While the NFL season isn’t defined by two games, a couple of games is a good place to start picking up some trends. Some are expected and others are a bit unexpected, and that’s the last category we’ll explore below as our NFL Nation writers pick which unexpected trends have real staying power and which are a mirage, a blip on the NFL’s 17-game radar.

Some of the trends below make fans feel pretty good, like the Detroit Lions scoring bushels of touchdowns, Jalen Hurts playing in a potential MVP clip for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills, who are great at just about everything. Others are a little more troubling, like the Cincinnati Bengals’ lack of first-half touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams frustrating fantasy owners for using runners Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr.

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Let’s move on to real or mirage estimates, starting with NFC East:

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Go to command:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | VALLEY | | TO | GB | HOW | AT
JAX | CS | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MY
northeast | NO | New York | New York | FI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | VS

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Early Surprise: Only two touchdowns allowed in two games

Verdict: Real. Okay, the Cowboys will allow over 17 touchdowns this season, but the second-year defensive surge under Dan Quinn is real and what they expected. In the first two games, they slowed down the offense under the protection of Tom Brady and Joe Barrow. While these teams have other challenges, this achievement is not to be taken lightly. For the Cowboys to be successful, even if Dak Prescott was healthy, the defense must be winning, and with three of the next four games against NFC East opponents of varying QB play, Dallas is doing pretty well. — Todd Archer


New York Giants

Early Surprise: Richie James – Lead Receiver

Verdict: Mirage. James leads the Giants with 10 catches and 110 yards. It’s a real revelation considering he seemed to be on the roster all summer long. But James quickly became the favorite of quarterback Daniel Jones. It’s just hard to imagine that this will continue throughout the season. Kadarius Toni played a big role in week two and rookie Van’Dale Robinson (knee) should be back in the next couple of weeks. Robinson’s return should cut James’ options, even if it doesn’t completely eliminate him from the rotation. — Jordan Raanan


Philadelphia Eagles

Early Surprise: Outstanding Performance by QB Jalen Hurts

Verdict: Real. The big question early in the season was whether Hurts could improve his game and turn the Eagles into legitimate contenders. For two games, he was their best player. Bookies agree. Hurts MVP odds went from 14-1 to 8-1 at Caesars Sportsbook during Monday night’s Vikings rout. He is now the third favorite behind Josh Allen (+325) and Patrick Mahomes (+450). While he may not stay at that level all season, his improved passing has made him more solid and difficult to defend. — Tim McManus


Washington football team

Early Surprise: Significant influence of W. R. Curtis Samuel

Verdict: Real. After two games, Samuel and Terry McLaurin are tied for the team lead with 133 receiving yards. Samuel was obviously a prolific player before joining Washington last year, but due to soft tissue injuries last season, he never looked like himself. But Samuel has looked sharp since the summer – his bottom speed is evident with his 85 yards after the catch. Samuel’s presence relieves the pressure on McLaurin and also helps free rookie Jahan Dotson, who now has three touchdowns, the best on the team. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago bears

Early Surprise: Running protection is a concern

Verdict: Real. The Bears were a bottom 11 team defending the series last season. In two games in 2022 with a redesigned defense, the Bears conceded 379 yards on the ground. They took a break after San Francisco running back Elijah Mitchell was out of the first week with an injury but was wiped out by the Aaron Jones-AJ Dillon tandem at Green Bay, allowing 5.3 carry yards and 203 rushing yards. in the second week. A lot of what went wrong in Week 2 is to blame, but the fact that the Bears will face a handful of decent (Dameon Pierce) to really good (Sakwon Barkley, Dalwyn Cooke) runners in their next three games is alarming. — Courtney Cronin


Detroit Lions

Early Surprise: The Lions have amassed at least 35 points in three straight games since last season.

