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Surprises in the NFL
November 13, 2012
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It's Thursday night and Week 11 has just gotten underway with the latest edition of Thursday Night Football. Let's take a look at three of the most surprising teams in the NFL after ten weeks:

First we have the Denver Broncos, whose biggest recent adjustment was the switch from an ultra-conservative offense led by Tim Tebow to a more complicated aerial attack led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who missed all of last season with neck surgeries. The initial results were poor as the Broncos suffered three defeats in their first five games as pundits questioned Manning’s arm strength and readiness for the season. The turning point came in a Week 6 matchup with the Chargers, in which Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half, leading his team to the first of four consecutive victories. Another key to the Broncos’ success has been the emergence of talented wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Thomas leads the team with 891 yards in nine games, while Decker has amassed 598 yards and seven touchdowns. The revitalization of the passing game will need to continue this weekend as the Broncos host the San Diego Chargers.

Next up are the Minnesota Vikings, who are 1 and a half games back of the Chicago Bears at 6-4. The Vikings were not expected to contend after superstar running back Adrian Peterson had surgery on his torn ACL in the offseason. But Peterson surprisingly returned from his rehabilitation early and has been among the best offensive players in the league, averaging 112.8 rushing yards per game and scoring seven touchdowns on the year. Minnesota’s finest victory of the season came in a Week 3 game with the 49ers, in which quarterback Christian Ponder completed 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns against a very good defense. Ponder has regressed considerably in recent weeks, leading to an ever-shrinking margin for error on defense and in the running game. The keys for the Vikings in their remaining games after this week’s bye will be keeping the passing game afloat while relying on Peterson to carry the offense and take pressure off their middling defensive unit.

Lastly, we have the New Orleans Saints, who more closely resembled a reality TV show than a football team in the offseason as they recovered from their bounty scandal. With coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt suspended along with key defensive players Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, the team lost each of its first four games. The heart and soul of this team is quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns in nine games and has repeatedly kept his team in games despite miscues from a defensive unit that allows an NFL-worst 469 yards per game. On Sunday, Brees led his team to a crucial victory against the previously undefeated Falcons, with tight end Jimmy Graham leading all receivers with 146 yards receiving and two touchdowns. With four wins in the last five games, the Saints are poised to get back into playoff contention if Brees can guide the team to a win over the Oakland Raiders this weekend.

First we have the Denver Broncos, whose biggest recent adjustment was the switch from an ultra-conservative offense led by Tim Tebow to a more complicated aerial attack led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who missed all of last season with neck surgeries. The initial results were poor as the Broncos suffered three defeats in their first five games as pundits questioned Manning’s arm strength and readiness for the season. The turning point came in a Week 6 matchup with the Chargers, in which Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half, leading his team to the first of four consecutive victories. Another key to the Broncos’ success has been the emergence of talented wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Thomas leads the team with 891 yards in nine games, while Decker has amassed 598 yards and seven touchdowns. The revitalization of the passing game will need to continue this weekend as the Broncos host the San Diego Chargers.

Next up are the Minnesota Vikings, who are 1 and a half games back of the Chicago Bears at 6-4. The Vikings were not expected to contend after superstar running back Adrian Peterson had surgery on his torn ACL in the offseason. But Peterson surprisingly returned from his rehabilitation early and has been among the best offensive players in the league, averaging 112.8 rushing yards per game and scoring seven touchdowns on the year. Minnesota’s finest victory of the season came in a Week 3 game with the 49ers, in which quarterback Christian Ponder completed 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns against a very good defense. Ponder has regressed considerably in recent weeks, leading to an ever-shrinking margin for error on defense and in the running game. The keys for the Vikings in their remaining games after this week’s bye will be keeping the passing game afloat while relying on Peterson to carry the offense and take pressure off their middling defensive unit.

Lastly, we have the New Orleans Saints, who more closely resembled a reality TV show than a football team in the offseason as they recovered from their bounty scandal. With coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt suspended along with key defensive players Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, the team lost each of its first four games. The heart and soul of this team is quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns in nine games and has repeatedly kept his team in games despite miscues from a defensive unit that allows an NFL-worst 469 yards per game. On Sunday, Brees led his team to a crucial victory against the previously undefeated Falcons, with tight end Jimmy Graham leading all receivers with 146 yards receiving and two touchdowns. With four wins in the last five games, the Saints are poised to get back into playoff contention if Brees can guide the team to a win over the Oakland Raiders this weekend.


Originally Aired: Tuesday, November 13, 2012. This is a part of the 93-Second Sports Shot series. 93-Second Sports Shots air weekday evenings at 6pm.
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