weeks. Robinson’s return ought to minimize into James’ alternatives, even when it will not utterly minimize him out of the rotation. — Jordan Raanan

The early shock: QB Jalen Hurts‘ standout play

The decision: Actual. The large query getting into the season was whether or not Hurts may elevate his recreation and switch the Eagles into reputable contenders. By two video games, he has been their finest participant. The oddsmakers agree. Hurts’ MVP odds moved from 14-1 to 8-1 at Caesars Sportsbook throughout Monday night time’s rout of the Vikings. He’s now the third favourite behind Josh Allen (+325) and Patrick Mahomes (+450). Whereas he may not keep at that stage all season, his improved passing has made him extra of an entire bundle, and troublesome to defend. — Tim McManus

The early shock: The numerous affect of WR Curtis Samuel

The decision: Actual. After two video games, Samuel and Terry McLaurin are tied for the staff lead with 133 receiving yards. Samuel clearly was a productive participant earlier than coming to Washington final yr, however because of comfortable tissue accidents final season he by no means appeared like himself. However Samuel has appeared sharp for the reason that summer season — his quickness beneath is clear along with his 85 yards after the catch. Samuel’s presence reduces the stress on McLaurin and in addition helps unencumber rookie Jahan Dotson, who now has a team-high three landing catches. — John Keim

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The early shock: The run protection is a priority

The decision: Actual. The Bears had been a bottom-11 staff defending the run final season. By two video games in 2022 with an overhauled protection, the Bears have allowed 379 yards on the bottom. They caught a break as soon as San Francisco operating again Elijah Mitchell exited Week 1 due to an damage however had been annihilated by the Aaron JonesAJ Dillon tandem in Inexperienced Bay, permitting 5.3 yards per carry and 203 speeding yards in Week 2. Missed tackles are responsible for a lot of what went fallacious in Week 2, however the truth that the Bears face a handful of respectable (Dameon Pierce) to essentially good (Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook) operating backs their subsequent three video games is regarding. — Courtney Cronin

The early shock: The Lions have scored at the very least 35 factors in three straight video games relationship to final season

The decision: Actual. With offensive coordinator Ben Johnson calling performs, this Lions offense is explosive and inventive. Quarterback Jared Goff has loads of big-play choices in operating again D’Andre Swift, broad receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark and tight finish T.J. Hockenson. Detroit led 22-0 within the second quarter of its 36-27 win over Washington this previous Sunday and put up 35 factors within the season opener in opposition to Philadelphia. Together with final yr’s 37-point finale, the Lions have scored at the very least 35 factors in three straight video games for the primary time since a four-game stretch in 1952 and ’53. There isn’t any cause the Lions cannot preserve scoring factors if their high guys keep wholesome. — Eric Woodyard

The early shock: The particular groups have not been terrible

The decision: Actual. Thus far, so good underneath new coordinator Wealthy Bisaccia. There have not been any miscues — no blocked kicks, no landing returns in opposition to them. New punter Pat O’Donnell ranks sixth within the NFL in web common, and though Amari Rodgers muffed one punt return, he recovered it and no injury was accomplished. He additionally already has a 20-yard punt return — 3 yards shy of the Packers’ longest punt return final season. — Rob Demovsky

The early shock: WR Adam Thielen‘s targets have diminished

The decision: Mirage. By the primary six quarters of the season, Thielen — the Vikings’ No. 2 receiver — had a complete of 4 targets. On the fifth, quarterback Kirk Cousins compelled a cross that was intercepted. Thielen did get six extra targets within the second half Monday because the Vikings tried to catch as much as the Eagles, and it appears extremely unlikely that they’ll proceed with him enjoying such a secondary function. So long as he stays wholesome, the Vikings will discover methods to get him the ball. — Kevin Seifert

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The early shock: The affect of rookie WR Drake London

The decision: Actual. The Falcons had a transparent plan for his or her No. 8 decide as a tall receiver who may very well be a pink zone menace and line up each within the slot and outdoors. Thus far, he has accomplished all of that, catching 13 of 19 targets for 160 yards and a landing. London is helped by tight finish Kyle Pitts drawing a lot consideration from defenses, however his emergence as an affect participant for the Falcons is right here to remain and will result in Pitts getting extra appears as groups determine what to do with London. — Michael Rothstein