Verdict: Real. With offense coordinator Ben Jonson calling the games, this Lions offense is explosive and creative. Quarterback Jared Goff has plenty of big game options in running back D’Andre Swift, wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark, and tight end TJ Hockenson. Detroit led 22-0 in the second quarter of their 36-27 victory over Washington last Sunday and scored 35 points in the season opener against Philadelphia. Along with the last year’s 37-point final, the Lions scored at least 35 points in three consecutive games for the first time since four games in 1952 and 1953. There’s no reason the Lions can’t keep scoring if their best guys stay healthy. — Eric Woodyard


Green Bay Packers

Early Surprise: Special teams weren’t terrible

Verdict: Real. So far so good under new coordinator Rich Bisaccia. There were no errors – no blocked shots, no return touchdowns against them. Newcomer Pat O’Donnell ranks sixth in the NFL in netting average and although Amari Rodgers missed one kickback, he recovered it and no damage was done. He also already has a 20-yard punt return — 3 yards short of the Packers’ longest punt return last season. — Rob Demowski


Minnesota Vikings

Early Surprise: Adam Thielen’s WR Goals Decreased

Verdict: Mirage. In the first six quarters of the season, Vikings No. 2 host Thielen had four targets. In fifth, quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​made a pass that was intercepted. Thielen scored six more goals on Monday afternoon as the Vikings struggled to catch up with the Eagles, and it seems unlikely that they will continue to play such a minor role with him. As long as he’s healthy, the Vikings will find ways to get him the ball. — Kevin Seifert

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Early Surprise: Influence of WR Rookie Drake London

Verdict: Real. The Falcons had a clear plan for their No. 8 pick as a tall receiver who could pose a threat in the red zone and line up both in and out of the slot. So far, he’s done it all, catching 13 of 19 targets at 160 yards and landing. London is helped by tight end Kyle Pitts getting so much attention from the defense but his emergence as a powerhouse for the Falcons is here to stay and could see the Pitts draw more attention as teams figure out what to do. with London. — Michael Rothstein


Carolina Panthers

Early Surprise: Panthers struggle to convert third downs

Verdict: Real. The Panthers, ranked 29th in the NFL for third-best conversion rates in 2021, are near last in the league this season with a 26% conversion rate (6 of 23). So far, they’ve only averaged 55.2 offensive shots and held onto their defense for far too long, ranking ninth in the league, on the field. This is an important reason why they started at 2-0 to extend their losing streak to nine in a row since last season, the longest in the league. — David Newton


New Orleans Saints

Early Surprise: Lack of protective bags

Verdict: Mirage. The Saints have only one sack in two games, placing them in 29th place compared to four at the same time last year. The Saints ended up finishing eighth last season with 46 sacks, and this group is basically the same in terms of personnel. While it’s a worrying statistic, Saints coach Dennis Allen isn’t bothered, saying they were still able to hold the ball well even though the Buccaneers were focused on hitting the ball quickly. “The sacks are coming,” Allen said. — Katherine Terrell


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Early Surprise: Protection has been turned off

Verdict: Real. In the first two games, the Bucks lost only 6.5 points per game on defense. In the first two games of last year, he scored 27 points. There has been a strong focus on more clearances, and this season there are already six. Todd Bowles shows why he deserves to be head coach again. Of course, they will be tested in combat over the next two weeks when Aaron Rogers and Patrick Mahomes come to town. — Jenna Lane

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Early Surprise: Cardinals have second worst pass defense

Verdict: Real. As long as the Cardinals keep their side players the way they are, namely their cornerbacks, the quarterbacks will salivate when they take the field against them. Aside from Byron Murphy Jr., who will aim for the Pro Bowl this year and end the Cardinals’ comeback victory over the Raiders with a touchdown return, Arizona’s cornerbacks will be a liability until they mature or are bolstered. . — Josh Weinfuss


Los Angeles Rams

Early Surprise: Using running back is inconsistent

Verdict: Real. I apologize to those who drafted the Rams in fantasy football this year, but two weeks from now, it’s hard to predict how Sean McVeigh will use his backs. In Week 1, Cam Akers had just three carries, with Darrell Henderson Jr. leading with 47 yards on 13 carries. But against the Falcons, it was Akers who led the carry team and was involved in the passing game, though Henderson still scored a touchdown and had 47 yards on 10 carries. Expect the split to continue in position and no one will run away with the RB1 role. — Sarah Barshop


San Francisco 49ers

Early Surprise: 49ers defense is in the top five

Verdict: Real. The Niners defense allowed just 216 yards against Seattle in Week 2 and brought…