Teams desperate to avoid 0-2 start
If at all possible, you don't want to start 0-2 in the NFL. It's not a death sentence, but since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only 19 teams have climbed out of an 0-2 hole to make the playoffs. That's 19 teams in 18 seasons of play, or about one per year.
Of course, that one 0-2 team last year was the New York Giants, and as I recall, things worked out pretty well for them in the end. The 2001 Patriots and the 1993 Cowboys also won Super Bowl rings despite dropping their first two games of the season, so history says you get the ultimate confetti-shower aberration to the 0-2 trend every six years or so.
But back to our premise: 0-2 is not a happy place to be. Autumn will not even have begun and the odds will already be stacked against you. At the moment, obviously, there are 16 teams staring 0-2 in the face after Week 1 losses. That should make for 16 very desperate teams this weekend, all willing to do almost anything to get to .500 and keep their seasons alive.
Which ones have the most motivation to stop the bleeding before it really gets going? Here's our top eight, ranked in terms of their sense of urgency:
Then there's Cleveland's showing last week against Dallas to consider. The Browns were beaten worse than the 28-10 score indicated, giving up 487 yards of offense while totaling just 205 themselves. One more humiliation like that -- and the Steelers specialize in humiliating Cleveland -- and all those once-hopeful Browns fans are going to start taking
For starters, Green Bay has a winnable game at Detroit this week, so the prospect of falling two games behind the Packers should motivate Minnesota. Secondly, let the Vikings lose this one against a Colts team that got embarrassed at home by the Bears last Sunday night and Minnesota's season could snowball in the wrong direction -- even before it's cold enough to actually snow in the Twin Cities. The Vikings next three games are against improved Carolina, at Tennessee and at New Orleans. Not a gimme among them.
Playing more physical than an opponent was supposed to be the Jaguars' game, but it wasn't the case last week in Nashville. Jacksonville now comes home to face a Buffalo team brimming with confidence after the Bills thrashed visiting Seattle 34-10. The Jaguars, who had their share of preseason Super Bowl hype, have to get their mojo back right now because in Week 3 looms their annual trip to division rival Indianapolis, the team Jacksonville has been chasing since coach
If that happens, we'll be well on our way to the usual sequence of events in this wacky division, where the first-place team from the previous year typically finishes in last place the next year, and the last-place team from a year ago vaults into first place this time around (you can look it up). Tampa Bay has one added handicap this week in that starting quarterback
That's what makes Sunday's Colts at Vikings game an early season Desperation Bowl. Neither team can laugh off an 0-2 start as a minor inconvenience. As we noted before, the Colts return home next week to take on the Jaguars, the team that has finished at least tied for second the AFC South four years in a row.
After a Week 4 open date, Indianapolis goes to Houston, where the Texans have played the Colts very tough in recent years. With Manning looking less than his usual sharp self against the Bears, the rest of the division would have some real hope if he comes out and struggles against the Vikings porous pass defense.
• Just wondering, but with
I know golf is an individual sport and football is the ultimate team sport, so the comparison isn't apples to apples. But honestly, will beating the Pats this year have the same cache it would have if Brady were healthy and playing? I say no way, no how.
Does that mean the eventual Super Bowl this season is the NFL's version of
• Got to thinking the other day about the remarkable turn of events in New England since the Patriots beat San Diego in the AFC title game to go 18-0. Has any team ever had two more shocking back-to-back results than
They go from the cusp of football immortality, to the biggest upset loser in Super Bowl history, to Tommy "Cover Boy'' Brady being knocked out in Week 1 of the following season, all in the combined span of less than 10 minutes of on-field action? Can't remember a magic carpet ride that ever ended quite so abruptly or cruelly as that.
• What choice does Tennessee head coach
Young's maturity level has never been as high as you'd like, but his sensitivity level has been far higher than is healthy for a guy playing the most scrutinized position in professional sports. He needs to grow up, and grow some thicker skin. But the problem is, that's not a three-week process in either case. And Tennessee is going to have to live with that reality as best it can for now.
• Say what you will about
"I was happy the way our team responded, not just
I think it's fair to say that was a slightly more descriptive account of the moment the Patriots season changed forever in comparison to, say, Coach Belichick's post-game comments.
• I say don't feel sorry for 49ers quarterback
For now, Smith joins the likes of
• I didn't have a problem with
And just to repeat, Merriman's absence will be a loss for San Diego's defense, but not a devastating one. Second-year linebacker