NFL’s 15 Biggest Surprises of Week 2

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NFL's 15 Biggest Surprises from Week 2

Chris Faytok/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA Today Sports

Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season has come and passed us in the blink of an eye, and there are many surprises so far this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) have equaled their win total from a season ago in as many games played. The Washington Redskins and New York Giants, the last two NFC East divisional champions, are both winless. The Jacksonville Jaguars have scored 11 total points this season and are serious candidates to become the second 0-16 team in NFL history.

There are very many surprises among NFL players as well. Wide receiver Greg Jennings left the Green Bay Packers for the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason to become the team's sure-handed top receiving target. So far through two weeks of action, Jennings has eight catches for 117 yards and zero touchdowns. In Green Bay? All is well, as James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley all have more catches, yards and touchdowns than Jennings through the first two games.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning is second in the NFL with 812 passing yards, but he has thrown a league-worst seven interceptions through the first two games. Eli's brother Peyton Manning has thrown a league-best nine touchdown passes and is on pace for 72 on the season (that can't happen ... right?)

In Week 1, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 passing yards against the Packers. In the 49ers' Week 2 loss at CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Seahawks, Kaepernick threw for 127 yards -- a career-low in nine regular season starts.

As bizarre as the first two weeks of the NFL season have been so far in 2013, there were many more surprises in Week 2. What could be more bizarre than Jennings' decline, the night and day difference between the Manning brothers and Kaepernick's hot-to-cold games? Click on to find out.

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15. Tom Brady

tom brady
Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was awful in Thursday night's ugly 13-10 victory over the New York Jets. A lot of blame could be put on any Patriots wide receiver not named Julian Edelman, but seeing Brady so frustrated and chaotic was surprising to say the least

Against the Jets, Brady completed 19-of-39 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown. Brady finished with a 71.0 passer rating, his worst rating in a game since he compiled a 69.5 passer rating in a 23-20 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 of the 2010 season.

The Jets were unable to pressure Brady throughout the game (Brady was hit and sacked once the entire game), so Brady should've been able to take advantage of the extra time in the pocket. Typically, hall of fame quarterbacks don't need talent at receiver to make an offense click, but Brady sure looks like he is missing Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

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14. Brandon Meriweather Not Suspended

brandon meriweather
Benny Sieu-USA Today Sports

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather led with his helmet not once, but twice in the Redskins' 38-20 loss against the Green Bay Packers Sunday. Meriweather's first helmet-to-helmet hit was laid on Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy, knocking him out of the game with a concussion.

In the second quarter, Meriweather led with his helmet again on Packers veteran running back James Starks. This time around though, Meriweather, not Starks, left the game with a concussion.

Meriweather has a history of illegal hits dating back to his time with the New England Patriots. The league announced early Tuesday that Meriweather would be fined, but not suspended. For a guy who caused two concussions, I'm not sure if the league got it quite right.

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13. Miami Dolphins

Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

It's 1972 all over again for the Miami Dolphins. Well, not really, but their 2-0 start has been very impressive and surprising in 2013. The Dolphins have already won as many road games (two) as they did in the entire 2012 season, thanks largely to the growth of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and an improved defense.

Two games into his sophomore season, Tannehill's growth has shown as he has completed 65 percentof his passes for 591 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, while compiling a 94.2 passer rating (78.2 in 2013) and averaging 8.2 yards per passing attempt.

Miami is getting the job done defensively as well, allowing 15 points per game (t-3), 90 rushing yards per game (13th), recording nine sacks on opposing quarterbacks (t-1), holding opposing quarterbacks to a 62.4 passer rating (fourth), intercepting four passes (t-2), and allowing quarterbacks to complete 53.1 percent of their passes (4th).

From 2012 to present, the Dolphins have improved in every aspect of the game. Yes, Tannehill recorded three fumbles against the Colts and Miami has a much tougher test next week against the Atlanta Falcons, but the Dolphins are surprisingly headed in the right direction.

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12. Defensive Linemen Find the Endzone

defensive line
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA Today Sports

There isn't anything better in football than a lineman scoring a touchdown. If one player scores, might as well make it two then, right?

