The Biggest Surprises in Football

Photo via Burnt Orange Nation

We all know that championships aren’t decided halfway through the season, but it’s always fun to dig into what has and hasn’t gone how we expected. Teams that start the season in the NCAA’s Top 25 rankings rarely finish that way. Many teams in the NFL that go into the season looking like Super Bowl champs on paper don’t even make the playoffs much of the time. Let’s examine the biggest surprises in football so far.

NFL

Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) – Even with a loaded skill group, no one saw this coming. With an untested QB and suspect defense, KC looked like a challenger for the AFC West, but undefeated after five weeks with wins over the Chargers, Steelers and Jaguars? Nope. This weekend’s game against the Patriots will further clarify the picture.

Atlanta Falcons (1-4) – This team was one red zone possession from defeating the Super Bowl champs on the road in last year’s playoffs. But injuries to an up-and-coming defense and lack of a running game have already got the Falcons reeling. The passing game will look to get them back on track.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) – While the schedule has helped, Cincy has taken advantage. The Bengals dominated Baltimore on Thursday Night Football and won in a shootout at Atlanta, something we’re not used to seeing. Facing the Steelers, Chiefs and Saints in the three of the next four games, we’ll see if Cincinnati is for real.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) – The champs started the year without Carson Wentz but lost two of three after his return. After defeating the lowly Giants on Thursday, Philly gets the Panthers, Jaguars (in London), Saints, Redskins and Rams over the next eight weeks. These great matchups could determine their season.

Tennessee Titans (3-2) – It’s not that the Titans are 3-2 or that they’re leading the AFC South that’s surprising. It’s how they got there. Tennessee has defeated the Texans, Jaguars and Eagles by a combined nine points, but have inexplicable losses to the Dolphins and Bills. They’ll have to win the “easy” ones if they want to make postseason noise.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) – They may be .500 and in the middle of the playoff race, but this hasn’t been the start Pittsburgh wanted. With losses at home to Kansas City and Baltimore and a blown chance to beat the Browns coming off an 0-16 season, the Steelers are going to need to right the ship in a hurry. They have the matchups coming up to do so.

NCAA

Texas Longhorns (5-1) – Week 4 of 2010 was the last time the Longhorns were ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll. That’s a long time for one of the top programs in college football. But Sam Ehlinger had a true coming out party against the Sooners and Texas appears to be a threat in the Big 12 again.

Michigan State Spartans (3-2) – The Spartans came into the season with College Football Playoff aspirations after a surprisingly successful 2017 season. However, losses to Arizona State and Northwestern have dampened their outlook. Luckily, with just one conference loss, there is plenty of time to get back on track in the Big Ten.

LSU Tigers (5-1) – LSU was expected to sport a strong defense and running game per usual, but transfer quarterback Joe Burrow and company have been effective, with a blowout win over Miami on opening weekend and a road win at Auburn. Despite last weekend’s loss to Florida (more to come from them), the Tigers have one of the beefiest schedules in the country and can more than make up for one loss.

Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2) – The Hokies dominated Florida State week 1 and looked like a true test for Clemson down the road in the ACC. But losses in two out of three games have them searching for answers. The silver lining is that Virginia Tech is 2-0 in conference play and still could disrupt the conference balance.

Florida Gators (5-1) – After a home loss to Kentucky in week 2 (before the Wildcats were ranked), things in Gainesville seemed to be like recent seasons. But four straight wins – including a win over top 10 LSU – have the Gators rolling a couple weeks before a big showdown with Georgia.

Florida State Seminoles (3-3) – Willie Taggart’s start to his FSU stint hasn’t been ideal. After blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse, Miami scored a comeback win over the Seminoles as well. With two top 5 teams and four ranked teams left on their schedule, however, the Noles can still make a run in the ACC toward bowl season.

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