The early shock: The Panthers are struggling to transform third downs

The decision: Actual. The Panthers, who completed twenty ninth within the NFL in third-down conversion fee in 2021, rank close to the underside of the league with a 26% conversion fee (6-of-23) this season. They’ve averaged solely 55.2 offensive snaps up to now and have stored their protection, ranked ninth within the league, on the sector method too lengthy. That is a giant cause they’ve began 0-2 to increase their dropping streak to 9 straight relationship to final season, the longest within the league. — David Newton

The early shock: Lack of defensive sacks

The decision: Mirage. The Saints have just one sack by way of two video games, which is tied for twenty ninth, in comparison with 4 presently final yr. The Saints finally completed eighth final season with 46 sacks, and this group is basically the identical personnel-wise. Whereas it is a regarding statistic, Saints coach Dennis Allen is not apprehensive, saying they had been nonetheless capable of include properly regardless that the Buccaneers had been centered on getting the ball out rapidly. “The sacks will come,” Allen stated. — Katherine Terrell

The early shock: The protection has been lights out

The decision: Actual. Within the first two video games, the Bucs have surrendered simply 6.5 factors per recreation on protection. By the primary two video games final yr, it was 27 factors. Some extent of emphasis has been extra takeaways, and so they have already got six this season. Todd Bowles is displaying why he deserved to be a head coach once more. In fact, they’re going to be battle examined over the subsequent two weeks with Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes coming to city. — Jenna Laine

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The early shock: The Cardinals have the second-worst cross protection

The decision: Actual. So long as the Cardinals preserve their secondary the way in which it’s — particularly their cornerbacks — quarterbacks are going to salivate after they take the sector in opposition to them. Apart from Byron Murphy Jr., who’ll be making a push for a Professional Bowl this yr and ended the Cardinals’ comeback win over the Raiders with a walk-off fumble return for a landing, Arizona’s cornerbacks are going to be liabilities till both they mature or reinforcements are introduced in. — Josh Weinfuss

The early shock: The operating again utilization is not constant

The decision: Actual. Sorry to those that drafted a Rams operating again this yr in fantasy soccer, however by way of two weeks, it appears exhausting to foretell how Sean McVay will use his backs. In Week 1, Cam Akers had solely three carries in a blowout loss and Darrell Henderson Jr. led the way in which with 47 yards on 13 carries. However in opposition to the Falcons, it was Akers who led the staff in carries and was concerned within the passing recreation, though Henderson nonetheless scored a landing and had 47 yards on 10 carries. Anticipate the break up to proceed on the place with nobody operating away with the RB1 function. — Sarah Barshop

The early shock: The 49ers’ protection is a top-five unit

The decision: Actual. The Niners’ protection allowed simply 216 yards in opposition to Seattle in Week 2 and has yielded a mean of 210 yards (finest within the NFL) and 4.08 yards per play (second) by way of two video games. Sure, the standard of opposing offenses goes to extend dramatically within the close to future, however the Niners’ protection additionally has an opportunity to be even higher as soon as free security Jimmie Ward returns from a hamstring damage. Do not be shocked if coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ group, if wholesome, is among the many finest within the league when it is all stated and accomplished. — Nick Wagoner



Rex Ryan discusses the 49ers’ potential now with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback after Trey Lance’s damage.

The early shock: Seattle’s offense has been blanked for six straight quarters

The decision: Mirage. The Seahawks’ solely factors in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers got here through a blocked subject objective that they returned for a landing, which suggests their offense has been shut out for the reason that second quarter of their opener. Certain, nobody thought they’d be the Biggest Present on Turf with Geno Smith changing Russell Wilson at quarterback. However even along with his limitations, Smith is succesful and has sturdy gamers round him. Seattle’s sensible first half in opposition to Denver is not going to be the norm, however they have sufficient to be significantly better than what they’ve proven since then. — Brady Henderson

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The early shock: Successful video games in dominating, blowout trend

The decision: Actual. What was sudden is simply how decisive the Payments’ victories have been, with a mixed level differential of 55 (72-17). The protection is tied for the league lead in turnovers (seven), and quarterback Josh Allen is enjoying a few of his finest soccer to this point — he has 4 consecutive video games with at the very least an 85 complete QBR, together with playoffs. And there may be lots to enhance on. Can they stick with it? Realistically, not fairly to this excessive over the course of a season, however the truth they’re in successful on this method with enhancements to be made reveals how good this staff could be. — Alaina Getzenberg



Stefon Diggs explains how the Payments are a extra assured squad this season after dropping within the AFC divisional spherical to the Chiefs.

