Not all 0-2 NFL teams are equally helpless


Stories are appearing in newspapers from Tampa to New York to Minneapolis. Sobering statistics are being compared. Panic has set in. Funerals are being planned.

They already are waving white flags in Jacksonville, or perhaps those were just the 15 fans who showed up for a “Sign Tim Tebow” pep rally.

Talk about the ultimate sign of surrender.

Numbers dominate the NFL and gambling. Point spreads. Money lines. Prop bets. Futures. Parlays. The fact three points is the most common margin of victory and seven is the next most common.

But nothing is a sure thing.

This almost is: Teams that begin a season 0-2 have about as much chance to qualify for the playoffs as Chip Kelly does no longer calling plays for the Eagles.

And yet how a team reaches 0-2 also is significant when forecasting its chances of reaching the postseason.

There is a difference today between the 0-2 Giants and 0-2 Jaguars.

One is on life support.

One has been tossed into the furnace for cremation.

It’s a difficult road to travel regardless — since the league expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, only 22 teams have started 0-2 and gained a berth. That’s a whopping 11.6 percent. None has done it since 2008.

But how one performs in losing its first two games either can offer a fan base faint hope or have it scurrying to the nearest NFL Draft prospectus to determine if Jadeveon Clowney is the best option for the No. 1 pick.

Parity long ago became the word by which the NFL is defined, but not all bad teams are created equal. Here, then, helped by characters of a TV series in its final season and rivaled by few, is a look at how this year’s 0-2 teams might appear at season’s end.

How they look when matched alongside some from “Breaking Bad.”

Team: Jacksonville

Character: Hank Schrader.

Outlook: Not even Walter White’s offering of $80 million in drug money could save Hank from a bullet to the head. This is pretty much where the Jaguars sit after scoring 11 points in their first two games. You knows things are awful at quarterback when Tebow wouldn’t only be a viable option but perhaps a serious upgrade.

Chance of making playoffs: Worse than those of Hank being alive.

Team: Cleveland

Character: Walter White Jr.

Outlook: I think of the Browns and Norv Turner as the new offensive coordinator and see a franchise starving for attention. It might even consider changing its nickname to the Flynns. Turner is a nice guy who you could see setting up a website for donations to aid another’s cancer treatments, but he remains a role player in a sea of stars. His offense thus far has been this close to pathetic.

Chance of making playoffs: As much as Walter Jr. being the one to kill his father in the end.

Teams: Carolina, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh

Character: Gus Fring.

Outlook: Yep. Teams that look better on the outside than what’s going on internally. The Panthers can’t win a close game to save their lives, the Buccaneers still haven’t played the Falcons, and the Steelers are more in line for updated AARP cards than a serious run at the game of Roman numerals. Carolina and Pittsburgh have offensive lines that can’t block me, and Tampa Bay has a coach and quarterback quarreling like schoolchildren. None of this is good.

Chances of making playoffs: Think Gus and explosion.

Team: Minnesota

Character: Jesse Pinkman.

Outlook: Just when you think the end has come and you’ve been taken by Nazi Jack and Todd to be tortured and cook some more or merely starting 0-2 in the NFC North, there is always a glimmer of hope. Minnesota still has the league’s most explosive player in Adrian Peterson and last year’s hot finish to claim a wild-card berth as evidence it can be among that elusive 11.6 percent.

Chance of making the playoffs: If Jesse still can be breathing after years of experiencing the brutality at the highest levels of drug trade, well, the Vikings can return to the playoffs.

Teams: New York Giants and Washington

Character: Walter White.

Outlook: Walt turned out to be a lunatic and an all-around bad guy, but everyone still seems to be rooting for him. Sort of like Robert Griffin III coming off his knee injury. The NFC East is average enough to produce a 9-7 champion, meaning the Giants and Redskins still are very much alive in the pursuit of a playoff berth. New York has scored 54 points in two games. It’s the last team to win a Super Bowl after starting 0-2. This is what we mean about not all 0-2 teams being equal.

Chances of making playoffs: I believe Walter White will live and that the Giants and Redskins will move forward with this slogan: Be tough like Walt, because after all the theft, extortion, money laundering, depraved indifference and murder, making the playoffs is a piece of cake.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.