Only one week of the season has been played, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pull the alarm and feign fear for a handful of franchises that took a loss in Week 1. Teams that start 0-2 typically do not make the playoffs and that has extended to the 17-game era of the NFL. The only team to make the playoffs after starting 0-2 in the 17-game era was last season’s Cincinnati Bengals, who made the AFC title game.
The Vikings have a head start on 0-2 pain after their loss to the Eagles, and a handful of teams will be fighting like hell this weekend to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate. It’s not impossible to make the playoffs after starting 0-2, but it’s a tall task to expect a team that started 0-2 to get close to running the table in order to make the playoffs — they couldn’t even win the first two games!
Still, not all NFL teams are created equal and some have the facilities to dig themselves out of a tough hole. Let’s look at where all the 0-1 teams are as far as their season hopes are concerned if they were to fall to 0-2 this weekend.
The dominant quarterback tier
Anything can happen in Week 2, including some of the preeminent Super Bowl contenders ending up 0-2 to start the season. But there are some teams that don’t need to go into panic mode if their teams start the first two weeks winless — teams that already have elite quarterbacks.
No one is panicking with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert under center. As mentioned before, the Bengals started the season 0-2 last year and still were able to ride their stable of elite talent to the playoffs and even the AFC championship game. If you have one of the guys worth paying $250 million or more, 0-2 isn’t a deathblow.
Getting a little hot in here?
Giants (at Cardinals), Steelers (vs. Browns), Seahawks (at Lions), Patriots (vs. Dolphins), Broncos (vs. Commanders)
Outside of the Patriots and Broncos, these teams were absolutely smashed in the first week of the season. The Giants, Steelers and Seahawks lost by a combined score of 100-20 on Sunday, immediately changing the course of what was thought possible for this season. All three of those teams opened with expectations of a real deal playoff run, but those hopes might have been readjusted off the first game.
The Giants probably have the biggest reason for optimism because they can at least say their 40-0 loss to the Cowboys was inhibited by weather. The Steelers and Seahawks got pantsed by the 49ers and Rams, respectively. (The Giants did too, just providing some glass half full on their situation.) The Giants, Steelers and Seahawks have some top-end talent that can help them get over a potential 0-2 start, but it’ll be a bit tougher because they don’t have the same level of talent as the group on top. If Russell Wilson gets back to form, the Broncos have a chance to beat the Commanders, but that’s not necessarily a given.
The Patriots have the toughest test this weekend against a Dolphins offense that can score at will as long as their quarterback is healthy. The Giants have the best chance to get their season back on track with a win against the Cardinals.
The Titans tier
The Titans always deserve to be in their own tier. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions on Sunday against the Saints, but weirder things have happened with this franchise over the past few years than rebounding from an 0-2 start to the season. This year feels different though because the roster isn’t exactly the same quality as it has been and the Titans have undergone a mini-rebuild at a few positions.
The offensive line is no longer a strength of this team and they’re lacking some talent at their skill positions. DeAndre Hopkins received 13 targets in his first game as a Titan, but was able to turn it into only seven catches for 65 yards. This team might be stuck playing a grind-it-out style of football this year without the horses to match. Still, the defense should be a quality unit and keep the Titans competitive throughout the season. The offense is going to be the tough part for them.
The Titans face a tough test against the Chargers on Sunday, which may make it difficult to recover and make the playoffs.
The Bears tier
Chicago might not have made as much progress as they were hoping to make this offseason if the first game against the Packers was any indication. The Bears' offense is still inconsistent and overly reliant on Justin Fields’ legs to make plays, and the defense doesn't seem to have the playmakers required to compete against the better offenses in the league.
Ryan Poles spent a lot to build an improved version of this roster, but it’s fair to wonder if they acquired any true difference-makers this summer. The Buccaneers' defense will be a tough test for this Bears offense that’s still finding its way, and the Bucs even have enough skill talent to provide a challenge on that side of the ball, too.
The only thing that’s holding the Bears here over the bottom tier is just a nod to the fact that this is an improved roster from last year. If DJ Moore and their linebacker acquisitions catch fire, they might have something to actually play for this season. Looking like a tall task so far.
The Rebuilders tier
No one was expecting these teams to compete for a playoff spot just yet. These are the three teams starting rookie quarterbacks plus the Cardinals, who have not been shy on how the 2023 season is a transition year for them. No need to freak out about teams that didn’t have a strong chance to make the playoffs this season anyway.