Eight NFL teams are winless through the first two weeks of the season, but all hope isn’t lost. History shows there’s still a chance for them to turn their fortunes around.
Since 1990, 12 percent of teams with an 0-2 record have qualified for the playoffs. That means one of these eight clubs is likely to make the postseason this year despite an ugly start.
When breaking down NFL playoff hopefuls, it’s important to look at the quarterback first. That’s why it’s odd to see the Indianapolis Colts on this list, considering Andrew Luck is supposed to be entering the prime of his career. Sure, he doesn’t have a whole lot of weapons around him, but that was the case for the first three years of his career as well. He managed to take the Colts to the playoffs in every one of those seasons, including to the AFC Championship in 2015.
It’s been three seasons since Drew Brees has been to the playoffs, which is also strange. Brees, 37, is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever — statistically speaking, at least. He recently passed Dan Marino to claim the No. 3 spot on the all-time passing yard list and is third all-time in passing touchdowns as well. Yet, thanks largely to a porous defense, the Saints have finished below .500 in each of the last two years.
As long as Luck and Brees are under center, their respective teams should have a chance to win every Sunday. But theory and reality are two different things. There’s a reason why the Colts and Saints are currently at the bottom of the league instead of the top. And given the odds, only one of them probably has a realistic shot at playing in January.
So which winless teams still have a shot at the postseason — and which ones should just as well start planning for the 2017 NFL Draft?
Try again next year
Buffalo Bills: The only thing worse than the Bills’ play on the field is the seeming disarray within the organization. This was on display following their 37-31 loss to the New York Jets last Thursday, when owners Tim and Kerry Pegula reportedly held meetings with a few offensive players without Rex Ryan’s knowledge. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was fired shortly thereafter, and Ryan insisted it was his decision despite the evidence to the contrary.
Ironically, Buffalo’s offense wasn’t the problem in their loss to the Jets. The defense, which is also coached by Rex’s brother, Rob Ryan, allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for a whopping 374 yards and surrendered an additional 100 yards to Matt Forte, who scored three touchdowns.
The Bills’ defense was mediocre last year and looks to be even worse this season. Even if the offense develops into an above average unit, which will be challenging with Sammy Watkins’ lingering foot injury, it’s unlikely the Bills can string together enough wins to get back into the race. Instead of boasting at the podium after games, it looks like Ryan will spend his time deflecting questions about his job status.
And the Bills look like they’re headed for their 17th straight season without a playoff berth.
Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler may only miss a couple of weeks with a thumb sprain, but many Bears fans would probably be content if he never suited up for their team again. The quarterback who owns what’s widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in football has been dreadful so far this season, throwing for just 373 yards and one touchdown in two games.
The low point for Cutler came Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition to turning the ball over twice and failing to reach the end zone, he received an ear full from injured defensive lineman Pernell McPhee after tossing up a brutal interception in the third quarter.
Cutler seemingly commands so little respect that even underachieving free agents on the PUP list feel compelled to get into his face. The Bears finished 6-10 last year and might even have a worse record at the end of this season.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns hired a new head coach and implemented a statistically inclined front office this offseason, but they’re still snakebitten with the same old rotten luck.
If blowing a 20-point lead to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday wasn’t bad enough, they lost four starters due to injury this week. Rookie wideout Corey Coleman, who was one of the few bright spots on the team, fractured his hand in practice this week and will be out for the foreseeable future. He’ll be joined on the sidelines by veteran quarterback Josh McCown, starting center Cam Erving and defensive lineman Carl Nassib.
During the preseason, it looked like Robert Griffin III was poised to have a comeback season. But he injured his left shoulder Week 1 and will be out for an extended period of time. Dating back to last season, the Browns are starting their fifth quarterback in five weeks when rookie Cody Kessler will be under center in Week 3.
Once again, the Browns can’t catch a break.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars keep finding a way to lose. Following an offseason spending spree, they expected to be in contention for the first time in a decade. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
Third-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who threw 35 touchdowns last season, says he accepts most of the blame for his team’s struggles. Currently, the Jaguars are next-to-last in the league at converting third downs and have turned the ball over four times as well.
Those numbers aren’t pretty, and though the Jaguars have more than enough talent to turn it around (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are two of the best young receivers in the game), it’s difficult to have confidence in this organization. Head coach Gus Bradley is currently 12-38 in Jacksonville and has never beaten a team that ended up with a winning record. His seat will only get hotter if the Jags have another pitiful performance like last week’s blowout loss in San Diego.
On paper, the Jaguars are much better than this. But they haven’t shown they’re capable of putting it together.
Washington: The season is only two weeks old, and Washington already looks like it’s melting down. Kirk Cousins could already be playing his way out of a future in the nation’s capital, as players are reportedly complaining about his seeming lack of poise. Outside of the second half of last season, he’s struggled with turnovers throughout his career, and this year is no different. Cousins has three interceptions in two games, including a brutal throw in the red zone during Washington’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week.
Cousins isn’t the only person who’s under fire in D.C. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois questioned the team’s lack of adjustments last week, which was seemingly a veiled shot at the coaching staff. Speaking of which, Washington has also been criticized for largely sticking Josh Norman on just one side of the field instead of having him match up with the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver. It’s appeared to suck the life out of their defense, and also out of Norman. He was oddly genial towards Odell Beckham Jr. prior to Washington’s game against the New York Giants this week.
Better times ahead
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have lost both of their games this season, but they’ve been competitive until the end. Their defense was atrocious against Detroit in Week 1, allowing the Lions to march down the field for a game-winning field goal. But Luck was excellent, leading them on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
In Week 2, the Denver Broncos’ vaunted defense just swallowed the Colts’ offense whole at the end. Aqib Talib returned a pick-six and Von Miller strip sacked Luck, which resulted in Denver putting the game away.
But fortunately for the Colts, they won’t be up against the Broncos every week. Despite a relatively weak supporting cast, Luck showed in the season opener he can still put up big numbers (385 yards, four touchdowns). In a weak division, a few performances like that could propel the Colts right back to contention.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins came within one possession of beating the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots on the road so far this season. Defeating the hapless Browns at home this week should be a doable task.
Ryan Tannehill was impressive in the second half against the Patriots, completing 20 of 21 passes at one point. Receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker both put up 100-yard days as well.
Under new head coach Adam Gase, Tannehill is looking to cement himself as the second-best quarterback in the AFC East. If he can do that, the Dolphins have a shot at turning it around. Ndamukong Suh, Kiko Alonso and Reshad Jones have been strong up the middle on defense, too, meaning Miami can hit hard on that side of the ball. This team is hardly a cakewalk.
New Orleans Saints: For the third consecutive year, the Saints have started 0-2. But this season looks like it could be different.
For starters, Brees is still extraordinary. He’s posted a 109.9 QB rating in two games and thrown five touchdowns. His young receiving corps, led by Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead, is one of the best he’s worked with in a while as well.
The Saints’ defense is once again a weak point, but they should be able to score enough to mitigate that. With no undefeated team currently in the NFC South, the Saints have plenty of wiggle room to make a run.