The numbers are daunting for the nine teams that enter Week 3 without a victory: since the NFL went to its current eight-division format in 2012, less than 11 percent of the teams that have opened a season 0-2 have gone on to reach the postseason.
But not all 0-2 teams are created equal.
The Jets and 49ers figure to be in a season-long race for the No. 1 overall pick next spring, the Browns are a young rebuilding team and the Bears are in a transition period until rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is ready to take the helm – potentially under a new coaching staff.
However, there are five winless teams that entered the 2017 season with strong playoff aspirations who have quickly found themselves with their backs against the wall:
5. Indianapolis Colts: There is no definitive time frame for the return of Andrew Luck and the Colts have other issues, but they also play in a weaker division that could remain within reach even after a poor start. The other three teams are each 1-1 and none of them is shaping up to be a dominating force.
Blowing a 10-point lead at home in the fourth quarter to Arizona in Week 2 was a definite blow, but the Colts still have an opportunity to be competitive in the AFC South. They play host to Cleveland and San Francisco sandwiching a road trip Seattle. If Jacoby Brissett can engineer a victory or two and Luck can get back on the field at some point in the coming month, it’s not unrealistic that Indianapolis stays in the hunt.
4. Los Angeles Chargers: It was always a longshot that the Chargers would transition to L.A. and be competitive in Year 1 in arguably the deepest division in the NFL. And after two weeks, Philip Rivers & Co. find themselves a full two games behind three strong AFC contenders in the West.
Kansas City (2-0) comes to town this week in what essentially amounts to a must win before the calendar even turns to October. The Chargers play three division rivals in the next five weeks before a trip to New England, and could be buried in the standings well before they reach their Week 9 bye.
3. New Orleans Saints: The Saints’ inability to rectify their porous defense has been their downfall for several years, and 2017 does not appear to be any different. And now they have offensive line issues to boot.
The only winless team in the highly competitive NFC South, the Saints face road trips to Carolina (2-0) and Miami (1-0) before their bye week. A victory against the Panthers this week would not necessarily right the ship, but it would keep the Saints in the picture and prevent a potential early-season meltdown.
2. New York Giants: The Giants were a chic pick by many to be a threat in the NFC East this season, but their 0-2 start is worse than the record even indicates – if that’s possible. They are only one game back of the three 1-1 teams in the division, but the prospects don’t look good following a pair of ugly performances that have exposed serious flaws.
The Giants cannot protect quarterback Eli Manning and they can’t run the ball with any consistency. That’s due to an offensive line that has too many weak spots to account for with double-teams and chip blocks on every pass play. Manning has little time to look downfield, and he’s already making the type of poor decisions under pressure that have been his nemesis in past seasons.
Big free-agent addition Brandon Marshall has also been a nonfactor: first from a lack of targets, then from a lack of reeling in catchable balls. The defensive front seven may be among the best in football – particularly in rushing the passer – but when they don’t get to the QB the secondary can also be exposed.
The Giants travel to Philadelphia and Tampa Bay before a home game against the Chargers, and must win at least two of three before traveling to Denver and playing host to Seattle before their Week 9 bye.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Where do we start? The Bengals are one-eighth of their way through the season and have yet to score a touchdown. That’s the worst offensive start in franchise history, and Cincinnati became the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open a season with two home games and fail to score a touchdown.
It’s baffling with a healthy offense that includes playmakers in wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert along with a backfield sporting versatile Gio Bernard, bruising Jeremy Hill and rookie Joe Mixon. Embattled quarterback Andy Dalton has already thrown four picks and the offensive line has allowed eight sacks.
The Bengals are two games behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the division, and barring a major upset the hole figures to get deeper with a Week 3 trip to Green Bay. Cincinnati has a chance to pick up some steam with a road game at Cleveland and a home game against Buffalo before its bye week, and those will be pivotal contests with a trip to Pittsburgh immediately following the break.
Oftentimes an 0-2 record can be chalked up to bad luck, early-season injuries or a particularly difficult opening schedule. In the case of the five teams listed above, however, very real issues have been exposed that could render several preseason contenders as non-factors by early Fall.