Which 0-2 teams can make NFL playoffs? Ranking each team's chances with historical trends
Which NFL teams are most likely to make the playoffs? We examine trends and break down who could make a move
The 2018 NFL season is off to a bang, with a bunch of great games appearing in big spots over the course of the first two weeks. It's a dream scenario for the NFL after an ugly 2017 year that was riddled with injuries and controversy. But it's not perfect for everyone: football inherently involves a winner and a loser in each game, and oftentimes we find ourselves looking at multiple teams in each season who start out 0-2.
According to the NFL database from OddsShark.com, there have been 91 teams to start 0-2 since 2007. And only 10 of those teams -- 10.9 percent for you math majors -- have managed to make the postseason after jumping out to that terrible start.
Those teams are: the 2017 New Orleans Saints, 2016 Miami Dolphins, 2015 Houston Texans, 2015 Seattle Seahawks, 2014 Indianapolis Colts, 2013 Carolina Panthers, 2008 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Minnesota Vikings, 2008 San Diego Chargers and 2007 New York Giants.
Of that group, only the Chargers (8-8) finished with a .500 or worse record, while only the Giants won the Super Bowl.
There was also a huge gap in these groups, with no one going to the postseason after an 0-2 start between 2009 and 2012. Let's focus on the more modern examples of these teams to see what might stand out.
|Team||QB / Coach||PPG Scored Weeks 1-2||PPG Allowed Weeks 1-2||Weeks 1+2 Opponent Final Record|
|2017 Saints||Drew Brees||19.5||32.5||26-6|
And some notes on these teams:
2013 Panthers: This was the famous "Riverboat Ron" year, with the Panthers conservative coach going bold after an embarrassing loss to EJ Manuel and the Bills in Week 2. Carolina would skunk the Giants the next week (38-0), lose to the Cardinals on the road out of the bye and then rip off eight straight wins, while only losing one more in the regular season. The Seahawks team that beat them in Week 1 would go on to go 13-3 and win the Super Bowl. The Bills would finish 6-10.
2014 Colts: Andrew Luck's third season, this looks like a case of a team with a questionable defense that ran up against two really good teams in the first two weeks. The Broncos would finish 12-4 before losing to the Colts in the playoffs, while the Eagles finished 10-6 in Chip Kelly's second season, just missing the playoffs. The Colts would lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. You .
*2015 Texans: The team that spawned the acquisition of Brock Osweiler. Bill O'Brien managed to pull off 9-7 despite starting Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates over the course of the year. That's why I put the asterisk in. The Texans actually fought tough in two close losses to the eventual NFC champ Panthers (15-1) and a really good Chiefs team (11-5).
2015 Seahawks: Both of the losses were on the road for this Seattle team, with the Week 1 game egg against Jeff Fisher and the Rams. It wasn't even a late MNF game or anything, they just lost to Nick Foles, Tavon Austin and Benny Cunningham. Football is weird sometimes. Remember, this was coming off the brutal Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. Hmm.
2016 Dolphins: This was Adam Gase's first year in Miami and the Dolphins looked like the worst team in football five weeks into the season, with their only win coming in overtime against the Browns. They were 1-4 before ripping off six straight wins, then they got blasted by the Ravens (38-6), then they won three more games and snuck into the playoffs despite losing to the Patriots a second time in Week 17. They beat up on bad teams in a bad AFC.
2017 Saints: Continuing a tradition, New Orleans stunk it up in the first two weeks of the season -- they've been terrible early since 2014. This team looked bad on offensive with Adrian Peterson in the backfield and horrendous on defense for the 10th year in a row. Then something clicked in Week 3 and the Saints didn't lose again until Week 12. Looking back on it, losing to the Vikings and Patriots (both 13-3 last year) isn't exactly embarrassing, even if the losses were terrible. Shipping out AP and going with Alvin Kamara helped in a big way too.
There's a clear pattern here, in my opinion: these teams had good quarterbacks, would eventually develop pretty good defenses and played against teams who we later found out to be excellent. In a lot of those cases we had a good idea those opponents were good. Point differential in those early games could be worth watching, although clearly it didn't matter with the Saints last season. Worth noting: only one of the teams to make this run in the last few years had a first-year head coach.
So, let's rank the 0-2 teams by likelihood to make the playoffs and look at how they might the mold of the teams we've seen over the past five years. We'll break this down in more detail on the Pick Six Podcast -- our daily NFL podcast, subscribe right here! -- and feel free to yell at me on Twitter @WillBrinson if you hate/love/disagree with the list.
7. Buffalo Bills
What's happened: The Bills are the worst team in football through two weeks and it's not that close. They have a -55 point differential and the two strengths of the team -- LeSean McCoy running and Sean McDermott's defense -- have been awful. One of their starting cornerbacks, Vontae Davis, retired at halftime of Week 2. Buffalo is a 16.5-point underdog this week to the Vikings.
How they fit the mold: You can make a case the opponents fit here, with the Chargers and Ravens potentially looming as tough teams in the AFC. But the quarterback situation is a mess in Buffalo and the schedule doesn't get easier, with the Vikings and Packers (both on the road) coming up. That doesn't include any Patriots games. They're already playing for a wild-card spot at best because of the division, and the Dolphins/Jets look friskier than anyone expected.
