The NFL season is a quarter of the way complete and nothing is as it might have seemed. The Vikings and Eagles are up, the Cardinals and Panthers are down. The Broncos and Patriots have been just fine, even without Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. With Brady set to return from a four-game suspension, the Times' Bucs/NFL coverage team looks at the biggest surprises and disappointments so far this season.
Coach of the year
Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud
Bill Belichick. Went 3-1 without Tom Brady using two other QBs.
Tom Jones, @tomwjones
Mike Zimmer, Vikings. Holding this team together in the face of so much adversity is impressive.
Greg Auman, @gregauman
The easy pick is Eagles coach Doug Pederson with such early success as a rookie head coach. Instead we'll go with Mike Zimmer, who has overcome ridiculous adversity on the eve of the season to keep his team atop a tough division.
Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics
Bill Belichick, Patriots. It's an obvious pick, but it's also the right one. Belichick just went 3-1 with two quarterbacks who had never started an NFL game. The Patriots didn't just get by with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, either. The duo completed 67 percent of their passes, threw four touchdowns and no interceptions, averaged 7.9 yards per attempt and posted a 102.1 quarterback rating.
Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly
Belichick. Yeah, even after the loss to Buffalo. Patriots are 3-1 and Brady hasn't taken a snap yet. Belichick. Could make case for Jeff Fisher with 3-1 Rams and Jack Del Rio with 3-1 Raiders. But: Belichick. Drat.
Coach on the hot seat
Gus Bradley. Held the hounds at bay with a win in London over the Colts.
Gus Bradley, Jags. I was tempted to put Dirk Koetter here, but not sure Koetter has the horses to say he's underperforming.
Sean Payton. Barely avoiding an 0-4 start, how many years can we talk about the Saints having a bad enough defense to offset Drew Brees and a prolific offense? If they finish last in a bad NFC South, you have to wonder how much time Payton has left to find success as Brees' years run out.
Mike McCoy, Chargers. San Diego's actually not as bad as its 1-3 record indicates. But the Chargers, in their fourth season under McCoy, are finding ways to lose. Sound familiar? In each of its losses, San Diego has led in the fourth quarter.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Make it coaches, plural. Rex Ryan (2-2 Bills) is off it, but there's a mad scramble between Chuck Pagano (1-3 Colts), Mike McCoy (1-3 Chargers), Gus Bradley (1-3 Jaguars), Mike Mularkey (1-3 Titans). And, with nine or 10 more badly-placed losses, Dirk Koetter (1-3 Bucs).