As week three of this young 2013 NFL season winds to a close, take a look at the standings. There are quite a few undefeated teams, but there are a number of teams still struggling to find that first win of the year.
Before we analyze those unlucky teams, here’s a couple facts worth pointing out:
1-No team in the past 5 years that has started 0-3 has even managed to end the season with a winning record.
2-Since the playoff format changed in 1990, only three teams who started 0-3 made the playoffs. Out of 115. Talk about long odds.
And those teams facing those really long odds?
The Washington Redskins-defending NFC East champions. The New York Giants, not far removed from a Super Bowl victory. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team many expected to contend for a playoff spot. The Minnesota Vikings, a team which made the playoffs last season. The Jacksonville Jaguars, a team which right now is clearly the worst in the NFL and could manage to go 0-16. The Pittsburgh Steelers-thought to be a likely playoff team just a few weeks ago, now dealing with numerous key players out with injuries.
Where are they all going wrong?
Of the teams on this list, the Jaguars are the easiest to pick apart. They simply are a young team with a new head coach. A team which has plenty of holes and will need a few seasons to fix those. Gus Bradley may be the right man for the job, but it’s going to be a rough couple of seasons in Jacksonville.
The Bucs are a team I thought could contend for a playoff spot, even in the tough NFC South. Now? Reports of veterans not being overly fond of Greg Schiano’s tactics, coupled with the fall from grace by once heralded Josh Freeman are a recipe for disaster in Tampa Bay. It’s almost a sure thing that Freeman isn’t long for the starter’s job; the bigger question is how much time might Schiano have left, especially if the losses continue to mount.
The Vikings? Well, you dealt away Percy Harvin in the off-season, a move I wasn’t opposed to. The Vikings seemed to have a promising draft in April. But to be 0 and 3 after being a playoff team a year ago? Not an expected result. They are being outscored, they aren’t protecting Ponder well enough and just aren’t doing enough as a team to win. It’s not a good sign when you lose to a 3rd string Cleveland Browns QB. Can the Vikings pull it together and make the playoffs? While I’d rather not count Adrian Peterson out, consider the division the Vikings are in: The Bears are 3-0. The Lions are in second place at 2-1, and the Packers-a team many thought could make it to the Super Bowl this year, are at 1-2. Not that you ever want to start 0-3, but if you did so, the NFC North is one division to not do it in.
The Giants being 0-3 is a stunner. But, do a little research, and it’s a lot less stunning. It’s hard to do much of anything when you average just over 44 yards of rushing in a game. Putting this into perspective, right now there are 15 individual players who have more rushing yards than the entire Giants team. LeSean McCoy had more rushing yards in one game (twice!) than the Giants do all season. Thats only 1 major reason for the Giants being 0-3. They aren’t doing a great job of protecting their QB, or pressuring the opponent’s. And, when you are scoring 54 points to your opponents 115 through 3 games, it really is no wonder why you are still searching for victory number 1. It may be at least another week for that victory to happen, as the Giants head to Kansas City next, to face the 3-0 Chiefs. The one positive? Win the NFC East and you’re in, and right now, it’s still anyone’s to win. The Eagles are 1-2 and the Cowboys are 2-1. No one is running away with it-yet.
Then there’s the Redskins. During last year’s playoffs, as RGIII lay wounded on FedEx Field and the news came out that he needed surgery. At that point, many were already assuming Griffin would be out well into the 2013 season. Griffin was determined to make it back for the opening game, however, and he did. But, in doing so, he was restricted during the preseason. But, its just the preseason, you say? Its not important, you say? Well, for a young player coming off of a really bad knee injury, having the time to knock the rust off is critical, and it showed. In the season opening loss to the Eagles, Griffin looked tentative. He has not looked much better, and the ‘Skins collectively as a team just haven’t looked in sync. As with the Giants, the silver lining is being in the weak NFC East.
Then there’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. Never expected to see them get out of the gates to an 0-3 start, but there it is. No team ever likes to use the injury excuse, and I doubt you would hear a Steeler use it. But the reality is, they lost key pieces at the beginning of the season, and they were already waiting on some key players (Heath Evans, who returned for the week 3 tilt with the Bears), and LeVeon Bell, brought in to generate a rushing attack, has yet to make his rookie debut. Tomlin, Big Ben and company are better than 0-3, but in that division, 0-3 is going to be hard to overcome.
The good news is we know without a doubt that this list will have at least one less team on it come this time next week, as the Steelers and Vikings tangle in the UK.
If any team might dig out of 0-3 and make something of this season still, my money would be on either of the NFC East teams, but that’s no sure thing. Neither has looked all that sound fundamentally thus far. Beyond those two, however, I think every other team on this list will have a hard time even making it back to a .500 record for 2013.