6. Arizona Cardinals
What's happened: The offense has looked listless, scoring just six points through two games. The Cardinals didn't cross midfield until the final drive against the Rams last week. They have the second-worst point differential in football (-52) and have decided to give David Johnson just 28 touches in two games. Sam Bradford completed 26 passes for 90 yards last week. I'm not even mad, I'm amazed.
How they fit the mold: You could convince me the Cards have a good defense and a superstar on offense in DJ, but there are serious questions about Steve Wilks in the early goings of his first year at the helm. The defense has dropped off in a big way through two weeks. They did play what I think is a good Redskins team and what everyone believes is a great Rams team. The Bears and Seahawks at home are next, which at least offers an opportunity to make a move. Maybe Josh Rosen can spark this team. But it seems very doubtful.
What's happened: The Lions got humiliated at home against the Jets and then struggled to really keep it close against the 49ers, although they certainly had their shots late in the game. They don't look disciplined under first-year coach Matt Patricia, Matthew Stafford has looked sloppy for large stretches -- his Week 1 game against the Jets was probably the worst game of his career -- there's no running game and the defense is an unmitigated disaster considering Patricia's background. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ...
How they fit the mold: The only way to really peg them here is with Stafford. They have a first-year head coach, their point differential isn't great and they were beaten by two teams who we don't expect to be dominant this year. They also have a really difficult division.
What's happened: Two ugly losses to start the season, including a rough 20-point loss against a very good Rams team at home in Week 1 late on Monday night, where the Raiders gave it their all only to be snuffed out in the fourth quarter. Week 2 was a crippling last-second loss to the Broncos. Jon Gruden keeps talking about the Raiders need for a pass rusher, but he traded away Khalil Mack just a few weeks ago. Gruden starts trending every time the Bears play football.
How they fit the mold: Potentially lost to two good teams in the Rams (2-0) and Broncos (2-0). The Raiders have enough on offense to score points with Derek Carr (who completed 91 percent of his passes, didn't turn the ball over and lost on Sunday, again, I'm not mad, just amazed), Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper and a good offensive line. Gruden looks like he can still call plays. The defense is just a major problem without any playmakers. It doesn't help the division looks stacked above Oakland either.
3. New York Giants
What happened: An abysmal start to the season for a New York team that people liked to win the NFC East featured a total of 18 points being scored as Eli Manning lived under pressure and looked very much the part of a declining 37-year-old quarterback not thrilled at playing behind a Swiss cheese offensive line. There's enough here in terms of playmakers to get excited: Saquon Barkley has been force fed this year by the offensive staff, but he's a potential superstar. And Odell Beckham is still great, even if they aren't using him right at the moment.
How they fit the mold: They lose points for having a first-year head coach, but the division isn't outstanding right now -- everyone is 1-1 above them. The defense should be better with Olivier Vernon coming back. If the offensive line somehow got any better this offense could be scary. They only lost by one score to the Jaguars (a good team with a great defense) and the Cowboys (maybe better than we thought, definitely better defensively than we thought). I can't believe I have them ranked this high.
2. Seattle Seahawks
What happened: A terrible offensive line has left Russell Wilson under an immense amount of pressure through two weeks, Doug Baldwin is injured, Brian Schottenheimer is in charge of the offense and things are going very poorly at the moment. Plus the Seahawks' young, new-look defense hasn't gotten going yet.
How they fit the mold: Both losses were on the road and both losses were by a single score. They could have beaten the Broncos and Bears and no one would be surprised. Those teams could be playoff teams at the end of the year and at the very least look tough defensively. They have the quarterback in Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll is an experienced, high quality coach who has literally done this before in terms of coming back from 0-2. They get the Cowboys, Cardinals, Rams and Raiders before their bye, so there is some potential to turn things around here. A division with L.A. and question marks in Arizona/San Francisco is a big plus.
1. Houston Texans
How they fit the mold: Both of these losses have been to potentially quality teams (Titans TBD and the Gabbert thing doesn't help), the Texans have star power on both sides of the ball and have a young, budding quarterback (also TBD with the injury and the minimal starts from last year). If the defense suddenly came alive, it wouldn't be surprising, and they held the Patriots to less than 30 points at home in an opener and only lost by a touchdown. Bill O'Brien catches a bunch of flak, but as you see above he's done this before and I think he's a much better coach than people give him credit for, considering what he's gotten out of a questionable quarterback situation several years now. The Giants, Colts, Cowboys and Bills are coming up on the schedule, which is always a nice way to ease things up a bit and stack some wins. The division might be tougher but it's not loaded. It wouldn't be stunning if Houston ripped off some wins.
I can back the idea of Houston or Seattle making the playoffs. Both had tough schedules and didn't lose badly to anyone. Both have veteran coaches and major upside at quarterback, as well as the potential to turn things around on both offense and defense, if they can make some adjustments. I would give that duo a 25 percent chance -- and maybe higher? -- of producing one playoff team. After that, it would take a pretty huge miracle for this list to produce a postseason worthy squad given the depth at the top of the NFL this season.
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