Which teams facing an 0-2 start have the most to worry about?

By | September 16, 2023

Only one week of the season has been played, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sound the alarm and feign fear for a handful of franchises who suffered a Week 1 loss. Teams that start 0-2 typically fail to catch up. The goal. playoffs and that extended into the NFL’s 17-game era. The only team to make the playoffs after starting 0-2 in a 17-game era was last season’s Cincinnati Bengals, who won the AFC title.

The Vikings are off to an 0-2 start following their loss to the Eagles, and a handful of teams will be fighting like hell this weekend to ensure they don’t suffer the same fate. It’s not impossible to get to the playoffs after starting 0-2, but it’s a tall order to expect a team that started 0-2 to come close to making the playoffs — they couldn’t even win their first two. Games!

However, not all NFL teams are created equal, and some have the structures to pull themselves out of a tough situation. Let’s take a look at where all the 0-1 teams stand regarding their season hopes should they fall to 0-2 this weekend.

The dominant level of the quarterback

Chiefs (to Jaguars), Bills (vs. Raiders), Bengals (vs. Ravens), Charger (at Titans)

Anything can happen in Week 2, including some of the top Super Bowl contenders finishing 0-2 to start the season. But there are some teams that don’t need to go into panic mode if their teams start the first two weeks winless: teams that already have elite quarterbacks.

No one is panicking with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert under center. As previously mentioned, the Bengals started the season 0-2 last year and still managed to take their stable of elite talent to the playoffs and even the AFC championship game. If there’s one of the guys worth paying $250 million or more, 0-2 isn’t a slam dunk.

Is it a little hot in here?

Giants (to Cardinals), Steelers (vs. Browns), Seahawks (at Lions), Patriots (vs. Dolphins), Broncos (vs. Commanders)

Outside of the Patriots and Broncos, these teams were absolutely destroyed in the first week of the season. The Giants, Steelers and Seahawks lost by a combined score of 100-20 on Sunday, immediately changing the course of what was thought possible for this season. All three teams opened with expectations of a real playoff run, but those hopes could have been readjusted by the first game.

The Giants probably have the biggest reason for optimism because they can at least say their 40-0 loss to the Cowboys was held back by the weather. The Steelers and Seahawks were targeted by the 49ers and Rams, respectively. (The Giants did this too, providing only a glass half full look at their situation.) The Giants, Steelers and Seahawks have some top-tier talent that can help them overcome a potential 0-2 start, but it will be a little more difficult because they don’t they have the same level of talent as the group at the top. If Russell Wilson returns to form, the Broncos would have a chance to beat the Commanders, but that’s not necessarily a given.

Mac Jones and the Patriots have to beat a good Dolphins team this week or they will finish 0-2.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Mac Jones and the Patriots have to beat a good Dolphins team on Sunday night or they will finish 0-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Patriots will face their toughest test this weekend against a Dolphins offense that can score at will as long as their quarterback is healthy. The Giants have the best chance to get their season back on track with a win against the Cardinals.

The Titan level

Titans (vs. Chargers)

The Titans always deserve to be in their own bracket. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions Sunday against the Saints, but stranger things have happened with this franchise in recent years than rebounding from an 0-2 start to the season. This year looks different though because the roster isn’t quite the same quality as before and the Titans have undergone a mini-rebuild at some positions.

The offensive line is no longer a strength of this team and they lack some talent at their skill positions. DeAndre Hopkins received 13 targets in his first game as a Titan, but was only able to turn that into seven receptions for 65 yards. This team may be forced to play a gritty style of football this year without the horsepower to match. However, the defense should be a quality unit and keep the Titans competitive throughout the season. Offense will be the tough part for them.

The Titans will face a tough test against the Chargers on Sunday, which could make recovery and access to the playoffs difficult.

The level of the Bears

Bears (at Buccaneers)

Chicago may not have made as much progress as it hoped to make this offseason if the first game against the Packers was any indication. The Bears’ offense is still inconsistent and overly reliant on Justin Fields’ legs to make plays, and the defense doesn’t appear to have the playmakers needed to compete against the league’s best offenses.

Ryan Poles has spent a lot building an improved version of this roster, but it’s fair to wonder if they acquired any real difference-makers this summer. The Buccaneers defense will be a tough test for the Bears offense which is still finding its way, and the Bucs also have enough talent to provide a challenge on that side of the ball as well.

The only thing keeping the Bears here at the lowest level is just a nod to the fact that this is an improved roster from last year. If DJ Moore and their linebacker acquisitions catch fire, they might have something to really play with this season. Seems like a tall order so far.

The Rebuilders level

Colts (at Texans), Texans (vs. Colts), Panthers (vs. Saints), Cardinals (vs. Giants)

No one expected these teams to compete for a playoff spot yet. Those are the three teams starting rookie quarterbacks plus the Cardinals, who haven’t been shy about saying the 2023 season will be a transition year for them. There’s no need to be scared though for the teams that didn’t have a good chance of making the playoffs this season.

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