NFL

Who Proved Us Wrong in 2015?

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Not only is the NFL’s regular season coming to an end, but so is 2015.

Topics such as Kirk Cousins or Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton being without Kelvin Benjamin dominated a lot of the headlines before the season.

Naturally as sports observers, it’s our job to project how things will pan out before it happens. However, there were four guys who completely proved us wrong.

Cam Newton – It’s suitable that we start off with this guy, the probable MVP.

Before the season, we knew the Carolina Panthers were a pretty good football team, but no one thought they were this good.

If it were up to Cam Newton, me and many other members of the media would’ve took a financial hit.

“No offense, but I find all media comical at times,” Newton said. “I think your guys’ profession, you can easily take back what you say. There’s no danger when somebody says it. … If it was a pay cut or if it was an incentive, if picking teams each and every week you may get a raise, I guarantee it, people would watching what they say then.

Obviously Newton wasn’t being completely serious, but honestly, who saw this coming?

Just a season ago, Carolina only averaged 21.2 points per game, but this year they’re putting up 30.8 points per game.

The truly remarkable thing about it is they’re doing it without top receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Benjamin caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards with nine touchdowns last year.

Newton has been electric this season as he’s taken the Panthers offense by the reigns and has become a complete quarterback.

Kirk Cousins – Remember when Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III was a thing?

Yeah, me neither.

In just a matter of months, Cousins has completely changed the way people view him as a starting quarterback.

Don’t become a prisoner of the moment, however, because Cousins struggled early on in the year, which brought up the benching question to head coach Jay Gruden.

“I think Kirk has done some good things in this season to warrant him some consideration to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League for some time,” Gruden stated. “Let’s see how he progresses, let’s see what happens here at the end of the year and go from there.”

Ever since that point on, Cousins has transformed into a NFC East division winning quarterback and someone who looks to be having a major payday coming his way.

Cousins has a touchdown to interception ratio of 26 to 11 to go along with 3,990 yards and a quarterback rating of 99.2.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Cousins stressed. “It will be quite a journey going forward. You almost expect it in this league the way things work and the way things can change quickly. But I’m very satisfied to see how the tables have turned this year. Now we look forward and say, ‘Where can we go from here?’ and ‘How high can we take it?’”

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon saw it coming all along.

“He commands the huddle, he has a lot of faith in us, that we can help him do well,” Garcon explained. “He is a natural-born leader, he’s definitely been planning for that for a long time.”

Just making the playoffs is a major accomplishment for the Redskins, but if they actually win a playoff game, they should build a Cousins statue outside FedEx Field.

Ryan Fitzpatrick – The situation in New York was somewhat similar to the one in the Washington.

The one major fundamental difference is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is a journeyman quarterback who’s been around the block a few times, while Geno Smith was suppose to be the franchise quarterback.

Now, this is not to say Fitzpatrick is the long-term solution because he is 33-years-old, but he’s looking to be the short-term solution for now at least.

“I felt like it was an opportunity for me to play, which in having been cut and having been released and traded and all the different things that I’ve been through in my career, you never know when opportunities are going to come,” Fitzpatrick said after practice. “Just try to take advantage of that the best I can.”

Fitzpatrick has a career-high 29 touchdowns this season and he only needs 109 passing yards this Sunday to surpass his previous season-high of 3,832 passing yards.

With one game left, the scenario is pretty simple for the Jets.

Win and they’re in.

Doug Martin – Following his rookie campaign, people were ready to crown Doug Martin as being one of the next great backs in the league.

Unfortunately, Martin was hindered with injuries and just overall poor play the past two seasons, which led tons of spectators to fall off his short lived hype train, including the Buccaneers front office.

Tampa Bay elected to decline Martin’s fifth-year option, which will make him a free agent this upcoming off-season.

“It didn’t surprise me and it’s – I don’t want to say it’s ‘whatever,’ but it’s something that comes along with the business and if I just do everything in my control, everything else will fall into place,” Martin told the local media during OTAs.

Now, with his fourth season coming to a screeching halt, it’s fair to say Martin has the juice back.

The former Boise State product has 1,354 rushing yards on the season, which ranks only behind Adrian Peterson. Also, Martin is averaging five yards per carry with seven total touchdowns.

It’ll be hard to envision Tampa Bay to allow Martin to walk in the off-season at this point, but at what price?


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.