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Ranking the 0-2 NFL teams by their chances of still making the playoffs

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Post-season games are the most spectator sport. The beauty of the NFL is that high-stakes matches come into play. very at the start of the season.

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Since 1970, only 9.5% of NFL teams have made the playoffs after the season started 0-2. For teams that lost both games during the first two weeks of the season, every game from now on matters in terms of playoff hopes. Reaching 10 wins is the safest way to get into the playoffs, which becomes more of a challenge once you’ve given up games to start the season.

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However, not all is lost. That 9.5% is way higher than nothing! Five teams started the season without a win. Here they are, ranked by playoff odds.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have been a clear candidate for regression this season. They lived off the big games last season and made it to the Super Bowl with strong defensive play as well as offense and special teams. While it would be unrealistic to expect them to repeat the last two months of their Super Bowl, the Bengals played a lot of worse than anyone could have predicted from the first two games of the season.

The Cincinnati offensive line was a huge problem as Micah Parsons and the Cowboys completely gutted it during their week two loss. This is not what the Bengals hoped for with the investment they made in the offseason. Lael Collins had a rough start to the season, but to be fair, he played Parsons and T.J. Watt for weeks on end – arguably the two best forwards in the league.

The Bengals may not repeat their Super Bowl success a year ago, but they are also the best option to bounce back among all NFL teams that started 0-2. (Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)
The Bengals may not repeat their Super Bowl success last season, but they are also the best option to bounce back among all NFL teams that started 0-2. (Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)

An eye test doesn’t do the Bengals any good, but statistically they started off with an alarmingly poor start in offense. The Bengals rank 30th in yards per game (4.3), 31st in adjusted net yards per attempt (3.4), 30th in success rate (38.6%), and 23rd in expected points added per game (-0.097). They have also allowed 12.7% of their dropbacks to be fired and have five losses in a season. They just struggled to get the game off the ground during that initial downturn.

Luckily, the Bengals have more than enough talent to be one of those rare 2-0 teams that make it to the playoffs after a slow start. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, Ty Higgins and Tyler Boyd are capable of breaking down defenses and scoring touchdowns. It is highly unlikely that the Bengals offense will continue to perform as badly, but the offensive line is once again a concern. Collins was no longer the player he was at the peak of his time with the Cowboys, and the rest of the line struggled as well.

Bengals talent could get them back into the playoffs and they’ve been blessed with just one game behind the rest of the AFC North at the moment. If any of these teams have the ability to fire up and win enough games to get out of this hole, this is it.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders started the season 0-2 but, like the Bengals, they have top-notch talent to get out of that initial rut. It’s a little irresponsible to write off a crime involving Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfroe. Derek Carr is a good enough quarterback to effectively pass the ball to these guys, and the Raiders would be sitting at 1-1 if they could just make one tackle on Kyler Murray.

If anything, the early history of the Las Vegas season shows two things. First, the NFL can be very volatile. Now the Raiders have an uphill battle to make it to the playoffs because they let Murray ran for 84.9 yards with a two-point conversion. Secondly, it shows how close the talent teams are to each other. The Raiders played hard against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first week of the season before losing to the Cardinals in overtime. If a rebound here or there takes a different path, the Raiders will be in a strong position to make the playoffs.

Of course, the biggest hurdle for them is the division they play in. They still have two games left against Patrick Mahomes and have yet to play Russell Wilson and the Broncos (which looks less challenging than a few months ago). These are the slugfests the Raiders need to win in the AFC West now that they’ve lost the first two games of the season. It’s possible, but starting the season chasing Mahomes, Wilson and Justin Herbert isn’t an enviable position.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans spent the off-season as a team that needed to retool its roster for long-term success, and they look like they’re about to start the season. After a close loss to the New York Giants in Game 1, they were crushed by the Bills on Monday night, with rookie Malik Willis replacing starter Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter.

Less than a calendar year after they took first place in the AFC, the Titans are having a lot of questions. Will Derrick Henry succeed behind a worn offensive line? Can Tannehill get back the magic he had when he first took over the starting position? Will Tennessee’s defenses be strengthened after the Buffalo fire?

Mike Vrabel is a good head coach, and the Titans have a recent history of sustained success – returning to the playoff race is out of the question. Their biggest help is their separation. The Indianapolis Colts look like the worst team in the NFL, while the Houston Texans are not far behind. In the off-season, the Titans have changed their mindset from short-term to long-term, but still have a good chance of making the playoffs.

Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers are not doing well so far.  (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers are not doing well so far. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Carolina Panthers

Baker Mayfield hasn’t been the Panthers’ answer so far, which is shocking enough. Mayfield is ranked 32nd on ESPN’s QBR with a score of 23.7 (out of 100). The Carolina offense had a few productive moments in the second half of the Browns’ Week 1 loss, but this season they’ve mostly faltered and struggled to get off the ground.

The Panthers have a team structure that could make it to the playoffs, but they haven’t been consistent enough where it looks like a reasonable possibility. However, the outlook for the future is not entirely negative. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the combination of Mayfield and what appears to be head coach Matt Rule’s lame duck was not enough to get the Panthers across the finish line in their games.

The fate of their season will be decided next month with tough games against the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. Good luck Rule and Mayfield, the legacy will be in the game in a very short time.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta have been more competitive than expected this season, but they are still a team that is far from competitive. Neither side of the ball was stable and Marcus Mariota was on a roller coaster as quarterback. Rookie wide receiver Drake London had a great start to the season, but the Falcons didn’t get enough out of Kyle Pitts.

It’s possible the Falcons’ offense could get hot if they find a way to incorporate their incredibly talented tight end into the passing game, but right now they’re still a little confused. The Falcons have bright talent on both sides of the ball, but depth issues will keep this team from being truly competitive and scoring enough wins to return to the playoffs.

Atlanta may actually be brash enough to upset a much better team down the road, but for now, the playoffs are a stretch for what this team should be hoping to achieve.


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