Profit targets exist for a reason. When a company comes out ahead, it's usually an indication that things are going better than even the analytical pros had bargained for. Those companies bear watching because they stand a pretty good chance of repeating the feat if the model munchers are still left behind.

That said, let's take a closer look at a few of the companies that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with Dell Computer (NASDAQ:DELL). The leading computer maker earned $0.43 a share this past quarter, when Wall Street was holding out for only a $0.41-per-share showing. There was an extra week in the period, but the analysts would have taken that into account. The Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation benefited from a lower tax rate courtesy of its healthy geographic mix, which may be something that analysts weren't counting on.

Strength overseas and in its enterprise business helped pave the way for the solid showing. Unfortunately, the company did warn about weakness in the current fiscal first quarter, and that weighed heavy on the stock's performance. Long-term investors shouldn't see that as a bad thing necessarily, though, since it gives Dell's aggressive share-buyback plan the opportunity to gobble up more outstanding stock at lower prices.

Wild Oats (NASDAQ:OATS) was another topper. The organic health food grocer earned $0.11 a share, nearly twice the bottom line that analysts were forecasting. Healthy comps and a cheery outlook for 2006 were all it took to unearth this earthy retailer.

It's about time Wild Oats gets it right, quite frankly. A few years ago, it was leading the pack as one of two chains -- the other being, of course, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI) -- worth watching in this fast-growing space. But while Whole Foods became a six-bagger over the past five years and a worthy Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, Wild Oats wilted.

Keep following Wild Oats over the next few quarters. The company has offered a glimpse of its potential in the past before coming undone. If it's able to stay on track through the early part of the year, it may finally become the growth stock that investors have been waiting on for organically grown ages.

La-Z-Boy (NYSE:LZB) is the third company we'll be taking a look at this week. The furniture specialist hasn't been as relaxing as its signature chairs over the past few years, but it did come through in its latest quarter. La-Z-Boy had told investors to expect results to come in between $0.13 and $0.17 a share. With the consensus smack-dab in the middle of that range -- at $0.15 -- La-Z-Boy's margins held up nicely, and the company earned $0.20 a share for the period. That should give shareholders of the Income Investor pick a few months of relaxation (for a change).

So keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience -- the kind that market-watchers relish in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. The strategy has paid off, with the average Rule Breakers selection having trounced the S&P 500's market return. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.