NFL Handicapping: Teams Winless through Week 2
by Trevor Whenham - 9/17/2013
Basic math suggests that after two weeks a quarter of the teams in the NFL should be winless. That’s exactly the situation we have. While there is a whole lot of season left and it seems far too early to panic, it has historically been a very bad thing to limp out of the gate. Since 1990 there have been 190 teams that have started out 0-2. Just 22 of those — 11.6 percent — have gone on to make the playoffs. In the last four years none of the 30 0-2 teams have extended their season. Ouch. Here’s a look at the eight teams that have struggled so far:
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There is just one thing you need to know about this team — they have averaged 37.5 yards rushing per game. The worst part of it all is that with that kind of output they have overachieved given the farce of a running game they are fielding. When they can’t run they can’t set up the pass, and they aren’t going to be able to score. The Steelers have had a good run, but now comes the time to rebuild. This team will win some games, but they are far from a playoff threat.
There were a lot of people who thought that the Browns could be a surprise this year. Those people were getting ahead of themselves. The team is moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way between where they are and respectability. The biggest issue is that Brandon Weeden just has not made any progress. Is he a franchise QB? I have serious doubts. They have opened 0-2 five times in the last six years, so the good news is that they are very familiar with how to deal with their current predicament.
Truly terrible team. Awful. Criminally short of talent and depth. A lousy defense. Coaching that doesn’t have enough to work with. A total lack of crowd support. A record of 0-16 is a real possibility if they want it badly enough.
New York Giants
The Giants have the best chance of any team on this list of making the postseason. They have lost tough games — at Dallas and at home against the Broncos. They need to tighten their defense significantly, but they have been far from awful. The NFC East is not dominant, so there are plenty of opportunities for them if they get on track. The schedule could be easier, but they shouldn’t be counted out yet. They lead the league in passing yards, so there is something to build on — especially if they can improve on their league-worst rushing performance.
If you just look at the second half of games, this has been a pretty good team. Their problem, though, is that they have badly limped out of the gate in both of their games and have been out of touch before RGIII and company have found their stride. That’s mental as much as anything, so it can be addressed. I would have had a lot more faith in Shanahan’s ability to fix it a decade ago than I do now, though. They will win games — just not nearly enough of them.
Respectable losses on the road against solid opponents. There are worse things than that. It doesn’t help that both losses have been to divisional rivals, but the team is far from dead in the water. They face Cleveland and Pittsburgh next followed by Carolina after the bye week. If they are 3-2 after Week 6 — which they are fully capable of — then things get interesting for this squad. I lean towards them falling short, but I don’t rule them out by any means — this is not the Jaguars.
This is the team I am more disappointed by than any other so far. They showed some real spark late last season, and they had such a positive offseason. I thought they could be a pleasant surprise. Cam Newton has regressed, though, and the team can’t get out of its own way. They are tentative and lacking confidence, and they just don’t look good enough. They still have far more talent than they have displayed, but this season is quickly starting to look like last year — a season lost by a pathetic start marred by underachievement. If things don’t turn around quickly then this team needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was skeptical about the hiring of Greg Schiano before last season. It really appears that I was right to be uneasy about it. He seems to lack control of this team. That means that the inmates have largely been running the asylum for most of the last three years. That’s not healthy, and it really makes it hard for a team to play near its best. At its best I am not convinced this is a playoff team. In the Bucs’ current state they are all but hopeless.
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