The arly shock: The Dolphins have the league-leading passing assault

The decision: Actual. Tua Tagovailoa may not end this season because the NFL’s main passer, however the Dolphins’ skill to maneuver the ball by way of the air is reputable. Receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will every end the yr with greater than 1,000 yards receiving in the event that they keep wholesome and Tagovailoa proved in Week 2 he can command this Mike McDaniel-led offense. It is a new day in South Florida. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

The early shock: Restricted manufacturing from tight ends Jonnu Smith (three catches) and Hunter Henry (two)

The decision: Mirage. They will get extra concerned than they have been, because the Week 2 win over the Steelers was performed in principally three-receiver packages — a particular game-plan wrinkle. The Patriots have designed performs to get the ball into Smith’s arms, as they confirmed within the season opener, and it is only a matter of after they dial them up. Henry had 50 receptions final season, so his manufacturing is sure to choose up, too. — Mike Reiss

The early shock: The Jets are averaging 303 passing yards per recreation

The decision: Mirage. The Jets aren’t morphing into The Biggest Present on Turf. Joe Flacco has 606 passing yards in two video games, essentially the most by a Jets QB since Chad Pennington opened with 625 yards within the first two video games of the 2006 season, however this is not who they’re. They need to be a balanced offense, and they’re going to get again to that philosophy when Zach Wilson (knee) returns in a recreation or two. It would not be clever to reveal him to that many dropbacks, contemplating his damage historical past. Flacco has supplied some enjoyable, particularly in Sunday’s epic comeback, however they can not reside that method over the lengthy haul. — Wealthy Cimini

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The early shock: The Ravens have the NFL’s worst cross protection

The decision: Mirage. The Ravens have allowed a league-worst 758 yards passing this season after ending final in cross protection final yr. So there’s a troubling development. However Baltimore hasn’t performed a full recreation with its high two cornerbacks on the sector due to accidents. There have been numerous rising pains with rookie defensive backs Kyle Hamilton, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams. If Marlon Humphrey (groin) and Marcus Peters (knee) get more healthy, the Ravens will trigger issues for quarterbacks. However two massive exams lie forward in October: Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. — Jamison Hensley



Stephen A. Smith breaks down why the Ravens’ protection is an “embarrassment” to the legacy of the staff.

The early shock: The Bengals have scored zero first-half touchdowns

The decision: Actual. This can be a troubling development for the Bengals as a result of it is not restricted to 2022. Within the ultimate three postseason video games of final season, together with Tremendous Bowl LVI, Cincinnati scored simply two first-half touchdowns. The Bengals had been capable of overcome that offensive outage for a quick period and nearly gained a title regardless of that truth. However over the course of a 17-game season, it is nearly not possible to win having that concern. Cincinnati is aware of it is a massive drawback and if it is not solved quickly, the Bengals may put themselves out of the playoff chase by November. — Ben Child

The early shock: Fourth-quarter defensive collapses

The decision: Actual. Headlined by Professional Bowlers Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, the Browns have the expertise to boast an elite protection. As a substitute, the protection has been a catastrophe late in video games, giving up a complete of 34 factors in simply two fourth quarters. Defensive busts in what was alleged to be an imposing secondary have been the first perpetrator, however the protection has been gashed throughout the board. Contemplating Cleveland acquired lit up in these fourth quarters by the QB (Baker Mayfield) it discarded this offseason and a 37-year-old backup (Joe Flacco), it is troublesome to name this troubling development a mirage. — Jake Trotter

The early shock: The run recreation has been quiet

The decision: Actual. By two video games the Steelers are averaging 3.8 yards per carry — precisely the place they left off in 2021. Whereas the revamped offensive line is enjoying decently in cross safety, it is not all the time in sync with the run recreation. Slowed by a foot damage, Najee Harris is averaging simply 2.9 yards per carry with 72 yards by way of two video games. For the Steelers to get the run recreation going, the offense must open up the passing recreation, and Harris and the offensive line must get on the identical web page. — Brooke Pryor

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The early shock: The protection has performed properly

