In typical style, the NFL is again unpredictable heading into Week 8 – Los Angeles Times

Soccer is a sport of misdirection and disguise, and there have been loads of each in the NFL this season.

Usually, the solely certainty about the league has been its unpredictability.

The Philadelphia Eagles are hovering, the Rams are rising, the New England Patriots are beginning to present their age and nobody is aware of what to make of the Miami Dolphins.

A few of the sport’s greatest stars — Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham Jr. — are injured and watching from the sideline as a brand new wave of expertise emerges.

With the league approaching the halfway level of the common season, a few of the surprises to date:

The arrival of Jared Goff — The Rams had been Zero-7 with Goff as their starter final season, and their offense was slowed down. Whereas not everybody wrote Goff off as a bust, it definitely appeared like the membership wildly overpaid for him by buying and selling all the approach as much as the No. spot. To date, he’s the greatest quarterback in the NFC West, amongst the extra composed and constant in the league, and his Rams are 5-2. Exhibits what good teaching — together with a revitalized working again, certain-handed receivers and out of the blue stable offensive line — can do.

The place did you go, Andrew Luck? — It seems like 2011 again for Indianapolis, after we by no means knew for certain if Peyton Manning could be again. He by no means returned to the Colts after these 4 neck procedures (however would relaunch his profession in Denver, getting the Broncos to 2 Tremendous Bowls.) With Luck, who’s coming off shoulder surgical procedure, the query persists: When is he returning to play?

Bolts are recharged — Actually, it shouldn’t be a shock that the Chargers are digging their approach out of a gap. It appears to occur each season. They had been on the street to irrelevance at Zero-four, however they’ve regained their footing with three straight wins and now are again in the AFC West race. A number of credit score goes to that defensive entrance, which has induced all kinds of issues for opposing quarterbacks.

Wentzylvania — Carson Wentz was good as a Philadelphia rookie final season, however he’s actually rounding into a star now. He’s poised in the pocket and may run (and with energy) when the alternative is proper. He’s acquired the qualities of a wholesome Luck. The larger shock on the Eagles has been the play of receiver Nelson Agholor, the former USC standout and 2015 first-spherical decide who already has 5 touchdowns this season after totaling simply three in his first two seasons.

The Cowboys are mediocre — Six video games into its schedule and three-three Dallas already has matched final season’s loss whole. The group is -2 at house, and the luster is off the dynamic duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Followers even appear to be tuning out (a bit) as final Sunday’s sport in opposition to San Francisco scored a 25.2 ranking in Dallas. That’s the lowest since a 2015 Thanksgiving Day sport in opposition to Carolina — and Thanksgiving scores are typically decrease as a result of folks usually are out of the home and watching in teams.

Broncos busted — Denver is as one-sided as the Rams had been final yr. The Broncos are completely reliant on their No. protection to maintain them in video games. They’re at three-three with 11 touchdowns in six video games. Bear in mind when Manning had seven in a single sport? Looks like a century in the past.

Trick or tweet — Regardless of the place you fall on the kneeling-during-the-anthem protests, it’s fairly bizarre that the NFL has gotten a lot consideration on President Trump’s Twitter feed. Usually, the solely discuss of knees at this level in the season is chatter about injured ones.

Afterthought now not — Jacksonville is for actual, with a league-main 33 sacks — Carolina is second with 24 — and 10 interceptions, second to Baltimore (12). The Jaguars can get the job performed on the different aspect of the ball, too, with the No. speeding assault and 10th-ranked offense general. This will’t be ignored: Jacksonville is second in turnover differential at plus-8, with Buffalo main at plus-10. Worst in the league? Winless Cleveland at minus-11.

Out of nowhere — The little-recognized Alex Collins is main Baltimore in speeding and ran for 113 yards in Thursday’s blowout in opposition to Miami, turning into the group’s first participant to interrupt the 100-yard mark in additional than a yr. He was minimize by Seattle and wasn’t on Baltimore’s lively roster till Week 2. He’s additionally a gifted Irish dancer, which means he and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, an completed opera singer, may placed on a fairly good Broadway present.

It’s elementary — No checklist of NFL surprises is full with out point out of the exceptional emergence of Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans have averaged 34 factors a sport in Watson’s 5 begins and have new life regardless of some vital accidents. The third quarterback taken in final spring’s draft behind Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes, Watson set a rookie file by needing simply six video games to throw his first 15 landing passes.

Razor’s edge — As soon as all however unbeatable at house, New England already has misplaced two video games this season at Gillette Stadium, and the group seems susceptible. Tom Brady is nonetheless going sturdy at age 40, however that Patriots protection is ranked final in the league and now has to deal with the lack of star linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Good time for the Chargers to catch them at house.

Clipped wings — What occurred to that prime-flying Atlanta Falcons offense? Kyle Shanahan, who drew up the performs final season, is now head coach in San Francisco (the place the 49ers are nonetheless in search of their first win), and Steve Sarkisian is offensive coordinator in Atlanta. That transition has not gone easily, and the three-three Falcons have misplaced three in a row, most just lately a 23-7 defeat in a Tremendous Bowl rematch with the Patriots. In equity, Atlanta’s protection has been awful too.

Anybody’s guess — The wackiest division has been the AFC East, the place the Patriots have taken a step again, Buffalo and the New York Jets have been surprisingly aggressive and Miami has been throughout the map. The Dolphins had gained three in a row earlier than a brow-slapping, 40-Zero loss at Baltimore that underscored the unpredictability of this season.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Comply with Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

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In typical style, the NFL is again unpredictable heading into Week 8 - Los Angeles Times