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Three teams—the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans—were the only unbeaten teams after three weeks of the 2012 season. For each of these three, a 3-0 start has been rare.
Atlanta: The Falcons were 3-0 for the first time since 2004 when they started the season 4-0. Atlanta won the NFC South that season and went on to lose to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Ironically, this year’s 3-0 start (which later became an 8-0 start) led to another NFC South title and another loss in the NFC Championship Game, this time to the 49ers.
Arizona: This was Arizona’s first 3-0 start since 1974. The Cardinals that year went 7-0 to start the season and eventually won the NFC East. They lost their first-round playoff game to the Vikings. In 2012, the Cardinals would win only two of their remaining 13 games on the way to a 5-11 record.
Houston: This was the first 3-0 start in franchise history.
In 2011, three teams started 3-0: Buffalo, Detroit and Green Bay. Both the Lions and Packers ended up in the playoffs, while the Bills faltered to a 6-10 season.
Of the 12 playoff teams in 2011, two (Detroit and Green Bay) started the season 3-0, seven were 2-1 in their first three games and three teams (Cincinnati, Denver and Atlanta) started the year 1-2.
Of the 12 2012 playoff teams, two (Atlanta and Houston) started the season 3-0, five were 2-1 in their first three games and five teams (Indianapolis, Washington, Denver, New England and Green Bay) started the year 1-2.
Taking a look at the 94 Super Bowl teams, a 3-0 or 2-1 start has been most common of the title game opponents (this past year’s Super Bowl opponents were both 2-1 after Week 3). Eighty-four of the 94 Super Bowl teams were either 3-0 or 2-1 to start that season (89.4 percent). If you add in the two teams that started 2-0-1, then 86 of the 94 (91.5 percent) Super Bowl teams were either 3-0, 2-0-1 or 2-1 in the first three games in their Super Bowl year.
Here’s a breakdown of the record of the Super Bowl teams after Week 3 of that season.
Record after three games, Super Bowl teams
3-0: 48 teams (22 won the Super Bowl; 26 lost the Super Bowl)
2-0-1: 2 teams (one won the Super Bowl; one lost the Super Bowl)
2-1: 36 teams (19 won the Super Bowl; 17 lost the Super Bowl)
1-1-1: 3 teams (one won the Super Bowl; two lost the Super Bowl)
1-2: 5 teams (four won the Super Bowl; one lost the Super Bowl)
Note: The last team to win the Super Bowl after starting the season 1-2 was the New York Giants in the 2007 season.
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