Positive or negative, which surprise do you favor? Houston and Tampa Bay are crushing it. Chicago and Cincinnati stink. NFL Week 5 is where reality sets in.
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A lot of surprising things have already happened in just one month of the NFL season. Cincinnati is probably the most surprising on the negative side of things. Perhaps the Bengals’ struggles can be explained away by saying Joe Burrow is not healthy enough to succeed, in which case, maybe he should be sitting and rehabbing.
On the positive side, Arizona seems to be getting the most publicity despite being 1-3. The Cardinals are proving themselves frisky, and perhaps doing just what the front office wants by still managing to lose most of their games. However, two other teams that were in the same boat as Arizona preseason are taking another route, and no one is talking about them.
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Heading into their NFL Week 5 bye, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 3-1 and in first place in the NFC South. Before the season, Tampa Bay was the clear shoo-in to drop from first to worst. The Buccaneers were tanking this season, or so we thought. Now, they are a game up in their division and just handily beat the division betting favorite on the road. They have not been able to run the ball well, so maybe this is simply a case of playing some of the worst teams in the NFL thus far. What’s the read on Tampa Bay?
In the opposite conference, our most pleasant surprise has to be Houston. During the preseason, we off-handedly mentioned how plausible it would be for Jacksonville to drop from first to worst in the AFC South. The scenario required us to first rule out Tampa Bay, the presumed failure, and then ask who would be the next bet to make the plummet. The Texans are making us look good!
NFL Week 5: No Surprise Unturned
Todd Salem: Believe In Houston
The argument for Jacksonville (or against Jacksonville in this case) was that the Jaguars were solid at best, and the rest of the division could pass them by. The one hang-up, to me, was Houston. I didn’t really believe Houston would be ready to pass them by. Here was my exact quote: “CJ Stroud would need to be ready to lead a competent offense from day one, which doesn’t seem that likely, but if we’re talking gambles, a Jacksonville collapse headed by early success from their divisional peers feels plausible.“
Through a month of the season, the Texans definitely have a competent offense led by Stroud. In fact, they are hanging 30 on all-comers. And taking a glance at the schedule, they are already through the hardest part! Obviously, it is too soon to anoint them as real contenders in NFL Week 5, so I’m not assuming all victories here. We must rule out Cincy on the schedule since I don’t know where to place them, meaning their next tough opponent doesn’t come until, when, Week 14 maybe? At the Jets could be tough. A legitimate argument could be made that Houston doesn’t have a single difficult game remaining.
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Now, as I said, that doesn’t mean they will win most of these, or that they will even be favored. They are still currently underdogs at Atlanta for Week 5. Most opponents likely still consider Houston itself not a tough game until we get some more data to the contrary. The point is, though, a run of success wouldn’t be outlandish for the Texans all of a sudden.
Which success story is most surprising thus far, Tampa or Houston? And trying to separate remaining schedule from the equation since the Buccaneers’ is quite hard by comparison, who is the better team?
Dan Salem: Shame On Chicago
Negative surprises are nothing new and I’m not quite ready to write off the Bengals, but damn, they look nothing like the team of prior winning seasons. Even if they manage to rebound and make the playoffs, this team is not winning anything major this season. This surprise has roots, along with the failure of the Chicago Bears.
Oh boy, have the Bears been a surprise in the negative category. Nearly everyone expected them to be a competitive wildcard team this season. Many pegged them to win their division. While it’s true the NFC North is not great overall, it’s also true that Detroit is good and the Bears are not catching anyone. They stink and jobs will be lost. I’m surprised, just like everyone else.
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On the positive side, I expected one rookie quarterback to come right in and play very well. We were due for one to make a difference and I put my money behind Carolina’s rookie. I was wrong and the surprise in Houston with CJ Stroud and company is legitimate. Houston is the most surprising, because I didn’t believe the pieces around Stroud were enough. Unknown wide receivers are becoming known names in the league, because of Stroud and the Texans overall play. This team is for real and can win their division. They are the best of our surprises.
Last and probably least are the Buccaneers. They are not going to sustain this level of play, even though their division is theirs to lose at this point. I still believe Tampa Bay is a nine win team at best, but that might be enough to win the NFC South. It will certainly be enough for Todd Bowles to keep his job and for Baker Mayfield to remain a starter somewhere, if not in Tampa Bay. I’m surprised, but considering the schedule so far, I’m not THAT surprised just yet.
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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