Oh-and-two. The words no NFL fan wants to hear.
History doesn’t lie — National Football League teams that have started the season with an 0-2 record (since the playoffs expanded in 1990) only qualify for the postseason 12 percent of the time. No matter how much optimism reigns as the year kicks off, back-to-back losses to begin a season almost always doom a team to watching that winter’s playoffs from home, even though the calendar says September is only halfway gone.
Since 2002 (when the league realigned to its current eight-division model), the numbers are even worse, with just 9 percent of 0-2 clubs making the playoffs. Regardless which percentage we gravitate toward, with six teams currently at 0-2 after Sunday’s slate of NFL games, the data says all of them will likely miss the postseason.
Here, then, are the half dozen NFL franchises whose playoff hopes are already on life support, ranked in order of likelihood for a bucking-the-odds miracle based on the season’s first two games (from worst to best).
The Raiders haven’t made the playoffs (or finished with a winning record) since losing the Super Bowl in January 2003, and it doesn’t look like that streak of futility will end this year. Oakland is taking its lumps with a rookie quarterback at the helm, and Sunday’s 30-14 home opener loss to the Texans — a team that had the worst record in the league a season ago — left cornerback Charles Woodson “embarrassed” for the team and the fans.
The Jaguars’ first half of football this year was better than even the most loyal Jacksonville supporter could have dreamed. The Jags led defending NFC East champion Philadelphia 17-0 on the road at intermission, a score that had to shock observers all across America. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, the season consists of 32 halves, not just one. The Jaguars have been outscored 75-10 since, which is probably more in-line with the general public’s expectations for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The good news for the Buccaneers so far this season is that both losses have been competitive (20-14 and 19-17). The bad news is everything else. Lovie Smith’s Bucs have dropped two straight games to beatable opponents — both at home — and both playing backup quarterbacks. Tampa Bay has faced a rash of injuries already, including running back Doug Martin (who missed Sunday’s loss), cornerback Mike Jenkins (who’s out for the year), and three-quarters of the team’s defensive line. None of that bodes well on a short week with a divisional trip to Atlanta looming Thursday.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have lost their way after starting 9-0 in 2013, and it remains to be seen if Andy Reid can get the ship righted in the near term. While a one-touchdown defeat at defending AFC champ Denver is nothing to be ashamed of, the 16-point home loss to Tennessee in Week 1 has to raise serious concerns. Also of concern is the status of Jamaal Charles’ sprained ankle. A grueling next month should give us a definitive idea of whether there’s any life left in the Chiefs; Kansas City faces three road games plus a visit from the Patriots in its next four contests.
New York Giants
The Giants are off to another tough start this year after beginning the 2013 season 0-6. The only possible bright spot when it comes to 0-2 history? Tom Coughlin’s team is the last franchise to start 0-2 and win the Super Bowl, a feat it accomplished in the 2007 season. Coughlin’s clubs traditionally seem to play their best as the season wears on (the 2011 Giants, his other Super Bowl champion, were 7-7 in mid-December before getting hot), so maybe New York deserves a tiny bit of the benefit of the doubt at 0-2. A very tiny bit.
New Orleans Saints
If any team on this list is going to defy the odds and make the playoffs in 2014, the Saints would seem to be the most likely candidate. New Orleans has played two road games so far, and actually led both games with five seconds left in regulation. The Saints boast enough offensive firepower with star quarterback Drew Brees and tight end “No, I’m a wide receiver!” Jimmy Graham to get things turned around, and a visit from Minnesota this coming Sunday should help as well. Still, history says that the Saints, like every other team on this list, are most likely going to end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in.