You have no doubt seen mention of 0-2 teams and how long the odds are to reach the NFL playoffs. Depending on when the crafter of the well-cooked nugget places the yearly cutoffs, you might get a slightly different percentage, but it’s going to run somewhere around 10-15% chance.
But those stats are largely meaningless. Here’s the reality. The biggest problem for the vast majority of the teams who start 0-2 is not the mark in the loss column, but the quality of play. There’s nothing magical about 0-2 or 1-1 other than moving one more win toward the necessary total to reach the playoffs. The bigger issue is that a lot of teams that don’t win after two weeks are going to keep playing the type of football that will lose more games.
To show this, I’ll go back through the teams that started 0-2 since 2002. (I picked that particular year since it’s when the league went to the current 8-division format).
There have been 123 teams that started 0-2 before this year, and only 13 reached the postseason (10.6%).
The average win total for that group of 123 teams was 5.6 wins. Thus, even if you magically added two wins at the start of the season thanks to some “power of veto” to each of these teams, they still would have been losing teams on average.
Here’s a recap of how close the 0-2 teams came to the postseason:
- 13 made the postseason;
- 5 more would have made the postseason with one more win, because they missed out on a tiebreaker or were one-half game back;
- 11 others would have been in a tiebreaker for a final playoff spot (often with multiple teams) with one more win, and would have made the postseason with two more wins;
- 8 others would have been in a tiebreaker for a final spot with two more wins.
- 86 finished at least 3 games out of a playoff spot by season’s end.
So add all that together, and at least 70% of the teams would not have sniffed the playoffs even if they had been spotted two wins out of the gate.
Meanwhile, only five more teams (pushing it to 18 of 123–14.6%) would have definitely made the postseason if they had just won one of the first two games.
Look at this year’s crop. I’m going to say that no one will make the playoffs starting 0-2 in 2017, which has historically been a slightly losing proposition (it has happened at least once in 9 of the last 15 years). But this year’s group has a lot of candidates that fit in the suck category.
The Jets are who we thought they were. The 49ers just played competitively with Seattle, but have not scored this year and are averaging under 4 net yards per pass. They will improve as the year goes on but aren’t there yet.
The Browns were competitive but have been hamstrung by injuries again, and will improve, but that may be getting to 5 or 6 wins. The Bears are in the same boat.
Yes, the Saints have Drew Brees but this has been a perennial 7-9 team in recent years and the defense is again getting torched, and they play in what looks like the toughest division in football. If it’s not them, then it’s the Chargers, who have zero home field advantage and are in the AFC West, where the other three teams have started 2-0.
The Colts could make a run once they get Andrew Luck back, but he’s still not back and this team is an underdog at home to Cleveland this week. Yikes. If he misses a few more weeks it may be too late.
And finally, the Bengals. They’ve scored 9 points through two games. Even if Marvin Lewis pulls out one more rabbit’s foot, the Steelers and Ravens are both at 2-0, five AFC West teams are 2-0, and that doesn’t even account for the Patriots.