Dis­ap­point­ments and sur­prises in NFC so far

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Barry Wil­ner

It’s not dif­fi­cult to pin­point the teams that have un­ex­pect­edly pros­pered or just as stun­ningly plum­meted half­way through the 2016 sea­son. Yep, we’re look­ing at you, Carolina Pan­thers and Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

It’s not dif­fi­cult to pin­point the teams that have un­ex­pect­edly pros­pered or just as stun­ningly plum­meted half­way through the 2016 sea­son.

Yep, we’re look­ing at you, Carolina Pan­thers and Ari­zona Car­di­nals. Last Jan­uary, you played for a spot in the Su­per Bowl. Right now, you’re hang­ing with the medi­oc­ri­ties (or worse) of the NFL.

Nor is it hard to spot the sur­pris­ingly suc­cess­ful teams putting them­selves in the cham­pi­onship mix, from the Dal­las Cow­boys to the Oak­land Raiders.

But what about the in­di­vid­u­als who are ris­ing or flop­ping? The As­so­ci­ated Press sports writ­ers who cover the 16 NFC teams sug­gest the fol­low­ing.

ARI­ZONA

Sur­prise: CB Mar­cus Cooper. Hav­ing all kinds of prob­lems at the cor­ner­back spot op­po­site Pa­trick Peter­son, they traded for Cooper, who in­ter­cepted two passes in his first start, re­turn­ing one for a touch­down.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR Michael Floyd has strug­gled might­ily in his con­tract year and fallen be­hind J.J. Nel­son as the No. 2 re­ceiver.

AT­LANTA

Sur­prise: LB Vic Beasley Jr. Whis­pers were that he was a draft bust, but the 2015 first-rounder has emerged with 7½ sacks.

Dis­ap­point­ment: RB Devonta Free­man, last sea­son’s break­out du­althreat star, has only one game with 100 yards rush­ing and only one with at least 50 yards re­ceiv­ing as Tevin Cole­man has taken some of the work­load.

CAROLINA

Sur­prise: TE Greg Olsen has al­ways been pro­duc­tive, but the 10-year veteran is in the midst of his best sea­son with 45 re­cep­tions for 673 yards through eight games.

Dis­ap­point­ment: DE Kony Ealy has one sack af­ter get­ting three in the Su­per Bowl in Fe­bru­ary.

CHICAGO

Sur­prise: RB Jor­dan Howard, a fifth-round draft pick, has be­come the main man run­ning the ball, av­er­ag­ing 5.1 yards a carry.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR Kevin White, who missed his 2015 rookie sea­son with a left leg in­jury and is back on in­jured re­serve with an­other leg prob­lem.

DAL­LAS

Sur­prise: QB Dak Prescott, no ques­tions asked. The Cow­boys could have been look­ing at a re­peat of 2015 without Tony Romo, but the fourthround pick stepped in and they are 7-1.

Dis­ap­point­ment: Owner Jerry Jones tak­ing so long to set aside his al­le­giance to Romo and ac­cept Prescott as the start­ing QB.

DETROIT

Sur­prise: QB Matthew Stafford, play­ing without star WR Calvin John­son for the first time, has the high­est passer rat­ing in his eight-year ca­reer.

Dis­ap­point­ment: DE Ziggy An­sah, com­ing off a 14½-sack sea­son, has ei­ther been in­ef­fec­tive or in­jured this sea­son.

GREEN BAY

Sur­prise: LB Nick Perry in his fifth sea­son is fi­nally liv­ing up to be­ing a 2012 first-rounder. Slowed by var­i­ous in­juries, he came into the 2016 sea­son healthy, and it’s pay­ing off.

Dis­ap­point­ment: RB Ed­die Lacy, who looked trim­mer af­ter tweak­ing his train­ing rou­tine in the off­sea­son, then wound up on in­jured re­serve.

