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Monday open thread: Which NFL team has been the biggest surprise so far?

Six weeks of football are nearly in the books - who has surprised so far?

Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Normally, Monday’s Question of the Day would revolve around the Lions’ performance and how Sunday’s results affected your opinion of the team.

However, with the Lions set to battle the division rival Green Bay Packers on “Monday Night Football,” our Sunday was quite uneventful. We were merely spectators as the Minnesota Vikings continued their resurgence with a solid victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Suddenly, the NFC North has four teams that look capable of winning the division. The NFC North has been one of the most competitive divisions in football over the recent seasons, and this year was expected to be no different.

The rest of the NFL has had plenty of surprising results, with preseason powerhouses floundering at the bottom of divisions, while underdogs are rising up.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which team has been the biggest surprise in the NFL so far?

My answer: I will categorize my opinions on 31 teams, and I will explain my pick for biggest surprise.

Meeting expectations:

Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Chiefs, Broncos, Giants, Washington, Vikings, Bears, Saints*, Panthers, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Cardinals

Below expectations:

Browns, Steelers, Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons, Rams

Exceeding expectations:

Patriots, Bills, Raiders, Packers, Lions, Saints*

I have a lot of teams in the ‘Meeting Expectations’ category, but that is due to the myriad of results. Teams like the Jets, Dolphins, and Giants were expected to be bottom feeders, and they have thus far lived up to that expectation. Meanwhile, teams like the Chiefs and Seahawks were expected to be contenders in 2019.

As for teams below my expectations, I expected most of these teams to be challenging for a spot atop their division. While the season is still young, they have significant questions going forward. The Browns came into the season with a lot of hype and have failed to deliver. The Steelers’ offense got derailed by Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. The Chargers are underperforming and injured. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Rams are incredibly inconsistent, and they all suffered brutal losses this weekend. The Falcons, meanwhile, should not be 1-5 with an offense as talented as theirs.

In exceeding expectations, it might surprise you that I have the Patriots listed. Given that most people expected them to win their division again this year, you might say that they are meeting their high expectations. I, however, am floored by the quality of their defense thus far—they have yet to allow over 14 points in a single game! The Packers are in a similar vein with their stout defense.

I expected the Raiders to be one of the worst teams in the league, yet they actually look competent this season. They also defeated the Bears, so that is a gold star in my books. The Bills have certainly benefited from a weak schedule, and while I doubt they continue their pace, a 4-1 record is a great start to the year. Speaking of great start, the Lions going 2-1-1 does not seem great on paper, but they have come against some talented foes—including two wins over teams I have in my below expectations category.

You might have noticed that I have the Saints in both meeting and exceeding expectations. I expected them to be a contender this season, but I am quite surprised that they have achieved this without Drew Brees. The Panthers are nipping at their heels, but they look comfortable atop the NFC South.

However, my pick for the biggest surprise in the NFL so far are the San Francisco 49ers.

One of two remaining undefeated teams, I came into the season expecting San Francisco to safely be the NFC West’s third place team behind Seattle and Los Angeles. Instead, that division is looking as fearsome as the NFC North. Their offense is well-balanced, with a stout arsenal of running backs and receivers. Perhaps their biggest improvement is on defense. They have transformed into one of the league’s best units, with a secondary locking down offenses and a dominant defensive line.

Which team has impressed you? Which team has let you down?

Your turn.

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