Much is made of teams starting 0-2 having very little chance to make the playoffs. The odds bear that out.
Over the past decade, roughly 13 percent of such teams have overcome 0-2 to make postseason play. However, the reverse does not apply to teams starting 2-0. Surprisingly the percentage is just slightly more than 50 percent.
Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Jacksonville, Miami both the New York Giants and Jets, Pittsburgh and Washington are each 0-2. History suggests that only one of those nine teams will make the playoffs, possibly two.
Were it not for Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury the Steelers would be a likely candidate to emerge from this group considering both losses were to New England and Seattle.
Carolina might be a reasonable choice although two factors work against them. Cam Newton has not looked like the NFL MVP he was in 2015. And the Panthers don’t face New Orleans for the first time until Week 12 by which time injured Saints QB Drew Brees is expected to have returned.
Nine teams are 2-0: Baltimore, Buffalo, Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, the L.A. Rams, New England, San Francisco and Seattle. If history holds to form, only five will likely make the playoffs.
Baltimore and Buffalo would be the most likely of the AFC’s 2-0 teams to miss out largely because the Chiefs and Patriots are the two most heavily favored teams to win the AFC title.
The NFC’s much more interesting as three of the five 2-0 teams play in the NFC West, still having four games against the other 2-0 teams plus two games against Arizona, making Green Bay and Dallas most likely to make the playoffs of this group although the NFC West could produce both Wild Cards.
Keep in mind that three of the 2-0 teams won both games on the road (Buffalo, Kansas City, San Francisco). All but Buffalo’s opening win at the Jets were by double digits.
With eight of their remaining 14 games at home the Bills and 49ers might make for good plays to make the playoffs at sportsbooks that may still offer that prop for the first month or so of the season.
Lions +7 at Eagles: Arguably the Eagles played better in losing at Atlanta than the Lions played in defeating the Chargers at home. Philly has a recent playoff pedigree and should bounce back after a loss when facing an average to below average team.
Allowing an average of just 42 rushing yards per game the Eagles’ defense matches up well against a Lions offense much more reliant on the pass than the run. EAGLES
Ravens +6.5 at Chiefs: How do you contain the high-powered Chiefs offense? By running the football, taking time off the clock (keeping Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines) and lessening the number of KC’s offensive possessions.
In wins at Miami and over Arizona, Baltimore rushed for 265 and 182 yards. Clearly the Ravens are stepping up in class in terms of the offense they’ll face as the Chiefs play their home opener. The Ravens are a quality team with just one losing season in 11 under coach John Harbaugh and they’ve their own dynamic QB in Lamar Jackson. RAVENS
Falcons +2.5 at Colts: Indy plays its home opener. Jacoby Brissett has filled in capably for retired QB Andrew Luck but the Colts are also built to wear opposing defenses down. Witness the 203 rushing yards gained against the Chargers and 167 vs. the Titans.
Atlanta has been turnover-prone in its first two games, losing five interceptions and a fumble and will face an improved Colts defense. COLTS
Raiders +8 at Vikings: After jumping out to an early 10-0 lead the Raiders surrendered four second-quarter TDs to Kansas City, each coming on passes of between 27 and 44 yards.
Though not known as a big-play offense, the opportunities should arise for the Vikings with their reliance on RB Dalvin Cook and a ground game that ran for 172 in their win (Atlanta) and 198 in their loss at Green Bay.
This is a bad matchup for Oakland, which will face a stout Vikings defense in their first road game. VIKINGS
Giants +6.5 at Buccaneers: The Giants have announced rookie QB Daniel Jones will start. To get him comfortable the Giants should increase the usage of RB Saquon Barkley, whose limited use in the first two games faced major criticism.
Tampa Bay was sloppy in its opening loss, but played much better in Thursday’s win at Carolina. Under new coach Bruce Arians, the Bucs can be expected to show steady improvement as the season progresses. But this line is too high. GIANTS
Saints +5 at Seahawks: The Saints have capable backup QBs in Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill whose different skill sets could create problems for Seattle’s defense. Teams often rally immediately following the loss of a key player (Drew Brees).
Seattle’s offense relies heavily on QB Russell Wilson but Saints RB Alvin Kamara may be the difference in what is a battle between two of the NFL’s best coaches. SAINTS
Last week: 3-3