by Mike Hayes - 09/30/2005
For a team with playoff aspirations an 0-2 start does not necessarily spell doom in the National Football League but getting to the postseason is clearly not an easy proposition.
In fact, if history holds true, just one of the seven teams that started the 2005 campaign at 0-2 will be playing beyond Jan. 1, as statistics show that just 14 percent of those who remain winless after two weeks end up as participants in the postseason.
So, of the seven teams that started the season at 0-2, which appears to have the best shot at reaching the playoffs?
Although they face daunting tasks this week, the Chargers, 5.5 point dogs at New England and the Vikings, 5.5 point dogs at Atlanta, improved their chances dramatically by moving to 1-2 with week three victories.
The Cardinals and Raiders meanwhile, saw their chances reduced to a mere 4 percent, as just three of 75 teams that have started 0-3 since 1990 - the first year the playoff field increased to 12 teams - have reached the postseason.
The Packers, Texans and Ravens had week-three byes and will look to secure their first wins of the season this weekend.
The Ravens, 7.5 point favorites at most sites, appear the most likely to do so as they face the all-of-a-sudden quarterback challenged Jets at home. Both the Texans and Packers would have to pull significant upsets to remove themselves from the ranks of the winless as the Texans find themselves as 9.5 point underdogs to the red hot Bengals in Cincinnati and the Pack as a 7.5 point dog to the Carolina Panthers in Carolina on Monday.
Just three weeks ago a case could have been made for each of these winless teams, with the possible exception of the Raiders, as playoff contenders. After several years of improvement David Carr figured to have the Texans poised to make a Wild Card run, the Packers coaxed Brett Favre to play another season with the expectation of contending in a weak NFC North, the Ravens who just missed the postseason last year were expected to challenge the Steelers for the Division and the Chargers and Vikes figured to improve on last season's playoff appearances.
While the Chargers or Ravens might be the best teams of the above-mentioned lot it is because of the weak NFC North that the Vikings appear to have the best chance to rebound from 0-2 and reach the playoffs, especially if the Packers continue to slide.
The Chargers are faced with the prospect of having to beat out the Broncos and revitalized Chiefs in the AFC West and the Ravens with the Steelers and Bengals in the AFC North.
It will also be more difficult for an AFC team to earn a Wild Card berth in what continues to be a stronger conference from top-to-bottom. Jacksonville and a team from the AFC East figure to be in the Wild Card mix adding to an already crowded field where at least 10 wins will be needed to move on.
In the NFC, however, nine wins should do it and it wouldn't be surprising to see a team make the postseason again at 8-8.
Interestingly, the three teams that rebounded from 0-3 starts, or in the case of the 1992 Chargers 0-4 beginning, each qualified with at least 10 wins. After starting the season 0-4 the Chargers finished the season 11-1 and went on to win one post-season game.
The 1998 Bills, who lost their first three games, two of which were road defeats by a total of 3 points, finished at 10-6, as did Wayne Fontes 1995 Lion team. Neither the Bills or Lions went on to win a playoff game.
If an 0-3 start pretty much kills a team's post season chances the obvious question is whether fans of the 3-0 Colts, Bengals and Bucs will see their team in the playoff dance come January.
Chances are good they will as 74 percent of teams that have begun a season at 3-0 have gone on to make the playoffs.