Wall Street analysts hate being wrong. After all, they're getting paid plenty to nail a company's earnings power. That's why it's a thing of beauty to see a stock blow past the smart money's profit targets.

For individual investors, it's more than a moral victory. It's hand-dipped in opportunity. After all, if data-munching MBAs are underestimating a company's earnings potential, isn't the upside even higher?

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

It's good to be in the red
We'll start with Heinz (NYSE:HNZ). The foodstuffs specialist is usually a pretty easy call for analysts. The company's business is fairly predictable. As a steady producer with consistent dividend hikes, it was even a worthy selection for our Income Investor newsletter. However, with the market expecting the ketchup king to report earnings per share of $0.49, Heinz came through at $0.52.

Heinz insists that it's not a growth-stock story. Sales over the next few years should grow in the range of 3% to 4%. However, net margins are expected to improve, with earnings growth clocking in at a higher range of 6% to 8%. That's why, even if last week's upside surprise came with a few non-organic asterisks, Heinz is still a quality stock for the long haul.

No bubble-popping here
Is the housing boom over? While we tire of writing that the real estate bubble has met its pin, it seems as if the industry still has a little more in the helium tank. Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) earned $1.27 a share for its fiscal third quarter. The homebuilder obliterated projections of just $1.19 a stub. That's the way it has been for most of the home makers. Earlier this summer, peers KB Home (NYSE:KBH) and D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI) also came through with spectacular results. Even better, their record order backlogs assure investors that the next few quarters should still come in strong.

Good boy!
Another "best in show" winner was PetSmart (NASDAQ:PETM). The pet-supply retailer was supposed to earn just $0.22 a share, but fetched profits of $0.24 a share instead. The sector is hardly in demand these days, though. PetSmart and rival Petco (NASDAQ:PETC) both hit fresh 52-week lows this past week.

So keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for investors. That's the kind of surprise that market watchers relish in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. The strategy has paid off as the average Rule Breaker selection has more than tripled the S&P 500's 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, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.