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Four Big NFL Surprises So Far

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29:  Kyle Allen #7 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass during a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas.  The Panthers defeated the Texans 16-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With the NFL's first quarter behind us, we've learned that some things never change. The Patriots are good, the Redskins are clueless, the Saints fans are looking for something to complain about.

But, true to league form, we've seen our share of surprises with football back in session.

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 29:  Gardner Minshew #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars turns to hand off against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on September 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos | Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

GOOD: Day Three QB's
We're constantly reminded about the importance of a quarterback in today's NFL, and how you need to use your primary resources to obtain one of them. Seven of the NFL's ten highest paid players (by yearly salary) are quarterbacks. All but one of the past 15 Super Bowls have featured a thrower chosen in the first round.

Yet, a pair of catty quarterbacks have provided some interesting twists to the 2019 season. In Jacksonville, Gardner Minshew has taken the football world by storm after taking over for the injured Nick Foles. Chosen in the sixth-round last spring, Minshew's eccentric personality and on-field prowess has gained a legion of fans in Duval and beyond. He has allowed the Jaguars to keep pace in the tightly packed AFC South, where each team is 2-2.

Further north in Carolina, Kyle Allen has the makings of being Cam Newton's Panthers successor. Including a start late last season, Allen became just the third quarterback in NFL history to win his first trio of starts. The Panthers were left for dead in the wake of Newton's early injury and struggles, but Allen's antics have them keeping pace with the mighty Saints.

GOOD: The Buffalo Bills
Much like the famous sauces confected in the city, we've been lulled into a false sense of security by the Bills before: The opening bite is usually fine before you get burned. This team, however, seems to be a new variety.

Buffalo is one of only three AFC squads to earn a trio of wins, trailing only the mighty Patriots and Chiefs. Props have been rightfully earned by sophomore quarterback Josh Allen, but plenty of on-field heroes have risen. Touted rookie Devin Singletary fell to an injury, but veteran Frank Gore has started to rediscover his former explosive form. Defensively, young names like Tremaine Edmunds and Levi Wallace (team-high 4 pass defenses) have created a formidable unit. Despite keeping pace with the Pats on Sunday with Josh Allen hurt, the Bills did sustain their first loss in 16-10 fashion. But they've set themselves up nicely to contend for their second playoff berth in three seasons after going over a decade without one.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Johnny Holton #80 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is called for an offensive pass interference over Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game at Heinz Field on September 30, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers | Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

BAD: The Pass Interference Challenge
At the end of the day, instant replay reviews/challenges are a necessary evil in sports and certainly beat the alternative. Thus, there was some slight hope that the new system to determine or deny pass interference could rectify some of the egregious situations we've seen.

Thus far, it's been no such luck. Pass interference calls are missed on both sides of the ball, and the constant examinations slow games down to a snail's pace. Reviews haven't even fully removed the mistakes, as questions are still raised every Sunday.

No one is denying that the egregious missed call of January's NFC Championship Game had to rectified. But is this slog really worth it?

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 29: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to the start of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons | Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

BAD: The Atlanta Falcons
It's slowly becoming an unwelcome Atlanta tradition to waste the primes of their finest athletes. The city is taking Cleveland's spot as America's cursed sports city, having won a mere single title in the four major sports (1995 World Series).

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and company are slowly starting to approach Atlanta Braves territory, and they might not even get the lonely trophy to celebrate. The NFC South division appeared t be the Falcons' crown to lose when they beat the Eagles and both Cam Newton and Drew Brees were forced to sit with injuries elsewhere. Instead, they've lost two in a row and are losing ground quickly as the Saints continue to win.

After the infamous Super Bowl collapse, maybe it's for the best that the Falcons don't play from ahead. But it's still getting rotten early in the Big Peach, and something has to change with conference competition on the horizon.