Race to the Bottom: Will the Giants or Jets Finish with the NFL’s Worst Record?


The New York Giants and New York Jets have each started the 2020-21 NFL season with an 0-5 record. For fans of the two franchises, it’s a continuation of the trying times of being a New York* football fan over the past eight years. (*Yes, the Buffalo Bills are the only NFL franchise that plays home games in New York State, but I’m referring to the New York-Metro Area teams that hold the New York-moniker.)

Neither team was “supposed” to be horrible this season. The Jets had a strong second-half of last season to finish with a decent 7-9 record. The Giants finished near the bottom of the league’s standings at 4-12, picking fourth in the 2020 NFL Draft, but had optimism coming into the season with a new head coach and Daniel Jones as the Week 1 starter.

The Giants haven’t won a playoff game since their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 2012. They qualified for the postseason in the 2016-17 NFL season under Ben McAdoo, but lost to the Green Bay Packers after a now-infamous “boat picture” some players took ahead of the matchup.

Since then, the Giants have gone 12-41, cycling through three full-time head coaches in McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, and current head coach Joe Judge.

The Jets have finished with a losing record five of the last six seasons, with five or less wins in four of those seasons. Their last playoff appearance was in the 2010 AFC Championship with Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan.

Both teams continue to trend downwards, and are the front-runners to earn the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The presumed top prize is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence: though picking the signal-caller would be the first step in ending the Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones era in New York.

Regardless of who the selection would be, both 0-5 teams have a chance at finishing with the league’s worst record. The Atlanta Falcons are also in the 0-5 mix, but Matt Ryan and their offense give reasons to believe Atlanta can win a few games by the season’s end.

Which of these two teams is more likely to earn the dubious honor of the NFL’s worst team? Could either team become the third franchise in league history to complete an “imperfect” 0-16 season?

New York Giants

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Results so far:

  • 26-16 loss vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 17-13 loss at Chicago Bears
  • 36-9 loss vs. San Francisco 49ers
  • 17-9 loss at Los Angeles Rams
  • 37-34 loss at Dallas Cowboys

Point Differential: -52

Remaining Schedule (Bold indicates potentially winnable games):

  • Vs. Washington Football Team
  • At Philadelphia Eagles
  • Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • At Washington Football Team
  • Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
  • At Cincinnati Bengals
  • At Seattle Seahawks
  • Vs. Arizona Cardinals
  • Vs. Cleveland Browns
  • At Baltimore Ravens
  • Vs. Dallas Cowboys

Daniel Jones and the New York Giants face an opportunistic schedule over their next six games, with a chance to get on the board with one or multiple wins. Any NFC East matchup feels like a potentially winnable game, with poor play throughout the division. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have won a game outside the division through Week 5. The Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys 37-34 at the last minute in a shoot-out, but Dallas lost Dak Prescott for the season in the Week 5 matchup.

With four games against Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles and one against the Cincinnati Bengals in the coming weeks (with a less favorable matchup with Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers sandwiched in the middle,) the Giants will have chances to change their winless fortunes.

It would be foolish to expect them to win the majority or even half of these “winnable” matchups. But Washington, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati are weaker opponents, and the Giants should squeak out a win sooner than later.

After that, New York’s schedule gets much tougher, and barring a miraculous turnover-free stretch of play from Daniel Jones, the Giants probably won’t win many more games after this softer stretch of games.

The Giants did lose Saquon Barkley, their premier offensive weapon, for the season in Week 2, dealing a significant blow to their season-long prospects.

It’s unlikely the Giants will fail to win a single game in 2020, and with three one-score losses through five games, New York hasn’t been completely abysmal. Playing in a historically bad NFC East should afford the Giants a couple wins, and they could definitely pull off at least one upset with a good offensive or defensive day.

Predicted Final Record: 4-12

Predicted Chance of Finishing 0-16: 10%

New York Jets

Andy Lyons-Getty Images

Results so far:

  • 27-17 loss at Buffalo Bills
  • 31-13 loss vs. San Francisco 49ers
  • 36-7 loss at Indianapolis Colts
  • 37-28 loss vs. Denver Broncos
  • 30-10 loss vs. Arizona Cardinals

Point Differential: -86

Remaining Schedule (Bold indicates potentially winnable games):

  • At Miami Dolphins
  • Vs. Buffalo Bills
  • At Kansas City Chiefs
  • Vs. New England Patriots
  • At Los Angeles Chargers
  • Vs. Miami Dolphins
  • Vs. Las Vegas Raiders
  • At Seattle Seahawks
  • At Los Angeles Rams
  • Vs. Cleveland Browns
  • At New England Patriots

Besides a couple of matchups against the Miami Dolphins, who have been hot lately but are still suspect to up-and-down play from Ryan Fitzpatrick, it’s hard to find many winnable games on the Jets remaining schedule.

The Los Angeles Chargers are 1-4, but have had some tough losses and incredible play by rookie Justin Herbert. The Cleveland Browns are 4-1, but could cool off before their Week 16 matchup with the Jets. The New England Patriots could potentially have their playoff seed clinched and rest starters for their Week 17 meeting.

But with how Darnold and the Jets have been playing, it just doesn’t seem likely the Jets would be competitive even in those seemingly favorable circumstances. New York has given up on running back Le’Veon Bell, releasing him ahead of Week 6 and letting him walk for nothing.

The Jets could be due for one or two unexpected performances this season, whether it be a strong defensive showing or surprising offensive output. The Jets aren’t the worst team ever, so they probably won’t finish 0-16. However, if New York can’t win either matchup against the Dolphins, their odds of finishing winless would increase substanitially.

Predicted Final Record: 2-14

Predicted Chance of Finishing 0-16: 25%

Who Finishes Last?

Andrew Mills-NJ Advance Media

The New York Jets have to be the “front-runner” to finish last in the 2020-21 NFL standings. Through five games, the Jets haven’t finished within one score of any of their opponents. They have scored 17 points or less in four of those games, and allowed 27 points or more in all five games. That’s certainly not a winning formula, and it’s hard to see the Jets winning more than a couple games, and even those would probably be significant upsets.

The New York Giants, believe it or not, could still make noise in a laughably bad NFC East division. If they can take two or three games from Philadelphia and Washington, they would be right in the race with the currently 2-3 Dallas Cowboys (who also lost their starting quarterback for the season.)

But even if the Giants win a game or two in the coming weeks, the most foolish thing to expect from this franchise is consistency. The Giants could look great one week in a win over, say, Washington. Put the next week against the Eagles, they could be liable to drop a dud performance, perhaps littered with turnovers.

This Giants team feels bad, but not historically bad. They’ll win a few meaningless games by the season’s conclusion, but probably won’t go on any winning streaks of more than a game or two.

The 0-5 Atlanta Falcons, 1-4 Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-4 Washington Football Team, 1-3-1 Cincinnati Bengals, 1-3 Detroit Lions, and 1-3 Denver Broncos could all be in the mix for the league’s worst record and top draft pick. But I do predict the Jets will finish last in the NFL, with a 2-14 record. The Giants will make their 2021 NFL Draft selection a coupe picks later, with the fourth overall selection and a 4-12 record: quite literally the same spot they found themselves in last year.

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