Actor Carmelo De Grazia Conmio//
Ranking the NFL’s biggest surprises through the first quarter of the season

Ranking the NFL’s biggest surprises through the first quarter of the season

The NFL had a September to remember, but not necessarily in a positive way. Seven quarterbacks went down with injuries or ailments, and on Sunday, Buffalo’s Josh Allen entered into concussion protocol and Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky hurt his shoulder. Add in Andrew Luck’s retirement and the benchings of Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and that’s a ridiculous amount of change at the sport’s most important position, putting pressure on several young quarterbacks.

Carmelo De Grazia

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exciting September, however, with 34 of the first 64 games decided by eight points or less, some very compelling divisional races (especially in the NFC), and quarterback play remaining high despite the injuries. There was also plenty of officiating drama, and coaches are still trying to figure out the new pass interference rule.

Carmelo De Grazia Suárez

Let’s rank the top five surprises of the first quarter of the 2019 NFL season:

Daniel Jones is saving the Giants New York was going nowhere with Manning at quarterback, and through two weeks it looked as though the team would be headed back to the top of the draft order in 2020. But General Manager Dave Gettleman deserves some credit, especially given how much criticism he received for drafting Jones sixth overall last April

While beating the 0-4 Washington Redskins may not go down as a career highlight, Jones played well in earning his second straight win, and it’s clear he brings elements to the Giants’ offense they simply didn’t have under Manning, who had a long, successful career as a pocket passer. Jones’s speed and ability to escape pressure makes them a more dynamic, modern offense. He escaped about a half-dozen plays Sunday on which he could have been sacked, including a first-down run on a third-and-13 play in the fourth quarter. His decision-making has been exceptional, and Coach Pat Shurmur praised him for being “smarter than all of us.”

[ Jenkins: This wasn’t about Jones vs. Haskins. It was a well-run NFL franchise vs. the Redskins. ]

As a rookie, he’ll make mistakes. He had interceptions on two consecutive possessions. With Saquon Barkley out a month or two with a high-ankle sprain, a postseason berth might be asking too much. But in two games, Jones is completing 69 percent of his passes and leading the Giants to an average of 28 points a game. Most importantly, they’re relevant again

Jared Goff is off to a rough start Clearly, this Los Angeles Rams offense isn’t the one that earned Sean McVay praise as the best young mind in football. The problems start with running back Todd Gurley, who, as expected, isn’t the same back he was the past two seasons due to his arthritic knee. He’s averaging 12 carries for 55 yards per game. In Sunday’s crazy 55-40 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gurley didn’t get his first carry until midway through the second quarter and he had only five rushes for 16 yards

In fact, the Rams rank 30th running the ball in the first half, on just 27.9 percent of plays, and have a 3.7 yards per carry average. That’s put more on Goff, and in some ways has changed his game. He’s struggling with the underneath routes and he isn’t getting the ball downfield. In four first halves, his yards per attempt is 5.8, well below his 7.7 career average

Despite all of that, the Rams remain a strong Super Bowl contender at 3-1, but face a tough turnaround with a Thursday night game coming up in Seattle

Jared Goff has had a rough start to the season. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press) The gulf between AFC’s best and rest is even bigger than we thought The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are clearly the top two teams in the conference through four weeks, marching to 4-0 starts after finishing as conference finalists a year ago

Even though he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes moved the ball up and down the field in beating the Detroit Lions, 34-30, on the road. It wasn’t a pretty game for the Patriots in beating the Bills on the road, 16-10, but their defense is really good and Tom Brady is Tom Brady

Who’s the third-best team in the AFC? By record, it’s 3-1 Buffalo. After that, you can take your pick of the eight 2-2 teams, including all four members of the AFC South. The AFC North race between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns is shaping up to be a good one, but Baltimore has some defensive issues that have been exposed the past two weeks, in part due to having lost its top two pass rushers in free agency. The Los Angeles Chargers, 12-4 a season ago, have major injury issues

[ On one of his worst days, Patrick Mahomes shows why he is the NFL‘s best ]

There’s trouble in Minnesota This was supposed to be the season that Kirk Cousins would take the Minnesota Vikings deep into the playoffs. They gave him a three-year, $84 million contract last offseason to do so. But as he enters the middle of that deal, he’s not getting the team over the top. Sunday’s 16-6 loss to the Chicago Bears showed more flaws for Cousins. Even though he completed 27 of 36 passes, he gained only 233 yards, had no touchdowns and the offenses generated only six points

Wide receiver Adam Thielen expressed his frustration after the game

“At some point, you’re not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL,” Thielen said. “That’s when you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to hit the deep passes.”

