Week 6: Surprising/Not Surprising in the NFL

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Surprising: Tampa Bay beat the Saints. Maybe this isn’t surprising, maybe I just don’t know what to make of the Bucs. A young team coming off of a thorough beat down at the hands of the 49ers and playing one of the top teams in the NFC, I figured that the Buccaneers would struggle to keep the game close. Instead, they led throughout and clinched the victory with their third interception of Drew Brees. They play in one of the toughest divisions in football so they might not make the playoffs this year, but this is just another sign that the future is bright in Tampa Bay.

Not Surprising: Houston continues to struggle. I’ve been reading “this is the year Houston makes its move” articles for at least three years now and they have yet to make the playoffs. Though they might sneak in this year based on the weak competition in the AFC South, they still seem like the same 8-8, 9-7 team they’ve been in three of the last four years. Wade Phillips has proven to be a very good defensive coach, but he’s working with basically the same talent that was historically bad last year, and I’m not sold that head coach Gary Kubiak or quarterback Matt Schaub have what it takes to take the Texans to the next level.

Surprising: Sam Bradford and the Rams are unable to put up any points. Bradford, who had a good rookie year, was primed to take a step forward. Playing on a team with a solid running game and an offensive line that consists of multiple high draft picks and big free agent signings, I thought that the lack of talent at WR would be nothing more than an inconvenience on the way to the Rams contending for the NFC West crown. Instead, the line has collapsed and Bradford has taken a beating. He looks timid in the pocket, unwilling to take very many shots downfield. In their first five games, the Rams have scored 13, 16, 7, 10 and 3 (coming off a bye no less) points. Instead of taking that next step to contention, the Rams have taken big steps back and they need to do something about it quickly before Sam Bradford becomes David Carr version 2.0.

Not Surprising: Rex Grossman remembered he’s Rex Grossman. During his time as a starter in Chicago, the only consistent thing Grossman did was be inconsistent. He’d follow up a good game with a three turnover clunker. Apparently, his time in different organizations and on the bench did nothing to help him improve; he almost singlehandedly lost the game for the Redskins by throwing four interceptions in three quarters of work. I’m pretty sure that the coaching staff of the Redskins expected this, hence all the preseason hype about John Beck, another QB castoff. Expect Washington to (finally) address their quarterback position in the 2012 draft.

Surprising: The Miami Dolphins’ embattled coach and GM came into the season with one semi-viable NFL quarterback in Chad Henne. Though this isn’t week 6 specific, it did come to the forefront during the Dolphins’ pathetic performance on Monday Night Football. When your starting quarterback is someone who you benched last season and you openly tried to replace, it might not be the best idea to have Carolina castoff Matt Moore as your only other option. Though pickings are usually slim at the quarterback position, there is no doubt that Miami could have done more either through free agency or trades. At the very least, they could have picked a developmental guy to stash as their number three and hope to catch lighting in a bottle. Instead, the rest of the season will be left to two guys (Moore and recently signed Sage Rosenthal) to have already proven they are not the answer.

Not Surprising: Christian Ponder played in his first game and will get his first start this weekend. Let’s run through the “when to start a rookie quarterback” checklist: Bad team going nowhere? Check (the Vikings are 1-5 and already 5 games out of first place). Current quarterback looks old, slow and basically washed up? Check (McNabb’s stats don’t look horrible, but watching him play – yikes). Team spent a high draft pick on their quarterback of the future? Check (Christian Ponder, selected 12th overall in this year’s draft). Fan base getting restless? Check (just look at how many Minnesota websites are already calling for first year coach Leslie Frasier’s head). First game at home? Check (the Vikings host the Packers this weekend). Yep – its Ponder time in Minnesota.