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Monday, October 21, 2019

5 big surprises of the 2019 NFL season so far

Lamar Jackson

The 2019 NFL regular season is now two weeks old — boy, does it go fast — and to say there have been a few surprises that stand out would be an understatement.

Things got off to a fast start league-wide and have not slowed down one bit. Whether it’s on the field or off of the field, the NFL is jam-packed with excitement, drama and theater.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the five biggest surprises of the 2019 season (so far) — a list that should also include the San Francisco 49ers’ success, but hey, we had to draw the line somewhere.

5. Something is brewing in Buffalo

The Bills entered 2019 with a lot of question marks, some relatively tame hype, and the expectation that they’d be Bill Belichick’s whipping boy for another year. And while the latter part of that may still turn out to be true, Buffalo has started the season hot, dropping both the New York Jets and New York Giants on the road on consecutive weeks to start 2-0 and tied for first place with the aforementioned Patriots. Those wins aren’t overly impressive in and of themselves, but the fact that Buffalo now has more wins in MetLife Stadium through two weeks than the Jets and Giants have combined over the last year-plus is somewhat impressive.

Josh Allen has showed some obvious signs of growth, their defense has established itself as one of the most dominant in the league, and they’re gritty. Will they overtake the Patriots? Probably not, but the Bills are easily the next best team in the AFC East, and unlike their counterparts, appear to be headed in the right direction.

4. Antonio Brown drama hits alarming levels

Antonio Brown carrying around drama is not all that surprising on the surface, but everything he’s done or been accused of in 2019 has set a new standard for troubled wide receivers. Not only did Brown manage to force his way out of Pittsburgh, eventually landing with the Raiders, but he then turned around and forced his way out of Oakland via various outbursts, including several over a helmet, several more over fines, and just about anything else he could conjure up. After landing in New England, he’s since been accused of two separate sexual assaults and had a video surface of him passing gas in the face of his doctor. The worst part? You know the AB surprises are only just beginning.

3. Lamar Jackson can sling it

After taking over for Joe Flacco in 2018, Lamar Jackson flashed at times, but did little to sway the belief that he was merely a running quarterback. His 58% completion percentage raised some red flags and entering 2019, many assumed the Ravens would have to rely heavily on the ground game and survive lacking a consistent and dangerous passing attack. Well, Jackson took that criticism to heart and spent the offseason working to familiarize himself with the offensive scheme and came out firing. Through two weeks, Jackson has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes for 596 yards, a wildly impressive seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Make no mistake about it, Lamar Jackson is the real deal.

2. League-altering injuries

Injuries are a common theme year in and year out, but here in 2019, they seem to have a different feel. Every other day there seems to be news of a season-altering or franchise-altering injury or illness. The Jets lost Sam Darnold to mono at the worst possible time; the Saints will be without Drew Brees for at least six weeks after he tore some ligaments in his thumb; and the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for what could be forever. But it’s not just quarterbacks — stars across the league at every position seem to be dropping like flies.

Joe Staley suffered a broke fibula, Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley have been banged up, Tyreek Hill required the assistance of an ortho-trauma specialist, Eric Weddle suffered a head laceration that would make Attitude-era Raw fans proud, and Andrew Luck decided to retire from football because of lingering issues. And the craziest part? That’s just a small sliver of the big-time injuries ravaging the league through two weeks.

1. The tank job in Miami is legitimate

When the Dolphins traded for quarterback Josh Rosen, it led some to believe that they were ready to rebuild and put a solid effort forth in 2019. Half of that statement has proven to be true — Miami is definitely rebuilding. Kind of. They have decided to take a page from the NBA and tank like champions in a way that’s never before been seen in the NFL. Their roster has been gutted, the quality players that remain have either requested to be traded or released (and the team is obliging), Rosen is only showing his face in blowouts, and the product on the field looks like that of a DII team. The effort is as questionable, the locker room is falling apart, and when all is said and done, Miami fans will wish Derek Jeter was in charge. Yeah… Chew on that thought for a bit.



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