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Monday, December 9, 2019

5 biggest NFL surprises at the season’s midway point

Lamar Jackson

It may be hard to believe, but the 2019 NFL regular season is already at the midway point and we’re all headed back down the mountain from here. Before you know it, playoff football will be upon us with eyes on the Super Bowl in February.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves … a lot has happened over the last eight weeks and a lot more is bound to happen over the next nine, so before we begin looking ahead, let’s look back.

Here are five of the biggest surprises — good or bad — at the NFL’s midway point.

5. Odell Beckham Jr. bottoming out in Cleveland

There was a belief that Eli Manning was holding Odell Beckham Jr. back and hindering the receiver’s production in New York, but through eight games as a member of the Cleveland Browns, that is proving to be anything but the case. Despite remaining healthy and playing the majority of offensive snaps, OBJ is mired in the worst season of his professional career, averaging his lowest production numbers to date. Adding fuel to the fire, Beckham has begun to subtly air his grievances, which is the typical slow burn that comes with the eccentric superstar before he erupts and attacks kicking nets, goes on random Miami boat trips, or appears in highly questionable videos with Instagram models.

4. Jimmy Garoppolo leading the perfect 49ers

After shining during his early 49ers career, Jimmy Garoppolo fell off the map in 2018 and had a forgettable preseason, leading many to question if his initial success was more about luck than talent and if San Francisco had made a grave mistake in signing him to a large long-term contract. Garoppolo has quelled those concerns at the midway point and, thanks in part to a dominating defense, has the 49ers resting at 8-0, joining, ironically, the New England Patriots as the league’s only two remaining undefeated teams. As for Garoppolo, he’s coming off his first career 4-touchdown game and is riding high with his confidence.

3. Le’Veon Bell not panning out for Gang Green

There were rumors abound that Le’Veon Bell was being shopped at the trading deadline, but he managed to stay in East Rutherford and will remain with the Jets for at least the rest of this season. But is that good or bad for Gang Green? After signing a four-year, $52.5 million deal this offseason, expectations were off the chart. However, Bell has hardly performed like a player worthy of all that money, averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry this season while failing to eclipse 75 yards rushing in any game to date. Additionally, Bell has gone over 100 yards from scrimmage in just one game this season and has seen his carry count slowly dwindle in Adam Gase’s offense. Both he and the Jets have been a major disappointment thus far.

2. Lamar Jackson is a legitimate MVP candidate

Do you remember playing Tecmo Super Bowl as a kid and Randall Cunningham was nearly untouchable? Or maybe Michael Vick in some of the earlier Madden games? That’s what Lamar Jackson is doing in real life this season. Not only has he proven the ability to win games with his arm, but he’s changing the entire division with his legs. And those chants from Ravens fans all across the country? Yeah, they’re saying, “MVP!” That’s because Jackson is playing at an MVP-like level. He is currently on pace to throw for over 3,750 yards and 25 touchdowns, while adding over 1,300 yards and nearly seven touchdowns on the ground. All this while completing over 63 percent of his passes. Those are ridiculous extrapolated numbers — numbers the NFL has never seen before.

1. Gardner Minshew is no flash in the pan

When Nick Foles went down in Week 1, many assumed that would be all she wrote for the Jaguars in 2019. But when one door closes, another tends to open and when it did, Uncle Rico came bursting through. Gardner Minshew has not only keep Jacksonville afloat, but he’s also created a very legitimate quarterback quandary for Tom Coughlin and the Jaguars’ front office. Minshew has gone 4-3 since taking over as the team’s starter and has thrown 13 touchdown to just two interceptions in eight games. Unsurprisingly, the more playing time Minshew receives, the better he becomes. He’s proven himself to be a quality starting quarterback at the NFL level. When Foles does return to health, he may be forced to ride pine until either the Minshew magic has run out, or one of them is moved.



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