Top 10 with a Twist: Biggest surprises

Surprisingly, the 0-2 Saints have been disappointing this season. (US Presswire)

Two weeks into the season, and we’ve had some major surprises. Some teams we thought would be good have stunk. Some teams we thought would be terrible have been awesome (or lucky, I suppose). And most surprising of all, Tim Tebow hasn’t led the Jets to the Super Bowl yet.

Obviously, we’re early in the season. And while we’ve already made season predictions based on the first week of the season (four already are looking shaky), two weeks into the season is a completely different story. Two weeks makes a trend, right? Right? Right.

That’s why we present to you the Top 10 (with a twist) biggest surprises of the 2012 season.

10. Cam Cameron still doesn’t get it about Ray Rice: Why do we have to keep going through this year after year? For some reason, the Ravens offensive coordinator always manages to forget that his running back is one of the league’s best (who also just got a $40 million contract extension!) and continues to call for passing plays when a simple run might be best. Rice has received 26 carries in the first two games (with a 6.4 yards per carry average), and really, there’s no excuse for calling pass plays on back-to-back, third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 plays. Even John Harbaugh says it’s fair to question the play-calling.

9. New England’s defense is good now?: Apparently so. If you look at the team rankings, you’ll notice the Patriots are second in the league by allowing an average of 264.5 yards per game and fourth by giving up 16.5 points per contest. Considering New England finished 31st in yards allowed last season, (and 25th the year before), that’s quite an improvement. Of course, the Patriots allowed Kevin Kolb to beat them last week, so I imagine these rankings will slip sooner rather than later.

8. Chargers are off to a fast start: It seems like every year, Chargers coach Norv Turner is on the hot seat. And every year, the Chargers get off to a rough start. Then, San Diego battles back toward the end of the season, only to miss the playoffs by a narrow margin and somehow save Turner’s job. That storyline isn’t always true: The team actually started 4-1 last season before a six-game losing streak, and the team went 13-3 and made the postseason in 2009. But the reason this year is surprising is somewhat surprising itself. In 15 seasons as a head coach, Turner has started a season 2-0 exactly zero times. Maybe this is the year of destiny for Turner and the Chargers.

7. Steelers can’t run the ball: With former assistant Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator, the Steelers moved away from their franchise reputation for tough rushing yards and turned toward Ben Roethlisberger for more passing emphasis. But when’s the last time the Steelers were this inept at running? The Steelers rank 30th. The good news: Rashard Mendenhall is scheduled to return by Week 5, and, hopefully for Pittsburgh, he can rejuvenate a squad that hasn’t gotten much of anything from Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. While the running game wasn’t great last season, the Steelers still averaged 4.4 yards per carry. This year: 2.6.

6. Tim Tebow has been irrelevant: Obviously, I made a joke in the opening of this post, writing that Tebow hadn’t led the Jets to the Super Bowl yet. But I seriously believed he’d have more of an offensive impact through the first two games. For as much as coach Rex Ryan has talked about using Tebow in the Wildcat, Tebow has played only 10.3 percent of the team’s offensive plays so far and has recorded six carries for 33 yards. In Week 1, the Jets didn’t need any help with their offense. But in Week 2, New York scored 10 points. Which means we might see more Tebow in Week 3.

5. The 49ers continue to roll right along: Maybe you’re not surprised at how well the 49ers have played this year, but I’m a bit flummoxed. I figured the defense would be just as good as last year, the receiving corps would be improved and the running game would be more than solid. But how could anybody be confident with Alex Smith as the quarterback? Even taking away his career season in 2011, wasn’t Smith almost sure to return to being that lovable, former No. 1 bust? Apparently not. He's completing 70.2 percent of his passes this year, hasn’t thrown an interception since Nov. 24, 2011 and has tossed only six picks since Oct. 10, 2010. The 49ers currently are the best team in the league, and, yes, that’s surprising to me.

4. St. LouisDanny Amendola and Miami’s Brian Hartline are legit now: Amendola was Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite receiver in 2010, mainly because … well … Bradford didn’t have anybody else. And Hartline has made a quick connection with rookie Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Amendola had 85 receptions in 2010, but a dislocated elbow in Week 1 ended his 2011 season. He’s back and healthy, and leads the league with 20 catches. Meanwhile, Hartline this season is more than a quarter of the way to his career high of 43 receptions in 2010 with 12. Sure, the Dolphins' receiving corps is weak, but Hartline could be establishing himself as a legit No. 1 receiver.

3. Kevin Kolb has been pretty good: The situation was ripe for disaster when Kolb entered the Week 1 game vs. the Seahawks in place of an injured John Skelton, but he immediately led the Cardinals to what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown against the Seahawks. Surely, Kolb and the Cardinals would head to New England in Week 2 and take a beating from the Patriots (I believe I said as much here). But instead, Kolb didn’t make many mistakes and threw for a touchdown to help the Cardinals to a 20-18 stunner. Maybe this is just a mirage. But if he continues to play like this, it’ll be tough for coach Ken Whisenhunt to give back Skelton his starting job when he’s healthy enough to return.

2. The Chiefs have been an embarrassment: Going into the season, I thought the AFC West could become the most interesting division. With the Chargers trying to save Norv Turner’s job, with Peyton Manning in Denver, with a rejiggered Raiders organization that would focus more on defense and with a Chiefs squad that could challenge for a playoff spot, I figured it could be a four-way race for much of the season. I didn’t expect Kansas City to play so utterly putrid. So far, the Chiefs have given up 75 points, general manager Scott Pioli is under intense fire, and trying to watch their matchup last week against the Bills was an exercise in pure sadomasochism. The season already seems hopelessly lost for Kansas City.

1. The Saints are winless: Tapping Aaron Kromer as the interim coach to interim coach Joe Vitt, who’s suspended for the first six weeks of the season, seemed like a good move. And though I’m not saying it’s Kromer's fault, something is terribly wrong in New Orleans. Maybe Sean Payton is that important to his squad (and somehow his giant picture over the practice field isn’t actually convincing anybody to do his job). More likely, it’s because the defense has been terrible (on pace with Kansas City, actually), and because Drew Brees has been less than stellar. The Saints still could contend for the NFC South title, but they’d better not fall too far behind.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Josh Katzowitz on Twitter here: @joshkatzowitz.

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