Eleven teams entered Week 3 at 0-2. While the Dolphins reduced the NFL’s winless contingent to 10 last night, the 11 0-2 squads were still the most since the 2008 season. This creates a pivotal third regular-season week for many franchises.
The Bengals, Broncos, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jets, Lions, Panthers, Texans and Vikings will go into Sunday at 0-2. A couple of these teams were fringe Super Bowl contenders — or at least strong candidates to win their respective divisions — while others’ 0-2 starts are not as surprising.
The typical talking point about how 0-2 records correlate with playoff absences is less relevant this season, with seven teams now invited to each conference’s bracket. But 0-3 cannot be easily dismissed. Since the playoff field expanded to 10 total teams in 1978, only five teams (excluding the 1982 strike-shortened season, which featured a 16-team field) have made the postseason after starting 0-3. Just one — the 2018 Texans — has done so this century.
Philadelphia and Minnesota’s starts probably qualify as the most surprising, given their recent histories and current rosters. But the Eagles are down three starting offensive linemen and multiple wideouts, helping lead to Carson Wentz‘s struggles out of the blocks. They rank last in DVOA, despite two dreadful Vikings performances. Wentz and Kirk Cousins boast the Nos. 32- and 31-ranked Total QBR figures, respectively. The Vikings, a top-11 scoring defense in each of Mike Zimmer‘s six seasons, have regressed on that front after several starters’ offseason exits. Seventh-year starter Anthony Barr is now out for the season.
The Giants and Jets have seen injuries deplete their rosters, but neither New York team was expected to contend in 2020. Carolina, which is down Christian McCaffrey, is in that boat as well. The Bengals poured more resources into their roster than they have in many years — signing D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell and Mackensie Alexander to help a porous defense (though, Waynes is set to miss much of the season) — and drafted Joe Burrow. But Cincinnati also entered the season as a non-contender playing in a tough division.
Two HCs from this contingent’s middle-class sect — Dan Quinn and Matt Patricia — reside only behind Adam Gase in first-coach-fired odds. With the Falcons starting 1-7 last year and becoming the first team in NFL history to lose a game after scoring 39 points and committing no turnovers on Sunday, Quinn is in a desperate situation. The Lions have lost 11 straight games under Patricia, who entered the season on the hot seat.
Denver can blame injuries for its situation, to some degree, with four of its six previous Pro Bowlers either out for the season (Von Miller, Courtland Sutton) or presently injured (Phillip Lindsay, A.J. Bouye). Drew Lock may also be out well until November. Houston has almost certainly played the NFL’s toughest schedule to start out — against Kansas City and Baltimore — and faces Pittsburgh on Sunday. Bill O’Brien‘s 2018 team rebounded, and the Texans’ schedule stands to soften after Week 3. But it is safe to say the absence of DeAndre Hopkins has shown up thus far.
So which of these teams has the best chance of rebounding and qualifying for the 14-team playoffs? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.