LOS AN­GE­LES

Sur­prise: WR Kenny Britt, has res­ur­rected his ca­reer af­ter prob­lems on and off the field, and has be­come a down­field threat.

Dis­ap­point­ment: QB Jared Goff, the top over­all draft pick, hasn’t come close to get­ting on the field be­hind jour­ney­man Case Keenum.

MIN­NESOTA

Sur­prise: WR Cor­dar­relle Pat­ter­son was rel­e­gated to a kick­off re­turn role for the past two years. He’s im­proved enough as a re­ceiver to factor in as a com­ple­men­tary pass catcher, also ex­cels as the out­side cov­er­age man on the punt team.

Dis­ap­point­ment: LG Alex Boone, al­though the en­tire of­fen­sive line ought to qual­ify for this dis­honor. Boone was the big-money ad­di­tion to a group that needed a boost, but the Vik­ings have been strug­gling badly up front.

NEW OR­LEANS

Sur­prise: LB Craig Robert­son came in un­her­alded as a likely backup to James Lau­ri­naitis or 2015 first-rounder Stephone An­thony. In­stead he’s start­ing and re­li­able.

Dis­ap­point­ment: RB Mark In­gram had no 100yard games thru seven weeks, but pro­duced a 158-yard out­ing Sun­day. Still, he has been turnover prone and not the factor New Or­leans ex­pects.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Sur­prise: S Lan­don Collins, the se­cond-round draft pick in 2015, has been the best player on the team af­ter strug­gling as a rookie.

Dis­ap­point­ment: The en­tire of­fense, which has added WRs Vic­tor Cruz, back from in­jury, and rookie Ster­ling Shep­ard. It was one of the best in the league last sea­son.

PHILADEL­PHIA

Sur­prise: Rookie Car­son Wentz was el­e­vated from No. 3 QB to starter eight days be­fore the sea­son opener af­ter only play­ing part of the first pre­sea­son game. He led the Ea­gles to a 3-0 record, and he’s played well de­spite four losses in five games since.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR Nel­son Agholor, a firstround pick in 2015, is mov­ing closer to­ward be­ing a bust with each un­pro­duc­tive game.

SAN FRAN­CISCO

Sur­prise: WR Jeremy Ker­ley, picked up in a trade from Detroit just be­fore the start of the sea­son, leads the team as a pass catcher.

Dis­ap­point­ment: On the con­trary, WR Tor­rey Smith, San Fran­cisco’s big free-agent ac­qui­si­tion in 2015, has had lit­tle im­pact and has strug­gled to get open con­sis­tently.

SEAT­TLE

Sur­prise: C Justin Britt started his ca­reer as a right tackle, moved to left guard and this sea­son took over at cen­ter.

Dis­ap­point­ment: RBs Thomas Rawls and Chris­tine Michael. Seat­tle’s once-vaunted run game is bro­ken. Rawls had a break­out 2015 be­fore he broke his an­kle, and has been in­jury prone this sea­son. Michael has shown flashes, but not enough con­sis­tency.

TAMPA BAY

Sur­prise: RB Jac­quizz Rodgers, who had ca­reerbest per­for­mances fill­ing in for in­jured Doug Martin un­til Rodgers him­self got hurt.

Dis­ap­point­ment: K Roberto Aguayo, for whom the Bucs traded up in the se­cond round, say­ing he was the best kicker in col­lege foot­ball his­tory. He’s been in­con­sis­tent at best.

WASH­ING­TON

Sur­prise: OLB Trent Mur­phy looked likely to be a backup DE, but Ju­nior Galette tore his Achilles ten­don. Mur­phy molded him­self into a pass-rush­ing LB and he’s been ter­rific.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR Josh Doct­son, a firstround pick, was prac­ti­cally in­vis­i­ble, played in only two games, and even­tu­ally went on IR.

AP FILE

Sstrong safety Lan­don Collins has been a pleas­ant sur­prise this sea­son for Giants.

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