Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The NFL media has really grabbed the “it’s a disaster to start a season 0-2” theme and driven it into the ground. Yes, the numbers are fairly dramatic. But, that’s because a lot of really bad teams start a season 0-2! That doesn’t mean that an 0-2 team that had to open with a tough schedule is out of the playoffs. It just means that teams who weren’t playoff caliber to begin with often start a season 0-2.
Let’s run through all the NFL teams who are off to 0-2 starts to see who’s really in trouble in terms of playing to preseason expectations. We’ll get the obviously bad teams out of the way…
These were the two worst teams in the NFL last year. They look to be the two worst teams in the NFL right now though Jacksonville did have about 30 minutes of competence in the first half of their season opener at Philadelphia. Respected Power Ratings have these teams as the bottom two out of 32. It’s no surprise that they’re both 0-2. We may be looking at 2-14 caliber teams! Jacksonville looks to have a better shot to reach four or five wins.
NY Giants 0-2
Tampa Bay 0-2
There were certainly some expectations to do well here, particularly for Tampa Bay. For some reason, market sharps were in love with Tampa Bay through much of last season and entering 2014. But, these two teams were dealing with so many important changes that it wasn’t fair to expect fast starts.
*The Giants are installing a new West Coast offense that isn’t really a good match for quarterback Eli Manning’s skill set. He can learn it…but the process is going to be rough. We saw how rough during the exhibition slate. Execution has only become more difficult against full games of intense opposing defense.
*Tampa Bay has a new head coach in Lovie Smith, and a new quarterback in Josh McCown. Both are upgrades. But, it’s tough for an NFL franchise to hit the ground running with that much turnover in a short amount of time. And, given that the Bucs are in the same division as Carolina, New Orleans, and Atlanta, they were going to be in a crapshoot in the best of circumstances. Still time to become relevant. They’re already two games behind Carolina in the standings with a home loss to the Panthers that is a bad omen for tiebrakers.
Neither the Giants nor Bucs were serious playoff threats at the start of the season. They had a chance to develop into important stories. Those 0-2 starts just make that development seem less relevant for the 2014 brackets.
Now, we get to the three fan bases that are most concerned because they all reached the playoffs last year and were hoping to take another step forward toward the Super Bowl.
PLAYOFF TEAMS FROM LAST YEAR
New Orleans 0-2
Kansas City 0-2
New Orleans is obviously down and drained after losing two naibliters. But, those happened on the ROAD…and this is a team that’s very capable of going 8-0 at home and splitting out their road games. It would be one thing to lose at home (the Bucs above are 0-2 at home!). The Saints are still the Saints, and Drew Brees is still lethal. A 12-4 finish isn’t out of the question if they do sweep at home. Getting to 10 or 11 wins is still manageable.
The other two teams are in some serious trouble in our view because we’re seeing early signs of what was likely to be regression anyway. If you read our divisional previews this past summer, you’ll recall that both teams were outgained on a per-play basis…but won games thanks to turnover differential.
YARDS-PER-PLAY (Turnover Differential)
Indianapolis: 5.3 on offense, 5.6 on defense (+14 in turnovers)
Kanas City: 5.2 on offense, 5.5 on defense (+19 in turnovers)
Either was capable of playing with top teams within a 60-minute stretch (the Colts beat both Super Bowl teams). But, on the whole, they were basically Miami, Dallas, or St. Louis with great turnover differential. (The Saints were 5.9 and 5.2 in those YPP categories if you were wondering).
So, if turnover luck has turned for these two AFC contenders with poor stats, then we have 7-9 caliber teams going forward. And, that’s happening in challenging divisions. Both Tennessee and Houston look to have improved some from last year in Indy’s AFC South. Denver and San Diego are both better than Kansas City right now in all the ways that matter.
Summarizing…New Orleans fans have no reason to panic. Indy and KC fans have A LOT of reasons to panic. Tampa Bay and NY Giants fans are probably going to experience more growing pains in transitional years that may only peak out at .500 caliber (and could stumble to something a few games worse). Oakland and Jacksonville fans knew what they were getting going in, and can still only hope for some signs of meaningful improvement up from laughingstock class.
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This weekend’s TV preview schedule in the NOTEBOOK…
Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Friday: College Football Early Look…Florida at Alabama
Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Clemson at Florida State
Sunday: NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Carolina
Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Chicago at the NY Jets
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