An 0-2 start can't lock you out of the playoffs, particularly this year. Six of the top 16 teams in the Week 1 edition of ESPN Power Rankings are 0-2. The list includes the Seattle Seahawks (1), Indianapolis Colts (4), Baltimore Ravens (8), Philadelphia Eagles (9), Detroit Lions (12) and New Orleans Saints (16). With so many pre-rated playoff contenders off to 0-2 starts, the numbers indicate that more than one should bounce back. Since 1990, 24 teams rallied from 0-2 starts to make the playoffs.
Difficult schedules, roster holdouts, injuries or youth movements in the starting lineup are reasons for 0-2 starts. The Seahawks, for example, had the perfect storm of problems. Strong safety Kam Chancellor held out, the O-line was being reshuffled and they opened with two tough matchups on the road.
Aging quarterbacks might be another issue. The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals made the playoffs despite 0-2 starts in 1998. More than a dozen quarterbacks were in their 30s, many in their late 30s. The eras of John Elway, Steve Young, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman and others were starting to close out that year.
You can see this season that age is starting to catch up to the current starting quarterbacks. Peyton Manning was sacked seven times in two games, has thrown two pick-sixes and is struggling on intermediate throws. Tony Romo is out half the season with a broken collarbone. Drew Brees lost arm strength because of a hit last week. Perennial playoff contenders are loaded with quarterbacks in their 30s, leading to some uncertainty in the league's power structure if something goes wrong.
Let's rate the teams and their abilities to come back from 0-2 starts.
1. Seattle Seahawks: Coach Pete Carroll is looking at Week 3 as a fresh start to the season. They have their home opener Sunday against a Chicago Bears team that is weak on defense and doesn't have Jay Cutler at quarterback. Chancellor is back to fix the secondary. The struggles of the Bears' defense gives quarterback Russell Wilson the chance to work on his timing with tight end Jimmy Graham, who has shown frustration from not being heavily involved in the offense.
The 0-2 start, though, may force the Seahawks to adjust how their season will go. For the past two years, they had the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage. They probably won't catch the Packers for the potential No. 1 seed. They also have to worry about the Arizona Cardinals wining the NFC West. Still, the roster is talented enough to get a wild card or the division and win playoff games on the road if necessary.
2. Indianapolis Colts: "We were right here last year,'' Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Same exact deal. Go on the road and get beat, come home on Monday night and get beat, 0-2, got things figured out then we ripped off five straight. So our full intention is to go back to work and do the same damn thing."
Their ace in the hole is the AFC South. After last year's 0-2 start, the Colts had three divisional games in the league's weakest division. Andrew Luck and Pagano are 16-2 in the AFC South. If they go 6-0 in the division, they need to finish 5-3 in the nondivisional games to get to their usual 11-5 finish.
But if they start losing divisional games, then there really is something crumbling within this team.
3. Baltimore Ravens: Coach John Harbaugh has too talented a team to be kicked out of playoff contention so early, but the Ravens will know their fate in the next week. They host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and play the rival Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday.
A loss to the Bengals would be devastating and could lead to an 0-4 start Harbaugh probably won't be able to overcome. The loss of linebacker Terrell Suggs showed in last week's loss in Oakland. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had too much time. Opening the season on the road didn't help, but the Ravens have to fix their problems quickly.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Like the Colts, the positive for the Eagles is a wide-open division. By the time Romo is healthy, the Cowboys could have a below-.500 record. The Giants and Redskins don't have the look of 10-win teams. An eight- or nine-win season could clinch the NFC East.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly should be able to put together a good enough offense and defense to get to eight or nine wins. It also doesn't hurt that the NFC East teams have four games against the NFC South, another division that isn't considered a powerhouse. The schedule gives them a chance, but the Eagles have to start soaring soon.
5. Detroit Lions: The Lions are the most talented of the remaining five teams, but they might not make it after their 0-2 start. The schedule didn't help them. They were on the road against San Diego and Minnesota, and the schedule doesn't get any better with Denver and Seattle ahead.
The Lions need to get a win in the next two weeks to save their season. An upcoming three-game home stretch (beginning in Week 5) against Arizona, Chicago and Minnesota gives them a chance to climb back into the playoff race, but an 0-4 start would make life impossible.
6. New York Giants: Tom Coughlin is a good enough coach to get this team to eight or nine wins, and that gives the Giants some hopes of staying in a division race that might require only eight or nine wins to get into the playoffs. And they've largely given away their two losses.
But their chances of rebounding might have partly fizzled on the Fourth of July. The loss of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who injured his hand in a fireworks accident, took away their pass rush. Because of that, the Giants' defense is totally vulnerable to losing games to quarterbacks such as Romo and Matt Ryan, who are great at orchestrating fourth-quarter comebacks. This could mean a lot of close losses that will prevent the team from making the playoffs.
7. New Orleans Saints: The Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was devastating. Six consecutive home losses are unexplainable. Now, quarterback Drew Brees has a shoulder injury that may limit his ability to stretch the field through the air.
Sunday should determine where the Saints stand. They visit the Carolina Panthers. If they lose, they won't be able to catch the Panthers, who would have a three-game advantage over them. An 0-3 start might be too big a hole to overcome to even think wild card.
8. Houston Texans: With the Colts still expecting to win the division, the Texans can think only about a wild card, and that might be difficult after the 0-2 start. You figure the second-place team in the AFC North will have at least 10 wins. A second-place team in the AFC West or East could also be at 10. With uncertainty at quarterback and running back Arian Foster still recovering from groin surgery, 10 wins might be out of the question for the Texans at this stage.
9. Chicago Bears: With the change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and Cutler out with a hamstring injury, the Bears shouldn't be thinking playoffs. John Fox is just trying to build for the future.