1. Dallas Cowboys
When Tony Romo broke his back in the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks, most people considered the Cowboys doomed. But now sitting at 7-1 and flanked by the NFL’s best rushing attack, the Cowboys are well on their way to a deep postseason run. Their offensive line is still the best in the business, and rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott look like seasoned veterans. Romo is healthy, but with the way the Cowboys are rolling, it looks like he will be holding the clipboard for the Mississippi State product. There is no doubt 'America's Team' has been the biggest surprise nine weeks into the NFL season.
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2. Oakland Raiders
Not many people could’ve predicted quarterback Derek Carr to be an MVP candidate and Jack Del Rio to be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year halfway through the season. Sitting at 7-2 atop the AFC West with a potent Amari Cooper-Michael Crabtree duo, Carr has all the necessary firepower to lead this high-octane offense. With 2,505 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, the third year signal caller has the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl hunt for the first time in more than a decade.
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3. Atlanta Falcons
Aside from Derek Carr and that guy in New England, Matt Ryan has been one of the biggest surprise MVP candidates of the season. Ryan is averaging 315 yards per game for a team that is No. 1 in the league in points scored per contest (33.9). After winning four straight, Atlanta dropped two in a row, but they have rebounded as of late and look to be one of the better teams in the NFL. With Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as major weapons, Ryan should be able to keep this team rolling.
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4. Arizona Cardinals
It’s hard to figure out how the Cardinals are 3-4-1. A team that was a game away from Super Bowl 50, the Bird Gang has looked lost this year. Seattle seems to have control of the NFC West, but the Cardinals could still make a playoff run. However, for a team with Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, standout running back David Johnson and an elite defense, Arizona’s underwhelming start has been extremely surprising.
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5. Carolina Panthers
No one could’ve predicted the reigning MVP’s team would spend the first half of the season at the bottom of the NFC South. The 3-5 start for the Carolina Panthers has definitely been one of the biggest surprises of the year. In their losses, the Panthers have given up 29.8 points per game — an uncharacteristic statistic for a typically stingy Luke Kuechly-led unit. For a team that played in the Super Bowl last season, the Panthers haven’t looked close to their 2015 form. But with two wins as of late, the Ron Rivera-run squad still has a chance to sneak into the playoffs.
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