There's been only one predictable element to the 2013 NFL season: It's been unpredictable.
Plenty of moments in this campaign have colored me stunned, but here are the nine biggest surprises at the midway point, Schein Nine style.
1) Matthew Stafford has been elite
Last season was rough for the underachieving Detroit Lions, who finished 4-12, and Stafford didn't help matters with his 20-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
This season, Stafford has been flawless, showing off arguably the game's strongest arm, plus pinpoint control and a knack for clutch play. Did you see the lasers Stafford threw Sunday during the game-winning drive against the Cowboys? My goodness, that was impressive.
Stafford has been clutch, dominant and a true leader this season. He's a top-five quarterback and an MVP candidate.
2) The Falcons are a mess
Entering the season, a wild-card berth would've been considered a disappointment for the Falcons. A 2-5 record is unfathomable and a gigantic letdown.
3) The Saints' defense is dominant under Rob Ryan
Well, the Saints have only one loss and are true Super Bowl contenders partly because of Ryan's game-changing defense, which ranks 12th in the NFL. It's the perfect complement to Drew Brees and the Saints' well-known offensive attack. Ryan is an aggressive mirror image of Payton calling plays, so it's turned out to be a great marriage.
4) The Panthers are above .500 -- and tough
I wrote Carolina's epitaph before the season. When the Panthers were 1-3, I looked like a prophet. Now that they're 4-3? Not so much.
5) Case Keenum over Matt Schaub in Houston
When I wrote in the preseason that Schaub was the player most singularly tied to his team's fortunes, I didn't expect him to be the captain of the Titanic.
6) Chip Kelly's poor decision-making
I also believed Kelly would make a rather easy transition from college to the pros. That hasn't happened.
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Take Sunday's loss to the New York Giants. Why not run LeSean McCoy on first-and-goal at the 2? Matt Barkley was sacked and fumbled, which was predictable because he's been a turnover machine. Why punt in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-4 from midfield? Why call an onside kick in a one-score game with 4:11 remaining?
7) Terrelle Pryor's rise in Oakland
I wrote in the preseason that I thought Pryor would play, but I never imagined he'd be the Raiders' Energizer Bunny.
Pryor is a tremendous worker, leader and athlete, and he's a much better thrower than I originally thought, completing 63.1 percent of his passes. He inspires the Silver and Black, which might not be in the quarterback business in next year's draft -- potentially a stunning turn of events.
8) The Ravens don't have an identity
Nobody is debating whether or not Joe Flacco is elite. He isn't even relevant right now. Ray Rice has been a non-factor, with just 242 rushing yards. Baltimore's defense, which I believed would be better than the version that won the Super Bowl, doesn't intimidate and sits in the middle of the pack in league rankings.
The biggest question is, who are the Ravens? Are they a run-first team? The offensive line has had issues. Are they Flacco's team? They lack weapons, and Flacco hasn't played well. They've blown leads, been blown out and rarely looked anything but mediocre. That's surprising from the defending Super Bowl champions.
9) An NFL team called about Brett Favre
Memo to NFL teams: Lose Favre's number.