The NFL season is a quarter of the way over and now we can really start to see who is separating themselves from the pack. This could mean they are doing better or worse than normal. The NFL is a big league, so to make this more convenient, I am focusing solely on the NFC West.
Sam Bradford was terrible. That was a surprise because he is usually very steady, he throws short accurate balls and usually has a high completion percentage. But this year, Bradford has had no magic and he’s led the Cardinals to three straight losses and less than seven points a game.
Josh Rosen was a pleasant surprise against the Seahawks. He seemed poised in the pocket and was accurate with most of his throws. Rosen would have had a much better game, but several great throws were dropped by guys who were wide open. Rosen looks like he could do a good job leading Arizona this season.
David Johnson is playing on a sub-par team right now and his numbers are showing it. He is averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry and he hasn’t gotten more than 71 rushing yards in a game yet. The only thing that is keeping him afloat is his five touchdowns this year. Look for his workload to increase; he is the best player on the team, so the Cardinals need to focus on getting him touches.
Los Angeles Rams
The offense is better than most people thought it would be. Even after a year of film on them, they are still putting up an easy 35 points a game. It will be hard for anyone to stop them, because they are quite balanced averaging 125 rushing yards per game and 343 passing yards per contest. That is good enough to make them the top offense in the NFL.
And the defense has started playing well before I thought they would. I thought it would take longer for all the new pieces to start jelling. I think they are performing so well right now because the offense really stresses the other team. Their opponents have to keep up the pace, so they push a little harder on offense and the Rams are stepping up. Their defense is a top-ten unit in points per game, yards allowed and total run defense. Their point differential is close to 20 points a game; that is an expected blowout every time.
The Rams are the clear team to beat in the NFC West, the NFC and even the NFL at this point.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo is the centerpiece for this 49ers team, but he got injured and will be out for the year. With Garoppolo, San Francisco seemed like a possible fringe playoff team, or at least a middle-of-the-pack squad with some upside. Now they will be struggling.
The defensive line is a good unit that has rushed the passer well. The 49ers have six players with at least half a sack this year. They are led by their resident beast and defensive tackle, Deforest Buckner, with 3.5 sacks. He is second on the team in tackles as well.
The overall team performance against a very good Los Angeles Chargers this week was also a surprise. San Francisco might find a way to win a few games it shouldn’t this year.
Earl Thomas ending his holdout and playing. Earl Thomas playing some of the best football he has ever played since becoming a Seahawk. And Earl Thomas breaking his leg against the Cardinals.
Those were my biggest surprises this season.
Thomas is one of my favorite players ever and will continue to be that, even if he never plays another game with Seattle. It really sucks that he got hurt amid this contract dispute, and I hope it doesn’t color too many people’s perception of Thomas.
The run game the past two weeks has done very well. Chris Carson and Mike Davis had back-to-back hundred-yard rushing games the past two weeks, showing our improved depth and offensive line. Seattle running backs have already scored three times as many rushing touchdowns as they did last year (three rushing touchdowns in 2018 and 1 in 2017).
The pass defense and the rush defense have been on completely different levels. The Seahawks pass defense is one of the best in the NFL right now; we will see what impact Thomas’ absence makes, but the rush defense is one of the worst. Hopefully when K.J. Wright returns he will help solidify the spotty run defense while keeping he pass yards down.