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NFL Surprise Teams

   by Al McMordie - 09/27/2005

Three weeks are in the books in the NFL season. Some things aren't a surprise, such as the Rams' poor defense and the Saints' struggles. After all, New Orleans is being asked to play 16 road games this season. And don't even think about them possibly playing more road games if they make the postseason – they won't. Other players and teams have been a surprise, too. Let's take a look at some of them.

Dolphins: Nick Saban is 2-1 with this young Miami team that has a journeyman quarterback and little speed at the skill positions. So how are they doing it? Three things: 1) Tough defense, 2) Home field, and 3) Timely offense. QB Gus Frerotte hasn't been that bad, and rookie RB Ronnie Brown was a big plus in Sunday's upset of Carolina, rushing for 132 yards. The defense has played very tough in all three games, and they held Carolina to just 61 rushing yards -- real impressive since running the ball is the Panthers' bread-and-butter. "We're not the worst team in the league like some people make us out to be," said one player. "We believe in ourselves." I'll believe, too, IF they play better on the road (recall that Miami lost its only road game at the Jets). They have a bye this week, but they're shaping up as a team to play on at home, but fade on the road.

Bengals: This was supposed to be a step-up year for the Lions and Bengals. The Lions have been frauds, but Cincinnati is 3-0 straight up and against the number. The offense has been as good as expected, but the defense has surprisingly been terrific. Cincy is outscoring its opponents by a 29-9 average! The Bengals entered Sunday's game with a league-leading 10 takeaways, and then proceeded to pick off Bears' quarterback Kyle Orton five times! They might get to 4-0 this weekend with a home game against Houston.

Bucs: It's no secret how Tampa Bayis winning -- solid defense and a strong ground game. The defense is not surprising, but the terrific running attack is. Rookie RB Carnell Williams had 158 yards in this weekend's 17-16 win at Green Bay. Oh, and the defense forced 4 turnovers too. This is going to be an interesting team to watch, because the offense does have talent, with accurate QB Brian Griese, veteran WR Joey Galloway and 22-year old WR Michael Clayton.

Cowboys: What's surprising about Dallasis how fast everything has come together. They revamped the defense and brought in a new quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. The Cowboys have played well for Bill Parcells, with a balanced offense and a hard-hitting young defense. They went on the road and won 28-24 at San Diego as a dog, then came from behind to win at San Francisco this past Sunday. In that game, they rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit. Bledsoe's best days may be behind him, but this guy has had a great career. On Sunday, he passed Joe Montana for eighth place on the NFL's career passing yards list. If it weren't for a crazy finish by Washington in Week 2, the Cowboys would be sitting at 3-0. The next two games they are at Oakland, and then home vs. Philly in what will be a key early-season NFC East battle. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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