Since 1990, 22 teams have recovered from 0-2 starts to make the NFL playoffs. No team did it a season ago. No team did it in 2011. No team did it in 2010. No team did it in 2009. You have to go back 4 full seasons to find the last team to accomplish the difficult rebound.
In 2008, three teams pulled it off. The Chargers finished 8-8 as AFC West champs. The Dolphins would win the AFC East, with the greatest one year turnaround in NFL history, going from 1-15 to 11-5. And the Tavaris Jackson-led Minnesota Vikings would finish 10-6, NFC North Champions.
Eight teams have started out this season 0-2. Tampa Bay, Carolina, Washington, New York, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Jacksonville.
There is no rhyme or reason to who rebounds or how many teams rebound. It averages out to one a year that does it, but three different times 3 teams have done it in the same year. 1990, 1998, and 2008.
Who has the best shot this year? On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no shot and 10 being a lock?
Jaguars: -345. Not only will hell have frozen over, but they would have built ski lodges.
Giants: 2. Tom Coughlin loves defense and running the ball. These Giants can do neither.
Panthers: 3. The front 7 on defense keeps them in games, but the lack of a pass defense and pass offense loses too many.
Browns: 4. The defense is tremendous. The offense has been horrendous. The return of WR Josh Gordon may help, but they have to run the ball better for it to work.
Vikings: 5. It worries me the defense hasn’t been better. They’ve also dropped two divisional games, but both were on the road where losing is more forgivable. The pieces are in place for a playoff birth.
Bucs: 6. Josh Freeman is better than he has shown. If he shows it, with the way the defense has played, they’ll have a shot for sure. Internal conflict is probably more a concern than real football weaknesses when talking about a team who has lost 2 games on last second field goals.
Redskins: 7. Nobody in the division is running away, and they have faced two of the best offenses in football, so maybe that explains some of the defensive issues. RG3 will continue to improve, and they won’t be playing from behind every week…at least I don’t think so.
Steelers: 8. Maybe it’s foolish to think the return of RB Le’Veon Bell and TE Heath Miller will fix some of the offensive problems, but I think think they will help a lot. I also see a defense that has played well, but strangely enough hasn’t forced a turnover and only has one sack on the year. Law of averages suggest that will change in their favor, and when it does, the Steelers will have a shot in a wide-open division.
Making the playoffs is one thing, but what about winning the Super Bowl? Believe it or not, it’s been done three different times. The most recent was the shocking season finale where the 9-7 NY Giants beat undefeated New England in 2007. Almost as stunning was New England in 2001 upsetting the Rams. Not shocking at all were the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, who were without Emmitt Smith who was holding out those first two weeks.
And I know you are wondering, what if these teams lose, and start 0-3, what then? Well, since 1990, when the NFL expanded its playoff field to 12 teams, only three teams have survived 0-3 to reach the postseason: the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the 1995 Detroit Lions, and the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
All three were wild-card teams and none reached their conference championship games. Of the three, only San Diego won a wild-card game, but then lost in the divisional round. Those Chargers are the only 0-4 team ever to make it to the playoffs in NFL history.
Worth noting, that previous to 1990, only the 1982 Bucs and 1981 Jets overcame 0-3 starts to make the playoffs.
It’s hard to see any of these teams winning a Super Bowl, but the Patriots in 2001 were as likely a champion as you could come across. A young quarterback took over for an established veteran, they offense was probably below average, and a defense that was young, fast, and terrific. With an AFC that lacks dominant teams, and the best (?) ones with question marks (Denver and New England), the Steelers do strike me as the team with the best opportunity to make it number four.