Three-quarters of NFL teams have picked up at least one win this season, leaving eight stragglers that have begun 2016 with back-to-back losses. Historically, clubs that have lost their first two games haven’t rebounded to make postseason trips often. In fact, since the league expanded and reorganized its divisions in 2002, only 12 of 116 teams that have started a season 0-2 have gone on to earn playoff berths. Two of those occurrences came last season, with the Seahawks rallying to finish 10-4 and the Texans going 9-5 over their final 14 games.
Of the teams that are currently 0-2, Cleveland stands out as the one with no realistic chance to recover. As a club in a full-blown rebuild, the Browns were completely written off entering the season, and they’ve since lost their top two quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown – and No. 1 receiver Corey Coleman to significant injuries.
Elsewhere, the Bears, Bills, Dolphins and Saints faced long odds to contend coming into the year, and their chances have worsened during the first two weeks.
The Bears are stuck in a tough NFC North with the Vikings and Packers, both of whom made the playoffs in 2015. Of greater concern, perhaps, is that injuries are hampering Chicago, which will go without quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Danny Trevathan and nose tackle Eddie Goldman for multiple weeks. Meanwhile, linebacker Lamarr Houston is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Buffalo, which has gone a league-worst 16 straight seasons without a playoff trip, is seemingly in shambles in Year 2 of the Rex Ryan era. Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman last Friday, the same day Bills ownership had a Ryan-less meeting with several of the team’s players. Previously, the Bills dropped winnable games against the Ravens and Jets, which doesn’t bode well for a team whose next two opponents – the Cardinals and Patriots – are elite.
The Dolphins, who are among the Bills’ AFC East rivals, began with an unkind schedule over the first two weeks. They had to go to Seattle and New England, where they lost close affairs. Miami’s next opponent is the aforementioned Browns, who are primed to start third-round rookie Cody Kessler under center. On paper, the Dolphins look likely to win their home opener, but few expect rookie head coach Adam Gase & Co. to make any real noise in the standings this year.
Like the Dolphins, the Saints have started 2016 with back-to-back one-score losses, including a 35-34 opener that the Raiders won with a late two-point conversion. New Orleans hasn’t necessarily played poorly, and it still has a high-powered offense, but a defense that already had issues coming into the year has since lost starting cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams to major injuries.
In the AFC South, there were preseason cases made for both the Colts or Jaguars to contend for a divisional crown, but things haven’t gone according to plan for either.
Indianapolis moved the ball with ease through the air in Week 1 against the Lions, but its defense was woeful in a 39-35 loss. Then, in last week’s 34-20 defeat in Denver, quarterback Andrew Luck was ineffective. After missing most of last season with various injuries, he has been dealing with a shoulder issue throughout this season.
The Jaguars made several hyped offseason moves and entered the season with high expectations for a franchise that hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2010. They played the Packers to the wire in Week 1, losing 27-23, but looked like the same old Jags on Sunday in a 38-14 defeat in San Diego.
Of this year’s winless crop, only the Redskins made the playoffs last season. Washington went 9-7 en route to an NFC East title, and the division once again looks like anyone’s to win, but the team won’t have a chance without quarterback Kirk Cousins regaining something resembling the form he showed in the second half of 2015. The Cousins-led Redskins will go on the road Sunday to face the division-rival Giants, who are 2-0. It’s foolish to use the phrase “must-win game” in Week 3, but Washington’s matchup with Big Blue comes close.
As mentioned, the Browns and Dolphins play each other this week. Barring a tie, then, one will break into the win column. The other six face teams that have gone 1-1 or better, and all could remain without a victory through Week 3. Notably, no club has started 0-3 and made the playoffs since the 1998 Bills. First things first, though, which of these eight stands the best chance to make a playoff run this season?