Is It Time to Panic for Each of the NFL's 0-3 Teams?
The NFL season isn't even a month old, and there are six fanbases ready to throw the paper bags over their heads and call it a season. But is it really time to panic and assume the worst for the NFL's winless teams?
History does not favor the 0-3 teams. In fact, the odds are certainly stacked against the six teams without a win at the moment. Check out this tweet for the unfortunate truth.
Crazy but true: Just 5 of 161 teams since '78 that started 0-3 have made the NFL playoffs. Historically, they have 3.1 percent chance.— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) September 22, 2013
Even with this overwhelming bit of data, fans of the winless NFL teams should echo the iconic words of Lloyd Christmas (played by Jim Carrey) in Dumb and Dumber and exclaim, "So you're telling me there's a chance... Yeah!"
Let's take a look at each team and see if they really do have a chance, or if it's time to panic and start looking at 2014 mock drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We start with the most dysfunctional, in order to get the bad news out of the way first. On Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a team led by quarterback Josh Freeman, who head coach Greg Schiano confirmed as the starter in his "day after" press conference as I reported for The Pewter Plank.
But by Wednesday, the team announced that Mike Glennon would take over under center, ending Josh Freeman's time as the starting quarterback.
Bucs have made the move: Benching Josh Freeman for Mike Glennon, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 25, 2013
Since then, there have been trade rumors about Freeman, which he confirmed in an interview with ESPN, and injuries to the Buccaneers' best receivers, holding them out of practice for most of the week with their new quarterback, as Sander Philipse of BucsNation pointed out.
So is there a silver lining on the dark cloud hanging over One Buc Place in Tampa?
As Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar wrote about in this article, the Buccaneers don't have a good enough offensive scheme to see a quarterback succeed, and the coaching staff doesn't seem ready or willing to make changes to their process.
Should Tampa Bay fans panic?
Yes. Start looking at a new head coach and quarterback for 2014.
The Jaguars have already let one of their most winnable games slip through their fingers by losing to the Oakland Raiders. But isn't that the plan for the Jaguars?
The franchise brought in a new GM and head coach for 2013 but still didn't have the money and resources to upgrade the roster over the offseason. That led to a different perspective on the season for the Jags and their players.
Take Maurice Jones-Drew's comments to USA Today's David Leon Moore and Jeffrey Martin as a benchmark for the mentality in Jacksonville when he said of building a winning team that, "It won't be overnight. It's something that will take time."
There are talented players scattered across the roster in Jacksonville, and getting a franchise quarterback will be a key to making all those pieces fit together.
Should Jacksonville fans panic?
No. Trust the system, as there's reason to believe the people in charge know what they're doing. But don't expect many wins this season.
One of the major stories of the NFL offseason was the recovery of Robert Griffin III from an ACL tear suffered during the playoffs earlier in the year. His progress toward health made it easy for CBS Sports' Pete Prisco and John Breech to both pick the Redskins to go 9-7 on the season.
But neither of them could see into the future and find a struggling RGIII and losses to the Eagles and Lions in the first three weeks of the season.
ESPN Stats and Info's Evan Kaplan pointed out that Griffin has been specifically awful in the first quarter of games, earning a Total QBR of 1.8 in the first period of games. Griffin cannot put his team in bad situations to start the game because they don't have the defense to keep the game in hand after a slow start.
As Washington Post writer Mark Maske writes, the defensive backs, more specifically the safeties, have been a bigger issue for the Redskins than even their slightly disappointing quarterback. Even the best offense will struggle to keep up with a defense that allows big plays and big point totals.
Should Washington fans panic?
Yes. There isn't enough on defense, particularly at defensive back, to account for any mistakes. The Redskins have to seriously limit their offensive blunders if they want to come anywhere close to a winning record.
Christian Ponder will find himself on the bench for Sunday's game in London with a rib injury, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com. But if the Vikings can't protect the slightly more athletic Ponder, there's no way they can keep defenders away from Matt Cassel.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Vikings have one of the 10 worst offensive lines in the league when it comes to keeping pressure off the quarterback. I'm sure the Vikings would like to see their quarterback have a bit more time to throw to newly acquired Greg Jennings, so this must improve.
The defense isn't great either, having lost to the Brian Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns in one of the easier games on the Minnesota schedule.
That's a concern because the schedule doesn't get any easier. With two games against Green Bay and a tilt with Seattle on the horizon in the next couple of months, there's at least six losses on the season without a single win yet.
Should Minnesota fans panic?
Yes. Apart from Adrian Peterson, nothing about the Vikings is better than "below average." There's just not enough about this team to turn it around.
This tweet from SB Nation says it all about the state of the Pittsburgh offense.
Todd Haley thinks the Steelers' offense is doing badly, which is a problem since he's their offensive coordinator: http://t.co/DhEoHnaAK2— SB Nation (@sbnation) September 20, 2013
Todd Haley's offense has left me completely uninspired when I've watched it in motion this season, and the defense is too old and injured to make up for the offense's shortcomings.
Football Outsiders ranks the Pittsburgh defense as the median team in their defensive efficiency ranking, which speaks to the balance of talent and age on the Steelers. There is enough savvy veteran presence on defense to keep them afloat but not enough to be dominant.
But is there hope? Of all the teams on this list, the Steelers have the best quarterback and one of the best defenses (Tampa Bay has a good defense, as well). A win against Minnesota would go a long, long way to improving the mindset of fans in the Steel City.
Should Pittsburgh fans panic?
No. Ben Roethlisberger is too good for this offense to continue to hamstring his efforts to lead his team to victory. Four winnable games in a row doesn't hurt, either.
New York Giants
If Big Ben is the reason that the Steelers still have a chance, it should come as no surprise that Eli Manning has the opportunity to drag the Giants back into contention.
Manning has been downright awful to start the season, leading the 31st-ranked offense, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA statistics. He has more interceptions than touchdowns, and that's a big reason why his team is 0-3.
Which team will have the best record at the end of the season?
But that's just Eli Manning. The New York quarterback is streaky by nature, and it's only a matter of time before "Good Eli" shows back up. The Cowboys and Panthers have better-than-advertised defenses, so Manning will have easier matchups ahead.
The most redeeming quality of the situation for the Giants is the general weak nature of the NFC. They're in a division with another team on this list (Washington) who I believe is inferior to the Giants. That gives New York lower barrier to entry for the playoffs than teams in the AFC or in a more competitive division.
Should New York fans panic?
No. Good Eli will show up eventually, and they're in a weak division that is still winnable for an 0-3 team.
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