The Top Five Surprises of the NFL Season So Far

Who would've predicted the trajectory of these two quarterbacks before the start of the season, (Tribune News Service/Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com)

Attention NFL fans, Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has a better record as a starter through Week 6 this year than Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Brown’s signal-caller.

This NFL season has been incredibly unpredictable, with some marvelous moments, emerging stars and rising contenders. Through six weeks, I counted down the top five biggest surprises of the season so far:

5: The Antonio Brown enigma

Antonio Brown has always been known for his generational talent and his flashy, empathic personality that spurs from coming up through the ranks as an underdog. 

But everyone witnessed the shenanigans that took place as his time drew to a close in Pittsburgh as he burned every bridge he had after he requested a trade and started feuding online with his teammates.

Eventually, Pittsburgh caved to his demands and traded him for an average price tag to the Oakland Raiders due to his locker room antics. That move drew attention to an already vocal squad of polar personalities all over the board. It looked as if the Raiders were among the top of the league talent-wise and ready to make waves with team chemistry.

Brown in a press conference with the Raiders. (YouTube/Antonio Brown)

But shortly before the start of the season, Brown defied the “O” and was released upon his demand out of nowhere after a multiple week struggle over keeping a certain type of helmet and disrespecting his team’s GM after a heated exchange. Brown got his wish after his twitter post marked his release.

The world was shocked several hours after this as Brown almost immediately signed with the best dynasty in NFL history, the New England Patriots. It would have been a nightmare season for opposing fans had Brown not once again reigned supreme.

After one successful game in a Pats’ uniform, disturbing sexual abuse allegations surfaced days later. The Patriots are a very logical and fact-based organization and I don’t think they would have released Brown if they didn’t have reason to believe these allegations. 

Nonetheless, they cut Brown, retracting all guaranteed money from his contract. Within a month, Brown had gone from one of the most talented receivers ever, to a controversial, toxically vocal locker room cancer. It’s truly one of the most shocking turn arounds of all-time.

Brown speaking to ESPN about his trade to Oakland and his motivations during the season. (YouTube/ESPN)

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Brown suiting up in his lone game with the New England Patriots. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service)

4: The undefeated San Francisco 49ers

We’ve all seen great rebuilds before, and we continue to see another blossom before our eyes with General Manager, John Lynch at the helm. The Niners were 4-12 last season. 

Still waiting to witness a full season out of recently paid quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team added significant pieces to an already talented defensive unit in pass rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and first-round pick Nick Bosa.

This team was expected to make huge strides but few were expecting the utter defensive dominance that took place through the first six weeks of the NFL season. On their way to a perfect 5-0 start, they’ve managed to rank first in the entire league in total defense and second in scoring defense. 

Offensively, Jimmy G and a dangerous committee of running backs have led them to be third in total scoring and second in rushing offense.

Garoppolo has thrown for 1,163 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions on a 69.9 completion percentage so far. Though his 11-2 total record as a starter for San Francisco shines through, he still has a lot to prove.

He has a stellar supporting cast and right now it is the Niners’ time to shine, but the question remains; will Jimmy G validate the tremendous hype to be considered amongst the greats?

Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers on the sidelines during the anthem prior to a game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 13, 2019. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images/Tribune News Service)

3: Buffalo Bills put the pieces together

Buffalo has always been a town very invested in its football team. Despite the team’s checkered past on the cusp of Super Bowls and on the edge of mediocrity, the fans remain enthused and hopeful. 

Last year, after a cycle of average quarterbacks, the team took a chance in the first round on a kid named Josh Allen from Wyoming. This move instilled some hope in the fans, especially when he proceeded to show flashes of fantastic play to come.

The Bills went 6-10 with a couple of key wins at the end of the year with Allen starting. They have made some great draft choices this year in Ed Oliver, Devin Singletary and Cody Ford. They also spent quite a chunk of money in free agency adding support for this young squad.

Buffalo has now marched on to a great 4-1 start with the only loss coming one-possession within the best team in the league. The Bills are incredibly balanced and their team is dangerous going into the future, but only time will tell if this passionate town’s dreams will come true.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) jumps over Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55), picking up a first down on the the play in the first quarter on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Jerry Holt/Minneapolis Star Tribune/Tribune News Service)

2: Gardner Minshew takes over 

The Washington State product has become not only a meme but a sensation in the NFL community. His mustache and goatee have become signature already as a rookie backup was thrust into the driver seat of the Jacksonville Jaguars after Nick Foles suffered an injury.

Don’t get confused by the Minshew media mania, this man can play football. Since taking over as the starter, Minshew has thrown for 1,442 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions on a 63.3 completion percentage; also scrambling for 125 yards on the ground picking up four key first downs.

The Jaguars have started off 2-4 so far this year but Minshew has shown promise this year, even under pressure. But the Jaguars can’t quite seem to fully execute at the right times this year.

The fact that their star player Jalen Ramsey has been the center of trade rumors since the offseason hasn’t helped. Just recently Ramsey sat out for the birth of his child and finally on Oct. 15, he was traded to the Rams. The Jags will hope to ride the Minshew wave until Nick Foles returns next year.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) and New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) exchange jerseys after Sunday’s game at TIAA Bank Field. The two went to the same high school in Brandon, Miss. (Tribune News Service)

1: The tragic retirement of Andrew Luck

All in all, in a surprising year, this one was perhaps the most shocking sequence of events. There have always been devastating periods of time where the oft-injured Luck was out for long stretches but no one ever believed the rumors of finally calling it quits on football in entirety.

One year after his legendary comeback season in 2019, leading the Colts to a playoff appearance and a miraculous stat line of 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns, Luck came back and called it quits. 

He was weighing the risk of putting his body on the line and with agreeable reason. This younger generation is finally realizing how dangerous the game can be over long spans of time.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck during pregame of a preseason game against the Chicago Bears on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. (Tribune News Service/John Mersits/CSM/Zuma Press)

After going through training camp with ankle soreness, he decided to no longer continue his career. Andrew Luck was an exceptional talent and has excelled in the league since being drafted first overall in 2012. 

Jacoby Brissett has been thrown in the spotlight now to fill Luck’s role. But the entire Colts’ organization, fanbase and the NFL community at large is left to wonder if Andrew Luck would have fulfilled his Hall of Fame expectations had injuries not plagued his career.

Jeff Allen
Sports Editor

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