There are four NFL teams currently in first place after failing to make the playoffs last season.
Perhaps there is no bigger surprise among them than the Seattle Seahawks, who have been led by the renaissance of their quarterback and keyed by two sensational rookies.
The Seahawks dominated the league's October Players of the Month, which were released Thursday with Seattle quarterback Geno Smith, rookie running back Kenneth Walker III and first-year cornerback Tariq Woolen leading the way.
Winners of three straight and four of five in October, the Seahawks have flown to the front of the NFC West. Smith has been a catalyst and resurrected his career in the process. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month after completing 102 of 147 passes (69.4%) for 1,207 yards, nine touchdowns, just one interception and an impressive 111.7 passer rating. Still fleet of foot, Smith also ran for 143 yards and a touchdown in the month.
Smith's play has been buoyed by the emergence of Walker, the Offensive Rookie of the Month. Over the past month, Walker has churned out 432 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns -- both totals tops among rookies. He's scored in four straight games.
Woolen, the Defensive Rookie of the Month, had interceptions in four straight games at one point, beginning in the final week of September and continuing through for the first three games of October. During the month, Woolen produced 19 tackles, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
AFC Offensive Player of the Month went to Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, who was lauded just a day after he was recognized as the AFC Offensive Player of the Week on the strength of a performance against the Houston Texans in which he rushed for a pair of scores and more than 200 yards for the sixth time in his decorated career. In October, Henry averaged an eye-popping 140.8 yards per game, racking up 563 yards in total, five rushing scores and 645 scrimmage yards. The AFC South-leading Titans went 4-0 this past month and Henry led the way with more than 100 yards in each victory.
Another surprising success has been the New York Jets, but it's been no surprise that Gang Green's triumphs have coincided with the emergence of former first-round pick Quinnen Williams. Williams was recognized as AFC Defensive Player of the Month following a run in which the defensive lineman piled up 23 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
In his first season and second month with the Minnesota Vikings, Za'Darius Smith has been a key contributor in his new squad's rise to the top of the NFC North. Smith, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month, recorded 14 tackles, 6.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Minnesota was undefeated in October and Smith was a huge reason why.
AFC Special Teams Player of the Month went to Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse, while NFC Special Teams Player of the Month was had by Washington Commanders punter Tress Way.
Stonehouse averaged 51.7 yards per punt over 20 punts, with a 45.0 net average, eight punts landing inside the 20-yard line and a long of 66.
Way punted 28 times and averaged 46.8 yards per boot with a net of 45.1, a long of 68 and 16 punts inside the 20.