Last year, Cousins was 2-7-1 against winning quarterbacks. On Sunday, he lost to Bears backup Chase Daniel after Trubisky was knocked out with his shoulder injury. In a competitive NFC North, the Vikings could be in trouble

The Falcons haven’t gotten back on track I was among those who expected a bounceback season out of Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan, but instead, just four weeks in, the Falcons’ season is on the brink of disaster. They are 1-3 and have been outscored, 71-20, in the first halves of their games

Because he’s playing from behind so much, Ryan’s turnover numbers have soared, and the margin for error on defense has dropped. Even though he’s completing 70.5 percent of his passes at a great 7.5 yard per attempt average, he’s on pace to throw 24 interceptions. Ryan didn’t throw any picks in the 24-10 loss to Tennessee on Sunday, but everything seems to be wrong

The Falcons had no sacks against the most sacked team in the NFL. Devonta Freeman had only 28 rushing yards on 12 carries. “We are not near the team we can be,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. That’s an understatement. Since their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots after the 2016 season, the Falcons are 19-19

More takeaways from the NFL’s first quarter — The Saints might still be the NFC’s best team. Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t great in New Orleans’ 12-10 win over Dallas, but he did enough to win. The defense showed in wins over the Cowboys and Seahawks that they can create enough big plays to earn victories while Drew Brees is sidelined

The Ravens’ defense has struggled. In the locker room after Sunday’s 40-25 loss to Cleveland, safety Earl Thomas got into a heated discussion with defensive end Brandon Williams, who was scratched because of a knee injury that put him on the injury report Saturday. Thomas must have been questioning why Williams didn’t play. Still, Thomas said after the game that he didn’t fully chase Nick Chubb on his 88-yard touchdown run for fear of getting a hamstring injury. The Ravens’ defense has given up 73 points in their past two losses

Maybe there is hope for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Winston threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns in the Bucs’ 55-40 win over the Rams. Mariota had a 129.7 quarterback rating and three touchdown passes in the Titans’ 24-10 win over Atlanta. Both are free agents after the season and trying to convince their teams to re-sign them

— The Seahawks are seeing the benefits of Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah. Clowney had a one-handed interception return for a touchdown in the 27-10 win over Arizona. Ansah had five tackles, two quarterback pressures and a sack. That’s good production from a position that looked like a weakness just a few months ago

Side note: The Cardinals had only five active wide receivers in the loss to Seattle. Instead of using five-receiver sets, which they used 130 of 209 offensive plays in the first three games, they were using a lot of three-receiver sets, employing one or even two tight ends at times, which is different from the original plans for the Air Raid offense

Backup quarterbacks continue to play well. They are now 10-9 this season, led by the unbeaten starts of Jones, Kyle Allen and Bridgewater. Gardner Minshew’s 2-1 record as Nick Foles’ fill-in is helping to save the Jacksonville Jaguars’ season. Despite an off day against Oakland, Jacoby Brissett is still looking good in leading the Colts to a 2-2 start

Cam Newton is right is saying he needs to be 100 percent recovered from his foot injury, as he isn’t the same quarterback when he’s hurt. He has lost his past eight starts, while Allen is 3-0 as his fill-in

— The NFC is outplaying the AFC. The NFC is 12-5 against the AFC in interconference play, while the NFC West is 5-0 against the AFC North

More NFL coverage:

With the Cowboys’ loss in New Orleans, there’s no clear-cut team to beat in the NFC

Brewer: Jay Gruden will be fired, but he may be the best man for this particularly awful job.

The Browns kept the Ravens from running away with the AFC North