We are just two games in to the 2020-21 NFL season, but there has already been pressure mounting on ten teams that have failed to win a game through Week 2.
Since 1990, 205 teams have started 0-2, and just 24 advanced to the playoffs in the same season; with four ultimately reaching the Super Bowl. Two games accounts for 13% of a 16-game season, and it’s easy for teams to slip into a losing season if they can’t quickly turn around from back-to-back losses.
Still, for a handful of these ten teams, there is still hope. For the first time since 1990, there’s an additional Wild Card berth to be earned in each conference, making the odds of recovering from 0-2 even better.
In For a Long Season
Starting 0-2 isn’t a death sentence in the NFL, but for some teams, there is no bouncing back.
The Cincinnati Bengals have an exciting future with first overall pick Joe Burrow at quarterback. However, Burrow has taken over a 2-14 Bengals roster that has bigger issues than the quarterback position. After back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns (two relatively weaker opponents), wins may scarce for Burrow and the Bengals this season.
The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets seem to be making themselves comfortable in the basement in the AFC East. Both teams had reasons to be optimistic this season. Miami closed out their 2019 season after turning an 0-7 start into a 5-11 finish. Sam Darnold and the Jets finished a respectable 7-9 in 2019. Through two weeks, it’s hard to see either of these two teams turning it around.
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions can just never stay competitive. Stafford is always a top-tier passer, and veteran Adrian Peterson is doing well so far in Detroit. However, the defense, which gave up 21 points to the Bears in the fourth quarter of Week 1 and then 42 points to the Packers in Week 2, is a liability that will keep Detroit’s win total under five games.
The Carolina Panthers are the best team in this bunch, and the Teddy Bridgewater era had a promising beginning with a 30-point effort against the Las Vegas Raiders. In Week 2, the Buccaneers handled Carolina with ease, and it became apparent the Panthers are probably the fourth-best in the NFC South. To make matters worse, running back Christian McCaffrey will miss the next few games after being placed on IR.
Too Early to Tell
Like the Panthers, the 0-2 New York Giants will lose their star running back. Unlike McCaffrey, third-year running back Saquon Barkley will miss the entire 2020 NFL season. So, why is there a glimmer of hope for the Giants? New York has played better in the second half under rookie head coach Joe Judge, outscoring the Steelers and Bears by a combined score of 19-10 in the third and fourth quarters. While it’s not a huge edge, it’s an early testament to Judge’s ability to adapt on the fly. The NFC East isn’t looking like a powerhouse this season, with the Giants just a game behind the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team. For those reasons, if Daniel Jones can cut down on turnovers, the Giants can’t be counted out just yet.
Also playing in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles have had an underwhelming start to their season. However, it has only been two games, and until Philadelphia meets Dallas and New York twice each, it’s hard to put them out of the race. The team needs to improve on both sides of the ball, but Philadelphia can make a comeback with some improved play.
The Atlanta Falcons started slow last season before clawing their way to a 7-9 finish. Now in 2020, they find themselves in a quick 0-2 hole after blowing a 20-0 lead to the Cowboys. Their defense has let up a league-high 78 points through two weeks. Despite the shortcomings, Matt Ryan and the offense have stepped up. Ryan has totaled 723 passing yards through two weeks, the second-most in the league. In addition, wide receiver Calvin Ridley leads the league in receiving yards with 239. Atlanta will be able to win some games by flat-out overpowering opposing defenses.
Lastly, the Denver Broncos season is still alive, but perhaps on life support. Losing linebacker Von Miller was a huge blow for this playoff-hopeful Denver roster. Now, starting quarterback Drew Lock will miss two-to-six weeks after suffering an injury against the Steelers. On the bright side, Denver has lost to Tennessee by two points and Pittsburgh by five points. The Broncos are hanging with elite teams until the bitter finish. If Denver keeps playing one-score games, the wins will start flowing in eventually.
Potential Playoff Contenders
Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans are off to a disappointing 0-2 start; dead-last in an AFC South where all three other teams have already secured a victory. The Texans opened their season in Kansas City against reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, and then hosted the Baltimore Ravens, who tout the league’s reigning regular season MVP in Lamar Jackson. In other words, you couldn’t draw up a tougher two-game opening slate. Houston will face an uphill battle with the Tennessee Titans leading the AFC South at 2-0, but they can still finish with a winning record and compete.
The Minnesota Vikings haven’t looked great through two weeks of play. They were better in Week 1, losing 43-34 to a well-oiled Packers team, before dropping their Week 2 matchup to the Colts, 28-11. Still, the Vikings have finished 8-8 or better in each of the last five seasons, with three playoff appearances to boot. Kirk Cousins will have chances to turn this season around, and can quickly flip the Vikings record by taking care of teams like the Lions and Bears.