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THE MOJ: Continued surprises are what makes the NFL must-watch sports

Experts from around the league share their takes on the season’s most unexpected developments
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers reacts after being sacked by San Francisco 49ers’ Arik Armstead during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

One of the selling points with the National Football League is to expect the unexpected.

There is a reason why ‘On Any Given Sunday’ is such a popular catchphrase when describing what can happen in the league.

Upsets occur every weekend but they’re have been some shocking results when it comes to the body of work for some teams over the course of the first 12 weeks.

So who are the surprise teams of the NFL this year?

Looking at the Vegas over/under win totals, there are quite a few. Green Bay (11; 4-8), Tampa Bay (11.5; 5-6), Denver (10; 3-8) and the Rams (10.5; 3-8) are all under-achieving.

Meanwhile, Seattle (5.5; 6-5), Philadelphia (9.5; 10-1), the Jets (5.5; 7-4) and the Giants (7, 7-4) are all exceeding expectations.

We decided to ask some our favorite NFL insiders and analysts on their picks for surprise teams as the season heads into the stretch drive.

“For me, it’s the Jets and Giants regardless of what happens with the postseason. They have already won more games than people expected. As for disappointing teams, the Rams, Broncos and Packers. The common thread is injuries but also aging quarterbacks who are showing they can’t carry a team like they once did,” said NFL on Fox play-by-play man Chris Myers.

If the Rams miss the post-season – and barring an Act of God they will – it will mark the 17th time a defending Super Bowl champion has missed the playoffs the following year.

“I’m surprised how bad the Rams and Broncos are. I thought there would be a drop-off from the Super Bowl for the Rams but not to this extent. The Broncos are actually more concerning because it looks like Russell Wilson has lost it,” said Ross Tucker of Westwood One Radio and a regular with ‘Donnie and Dhali’ on CHEK TV.

NFL analyst Joe Theismann, still basking in the glory of watching his former CFL team the Toronto Argonauts win the Grey Cup, has been stunned by the success of the Seattle Seahawks.

“Everyone thought when Russell Wilson left, there wouldn’t be anything left there but Geno Smith has sort of taken the bull by the horns. He’s done a terrific job running that offense. Each week you see him perform at a very, very high level and Kenneth Walker III has given them a running game again,” said Theismann, who along with Joe Kapp is the only individual to be the starting quarterback in a Grey Cup as well as a Super Bowl.

“They’ve won a lot of close games and they’re finding ways to win. They’re not being blown out of any game -even the most recent one against the Raiders. It’s a team that can score. It’s also a team that has to get better on the defensive side of the ball at times.”

Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network looks at a team that he knows rather well having done the colour on TV for their pre-season games and picks them as his surprise team of the year.

“Philadelphia. You have a second-year starter at quarterback in Jalen Hurts who is playing like an MVP. You also have a second-year head coach (Nick Sirianni) who is getting it done. They have been very consistent – as consistent as any team in this whole business. No one saw them going 10-1,” said Baldinger, who has also been shocked by with what’s happened with Aaron Rodgers and company in Green Bay.

“I never saw that (Green Bay’s 4-8 record) happening. Defensively, they’ve been horrible. They have had these stretches where they just can’t hit the deep ball. They have been able to run the ball well against certain teams but they just haven’t been able to make the big play when they need it,” said Baldinger.

Another team that should draw consideration is the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys were expected to win at the start of the season as Vegas had their over/under win total at 10 and they currently sit at 8-3 but it’s how they have won.

When Dallas lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott after their season-opening defeat to Tampa Bay, most thought the Cowboys would be hard-pressed to have any success. Instead, the Cowboys went 4-1 without Prescott, riding their defence along the way while Cooper Rush provided consistent play at quarterback in place of the injured Prescott.

The NFL has provided plenty of surprises this season but the best part is that there is more to come.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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