Here we are, Week 3 of the NFL season, and there are 11 teams that have started 0-2. There isn’t hope for some who are undergoing a rebuild and a season, or seasons, away from being playoff contenders. The shortlist includes the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, and both New York teams.
Other teams that have this stain are the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, and Detroit Lions. However, there are a few whose first two losses could be blips on the radar once the second half of the season hits. Even for those with a top quarterback, as the Houston Texans have in Deshaun Watson, or the luck of the Philadelphia Eagles, who’ve made it to two consecutive postseasons with nine wins, it won’t be easy to make the playoffs. Teams that are 0-2 have about a 12% chance of making it.
The Houstons can get, hopefully, get past a tough first three weeks to become one of the likely playoff teams from this group of 11. The Atlanta Falcons, with the help of the expanded playoff field, and the Eagles, in a lackluster NFC East, could also make it to the postseason. There are other teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, that need to get to the playoffs for one reason or another.
Next up: Chicago Bears (2-0)
Head coach Dan Quinn has been on the hot seat year after year and somehow returns for the upcoming season, but the Falcons’ start in 2020 could be the final straw. The only way to potentially save Quinn’s job, again, is if Atlanta makes the playoffs. The Falcons have missed the postseason the last two years, each season marked with a 1-1 start and this year wouldn’t have been different if it wasn’t for a botched on-side kick. The NFC South got more competitive this offseason when quarterback Tom Brady, and a number of other playmakers, joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the expanded 14-team postseason could favor Atlanta if it can begin turning its season around.
Next up: Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
The Eagles haven’t had this bad of a start since 2015, two seasons before they won Super Bowl 52. Since then, they’ve skated into the playoffs while barely getting over .500. The NFC East doesn’t have a true frontrunner; Philadelphia’s toughest competition should only be the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles, however, haven’t done themselves any favors opening the season with a string of losses. Philadelphia needs one of the biggest confidence boosts the NFL can offer and it luckily has a matchup with the Bengals in Week 3. Quarterback Carson Wentz is playing some of his worst football—Pro Football Focus has ranked him 33rd among 34 qualifying starters—and his receiving corps has never been more futile. The Eagles need to quickly about-face to gain some momentum heading to three tough matchups starting in Week 4 with the San Francisco 49ers.
Next up: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
The Texans’ 0-2 start is in part due to an incredibly tough first few weeks. They opened the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens and will face one of, if not the best defensive unit, in Week 3. Houston could likely leave Pittsburgh 0-3. If the Texans are to turn things around, it will be thanks to the efforts of quarterback Deshaun Watson, but even he’s struggling with his new receiving corps. Houston doesn’t have a lack of talent; the team just hasn’t had the chance to mesh and can still climb toward the top of the AFC South.
Next up: Tennessee Titans (2-0)
A team can’t pay Kirk Cousins what it paid him and not make it to the postseason, but the first two losses for the Vikings continue to raise questions about how deserving Cousins was of his lucrative contract. Their schedule doesn’t offer any immediate solace either. Minnesota will face the Texans and Seattle Seahawks in the next three weeks. For as much criticism as the offense should get, the Vikings defense has been abysmal in stopping the run. The Vikings have made the playoffs three of the last five seasons and somehow head coach Mike Zimmer turns things around—or things turn around in his favor.