3 Biggest surprises of the 2023 NFL season through Week 3

Sep 25, 2023, 1:30 PM | Updated: 2:14 pm

Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates with De'Von Achane #28 of the Miami Dolphins aft...

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Just like that, Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season is about to conclude after Monday Night’s contests. 

While there is a lot of season left to be played, a few key points started to emerge across the country. On the West Coast, the San Francisco 49ers reign supreme, starting 3-0 for the second time in the last 25 seasons. On the other side of the map, the Miami Dolphins have been stellar, dominating the Denver Broncos in a 50-point win Sunday

But there are a few other standouts that might have gotten swept under the rug or frankly, we just didn’t see coming. 

So here are the biggest surprises of the 2023 season through Week 3.

1. The Arizona Cardinals

Are they good? Bad? Competitive? All we know is that they are super fun and frisky to watch every Sunday, regardless of the matchup.

The team that everyone thought was tanking for the presumed No.1 overall pick in next year’s draft, Caleb Williams, is now 1-2 to start the 2023 season. After cutting quarterback Colt McCoy at the end of training camp, new head coach Jonathan Gannon turned to Joshua Dobbs, a player they traded for in August to lead the franchise in 2023.

And he’s been average to above average, to the point that Arizona won Week 3’s clash with the Dallas Cowboys in dominating fashion. 

Shocking the world Sunday, Dobbs and the offense combined for 400 net yards against the Cowboys. The gunslinger was effective under center, throwing for 189 yards and one touchdown. He also used his legs, rushing for 55 yards. 

On the other side, the Cardinals’ defense caused fits for the Cowboys all afternoon, ultimately leading to the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter. The game ended 28-16 to Arizona, leading for the entirety of the afternoon. 

But it’s not just one game though, leading the New York Giants and Washington Commanders at various points in their last two games. If not for some big-time comebacks by the opposition, the Cardinals would be 3-0 to start 2023. 

The point is that Arizona is not the easy out that we all thought they would be heading into the regular season. Teams like San Francisco need to be extra wary when they see them on the schedule moving forward.

2. Miami is a Super Bowl contender in the AFC

It’s one thing to have a potent offense in football, it’s a whole other thing to be the 2023 Miami Dolphins.

Year two of coach Mike McDaniel in South Beach has gotten off to a roaring start, with his team firing on all cylinders. QB Tua Tagovailoa is back and better than ever, running a high-tempo attack that has frightened everyone. He also looked good through adversity, making plays against the New England Patriots in Week 2 that he hadn’t done before.

Add that to the awesome weapons that are WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, plus the run game working, it’s a sight to behold for the Dolphins.

Week 3 was the pinnacle of all that, scoring 70 points on the Denver Broncos and coach Sean Payton. McDaniel had his way with his former club, putting up 726 net yards on offense. Yeah, you read that correctly, 726! 

The creativity of his play-calling is only matched by what they are doing in San Francisco, scheming up formations that leave the opposition in shambles. 

It’ll be interesting to see how Miami does the rest of the year, especially considering they started 3-0 last season too. But for now, they are the cream of the crop in the AFC, right there with the Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl contender in the AFC.

3. C.J. Stroud might be the best QB of the 2023 class

The 2023 draft class had a lot of talent come out, particularly at the QB spot. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis were the cream of the crop at signal-caller this year, all with the talent to be franchise leaders. But through the first three weeks of year one, only one stands alone.

And that’s Stroud.

The Houston Texans have been competent on offense under Stroud and coach DeMeco Ryans, scoring 66 points in the first three weeks of 2023. The last two games have been the best showings, getting 57 points in eight quarters played.

Through three games, Stroud has 906 passing yards and four TDs. That might seem like a lot, but here’s some context: The Ohio State alum is only the third QB to throw for 900-plus yards in his first three starts, joining Cam Newton (1,012 in 2011) and Justin Herbert (931 in 2020).

Week 3 was his best performance to date, putting 280 yards and two TDs on the road in Jacksonville, winning his first game as a pro, 37-17. While it wasn’t a one-man show, the rookie did his part, standing in the pocket confidently throughout. His best pass came in the fourth quarter, hitting fellow rookie Tank Dell for the game-sealing TD for 68 yards. 

It’s definitely early in his young career, but you can see the promise that made him a second-overall pick in the spring. And after having decision-making questions entering the NFL, he’s looked the most poise despite playing with a banged-up Texans team.

Again, it’s early, but Houston may have a problem for the rest of the AFC South.

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