The wish was certainly granted on Sunday, as Atlanta Falcons hybrid defender Osi Umenyiora and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison both got a taste of the end zone for the first time in their NFL careers. Umenyiora returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown in a 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams, while Robison returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown in a 31-30 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Both players are in their 30s, and Umenyiora had never intercepted a pass in his NFL career until last Sunday. No matter what team you root for, it is always great to see a lineman score a touchdown.

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11. New Orleans Saints Defense

Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

The New Orleans Saints won another close game on Sunday, edging the division-rival Tampa Buccaneers, 16-14. Surprisingly, it was the defense, not the offense, which won the game for the Saints.

The Saints replaced defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with the fiery Rob Ryan, and the defense has showed drastic improvement from a season ago. Ryan's defense is allowing 320 yards per game (11th) and 15.5 points per game (t-6) through two games. In Week 2, the Saints' defense allowed the Buccaneers' offense to record 371 total yards and one touchdown, while the Buccaneers finished 5-of-13 on third down conversions and quarterback Josh Freeman threw one interception.

Are the Saints defense for real this season? Only time will tell, but anything will be an improvement from last season.

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10. Tampa Bay Defense

tampa bay
Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

Tampa Bay is 0-2 to start the season, but the defense can't be blamed for the slow start to the season. Against the Saints, the Bucs defense allowed 273 yards and one touchdown, while the Saints converted on five of 14 third-down conversions. The Buccaneers also sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees four times and intercepted the veteran quarterback twice, returning one interception for a touchdown.

Through the first two games, the Buccaneers defense is allowing 337.5 yards per game (t-13th in NFL), 17 points per game (t-8), and 255 passing yards per game (18th).

The defense is surprisingly improving in Tampa Bay ... now if only the offense can get their heads out of their butts, the Bucs could become a winner again.

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9. San Francisco 49ers' embarassing loss in Seattle

Joe Nicholson-USA Today Sports

On Sunday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks demolished the San Francisco 49ers under the lights, 29-3. The defending NFC Champions didn't look like the Super Bowl contender that they are projected to be ... at all.

The Seahawks and the 12th man were able to make the 49ers uncomfortable from start to finish. In his ninth regular-season start, Kaepernick recorded a career-worst 127 passing yards, one week after shredding the Packers at Candlestick Park for a career-high 412 passing yards.

In the last two games between both teams at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks have outscored the 49ers, 71-15. San Francisco played a near-perfect game on offense against the Packers in Week 1. At Seattle though, the 49ers played anything but perfect on offense, recording 207 total yards and five turnovers.

Both the Seahawks and 49ers are serious Super Bowl contenders this season, and 49ers fans can breathe with ease knowing their team only has to play in Seattle once a year. But to see the 49ers embarrassed like this on the national stage? Incredibly surprising.

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8. Houston Texans Do it Again

Matthew Emmons-USA Today Sports

The Houston Texans dug themselves out of a 28-7 hole against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football in week one, defeating the Chargers 31-7, but to be able to complete a second fourth-quarter comeback in as many weeks? Seriously?

Trailing the Tennessee Titans 24-16, the Texans tied up the football game with 1:53 remaning to send the game into overtime. On the first possession of OT, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub completed a game-winning touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, clinching a 30-24 victory over the Titans.

In 2012, the Texans won two games the entire season when trailing in the fourth quarter. For the Texans to comeback and fight through adversity at the early part of the season shows a lot of character and perseverance out of the players. Three years ago, the Texans wouldn't have ever came back and won a game in the fourth quarter. A playoff team the past two seasons, it is surprising to see the Texans beginning to turn the corner towards a potential Super Bowl berth.

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7. Knowshon Moreno

knowshon moreno
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno nearly failed to make the final cut after training camp, but the Broncos are sure glad they kept him for surprise performances like he had on Sunday.

Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball recorded one fumble early in the Broncos' 41-23 win over the New York Giants, which cleared the way for the former first-round draft pick. Moreno rushed for 93 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns against the Giants.

