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Insider

Ranking the NFL's most surprising teams

Andy Dalton has the Bengals at 8-0, but Jimmy Graham has struggled to get going in Seattle. USA TODAY Sports, AP Photo

Ryan Fitzpatrick's success with the New York Jets was not a surprise. Derek Carr's emergence as a budding star was not a surprise. The New England Patriots' top ranking among NFL offenses was not a surprise.

As for the Detroit Lions firing their team president, general manager and offensive coordinator before the second week of November? That was enough of a shock to make the Lions my most surprising team in the first half of this NFL season. Nine other teams made the cut for reasons good and bad:

1. Detroit Lions

Firing president Tom Lewand, general manager Martin Mayhew and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi less than one year after reaching the playoffs.

The departures of Ndamukong Suh and other defensive contributors threatened to put additional pressure on the Lions' offense this season. I could have envisioned a scenario in which Matthew Stafford slipped backward as the Lions dropped from the top five into the bottom half of NFL defenses. What actually happened -- Detroit ranking 28th in offensive expected points added (EPA) per game and 30th on the defensive side -- undercut even the lowest reasonable expectations.