Fans of teams that are winless two weeks into the NFL season might be looking ahead to next year already. And history shows it's hard to blame them.
In the past decade, only 9.2 percent of the 83 franchises that began 0-2 rebounded to make the playoffs (a breakdown can be found here). Nine clubs face those long odds in 2017.
MORE: 2017 NFL standings
However, those squads can take solace in this: At least one 0-2 team in each of the past four seasons has overcome that slow start to make the playoffs.
Here is my ranking of the teams that have the best chances of doing so.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Losses: Baltimore, 20-0; Houston, 13-9
What has gone wrong: The offense is so out of sorts that coordinator Ken Zampese became the NFL’s first coach fired in-season following last Thursday’s debacle against the Texans.
What has gone right: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins can again make the claim of being the league’s most dominant inside pass rusher. He is tied for second among NFL sack leaders with three.
Hottest seat: Andy Dalton. Some of the blame falls upon an offensive line that has yielded eight sacks, but it’s not the only reason Dalton’s touchdown-to-interception ratio (zero-to-four), completion percentage (54.5) and quarterback rating (47.5) are lousy. If the promotion of QBs coach Bill Lazor to offensive coordinator doesn't trigger improvement, the Bengals might give backup A.J. McCarron the chance to prove he can do better.
Reasons for optimism: The schedule levels out after Sunday’s trip to Green Bay that will likely drop Cincinnati to 0-3. Four of the next five games are against mediocre opposition in Cleveland (0-2), Buffalo (1-1), Indianapolis (0-2) and Jacksonville (1-1). The defense also will receive a huge boost when linebacker Vontaze Burfict returns from another NFL disciplinary suspension following the Packers game.
Reasons for pessimism: Pittsburgh (2-0) and Baltimore (2-0) are already separating themselves in the AFC North, and there’s reason to question whether coach Marvin Lewis is still getting through to his team.
2. New York Giants
Losses: at Dallas, 16-3; Detroit, 24-10
What has gone wrong: The offense can get nothing going without Odell Beckham Jr. The star wide receiver missed the Cowboys game with an ankle injury that also limited his snaps against Detroit.
What has gone right: The defense is still staunch with safety Landon Collins, defensive tackle Snacks Harrison, and ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon playing at a high level.
Hottest seat: Brandon Marshall. One of the league’s top receivers over the past decade looks like anything but with just two catches for 27 yards in the first two games. The 33-year-old also had a key drop against the Lions.
Reasons for optimism: Beckham’s full-time return should lead to better offensive productivity all-around. The defense is good enough to pick up any remaining slack. And the Giants are only one game out of first place in the NFC East.
Reasons for pessimism: The offensive line and running game are a mess, quarterback Eli Manning looks like he has started a major career decline at age 36 and three of the next four games are on the road starting Sunday at Philadelphia.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
Losses: at Denver, 24-21; Miami, 19-17
What has gone wrong: New city. New head coach. Same old Chargers when it comes to imploding in the fourth quarter.
What has gone right: Philip Rivers is again playing at a high level after dipping in 2016. He ranks among the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks in passer rating (106.4) and completion percentage (73.6) while also having thrown four touchdown passes with just one interception.
Hottest seat: Younghoe Koo. After besting incumbent kicker Josh Lambo in the preseason, Koo could be out of a job by the time you read this. The undrafted rookie had a field goal blocked that would have sent the Broncos game into overtime, and he missed a 44-yarder in the closing seconds against Miami.
Reason for optimism: The Chargers have lost twice by a total of five points, which is a far better showing than any of the NFL’s other winless teams.
Reason for pessimism: First-year head coach Anthony Lynn has to prove he can stop L.A.’s ongoing penchant for shoddy special teams and failing to come through in the clutch. The Chargers also must make hay in the NFL’s only division that features three undefeated clubs in Denver, Oakland and Kansas City, which visits Sunday.
4. Cleveland Browns
Losses: Pittsburgh, 21-18; at Baltimore, 24-10
What has gone wrong: Yes, DeShone Kizer is a rookie. That doesn't temper the fact that Cleveland continues to have far too many quarterbacking mistakes. The Browns have thrown more interceptions (five) than any other team while allowing the second-highest number of sacks (10) as Kizer takes his lumps learning how to read NFL defenses.
What has gone right: Cleveland’s defense already has shown signs of major improvement under new coordinator Gregg Williams. The Browns are surrendering almost 80 less yards a game (313.5) than last season despite being put in tough situations by offensive turnovers.
Hottest seat: Kenny Britt. One of of the shakiest offseason decisions made by Cleveland’s front office — and there are plenty of them in the past two years with Sashi Brown at the helm — was letting wide receiver Terrelle Pryor leave in free agency and signing Britt to a four-year, $32.5 million contract as his replacement. Britt has just two catches for 15 yards along with a critical drop against the Steelers.
Reason for optimism: Cleveland’s defense is good enough to help the Browns better their one-win total from 2016, especially when rookie defensive end Myles Garrett returns from his ankle injury in several weeks. Kizer also should continue to improve as he gains experience.
Reason for pessimism: Until they prove otherwise, the Browns are still the same ol’ Browns.
5. New Orleans Saints
Losses: at Minnesota, 29-19; New England, 36-20
What has gone wrong: The Saints have three rookies on their defense in starting positions like linebacker Alex Anzalone, free safety Marcus Williams and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. It’s still no excuse for how poorly the unit has played overall through the first two games.
