Panic levels: Ranking the 0-2 NFL teams
Ben Stockwell explains which 0-2 teams have a salvageable season, and who should start looking toward 2016.
Panic levels: Ranking the 0-2 NFL teams
A winless start is certainly rough for a team looking to make the playoffs, and can seem devastating for a fan base that has been optimistic all offseason. Just over 10 percent of teams starting 0-2 overcome that poor start to reach the playoffs.
With that in mind, PFF asked the question: of this intriguing bunch of 0-2 teams, who is still in a good spot to rebound, and who should be sounding the panic sirens?
Panic level: R-E-L-A-X
Just as Aaron Rodgers told Packer fans to do after their 1-2 start last season, anybody trumpeting the Seahawks’ demise after road losses to the Rams (a team that always plays well against the Seahawks) and the Packers needs to slow their roll. The Seahawks defense has not been at its best, but the return of Kam Chancellor (+8.1 overall in 2014) strengthens the team further, with his replacement DeShawn Shead struggling in coverage over the first two weeks of the season. The offensive line is the biggest concern, but if they can give Marshawn Lynch even a hint of a crease, we know he can exploit it. Home games against the Bears and Lions in the next two weeks should get Seattle back on track.
Panic level: AFC South to the rescue
The Colts attempt to push themselves over the top by signing a 2011 Pro Bowl team has, surprisingly enough, not led to immediate success in 2015. A re-tooled offensive line continues to struggle to give the offense a stable base, with Andrew Luck’s worst career start (-6.2) against the Jets plunging Indianapolis into this 0-2 hole. Of the Colts’ veteran additions, only Andre Johnson (thanks to his blocking), Trent Cole, and Kendall Langford boast a positive grade after two games. The saving grace for the Colts (who also started last season 0-2) is the division they play in, and with three straight games against AFC South opponents coming up, there’s no reason that Indy shouldn’t be sitting at 3-2 heading into their crunch game with the Patriots in Week 6.
Panic level: Gut-check time
A massive overhaul has led to a slow start for the Eagles, and it’s tough to find a team that is under more pressure on a local and national level than the Eagles after their offense was humbled by the Cowboys. Sam Bradford’s promising preseason has given way to an erratic (-3.6) start, completing only 6-of-23 passes targeted 10+ yards down the field. The defense isn’t playing much better, with marquee signing Byron Maxwell having surrendered more yards (240) than any other cornerback in the league after two games. The Eagles have winnable games upcoming, but for them to mean anything, they must beat the Jets on Sunday. If they don’t, their hole may be too deep to climb out of.
Panic level: Make-or-break stretch
Injuries and a two-game West Coast swing have the Ravens staring down the barrel of missing the playoffs for only the second time in eight seasons. Their offensive line was dismantled by the Broncos in Week 1, and Steve Smith (+3.7) is attempting to carry the passing game single-handedly in his final season. On defense, their most productive pass rusher through two games is C.J. Mosley (+1.8), which shines on a spotlight on the challenges this defense will face in the absence of Terrell Suggs. Pressure will fall on Elvis Dumervil (-0.2) and new signing Jason Babin to bring the heat on AFC North quarterbacks as the Ravens face a three game stretch that offers the opportunity to rescue their season—or bury it for good.
New York Giants
Panic level: A miss is as good as a mile
Defeats of one and four points in the first two games leave the Giants as perhaps the most unfortunate of all the 0-2 teams—sometimes a sequence of narrow defeats can be the toughest to overcome. Preston Parker (-4.7) has been jettisoned after spilling almost as many passes as he caught (four drops, five catches) in the first two weeks, but with Victor Cruz still not ready to return, the pressure will fall on Odell Beckham Jr. (+3.4) to continue to carry the passing game. The key to overcoming their losses may, perhaps, be finding a boost to a pass rush that is struggling in the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul. Robert Ayers (+5.3) is the only defensive lineman with a positive pass rush grade, and the interior of the Giants’ defensive line will hope to get on track against Washington’s leaky interior O-line tonight.
Panic level: If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback
There is no more important position in football than quarterback, and the Houston Texans are continuing to learn that lesson. After benching Brian Hoyer (-0.4) after less than a game, the Texans then saw Ryan Mallett (-6.4) produce the worst quarterback performance of the week on Sunday. Mallett’s erratic accuracy stifled an offense that, after two weeks, only has four players with a positive grade, and one of those has only played eight snaps. The Texans host the Buccaneers this week in arguably the most winnable game any 0-2 team faces, but if DeAndre Hopkins (+2.0) continues to be the only positive influence on the offense, then they may need a re-appearance from Week 1-Jameis Winston to get into the win column.
Panic Station: Tough start taking its toll
Two road games to start the year, followed by tilts against the Broncos and the Seahawks, was always going to tell us a lot about the Lions in September. What we’ve found is that they’re not quite ready to build on their 2014 playoff berth. Offensively, Matthew Stafford (-7.9) is off to a disastrous start, and sits as our lowest-graded quarterback after two weeks, facing off with our second lowest-graded quarterback (Peyton Manning, -7.4) this Sunday. The Lions offensive line isn’t helping matters, either, with Manuel Ramirez (+2.6) the only starter with a positive grade, as they struggle to spring their talented backfield into action. Without an immediate improvement from the defense, both as pass rushers and in coverage, the Lions are staring down a 0-4 trail.
Panic level: Respite still out of reach
Riding into Seattle with Jimmy Clausen (-3.7) as your starter to face a Seahawks defense is not the ideal recipe to get your first notch in the win column. A home game against the Raiders next week offers the Bears the chance for respite, but by that point, their playoff aspirations may already be too far out of reach. The offensive line continues to be a problem area, with all of their starters earning a grade of -1.2 or worse through the first two weeks. On defense, Jared Allen (+2.4) and Pernell McPhee (+4.7) have acclimated quickly to the new 3-4 defense, but on the back end, Alan Ball (-2.6), Kyle Fuller (-4.6), and Sherrick McManis (-4.3) have all surrendered two touchdowns in a season that already looks like it’s about building for the future, rather than 2015 itself.
New Orleans Saints
Panic level: Code red
In a consistently subpar division with Drew Brees under center, the Saints were supposed to be a threat this season. However, a two-score defeat in Arizona, followed up by a chastening home defeat to the Bucs, and New Orleans is reeling. A shoulder injury has both Brees’ performance level (-4.9) and his status for the coming weeks up in the air, and the supporting cast doesn’t seem capable of picking up the slack. In the passing game, all of the Saints’ receivers have earned negative overall and receiving grades through the first two weeks. Unless the offense is turned over to Mark Ingram (+1.1) and Khiry Robinson (+1.4) to see the Saints through Brees’ rough patch, it’s hard to see how New Orleans is going to turn the corner this season.
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.