History suggests that beginning an NFL season with a 0-2 record may not be a death sentence for a team’s playoff aspirations, but it certainly places their postseason dreams in dire jeopardy. This year, the urgency to salvage their season has reached a fever pitch for nine teams who stumbled to a 0-2 start with a Week 2 defeat.
While the sample size of 0-2 teams in a 17-game season remains relatively small, research conducted by CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr between 1990 and the previous season reveals that 265 teams found themselves in the same predicament. Only 30 of these squads managed to claw their way into the playoffs.
Notably, the Cincinnati Bengals achieved this feat last season, rebounding from an 0-2 start to finish with a stellar 12-4 record and clinching their division by a comfortable 2.5 games.
This year, the Bengals will strive to replicate their success after another 0-2 start, but do they possess the best odds among all the 0-2 teams? Let’s examine the contenders:
The Bengals undoubtedly stand out as the most talented team on this list, and it wouldn’t be a monumental surprise if they embarked on a deep playoff run. However, the health of quarterback Joe Burrow, who’s dealing with a significant calf injury, remains a critical factor that could swiftly alter their prospects.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have earned their spot due to the sheer talent gracing their roster. With players like Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Derwin James, J.C. Jackson, Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, and Mike Williams, this team is loaded with potential. Nonetheless, their head coach, Brandon Staley, poses a potential obstacle to their success.
The Vikings’ first two weeks have seen a regression from their fortunate performance last year. Despite contractual concerns surrounding Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter, there’s enough talent on the roster to keep them in contention, especially in an unproven NFC North.
New England Patriots
The Patriots claim the fourth spot, not necessarily due to unshakable faith in Mac Jones as a perennial playoff quarterback, but because of their impressive defensive displays against potent offenses in the early weeks. This suggests their defense might be strong enough to carry them to a postseason berth, even in the competitive AFC East.
The absence of Russell Wilson has significantly impacted the Broncos, particularly on defense after losing defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. The Wilson-led offense hasn’t compensated for this loss consistently, and it raises questions about his future performance. Coach Sean Payton may need a clever strategy to revive the Broncos’ offense.
The bottom tier of teams can be shuffled in any order, but the Texans top this group due to their promising start in the first two weeks. Head coach DeMeco Ryans has elevated their defense, and rookie quarterback CJ Stroud is settling into his role. If the offense continues to improve alongside their feisty defense, the Texans could become intriguing contenders in the AFC South.
The Bears find themselves near the bottom due to their underwhelming performance. However, a potential solution lies in unleashing the running prowess of quarterback Justin Fields, who has seen limited designed runs in the early weeks. Should the Bears adapt their offensive approach to utilize Fields’ running abilities and replicate their late-season offensive production, they could rejuvenate their playoff aspirations despite a sluggish start.