Two losses may not seem all that bad, but losing the first two games of a season has been disastrous historically for NFL teams, as few are able to rebound from a 0-2 start and reach the playoffs. This season there are eight teams that have started out with two losses. Let’s take a look at those eight teams, how they got to 0-2, and if there’s a chance for them to bounce back and contend for a playoff spot in 2013.
Carolina – The Panthers lost two close games to begin the season after holding a 4th quarter lead in both of them. Most teams would have found a way to win at least one of those games, but Carolina didn’t, and now they’re in a hole. Cam Newton has barely eclipsed the 300-yard mark throwing the ball over the first two games combined, and that has held the team back from extending their leads and avoiding 4th quarter collapses. The schedule doesn’t any easier for them, as they still have to play Atlanta and New Orleans twice, as well as San Francisco and New England. If the Panthers can’t get things turned around quickly and find a way to win close games, they could be in for a long season.
Cleveland – After a promising preseason, the Browns look like the team we’ve come to expect. Despite solid play from their defense, they’ve been unable to get running back Trent Richardson going, who they’ve now traded to the Colts, and with a lackluster passing attack, they’ve only managed to score 16 points over the first two weeks of the season. If Cleveland is able to score points on a consistent basis, they’ll be in a position to win some games, as their schedule isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, but if they continue to be terrible on offense, which won’t be easy with Richardson gone and Brandon Weeden nursing an injury, they’ll find themselves at the bottom of the AFC North all season long.
Jacksonville – We knew the Jaguars would be bad, and there’s little to indicate things can get better from what they’ve shown the first two weeks. They simply don’t have competent play at the quarterback position, which has allowed teams to focus on running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jacksonville has scored just 11 points over the first two games of the season, and even the eventual return of Justin Blackmon may not make much of a difference. Looking at the schedule, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for the Jaguars to get wins, and based off their play over the first two weeks, it may be time to consider the possibility of a winless season.
Minnesota – The Vikings are the kind of 0-2 team you don’t want to give up on just yet. They lost two road games and were competitive in both, although the fact that they have two divisional losses this early in the season will be tough to overcome. Christian Ponder has thrown four interceptions over the first two games, and he’ll have to stop turning the ball over if Minnesota is going to rebound from a slow start, but they’re certainly capable of being a .500 team, which could be enough to get them in the playoff conversation. The Vikings play their next three games, and four of their next five, at home, and it’s not hard to imagine them going 4-1 over that span, which would get them in the thick of things by the mid-point in the season if they can pull it off.
New York Giants – The Giants aren’t a terrible team, they just have some terrible deficiencies that will be difficult to overcome this season. First up is their running game, which ranks last in the NFL after two weeks. Next up are the seven interceptions thrown by Eli Manning, although much of that can be attributed to him trying to overcompensate for New York’s lack of a running game. Finally, the Giant’s defense has just two sacks on the season, which is making a suspect secondary even more vulnerable, and putting the Giants behind early in games. Manning has the weapons to do a lot of damage if he can get more support from the rest of the team, and the Giants are in a division that could be won with eight or nine wins, so rebounding quickly from their 0-2 start isn’t out of the question, but they need to show significant improvement in the areas that are holding them back.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers have been horrendous on offense over the first two weeks, as it’s obvious that they have major issues at running back, receiver, and along the offensive, giving Ben Roethlisberger little support. As long Pittsburgh’s defense stays healthy, they should be good and at least give them a chance to win games, but unless Roethlisberger gets more help around him, the rest of the season could look a lot like the first two games, in which the Steelers have scored 19 total points. There’s also the issue of the rift between Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, which isn’t helping matters either. Pittsburgh plays in a tough division and they’ll have to play every team in a competitive NFC North division, so they won’t have too many easy games the rest of the way, making a .500 record tough to envision if they can’t get things turned around in a hurray.
Tampa Bay – The Bucs aren’t far from being 2-0 after losing their first two games by a combined three points, but the way they’ve played and the manner in which they’ve lost those two games raises some red flags, as does the trouble brewing between head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman. Schiano doesn’t seem to have much confidence in Freeman, and Freeman hasn’t done much to change that. They’ve played well defensively despite committing too many penalties, and if Freeman can start to play better, he has the weapons that can put points on the board and make Tampa Bay a playoff contender. However, if there continues to be division between Schiano and some of the players, things could spiral out of control.
Washington – The Redskins have played two good halves of football and two bad halves of football this season, but thus far, the bad has outweighed the good. The Washington defense has been pitiful, while the offense hasn’t been able to do anything prior to halftime this season, and those are both trends that will have to be stopped immediately. They’ve proven they can play well, but they have to prove they can play that way for a full 60 minutes. Washington has plenty of time to recover, since nobody is going to be running away with the NFC East this season, but they need to figure things out quickly and get back to .500 as soon as possible.