Which early-season surprises have staying power?

October 04, 2011|By Matt Vensel

A month into the season, we have seen plenty of plot twists and turns -- some pleasant, some not depending on your allegiances. That's always the case in the NFL, which knows a thing or two about weaving tall tales.

Through four games, the Ravens are who we thought they were: playoff contenders. However, a few other Lombardi Trophy hopefuls, including one notable “Dream Team,” haven’t lived up to expectations so far.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who added free-agent headliners such as Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin to a stacked roster that is led by Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick, are 1-3 and dead-last in the NFC East after losing to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Two other playoff teams from a year ago -- the Kansas City Chiefs and the Peyton-Manning-less Colts -- are in last place in their respective divisions, too.

Additionally, overexposed teams in Pittsburgh, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and New York are 2-2.

Meanwhile, we have a few feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy, fairy-tale-type seasons being conjured up in some cities that are accustomed to their football teams finishing far, far away from the postseason.

(Aren’t those teams more fun to talk about than familiar storylines like more bone-headed plays from Tony Romo in crunch time or more boasts from Rex Ryan about a Jets squad that is flying into Week 5 at .500?)

Led by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, and an otherwise unknown cast of cast-offs, the 4-0 Detroit Lions are neck-and-neck in the NFC North with the also-unbeaten Green Bay Packers.

The Buffalo Bills, the Washington Redskins, the Houston Texans and the 49ers are 3-1 and in first place in their divisions. Which teams’ charter buses will turn into pumpkins before January? I can’t wait to find out.

Your turn: Which surprise teams have saying power? Which struggling contenders can we stick a fork in?

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