Dis­ap­point­ments and sur­prises in AFC so far

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

Nor is it hard to spot the sur­pris­ingly suc­cess­ful teams so far in 2016 putting them­selves in the cham­pi­onship mix, from the Dal­las Cow­boys to the Oak­land Raiders.

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 AFC teams sug­gest the fol­low­ing.


Sur­prise: LB Zachary Orr leads the team in tack­les as a third-year player.

Dis­ap­point­ment: QB Joe Flacco has looked ten­ta­tive in the pocket and has more in­ter­cep­tions than TDs. Granted, the Ravens have no run­ning game and the left side of the O-Line has been in­jured, but still ...


Sur­prise: LB Lorenzo Alexan­der, maybe the most pleas­ant de­vel­op­ment in the NFL this sea­son. The free-agent ad­di­tion, a jour­ney­man in his 10th sea­son, is among the league lead­ers in sacks.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR Sammy Watkins (left foot) is hob­bled by in­jury for the third straight sea­son and is on IR, though he could re­turn this month.


Sur­prise: WR A.J. Green was lead­ing the NFL in re­cep­tions when Cincin­nati went on its bye de­spite be­ing the fo­cus of op­pos­ing de­fenses on ev­ery pass­ing play.

Dis­ap­point­ment: DT Geno Smith had 42 tack­les and 11 sacks last sea­son. Through eight games, he has only 16 tack­les and 3½ sacks, and the Ben­gals are 3-4-1.


Sur­prise: WR Ter­relle Pryor only made the con­ver­sion from quar­ter­back last sea­son and has quickly de­vel­oped into a play­maker. Through the first nine games, Pryor had 46 catches and four touch­downs.

Dis­ap­point­ment: QB Robert Grif­fin III. Not his fault, but he broke a bone in his shoul­der in the sea­son opener that de­prived him of a chance at a come­back and the Browns from see­ing if he could be their long-term an­swer.


Sur­prise: QB Trevor Siemian was an af­ter­thought when Pey­ton Man­ning re­tired. Now he’s the start­ing QB on a play­off con­tender.

Dis­ap­point­ment; OT Rus­sell Okung, who went through a stretch of five hold­ing calls in three games and gave up a sack-strip.


Sur­prise: DE Jade­veon Clowney, fi­nally healthy af­ter two in­jury-filled years. His move from out­side linebacker has helped the Tex­ans make up for the loss of J.J. Watt.

Dis­ap­point­ment: QB Brock Osweiler got a $72 mil­lion con­tract and has thrown the same num­ber of in­ter­cep­tions (nine) as touch­downs. Hous­ton’s pass­ing game ranks among the worst in the league.


Sur­prise: TE Jack Doyle, claimed off waivers from Ten­nessee in 2013, has steadily pro­gressed each sea­son and al­ready sur­passed his pre­vi­ous ca­reer to­tals in yards and TD catches.

Dis­ap­point­ment: Coach Chuck Pagano. Af­ter sign­ing a four-year deal, be­ing given more au­thor­ity over some de­ci­sions and armed with a healthy An­drew Luck, it looked as if Pagano would take his se­cond chance and run with it. In­stead, the Colts have got­ten stuck in neu­tral.


Sur­prise: DE Yan­nick Ngak­oue, a third-round pick from Mary­land who has four sacks and three forced fum­bles and has re­placed Dante Fowler in the start­ing lineup.

Dis­ap­point­ment: QB Blake Bor­tles has been so in­ac­cu­rate and in­con­sis­tent that he brought in a me­chan­ics coach for a two­day re­fresher course, a last­ditch ef­fort to turn his sea­son around.


Sur­prise: WR Tyreek Hill, a fifth-round pick ex­pected to be pri­mar­ily a kick re­turner, al­ready has 19 catches for 223 yards and four touch­downs.

Dis­ap­point­ment: OLB Tamba Hali signed a three­year, $21 mil­lion con­tract when the Chiefs re­al­ized they would be without Justin Hous­ton most of the sea­son, but he’s ag­ing be­fore their eyes.


Sur­prise: RB Jay Ajayi has turned a weak ground game into a strength by av­er­ag­ing 6.0 yards per play and has six TDs.

Dis­ap­point­ment: WR DeVante Parker, a 2015 first-rounder, has done lit­tle to es­tab­lish him­self as a com­ple­ment to top tar­get Jarvis Landry.


Sur­prise: RB LeGar­rette Blount, whose pro­duc­tion over the first four games com­ing off hip in­jury last sea­son helped take the pres­sure off Jimmy Garop­polo and Ja­coby Bris­sett.

Dis­ap­point­ment: CB Cyrus Jones, a sec­on­drounder, has strug­gled in his lim­ited ac­tion re­turn­ing punts, was ejected at Cleve­land and hasn’t played since.


Sur­prise: WR Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-rounder in 2014, has blos­somed into a le­git­i­mate play­maker in Chan Gai­ley’s of­fense. With Eric Decker out, Enunwa has stepped up as the No. 2 re­ceiver be­hind Bran­don Mar­shall.

Dis­ap­point­ment: CB Dar­relle Re­vis, a for­mer shut­down de­fender, has looked mostly medi­ocre this sea­son, no longer re­sem­bling the guy who left op­pos­ing teams’ best receivers stranded on “Re­vis Is­land.”


Sur­prise: RB Jalen Richard, an un­drafted free agent, has helped pro­vide depth be­hind Latavius Mur­ray.

Dis­ap­point­ment: CB Sean Smith, a ma­jor free agent ad­di­tion who got benched in the opener and strug­gled ear­lier in the sea­son be­fore show­ing some im­prove­ment of late.


Sur­prise: WR Sam­mie Coates led the league in yards per re­cep­tion (21.3) be­fore in­jur­ing his left in­dex fin­ger. He’s been a longdis­tance threat.

Dis­ap­point­ment: LB James Har­ri­son is hardly the only dis­ap­point­ment on an un­der­whelm­ing de­fense, but the 38-year-old is still look­ing for his first sack while see­ing his play­ing time slowly de­crease.


Sur­prise: Top draft pick DE Joey Bosa. Af­ter a hold­out and ham­string in­jury that cost him four games, he has be­come a force on the Charg­ers’ de­fense, par­tic­u­larly in op­pos­ing back­fields.

Dis­ap­point­ment: That the team couldn’t get the rookie de­fen­sive end signed in time for train­ing camp. A squab­ble over money he was due and off­set lan­guage caused the No. 3 over­all pick to miss camp. Af­ter sign­ing, Bosa pulled the ham­string and the Charg­ers went 1-3 without him.


Sur­prise: RB DeMarco Mur­ray. For a player who looked washed up in Chip Kelly’s of­fense in Philadel­phia last sea­son and cost the Ti­tans only swap­ping 13 spots in the fourth round of the draft, what a bar­gain.


Cor­ner­back Dar­relle Re­vis, left, has been medi­ocre at best for the Jets this sea­son.

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