Moreno has always had the talent to excel at the NFL level, but to do it on this team is really surprising. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has three proven threats at wide receiver (Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) and a blossoming player at tight end (Julius Thomas), yet Moreno was able to give the Broncos surprising balance on offense all day.

Manning has engineered the Broncos' offense to average a league-best 45 points per game in two weeks. With surprise performances from Moreno, the Broncos' offense will be unstoppable all season long.

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6. Chicago Bears' Final Drive

Jerry Lai-USA Today Sports

The Chicago Bears are down late in the fourth quarter, they need a touchdown to win the game, with just over three minutes remaining. You've probably heard this often, right? You probably expected to hear that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw an interception to end the game. Well ... the 2013 Bears are dancing to a different beat this time around.

Cutler engineered a game-winning drive, lasting 3:05, against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, edging their NFC North rival 31-30. On the Bears' final drive, Cutler completed 7 of 11 passes for 76 yards and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining in the game.

Surprisingly, Cutler didn't force every pass to All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall either. Cutler distributed the ball evenly from the pocket on the final drive, as Marshall, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Bennett each recorded at least one catch in the final drive.

Surprisingly, Cutler has improved in late-game situations. Bear down, Chicago.

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5. Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers Game

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA Today Sports

The Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers had their fair share of surprises on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel was able to smoothly operate a game-winning drive on offense, and the Panthers lost another close game.

Who would've thought with 1:38 left in the game and down 23-17, a rookie quarterback could get the job done and win over the fans so quickly?

What is even more surprising is how many NFL fans felt the Bills made the wrong choice in April's draft by selecting Manuel over notable rookie quarterbacks Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib. If Manuel didn't win over the fans before, he certainly surprised everyone by winning over the fans by now.

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4. Dontari Poe

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John Rieger-USA Today Sports

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe has finally begun making a habit of wreaking havoc in opposing offensive backfields early this season. Against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the 6-foot-3, 346-pound Poe sacked quarterback Tony Romo twice, adding to his 1.5 sacks from Week 1.

What is so surprising with Poe is that he has become a legitimate pass-rushing threat unlike ever before in his football career. With 3.5 sacks in two weeks, Poe is currently tied for third in the NFL among all players. His greatly-improved play from year one to year two is one of few key answers to the simple question of how the Chiefs have become one of the NFL's toughest in 2013.

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3. James Starks

james starks
Jeff Hanisch-USA Today Sports

Green Bay Packers veteran running back James Starks would've never made this list if Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy hadn't suffered a concussion on one of the Packers' first plays of the game, but nevertheless, Starks had a career day in a 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

Starks' 132 rushing yards was his highest total in a single-game, and his four receptions and 36 receiving yards was his second and third highest totals in a single game respectively. Surprisingly, Starks' 132 rushing yards was the second-highest total in Week 2, behind only Buccaneers running back Doug Martin's 144 yard day against the New Orleans Saints.

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2. Eddie Royal

eddie royal
Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal has been quite a dazzling story in the young 2013 NFL season. He caught seven passes for 90 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Chargers' 33-30 Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Royal currently leads the NFL with five touchdowns in two games this season, and has already equaled his 2008 season touchdown total.

Royal has been a great surprise for the Chargers, but he wouldn't be on this list if it weren't for our top surprise from Week 2.

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1. Philip Rivers

philip rivers
Jeffrey Pittenger-USA Today Sports

Why am I putting San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as the biggest surprise from Week 2? It is because it is surprising to see Rivers performing like an elite quarterback once again.

Last season, Rivers career seemed to be in serious jeopardy under the tutelage of former head coach Norv Turner. Enter quarterback guru and new head coach Mike McCoy in 2013, and Rivers is back to being the star quarterback which helped convince the Chargers into letting veteran Drew Brees walk in free agency. In two games, Rivers has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 614 yards (11th), thrown seven touchdowns (t-2), one interception, compiled a 115.8 passer rating (fourth) and averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt (ninth) with zero fumbles.

I felt Rivers had been seriously declining as an NFL quarterback because he had become a turnover machine and is currently on the wrong side of 30. Turns out, Rivers and the Chargers are just getting started early in the 2013 season.