The decision: Actual. The Texans’ protection is holding opposing offenses to 18 factors per recreation after going through two standout quarterbacks within the Colts’ Matt Ryan and the Broncos’ Russell Wilson. It ought to proceed as a result of the Texans’ protection is powerful within the pivotal points. Their cross protection has held QBs to a 56% completion proportion, the fifth finest within the NFL, and a passer ranking of 76.7, good for seventh finest. Offenses are changing solely 33% of third downs in opposition to the Texans’ protection, which is eighth finest, and so they have the fourth-best pink zone protection, permitting touchdowns solely 28% of the time. — DJ Bien-Aime

The early shock: Lack of takeaways

The decision: Actual. Turnovers had been emphasised above all else in Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme. Now that Eberflus is teaching the Bears, the Colts haven’t appeared as vulnerable to taking the ball away and have produced one turnover by way of two video games. The absence of linebacker Shaquille Leonard, a turnover-causing machine, by way of the primary two weeks is a big issue. And the Colts’ disappointing cross rush is not creating sufficient rushed choices from quarterbacks. However deemphasizing turnovers may come at a value. — Stephen Holder

The early shock: The Jaguars are forcing numerous turnovers

The decision: Actual. The Jaguars have compelled six in two video games (one shy of the NFL lead of seven by the Rams), together with three interceptions of Colts QB Matt Ryan. They’ve already picked off a league-high 5 passes after having solely seven interceptions and forcing 9 complete turnovers all of final season. The largest distinction from final season is elevated stress on the quarterback, particularly from edge gamers Josh Allen (two sacks, FF) and Travon Walker (one sack, INT). All 5 of the Jaguars’ interceptions had been the results of stress. — Michael DiRocco

The early shock: Porous run protection

The decision: Mirage. The Titans allowed 238 speeding yards within the season opener in opposition to the Giants earlier than giving up 101 to the Payments. Tennessee is generally stout in opposition to the run, as proven by its No. 2 rating in complete speeding yards allowed (1,438 yards) final yr. The lack of outdoors linebacker Harold Landry will damage the Titans, however they’ve depth on the place. Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi and Rashad Weaver need to be higher than their Week 1 efficiency and needs to be. Their philosophy of “setting the sting, making a wall and swarming to the soccer” ought to be capable of preserve opposing speeding assaults from gouging them just like the Giants did within the opener. — Turron Davenport

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The early shock: A (historic) pile of penalties

The decision: Actual. Look, this drawback is “actual” till the Broncos present it is not. They’ve 25 accepted penalties in two video games for 206 yards, together with 4 delay-of-game penalties (two on subject objective makes an attempt and one on their opponent’s 6-yard line) and six false begin penalties. It is only a two-game pattern, however the Broncos have appeared disorganized and disoriented and most of their errors have not been hustle performs or the sort through which a lineman is solely making an attempt to avoid wasting the quarterback from getting hit. And if they do not discover some on-field self-discipline quickly, the AFC’s heavyweights are going to make them pay within the type of touchdowns. — Jeff Legwold

The early shock: The run protection has been higher

The decision: Actual. The Chiefs are permitting 3.9 yards per speeding try, this after permitting nearly a yard extra per carry final season. However Nick Bolton and Willie Gay are giving the Chiefs higher play from their full-time linebackers than they’ve been getting in years. They’re additionally sooner as an entire unit, permitting them to chase down performs that may have been out of their vary earlier than. — Adam Teicher

The early shock: The dearth of sacks

The decision: Mirage. The Mirage shouldn’t be merely a mega resort on the famed Las Vegas Strip, it additionally represents the Raiders’ high-salary bookend edge rushers getting just one sack by way of two video games. Certainly Chandler Jones ($52.5 million, three-year free-agent contract) and Maxx Crosby ($99 million extension) will get untracked. Their respective histories counsel as a lot, as Jones has 107.5 profession sacks and Crosby has averaged nearly 8.5 sacks in every of his first three seasons. Just like the dormant volcano on the Mirage, the Raiders’ cross rush will quickly erupt as a result of, as everybody is aware of, sacks are available bunches. Proper? — Paul Gutierrez

The early shock: Permitting 23 factors per recreation

The decision: Mirage. The Chargers invested of their protection over the offseason, including pass-rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day. These standouts be part of edge rusher Joey Bosa and star security Derwin James Jr. The protection has stored the stress on opponents by intercepting three passes, forcing three fumbles and tallying seven quarterback sacks. Anticipate that points-allowed-per-game common to drop from its present mark, which is tied for twenty first within the NFL, and set up the Chargers among the many finest defenses within the league. — Lindsey Thiry

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