Top Ten Surprises of the 2011 NFL Season

As most NFL teams are nearing the midway point of their 2011 season, there have been a few surprises along the way, such as the surprising Detroit Lions, the dismal Indianapolis Colts, and Kim Kardashian's marriage lasting as long as it did. Being a fan of the NFL has never been so much fun! Here are the top ten surprises of the 2011 NFL season so far.

Andy Dalton(notes) playing well - Cincinnati Bengals' rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has been playing like a pro this season. Dalton has the Bengals sitting at 6-2 and has pulled off some impressive wins over teams like the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills. Dalton is coming off his best game this year against the Titans as he threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns as Cincinnati won 24-17.

Wait, did you say the Bengals are 6-2? - Yes, I said the Bengals are 6-2. Granted some of those wins are against teams like the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, but hey, a win is a win! They will be tested heavily in the next two weeks as they play the Pittsburgh Steelers at home before facing off against the Baltimore Ravens on the road.

You don't know what you got until it's gone - Wait, wasn't that a Cinderella song? We all know Peyton Manning(notes) is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but the Colts I honestly haven't seen a team look that lost when their quarterback went down. The New England Patriots lost Tom Brady(notes) a few years ago yet they still managed to not look completely lost.

NFC West is really that bad - Ok, minus the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC West looks like a total joke. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are both 2-6 while the St. Louis Rams are 1-7. Yes, the Rams have had injury issues with Sam Bradford(notes), but we might as well just end their seasons now because no one will catch the 49ers.

Better late than never - Finally, it looks as though Alex Smith is starting to play up to his number one draft pick abilities. In one of his best performances to date, Smith rallied the Niners after being down 23-3 to the Philadelphia Eagles on October 2nd, and led them to a thrilling 24-23 win on the road. His numbers aren't exactly what you would call gaudy, but he is effective. Hey, isn't that how Trent Dilfer got his Super Bowl ring?

More running back injuries than you can shake a stick at - Ok, there isn't really a need to shake a stick at the injuries, but there are a lot of them. Can we blame the lockout for this? Maybe global warming?

The Philadelphia Eagles are actually running the ball? - In other shocking news, the Eagles are trying something new this season. It's called, "running the football". Currently Philly leads the NFL as they are averaging over 170 rushing yards per game. Andy Reid normally likes to throw the ball, but running back LeSean McCoy(notes) leads the NFL with 107.7 rushing yards per game as well as capital letters in his name.

Detroit is back - The Lions are looking like a real football team. A real good football team in fact. Matthew Stafford(notes) is playing well as usual, their defense is shutting down the run, and is there a better receiver in the game right now than Calvin Johnson(notes)?

Jared Allen(notes) and DeMarcus Ware(notes) are making a run at Michael Strahan - Both Allen and Ware are making a run at the NFL record of 22.5 sacks in a season, which is held by Strahan. Currently Allen has 13 sacks in eight games and Ware has 12 sacks in seven games. Only seven players have ever recorded 20 sacks or more in a season, and no one has done it more than once. If Ware can get to 20 this season, he will be the only player in NFL history with multiple 20 sack seasons (Ware had 20 in 2008).

Top ten draft picks are playing up to their potential - So far this season, the cream of the 2011 NFL Draft crop are playing well so far. We've all been hearing about how well Cam Newton(notes) is doing, but Von Miller(notes), A.J. Green(notes), Patrick Peterson(notes), Julio Jones(notes), and Aldon Smith(notes) are all playing well. Not bad.

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Updated Monday, Nov 7, 2011