Chris Johnson celebrated his 30th birthday last week and followed that with his first multi-touchdown game since he played for the Tennessee Titans. As a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Johnson racked up 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week 3, as well as a reception he took for 40 yards.
Now the 30-year-old version of CJ2K is the leading rusher through three weeks on a roster that has a quarterback who is 35 and a leading wide receiver who is 32.
Both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald made their first Pro Bowls with strong showings in the 2005 season. Since then, Palmer has gone through a roller coaster career that included injuries and the threat of retirement, while Fitzgerald was a model of quiet consistency in Arizona with a rotation of quarterbacks that more resembled a game of musical chairs than any semblance of stability.
The peak of Fitzgerald's career came when Kurt Warner's stint with the Cardinals helped the team to a Super Bowl, but after three straight seasons with fewer than 1,000 yards receiving, the high point of the receiver's career looked to be long in the rearview mirror.
While young offensive players like David Johnson and John Brown, and a defense with talent like Tyrann Mathieu and Alex Okafor are certainly a huge factor in the 3-0 start, it's a trio straight out of your 2009 championship-winning fantasy roster leading the way for a Cardinals team that looks like it could be the NFL's best.
Racking up passing stats at 35+
Finding success at 35 isn't unheard of in the NFL for a quarterback, but it's not very common. There's plenty of football still to be played, but a 117.8 passer rating for Palmer is something special at that age. Only a handful of players have been able to put up numbers that could be considered prolific at that age, and Peyton Manning tops that list with his three most recent seasons with the Denver Broncos.
While the dominance of Manning and Tom Brady in recent years has normalized the idea of an older quarterback finding success, truly excellent seasons at that age haven't been a common reality in the NFL. Only 11 times has a quarterback finished a season with a passer rating over 100 at 35 or older.
With nine touchdowns and two interceptions, Palmer is well on his way to notching his own name on the list, although injuries have been the concern that he'll need to avoid.
Turning back the clock
Solid seasons for running backs and wide receivers after 30 are also uncommon, but not nearly as unprecedented as the recent successes of older quarterbacks. Plenty of backs have reeled off 1,000 yard seasons after 30 and plenty of receivers have had 1,000 yards at 32 or older.
What makes the good starts in 2015 more impressive for Johnson and Fitzgerald is that they come after the least productive seasons of their careers in 2014.
Of course, it bears repeating over and over that it's still early. But at their current rates, Fitzgerald is pacing for a career-best 1,776 yards while Johnson is on track for 1,381.
Tougher teams on the way
The prolific numbers for the Cardinals might be a little more impressive if they didn't come against three teams with a combined 1-8 record. The New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers all have plenty of problems to deal with and the St. Louis Rams, Arizona's Week 4 opponent, haven't exactly been world beaters either.
What the Rams have done, though, is play solid defense. With a defensive line boasting stars like Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald, St. Louis has a top 10 defense and should present the Cardinals with a more realistic test.
In the latter half of the year, the Cardinals will play the Seattle Seahawks twice and other top contenders like the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers. Couple that with the danger that comes with older stars -- attrition and injuries -- and it's probably not fair to expect the current paces for Palmer, Fitzgerald and Johnson to hold all year.
But until then, Arizona will keep hoping that the team's old guys keep playing like young guys.