Top 5 disappointments and surprises of the NFL season so far

By Contributing Writer

By Corey Stolzenbach, Contributing Writer

It is another wild and wacky season in the N.F.L. It’s hardly unusual that there have loads of surprises as well as loads of disappointments as the season approaches its midpoint. That’s the case every year. For what it’s worth, though, here is a highly personal list of people who, in my opinion, have come out of nowhere to excel, and others who have fallen short despite high expectations.

Top Five Biggest Surprises:

Detroit Lions: I knew they would be very good with all of the talent they had. There is no way I thought they would be good enough to be 5-1 after two amazing comebacks on the road this season. In week 3, they were down 20-0 against the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota and won. In week 4, they were down 24-0 against the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas after allowing three touchdown receptions to Dez Bryant and the Lions still won the game. They have dropped to 5-2 but still are a team to watch.

San Francisco 49ers: I have to give props to Jim Harbaugh and what he has done so far for the 5-1 49ers. They handed the Lions their first loss in week 6 and in his seventh season Alex Smith is starting to look good. The #1 overall draft pick in 2005 seems to be coming around as so far he has a total of eight passing touchdowns against two interceptions, 1,090 passing yards and a quarterback rating of 95.2. That is very impressive. This team was thought to win the NFC West last year but they struggled. This year, there is no doubt they are on the right track.

Cam Newton: The next JaMarcus Russell? Well there still is time for that. Remember, Rick Mirer won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 1993 while quarterbacking the Seattle Seahawks and then never followed up his rookie year, so it’s still time.

Early into his career though, Cam Newton has done an amazing job at silencing his critics as quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. He was the fastest ever to throw for 1,000 yards. In week one against the Arizona Cardinals, Newton passed for 422 yards, a rookie record. The very next week against the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, Newton broke the 400 yard mark again and became the first rookie quarterback and only sixth quarterback in NFL history to have back to back 400 passing yard games. Last year, Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams set a new rookie quarterback record with 3,512 passing yards. Through the first six weeks, Newton has 1,847 passing yards.

Andy Dalton: The N.F.L. draft class wasn’t the strongest this year for quarterbacks. Four quarterbacks were taken within the first 12 picks: Newton to the Panthers, Jake Locker to the Tennessee Titans, Blaine Gabbert to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Christian Ponder to the Minnesota Vikings. However, no one was sure how good these quarterbacks were, since Newton was seen as overhyped and there were definitely critics of Locker and Gabbert.

You didn’t hear much talk however, about Andy Dalton, who slipped into the second round as the Cincinnati Bengals’ pick Since then, some have argued that he has even turned in a better rookie campaign than Newton has.

Dalton has posted 1,311 passing yards so far with a solid 84.3 quarterback rating. He has thrown as many touchdowns as Newton has with four fewer interceptions. His 62.4 completion percentage is also better than Newton’s 58.3.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: All I heard at this time last year was that the Buffalo Bills needed a quarterback. I knew Fitzpatrick was decent and for a team that had the third worst record in 2010, they lost a lot of close games. Who could possibly have imagined that Fitzpatrick has led the Bills to a 4-2 record and has thrown for 1,477 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions? He has a 95.3 quarterback rating and a 66.3 completion percentage. Did I mention that this man went to Harvard?

Top Five Biggest Disappointments:

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford’s sophomore year is nothing wonderful in terms of statistics but it has been decent. However, Bradford has not been able to translate his individual performances into Rams victories as the team stands at 0-5. They were one win shy of a division title in 2010. If they don’t wake up soon, they will have to wait until 2012 to win the NFC West.

Brandon Meriweather: How many Bears fans were excited for this signing? I know I was. Meriweather has gone to the Pro Bowl the last two years with the New England Patriots. However, in Chicago, he has had a hard time tackling and has had no interceptions with zero forced fumbles.

Philadelphia Eagles: Can this team still win the Super Bowl? Absolutely. However, at 2-4, it wasn’t the start their fans dreamed of after quarterback Michael Vick had a career year in 2010 and the Eagles signed the number one free agent in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Peyton Hillis: I never have (and never will,) believe in curses. That includes the Madden Curse.

But Hillis, the Madden 12 cover boy, has been a disappointment as he has rushed for 211 yards on 60 attempts and has suffered a hamstring injury. So it’s bad news for fans of the Cleveland Browns.

CJ Spiller: The Bills should be pleased with what they are getting from Fred Jackson. However, the highly touted C.J. Spiller, who was drafted with the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, left a lot to be desired in his rookie year and now in his second year, isn’t getting a lot of work with Jackson carrying the load.