The Redskins and Other Two-Loss Teams Already Fading from Playoff Contention

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2013

The Redskins and Other Two-Loss Teams Already Fading from Playoff Contention

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    Heading into the 2013 regular season, there were a number of teams who were expected to emerge as legitimate postseason contenders early.

    Some were expected to do so because they were coming off playoff seasons in 2012. Others were projected to rebound from disappointing campaigns or showcase the fruits of a successful offseason in the win column.

    Trying to predict the league's playoff entrants before the regular season even begins is anything but an exact science. However, the ability to lay out bold predictions is one of the things we love about the NFL.

    Unpredictability is another.

    After two weeks of play, eight teams find themselves with an 0-2 record and cradled comfortably in the "long shot" category.

    Since 2008, no team has started 0-2 and still made the postseason, which means these eight teams might already be out of the running for the 2013 playoffs.

    The surprising part is that among these eight teams are some of those initially expected among the best in the league, including two participants from the 2012 playoffs.

    Here, we'll look at some of these teams, why their expectations were high in the first place and what to expect from them moving forward.

     

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2012 Results:

    8-8 record, third-place finish in AFC North.

     

    Why Expectations Were High

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have developed a recent reputation as winners.

    They have also developed a recent track record of rebounding from disappointing seasons.

    Prior to last season, the last two non-playoff seasons for the Steelers—2006 and 2009—were followed by 10- and 12-win campaigns, respectively.

    With the rival Baltimore Ravens seeming to take a step down in terms of roster talent during the offseason, Pittsburgh appeared primed for another rebound.

     

    Why They Could Still Make the Playoffs

    The Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are currently tied for the division lead at 1-1, leaving the Steelers just one game back in the standings.

    Also, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appears to finally be healthy after battling numerous injuries and missing three games in 2012.

    As Roethlisberger continues to develop his chemistry with rookie receiver Markus Wheaton, and rookie running back Le'Veon Bell continues to mend, the Steelers offense will continue to improve.

    This should help the Steelers compete in their five remaining division games, especially since their defense (which has allowed just 36 points through two games) remains an above-average unit.

     

    Why They Won't

    The loss of center Maurkice Pouncey is a significant blow to a team that has already struggled to protect Roethlisberger this season.

    Roethlisberger has already been sacked seven times. If he continues to be hit with such frequency, he may well spend even more time on the sideline this year than he did in 2012.

    Pittsburgh's schedule will not make things any easier either. The Steelers have upcoming games against the Chicago Bears (2-0) and in London against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2).

    The Steelers could realistically be 1-3 or even 0-4 entering their Week 5 bye, which would likely place them firmly out of playoff contention.

     

     

Minnesota Vikings

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    2012 Results:

    10-6 record, second-place finish in NFC North, lost in Wild Card Round of playoffs.

     

    Why Expectations Were High

    After managing to reach the postseason for the first time since Brett Favre was under center, it finally appeared that the Minnesota Vikings had turned the corner.

    Despite often inconsistent play from quarterback Christian Ponder, Minnesota was able to pound teams into submission with an aggressive defense and with All-Universe running back Adrian Peterson a season ago.

    With new weapons, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, at his disposal, Ponder was supposed to take a step forward, and the Vikings were supposed to finally be a complete team.

     

    Why They Could Still Make the Playoffs

    Peterson.

    Seriously. Peterson almost single-handedly carried the Vikings to the postseason a year ago. As long as he remains 100 percent healthy, Minnesota will have a shot at beating any opponent it faces this season.

    If Ponder and his new targets can come together quickly, there is still time for the Vikings to rebound, especially with winnable games against the Cleveland Browns, Steelers and Carolina Panthers on the horizon.

     

    Why They Won't

    The biggest problem for the Vikings is that their first two losses of the season came against the Lions and Bears.

    This puts Minnesota at 0-2 in the division as well as overall. Both the Lions and Bears appear to be greatly improved from last season, and the Packers still look like a playoff-caliber team.

    The Vikings will likely have to go undefeated in their remaining divisional games to have any chance at the NFC North title, and might have to do so to even have a chance at a wild-card spot.

    At most, the division can only send three teams to the postseason, so even if the Vikings can string together enough wins to near contention, they will have to overtake one of the three teams currently ahead of them in the NFC North.

     

New York Giants

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    2012 Results:

    9-7 record, second-place finish in NFC East.

     

    Why Expectations Were High

    The New York Giants have won two of the past six Super Bowls, and as long as they can approach a playoff-caliber record, they are likely to be viewed as a legitimate contender.

    This is largely because the team proved during its two recent championship runs that all you have to do is slip into the playoffs and get hot at the right time in order to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

    The Giants were not a bad team in 2012, and their 9-7 record equaled that of their 2011 Super Bowl team.

     

    Why They Could Still Make the Playoffs

    Head coach Tom Coughlin has shown his team that a little bit of determination and a lot appropriate timing can take a team anywhere in the NFL.

    The Giants are only one game behind the division-leading Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East.

    Neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the Philadelphia Eagles appear to be a truly dominant team, and the division is likely to remain wide open for a large percentage of the season.

    The Giants are not without their own issues, but a timely hot streak and a good showing in the remaining divisional games could put them right back in the thick of the NFC East race.

     

    Why They Won't

    New York is certainly not a team lacking in talent. However, at this point, the Giants do appear to be a team lacking in direction.

    The Giants were thoroughly dominated by the Denver Broncos in their Week 2 loss and have struggled with turnovers in both games this season. Quarterback Eli Manning has already thrown seven interceptions this season, and the team currently has a turnover margin of -8.

    There are also serious questions about the identity of the Giants defense, which has surrendered nine touchdowns through eight quarters of play.

    While the Giants may find a way to remain competitive within the NFC East, they may struggle to put together a record good enough to work their way into the postseason.

     

     

Washington Redskins

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    2012 Results:

    10-6 record, first-place finish in NFC East, lost in wild card round of playoffs.

     

    Why Expectations Were High

    Then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was a revelation in 2012, amassing 4,015 yards combined rushing and passing with 27 total scores.

    Along with running back Alfred Morris, Griffin helped forge a new identity for the Washington Redskins offense.

    This combined with an aggressively stout defense made the Redskins appear to be the team to be in the NFC East for the foreseeable future. 

    While Griffin did suffer a gruesome knee injury during the Redskins playoff loss to the Seahawks in 2012, he was expected to return near 100 percent. Even if he did not, backup Kirk Cousins showed enough during his in-game appearances last season to give reason to believe that Washington could survive without Griffin for the early stages of 2013.

     

    Why They Could Still Make the Playoffs

    As mentioned before, the NFC East appears to be one of the more wide-open divisions this season. While the Redskins did drop their Week 1 matchup to the Eagles, there is still time for them to gain ground within the division.

    While Griffin is clearly not 100 percent healthy, he has played well in the pocket, especially late in games, and has already passed for 649 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

    As he continues to regain both his mobility and confidence, Griffin should be able to provide the Redskins with enough offensive firepower to stay in games as the season wears on.

     

    Why They Won't

    The biggest issue for the Redskins appears to be on the defensive side of the football, where the team has surrendered 1,023 yards and 71 points through two weeks.

    Griffin's lack of mobility will also be a problem until he is fully healthy, as he currently cannot threaten defenses on the ground the way he did a season ago.

    Opposing defenses will be able to approach Washington with a more traditional game plan, which will likely take away the type of dynamic offense that made the Redskins a playoff contender in the first place.

    Scheduling will also be an issue as the Redskins are about to enter a tough stretch that includes games against the Lions, Cowboys, Broncos and San Diego Chargers.