By Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
Now that the NFL season has reached the midway point, here are my picks for the most surprising and most disappointing teams thus far.
San Francisco 49ers
Entering the season, the 49ers were considered a sleeper team to make the playoffs. After spending the past few seasons acquiring talent, it appeared as if it would pay off soon. I don’t think anyone expected it to pay off this well, and I’m not alone. As of week nine, San Francisco is 8-0 with five wins coming by 13 or more points. The offense is second in rushing with 1,369 yards and has three running backs with over 300 yards. There have been six offenses with two 1,000 yard rushers and it seems that the 49ers will be joining them by week 17.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is towards the bottom half of the league in passing, but his 17-2 record as a starter speaks for itself. He isn’t playing like the franchise quarterback San Francisco expected, but the 49ers continue to win.
San Francisco’s defense has been the main reason for their success. They are currently No. 2 in total defense, surrendering less than 140 passing yards and just over 100 rushing yards per game. Not even the 2013 Seattle Seahawks came close to this level of success. There is still half a season remaining, but they are playing as well as they could. Defensive end Nick Bosa looks like the frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year. His seven sacks are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL and is tied with Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen for best among rookies.
The dangerous aspect of their unit is they have talent at all three levels. Defensive ends Arik Armstead and Dee Ford are two of the pieces the 49ers have acquired recently and are both contributing. Cornerback Richard Sherman has three interceptions and is continuing to play at a high level. The sky’s the limit for San Francisco, and if they continue playing this well, they can challenge anyone in the league.
While the 49ers are playing better than expected, the Falcons are on the opposite end. Currently, their offense is among the league’s best in yardage, entering week ten as the second best passing offense in the league. However, Atlanta only has 548 rushing yards which is near the bottom of the NFL.
Atlanta isn’t scoring as many points as they should be either, they have the 23rd most points with 165. Their offensive line is a place where the struggles are clear. Pro Football Focus ranked their offensive line 24th heading into week eight. After spending two first-round picks on the offensive line this year, the lack of production is not a good sign for the front office.
While the offense needs to improve, the defense needs even more work.
The Falcons defense entered week nine ranked No. 27 in total defense and has been significantly worse since their Super Bowl three years ago. While they have dealt with injuries to key players, the lack of depth is a concern. One of the biggest issues is rushing the passer as Atlanta only has seven sacks through eight games, the fewest in the league.
Head coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks defensive coordinator during the Legion of Boom era. It’s shocking to see his defense play so poorly, and will likely result in him losing his job. Atlanta has a lot of work ahead if they want to recover from a 1-7 start.
Other teams such as the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears have disappointed, but not as much as the Falcons have. I believed a healthy defense could get them into the playoffs, I was wrong. I also doubted San Francisco and have been proven wrong. Overall, it’s been an interesting start to the season, and I look forward to seeing how the second half progresses.