For seven teams, it might already be time to look at 2019.
The Giants, Lions, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders, Texans, and Bills are all 0-2, and that usually spells doom in the NFL.
Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and morphed into its current divisional alignment in 2002, 14 out of 133 teams to start 0-2 have reached the playoffs.
That 14 number is appropriate because it’s essentially the number of games in a season for these teams. Everybody else is playing with a 16 game slate, while the ones who begin at 0-2 are behind the eight ball two-fold.
This is a list of every NFL team to start 0-2 since 2002, the opponents they lost to, the scores and overall margins of defeat, as well as the net result of that season.
While a lot of this can look redundant with failure after failure after failure to overcome an 0-2 start, there are some individual case studies to examine in the context of the 0-2 club of 2018.
First, let’s start with the ugly. The Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals have lost their opening two games by 55 and 52 points respectively, by far the most of anybody this season. Last season no 0-2 teams even lost their opening two by more than 40 combined points, and no team has done it since the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs, who were dropped by a whopping 79 points against the Bills and Lions to start the year. They finished 7-9.
In total, only three teams since 2002 have lost their opening two games by a combined 50+ points. The 2008 Rams, the 2003 Bears, and the 2002 Lions. The Titans nearly joined this club in 2012 with a -49 to start the year, and the Saints were at -48 in 2007. All of them missed the playoffs.
The highest number of points a team has lost their opening two games by and still made the playoffs by since the expansion to 32 teams was the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles, who lost 17-0 to Tampa and 31-10 to New England before rebounding to reach the postseason.
It does stand to reason. A team who gets blown out twice in a row right out of the blocks probably isn’t a very good team, and therefore won’t make the playoffs.
And it might be enough evidence to suggest the 2018 editions of the Bills and Cardinals are already cooked.
The flip side of this works well for the Texans, Giants, and Seahawks. Houston lost a seven-point contest in Foxboro in week one, and then a three-point nailbiter in Tennessee last week. The Giants also lost a pair of one-possession games right out of the game to Jacksonville and Dallas, and Seattle dropped road games 27-24 to Denver and 24-17 at Soldier Field. If you lose tight games, the bounce of the ball or the ref making the call might just not be going your way. This has held true over the years.
Just last season, the Los Angeles Chargers lost both of their first two games on last-second missed field goals for a combined total of five points, and came back to finish 9-7. If not for a quirk in the way the NFL breaks three-way ties for playoff spots, they would have become just the 15th team in the 32 team era to make the playoffs from 0-2.
The Miami Dolphins lost games 12-10 and 31-24 to open up shop in 2016, and finished the season 10-4 to claim their first playoff appearance in eight seasons. The Seahawks and Texans lost by 13 and 14 points combined respectively to start 2015, and both reached January. The Panthers fell by scores of 12-7 and 24-23 in 2013, and became the only team in this time period to start 0-2 and claim a first-round bye, finishing the season 12-4.
Eight of the 14 0-2 playoff teams since 2002 have lost their opening two games by 14 total points or less. The Texans and Giants should take heart in their tight early defeats.
Houston and Seatle in particular have another stat working on their side. They haven’t played a home game yet. The 2016 Dolphins and 2015 Seahawks both started their seasons with consecutive road games, but the backloaded home schedules aided them into the playoffs. The Texans will finally get a chance to play in front of their home fans Sunday, ironically against the aforementioned Giants.
Finally, there a couple samples to look at in terms of one thing the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders have in common. Both of these teams already have a home defeat of at least 20 points on the board. The Bengals and 49ers both did this last season, and neither came anywhere close to the playoffs, finishing at 7-9 and 6-10 respectively. The 2013 Jaguars provide a grim sign for Detroit and Oakland. Those Jags were humiliated 28-2 on their home field in week one, and it led to them crashing and burning to a 4-12 season.
The worst home loss suffered by any of these teams can in week 2 of the 2007 campaign, when the Giants were stomped 35-13 in the Meadowlands by the Packers. They ended up becoming the ultimate outliers to these spreadsheets, going on to become the only one of these 133 teams to win the Super Bowl.
Overall, the majority of these teams wind up with long, barren seasons. 73 out of 133 teams, good for 54.8%, nestle between four and seven wins. The most shared plateau for 0-2 teams is the 7-9 mark, occupied by 22 teams (16.5%).
Some have completely bottomed out. 29 teams (21.8%) since 2002 have gone 3-13 or worse. The two 0-16 finishers since then obviously fall here, but three 1-15 clubs, the 2016 Browns, 2009 Rams, and 2007 Dolphins all started 0-2.
Only 19 (14.2%) of these teams ended up with a mark above .500. Eight have won a playoff game. Two have won more than one playoff game. 0-2 is just about the kiss of death.
Seven teams in 2018 will have to pick up the pieces and try to escape this doomed fate.