An 0-2 start is a near-death hole

North Bay Nugget - - WORLD - JOHN KRYK

once again this year the NFL is sell­ing hope, hard, for slow-start­ing teams.

“Since re­align­ment in 2002,” an item in a news re­lease pre­view­ing Week 2 says, “116 of the 192 play­off teams (60.4 per­cent) be­gan the year ei­ther 1-1 or 0-2, in­clud­ing eight di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons ”

the in­tended take­away? as the item’s all-caps lead-in words state: “No Need to paNIC.” Well, yes, there bloody well is if your record is 0-1 right now.

be­cause if you sep­a­rate the teams over the past 10 years that started 0-2 from the 1-1s, you’ll find that nearly all 0-2 teams failed to reach the post-sea­son.

a dive by post­media into NFL records from 2008-17 shows that only 7.5 per cent of play­off teams (9-of-120) lost their first two games. and if you go back only nine sea­sons, not 10, the play­off like­li­hood for 0-2 teams drops to 5.6 per cent (6-of-108).

this Sun­day and mon­day, 14 NFL teams that lost in Week 1 hope to avoid that 0-2 near-death hole. they are:

at­lanta Fal­cons, buf­falo bills, Chicago bears, dallas Cow­boys, detroit Lions, hous­ton tex­ans, In­di­anapo­lis Colts, Los an­ge­les Charg­ers, New or­leans Saints, New york giants, oak­land raiders, San Fran­cisco 49ers, Seat­tle Seahawks, ten­nessee ti­tans.

Five Week 2 games fea­ture noth­ing but 0-1 teams: Charg­ers at bills, tex­ans at ti­tans, Lions at 49ers, giants at Cow­boys and Seahawks at bears.

a sixth game pits 0-1 New or­leans vs. 0-0-1 Cleve­land, which tied pitts­burgh last Sun­day.

play­ers and coaches on these teams this week spoke about their po­ten­tially omi­nous predica­ments, and the im­por­tance of avoid­ing the dreaded 0-2 start.

tex­ans edge rusher Jade­veon Clowney said one key is to come out storm­ing in Week 2. hous­ton’s foe is ten­nessee, an aFC South ri­val.

“(tem­pers are) go­ing to be high,” Clowney said. “you know we’re not try­ing to lose a di­vi­sion game. We’re not try­ing to go 0-2 this sea­son. I’m ex­pect­ing us to come out rolling and try to get af­ter those guys early.”

the giants play at sim­i­larly winless dallas on Sun­day night. New york safety Lan­don Collins, whose team started 0-2 last year be­fore los­ing the next three and fin­ish­ing 3-13, didn’t su­gar-coat what a loss at at&t Sta­dium would mean.

“It’s a big hole, es­pe­cially in this con­fer­ence,” Collins said. “So we need this game. We need this win. It’s def­i­nitely big to us.”

giants re­ceiver odell beck­ham Jr., in la­bel­ing Sun­day night’s game “very” im­por­tant, said that bar­ring a tie, some­one has to lose to fall to 0-2.

“might as well not be you,” he added. “there’s no feel­ing like win­ning. Just the over­all feel­ing of everybody in the locker room know­ing we did what we had to do We know the im­por­tance of this game. We know you don’t want to get 0-2 and start the sea­son off that way. “We plan to come out and win.” ah, but how best to go about do­ing it? giants re­ceiver Ster­ling Shep­ard said it’s vi­tal not to dwell on the dis­ap­point­ment of the Week 1 loss.

“you just got to flush it down the toi­let and get right back to work,” he said. “I think that’s the main thing — hav­ing guys that have a short me­mory. you take a loss, you learn from it. Come in, and you pre­pare for next week.”

