The NFL season may be a marathon that stretches into the heart of winter, but that doesn't mean some teams aren't torpedoed before all the leaves finish falling.
October has just started and golf courses are still taking tee times, but some teams have seen the first quarter of the season blow up in their faces. There are still months ahead on the slate, but too much has gone wrong too soon.
There's a phrase in sports that says you can't win games early, but you can lose them. That principle applies to the NFL season as well. Nobody makes the playoffs in September and October, but every year, there are teams that see their postseason hopes vanish early on.
Sometimes it happens all at once, with an injury or a losing streak that immediately puts a team in the hunt for a high draft pick. Sometimes the team is still in contention, but a few tough losses and a tough schedule mean things will get worse before they get better.
Those teams can be the ones that expected a tough season (Cleveland, for instance), but they can also be ones that were expecting to be competitive—or that have been competitive recently—but are being forced to deal with starts to the season that went a little rougher than imagined.
Here are a few teams that face tough roads back from early slumps, roads that will ultimately prove too tough as the year goes on.