9 Biggest NFL Surprises Before Halloween: Tom Brady Aging, Daniel Jones Thriving, and Geno Smith Ascending

There has been no shortage of NFL surprises so far in 2022. Nobody saw Daniel Jones or Geno Smith performing like top-10 QBs, but here we are!

The NFL loves parity. There’s an old saying I constantly heard while working in the Dallas radio market. “It’s an 8-8 league.” And while that is technically, literally, true, there is almost always more concrete evidence of who is good and bad. Instead, 2022 keeps giving us massive NFL surprises.

Teams we thought would be good are bad, and teams we thought were bad might actually be good. MVPs are playing like they’re going to hang up their cleats at the end of the season, and we’ve already had one coach fired, with whispers we could see another if Denver doesn’t leave London with a win.

Before the Week 7 slate, 23 of the league’s 32 teams were either 3-3 or a game from being .500. Minnesota, Atlanta, and Seattle are leading divisions in the NFC. We’re in for a wild ride the rest of the way. But what are the biggest NFL surprises thus far?

9 Biggest NFL Surprises

Ned Stark’s death in Game of Thrones (spoiler, I know) pales in comparison to some of the things we’ve witnessed this season.

The Packers Stink

Many expected the Green Bay Packers to take a step back in 2022. They’d lost Davante Adams and were heading into the season with Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard as the team’s top receivers, hoping that rookie Christian Watson could contribute.

Watson has been hurt for some time now, and Cobb is on injured reserve. The Green Bay offense ranks 21st in offensive EPA and 17th in defensive EPA. Additionally, their horrific stretch of special teams play has continued.

Football Outsiders paints a grim picture regarding the rest of their season should they continue to play at their current level. They’ve played the 25th-most demanding schedule through seven games. They have the sixth-most difficult schedule in the future.

The Seahawks Upgraded at QB With Geno Smith

Credit is due to Seahawks fans on Twitter. They were steadfast in their belief that Geno Smith would be a competent NFL QB for Seattle in 2022. Nobody expected him to arguably be the most efficient QB in the NFL.

MORE: 2022 NFL QB Power Rankings

His Completion Percentage over Expectation is 8.6%. The next-highest of QBs with at least 200 plays is Patrick Mahomes at 4.1%. Smith is doing that while ranking seventh in Average Depth of Target. If he continues on this pace, he will be in the MVP discussion if Seattle continues to contend in the NFC West.

But what Smith’s success has done is raise a very important question. Was Pete Carroll right the whole time? Did he actually set his offense up for its greatest success with Russell Wilson? All this time, were we the baddies?

NFL Offenses Forgot How To Score

The NFL is averaging 21.7 points per game in 2022, the lowest mark since 2017. We must time-travel to 2009 before finding a time when offenses scored less (21.5.)

NFL defenses got sharp, and the gap between offensive and defensive line talent has never been larger. The two-high revolution has affected offenses. They’re throwing downfield less often, forcing efficiency underneath in the passing attack.

MORE: Why Aren’t NFL Offenses Scoring in 2022?

Mitigating the frequency of explosive plays is a huge reason teams are resurrecting Tampa-2 and running Quarters more and more. They’re forcing death by 1,000 cuts, and offenses are trying to rally to find the most effective way to do that.

Daniel Jones Looks Good

We considered the possibility that Daniel Jones could see some improvement with the addition of competent coaching for the first time in his NFL career, but his ascension has been sharper than expected.

The Giants made the right call not picking up his fifth-year option. The more likely scenario was Jones would look more like Sam Darnold, and they’d be forced into paying an exorbitant amount of money for a bad player.

Instead, he looks like a watered-down version of Josh Allen, and that is an adequately dangerous prospect for opposing teams. They can’t run man coverage against him because he’s taking off at nearly six yards a pop, and he’s running over eight times per game. He’s dangerous, and not in the Wilson way.

The Browns Secondary Is Horrible

How, Sway? Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, John Johnson, Grant Delpit, Greedy Williams, Ronnie Harrison, and Martin Emerson make up that group. That is a ton of investment into a bunch of individuals who can’t seem to play together if their lives depended on it.

They’re 28th in passing DVOA and 22nd in dropback EPA despite ranking 13th in dropback success rate. Simply put, they’re getting toasted downfield on blown coverages. There is too much talent on the back end in Cleveland to have so many issues.

The New York Jets and Giants Are Good?

Since 2017, no two teams in the NFL have been worse than the Jets and Giants. From 2017-2022 both teams went 22-59. During that time, nobody scored fewer points than the two New York franchises.

MORE: What the Giants Can Teach Us About Sustainability

But they’re a combined 11-3 this season, and both teams are starting to look like legitimate contenders. Neither team is blowing the doors off relative to overall team efficiency, but both have a respective top-10 unit. The Jets have a top-10 defense, and the Giants have a top-10 offense through seven weeks.

Maybe it will fade for one or both teams, but if the Jets’ offense continues to improve and the Giants’ defense keeps making stops when it matters most late in games, neither team will likely fade.

The Cowboys Going 4-1 With Cooper Rush

Even with the loss to Philadelphia, Dallas allowed an average of 15.8 points per game during the five-game stretch. The Cowboys offense struggled to consistently score points during the stretch, but they avoided crippling turnovers and scored enough to sneak away with four straight wins before facing Philadelphia.

When news of Prescott’s thumb injury circulated, most Cowboys fans could have been found perusing our Mock Draft Simulator because the season was effectively over with him missing an extended period.

With Prescott back and the defense looking elite, those same fans are feeling the magic now. But the offense still needs to improve before Dallas can become a true Super Bowl contender.

The AFC West Fell Flat on Its Face

The Chiefs are still among the league’s elites, but they’re the only team that looks like a serious contender. The more things change, the more they remain the same in the AFC West.

The Chargers can’t stay healthy, Joe Lombardi’s offense stinks even if Justin Herbert elevates it to a level of decency, and the defense still can’t stop the run despite investing heavily in that area during the offseason.

More: Week 8 NFL Picks and Predictions

The Raiders started their season in a blender but could start rattling off a few wins as their schedule becomes more lenient.

The true disappointment is in Denver. Their offense is horrific, and they’re sitting at 2-5 despite having a top-five defense in the NFL. Offense, special teams, and coaching blunders have handcuffed their win total.

Tom Brady Actually Looks 45

Even the greatest ever needs help on the offensive side of the ball. And even the age-defying passer has hit the limit on refilling his Gatorade bottle with the fountain of youth.

It should come as no surprise to see Brady struggling in 2022. His receiving corps has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, and his offensive line hasn’t been healthy all season.

But independent of those problems, Brady doesn’t look like himself. The reported issues in his personal life can’t be ignored, either. Quarterbacking at the NFL level takes laser focus, and personal issues have undoubtedly affected his play. That hasn’t been bad all season, but was definitely the case on Thursday Night Football in Week 8.

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