NFL Teams Are Already Fighting Uphill Battles

AP
September 19, 2019 - 6:19 am

Bob Donnan

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DENVER (AP) — Last week, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. mentioned how critical it was for the Broncos to beat the Bears because "there's not a lot of 0-2 teams that make the playoffs."

Denver lost to Chicago, leaving the Broncos winless through two games for the first time since 1999.

Harris was right about the long odds of overcoming a slow start. Under the current playoff format adopted in 1990, only 30 of 238 teams that started out 0-2 recovered to reach the playoffs.

History provides a glimmer of hope, however, for the Broncos and the eight other teams that are 0-2.

In each of the past six seasons, at least one such team reached the playoffs. Houston and Seattle did it last season and in 2015. New Orleans did it in 2017, Miami in 2016, Indianapolis in 2014 and Carolina in 2013.

Before that, there was a four-year stretch when no 0-2 team made the playoffs.

In 2008, New England won its first two but without an injured Tom Brady, the Patriots missed the playoffs at 11-5, while San Diego started out 0-2 and made the playoffs at 8-8.

That anomaly aside, it's historically a whole lot easier for teams to make the playoffs if they get off to a 2-0 start.

While only eight 0-2 teams have reached the playoffs over the past decade, 42 of 77 teams that started 2-0 (54 percent) made it.

This year, that bodes well for the Patriots, Bills, Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC and for the Cowboys, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers and Packers in the NFC.

Here's a look at the candidates to make it seven straight seasons for an 0-2 team to still be playing past Week 17:

MIAMI DOLPHINS : Outscored 102-10, they're the longest of long shots, although it's a good bet the No. 1 pick in 2020 will be theirs.

DENVER BRONCOS : They've collected zero sacks and zero takeaways and LT Garett Bolles' holding habit is worse than ever.

CINCINNATI BENGALS : Zac Taylor's team flopped against the 49ers at home after a solid showing at Seattle.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS : No Brown. No Bell. And now, no Big Ben. Welcome to the Steel City, Minkah Fitzpatrick.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS : Jalen Ramsey just wants to win and he figures that might have to happen somewhere else.

NEW YORK GIANTS : No more Eli Manning, who joins Roethlisberger, Brees and Foles as Super Bowl champ QBs watching backups play.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS : Case Keenum is enjoying a rebound from his awful season in Denver, but D isn't what it was cracked up to be.

CAROLINA PANTHERS : Cam Newton doesn't look right — and no, we're not talking about his fashion choices.

NEW YORK JETS : Sam Darnold sidelined by mononucleosis, backup Trevor Siemian sidelined by Myles Garrett.

The Broncos were the only NFL team to start 2-0 in each of the previous six seasons. Under Peyton Manning, they parlayed three fast starts into two Super Bowl runs and one title. Since his retirement, not even a sniff of the playoffs.

A loss at Green Bay on Sunday would make Vic Fangio the first coach in the franchise's 60-year history to lose his first three games.

And history is even crueler to 0-3 teams, with only six of 176 such squads reaching the playoffs since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1980. That includes the 1982 Buccaneers, who went 5-4 in the strike-shortened season and was one of 16 playoff teams in an expanded format.

The others are the '81 Jets, '92 Chargers, '95 Lions, '98 Bills and '18 Texans, who were the first 0-3 team to make it past Week 17 since the current division alignment in 2002.

"Is that right?" Harris said Wednesday. "We've got to win this weekend!"

The '92 Chargers are the only team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after starting 0-4.

EXTRA, EXTRA! Denver's Brandon McManus missed an extra point Sunday but was given a reprieve because holder Colby Wadman's hard count had drawn Buster Skrine offside. Otherwise, there would have been 10 missed PATs through two games for the first time since the NFL pushed the extra point back from 20 yards out in 2015.

The 33-yard PATs have given the league the drama it craved:

—2019: 9 missed, 1 blocked; 93.8 percent accuracy

—2018: 8 missed, 1 blocked; 94.9 accuracy

—2017: 8 missed; 93.5 percent

—2016: 9 missed, 3 blocked; 93.9 percent

—2015: 9 missed, 2 blocked; 94.2 percent

—2014 (last year of old PAT): 1 missed, 1 blocked; 99.3 percent

COLIN HAS COMPANY: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson threw for 272 yards and two TDs and rushed for a career-high 120 yards in Baltimore's 23-17 win over Arizona. He's the first player with at least 250 yards passing and 120 yards rushing in a regular-season game in NFL history.

Colin Kaepernick did it in his first career playoff game, leading the 49ers to a 45-31 win over Green Bay on Jan. 12, 2013. Kaepernick had 263 yards passing and two TDs and ran for 181 yards and two scores.

DOMINANT PATRIOTS: The defending champion Patriots have outscored their opponents 76-3 in the first two games. They're the fourth team in the Super Bowl era with a plus-70 point differential after two games, joining the '67 Raiders, '70 Lions and '75 Redskins. New England also is the fourth team to allow three or fewer points through two games, joining the '70 Lions, '76 Oilers and '81 Bills.

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