What has gone right: Drew Brees remains a top-tier quarterback at age 39 despite being without two of his top receiving weapons from last year in Brandin Cooks (traded to New England) and Willie Snead (suspended). No QB has thrown more passes (85) without an interception this season. Brees also has gotten sacked only twice, which is a credit to his wiliness playing behind an offensive line being juggled to compensate for injuries to starting tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief.
Hottest seat: Dennis Allen. Having surrendered an NFL-high 777 passing yards in the first two games, New Orleans has opened with the same kind of leaky secondary that led to the firings of predecessors Rob Ryan and Steve Spagnuolo. Sean Payton, who has employed five different defensive coordinators since becoming Saints head coach in 2006, would likely promote Mike Nolan from linebackers coach if he decides another change is needed.
Reason for optimism: The Saints have never won fewer than seven games in Brees’ 11 prior seasons with the franchise.
Reason for pessimism: New Orleans has yet to replace the home-run threat Cooks provided, and the defense doesn’t look playoff-caliber.
6. San Francisco 49ers
Losses: Carolina, 23-3; at Seattle, 12-9
What has gone wrong: Even though the Panthers and Seahawks field two of the NFL’s stoutest defenses, it’s still inexcusable the 49ers have yet to register a touchdown this season.
What has gone right: The pieces are in place for the 49ers to field a strong front-seven, especially when rookie linebacker Reuben Foster recovers from the high ankle sprain he suffered against Carolina.
Hottest seat: Brian Hoyer. The offensive ineptitude isn't entirely his fault, as the 49ers are sorely lacking receiving weapons and sputtering along the offensive line. But with Hoyer serving as a placeholder, anyway, and the season already slipping away, the 49ers should consider fast-tracking rookie C.J. Beathard to determine whether he has earmarks to become their franchise quarterback heading into the 2018 offseason.
Reason for optimism: First-year head coach Kyle Shanahan's offensive system is tried-and-true, so the 49ers should ultimately be able to fix their scoring woes. Running back Carlos Hyde is already comfortable, rushing for 124 yards on 15 carries against the Seahawks.
Reason for pessimism: With an NFL-high 15 rookies on the 53-man roster, the most realistic best-case scenario is a strong end to the season as the team matures and becomes comfortable in new systems installed by Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
7. Indianapolis Colts
Losses: at Los Angeles Rams, 46-9; Arizona, 16-13 (OT)
What has gone wrong: Andrew Luck’s absence while continuing his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery has crippled the offense. Scott Tolzien wasn’t up to the task as a Week 1 starter — the Rams returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns — and replacement Jacoby Brissett is limited after having joined the Colts at the end of the preseason in a trade with New England.
What has gone right: Matthias Farley has turned into quite the Cinderella story. Claimed off waivers last season from Arizona as a college free agent, Farley is tied with Arizona’s Tyvon Branch for the most tackles among NFL safeties with 18.
Hottest seat: Chuck Pagano. No Colts coach has survived three straight seasons without a winning record since the late Weeb Ewbank in the mid-1950s. Pagano probably wouldn’t get a fourth year to right the ship even though Luck’s absence is a legitimate reason for the team’s misfortune.
Reason for optimism: Luck should return to play at some point this season.
Reason for pessimism: The Colts might not win a game until Luck is back under center.
8. Chicago Bears
Losses: Atlanta, 23-17; at Tampa Bay, 29-7
What has gone wrong: Injuries to guard Kyle Long and wide receivers Cam Meredith and Kevin White have crippled the offense. The Bears also were gouged by the Buccaneers in their first game without inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who has joined Meredith and White on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.
What has gone right: Rookie running back Tarik Cohen has added a dynamic presence on offense and, despite his muff vs. Tampa Bay, punt returns.
Hottest seat: Mike Glennon. Since Mitchell Trubisky only had 13 college starts, the Bears want to give their 2017 first-round pick more time to develop before putting him on the field. Glennon, though, might give the Bears little choice but to insert the rookie quarterback if Chicago’s offensive fortunes don’t quickly improve. Glennon committed three turnovers against Tampa Bay, including an interception returned for a touchdown, and doesn't have the same mobility that could help Trubisky playing behind a depleted offensive line.
Reason for optimism: Trubisky during preseason action showed the physical skills of being the franchise quarterback Chicago has sorely lacked.
Reason for pessimism: With 0-3 records, the Bears were essentially out of the playoff picture before September ended in the past two seasons under coach John Fox. The likelihood of that happening again is strong with Pittsburgh coming Sunday to Soldier Field. That makes the odds of Chicago having a new head coach in 2018 even greater.
9. New York Jets
Losses: at Buffalo, 21-12; at Oakland, 45-20
What has gone wrong: Josh McCown is now 2-22 in his past four seasons as a starting quarterback, but some of his woes in New York stem from the lack of a quality supporting cast. The Jets rank in the NFL’s bottom five in passing (160.5) and total yardage (242.5), which are numbers that can't compensate for a defensive back-seven having its own struggles.
What has gone right: If the Jets are truly tanking this season to land the top overall pick in next year’s draft, they’re off to a great start.
Hottest seat: Head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. The Jets have combined to win five of their past 19 games under their watch with scant hope for an immediate turnaround in sight. Jets ownership has every reason to doubt whether this duo can ever get it right.
Reason for optimism: Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold displays all the earmarks of being the No. 1 selection in the Class of 2018 should he decide to turn pro as expected.
Reason for pessimism: As sad as is this is to write, Jets fans should be hoping for the losing to continue so the club can be assured of getting a franchise quarterback around whom to build.
Source : http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/nfl-standings-0-2-playoffs-odds-bengals-chargers-browns-49ers-bears-saints/7lhvyj9hnalq1v3ke3ypfaoih