New Lions head coach matt pa­tri­cia is feel­ing the heat al­ready in detroit, af­ter a dis­as­trous de­but de­feat, at home, to the New york Jets on mon­day night. as hor­ri­bly as his team played in all phases in its 48-17 de­feat, pa­tri­cia by Wed­nes­day was done talk­ing about it, wav­ing off ques­tion af­ter ques­tion per­tain­ing to the de­ba­cle.

“you can’t let one week lead into an­other week,” he said by way of ex­pla­na­tion. “you have to learn, and un­for­tu­nately, on a very short week we have to learn quickly.”

In other words, it’s on to San Fran­cisco.

the bills might have the steep­est moun­tain to climb of any of the winless teams, even more than detroit. the bills got smoked 47-3 in bal­ti­more by the ravens, in a game when al­most noth­ing went right for buf­falo on ei­ther of­fence or de­fence. Now the club is ask­ing rookie quar­ter­back Josh allen to win his first NFL start, in the bills’ home opener vs. the Charg­ers.

“the hard­est part (is) just how we lost the game, and com­ing home (think­ing), ‘damn, we just got our butts kicked,’ ” said run­ning back LeSean mcCoy, a bills cap­tain. “I was try­ing to re­mind guys that we lost like that last year, put it to­gether (and) be­came a play­off team. No mat­ter how you look at it, it may be em­bar­rass­ing how we lost, but it’s just one loss. We’re not 0-5, 0-6; it’s 0-1, and the way you re­spond to a loss like that is win.

“to put things in per­spec­tive, we’ll be 1-1 af­ter this game if we go out there and play well and win the game. you keep rolling. It’s the NFL. these teams are good; we didn’t come to play (in bal­ti­more), sim­ple as that. they did, we lost. Now it’s how you re­spond.”

mcCoy said cap­tains pro­vided the swath of young bills play­ers with this ad­di­tional mes­sage:

“guys have pride; that’s the biggest thing. also, one thing about this league, when a team does well, when a team wins, you for­get about ev­ery­thing else in the past. We might’ve got­ten beat by 43 points, 40 points, we come out here and win a game by one point, win game by a field goal – we’re mov­ing on. It’s a win. We win the next game by a point, all that be­fore doesn’t even mat­ter.”

two NFL teams are tied for the long­est ac­tive streak of 0-2 starts. No, one of them isn’t the browns, sur­pris­ingly. rather, it’s the Saints and Colts. both are in danger of be­gin­ning the fifth con­sec­u­tive sea­son at 0-2.

“It is cer­tainly some­thing that you pay at­ten­tion to, and you look at from a coach­ing per­spec­tive,” Saints head coach Sean pay­ton said. “I think that a few years prior, we were not very good. Last year, we started off with two tough op­po­nents. We did not play par­tic­u­larly well in the sec­ond game, and for­tu­nately, we started win­ning some games. this ob­vi­ously is a com­pet­i­tive league.

“re­gard­less ... it still comes down to both men­tal and phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion and (be­ing) ready to play well early. (all) teams right now are in a race to im­prove. of­ten times, that can hap­pen a lot in the early part of a sea­son.”

as for the lowly browns – who ended their 17-game los­ing streak that had be­gun in 2016 with their 21-21 tie against the Steel­ers, but ex­tended their winless skid to 18 games – this Sun­day’s game in New or­leans is “an­other op­por­tu­nity to earn a vic­tory,” head coach hue Jack­son said.

then he added an un­nec­es­sary point for some­one whose record as browns head coach since 2016 is 1-31-1 (.045) and whose over­all NFL coach­ing record is 9-39-1 (.194):

“ob­vi­ously, vic­to­ries are hard in this league.”

yes they are. es­pe­cially if you open the sea­son 0-2.

ROb CaRR/Getty im­aGes

Buf­falo Bills quar­ter­back Nathan Peter­man is tack­led by the Bal­ti­more Ravens’ Za’Dar­ius Smith dur­ing their game on Sept. 9. The Bills hope to avoid and 0-2 start when they play the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers on Sun­day.

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