Starting Season 2-0 Has Proven to Be Good Barometer for Super Bowl Contenders

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor ISeptember 9, 2014

Both the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos got off to 2-0 starts on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Both the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos got off to 2-0 starts on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

You will be hearing the numbers soon enough...everywhere.

Getting off to a 2-0 start has always been one of the gauges when it comes to making the playoffs under the current 12-team format. For 16 teams, they enter Week 2 of NFL 2014 with a chance to remain undefeated and increase their odds of reaching the postseason.

But here is a look at the bigger picture when it comes to getting off to that fast start. And the overall numbers may really surprise you.

But let’s get to the smaller picture first, per se. Under the current playoff format, which began in 1990 when the league expanded the postseason to 12 teams, 196 clubs have started the season 2-0 or better. A total of 124 of those teams reached the playoffs, a healthy 63.2 percent. By the way, you will be hearing all about the 0-2 teams as well and how they have fared (23 out of 198) when it comes to playing in the postseason.

Let’s stay on course. How really important is it that a team opens the season 2-0 or better? When it comes to the biggest picture, history tells us that it’s far more pivotal than some even realize.

Knowing Lots About History

The Super Bowl has now been around 48 years, which is now more than half of the history of the National Football League. Even though the playoff format to get to this game has changed over the years, it’s still the way we determine our current NFL champion.

Obviously, if there have been 48 Super Bowls there have been a total of 96 participants in terms of teams. Keeping that in mind, the breakdown when it comes to all of these clubs and how they fared in their first two games during the season shows that the odds are excellent that 2-0 add up to a Super Bowl appearance for one or both teams.

Here’s the breakdown: Of the 96 teams to go to the Super Bowl (1966-13) in the game’s 48-year history, 68 of those clubs have started 2-0 or better. That computes to a healthy 70.8 percent. Meanwhile, 19 Super Bowl teams have started 1-1, five have opened 1-0-1 and only four teams have lost their first two games of the season and still wound up in the running for the Lombardi Trophy.

So what does that prove and how surprising is it? Probably not much and not very. But here’s the hook that may startle you. There has been only one instance in 48 years in which neither Super Bowl team opened the season 2-0 or better. That occurred in 1987 when the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos would eventually lock horns in Super Bowl XXII.

That season would also be remembered for something else. A strike and the league’s decision to field replacement teams for three weeks. That year, Denver opened the season at 1-0-1 while Washington split its first two contests before the NFL sat for a week and then played three weeks of replacement games. Still, it was the regular players who played in the first two games.

When it was all said and done, the Redskins would eventually go on to rout the Broncos, 42-10, in San Diego in a game in which Denver got off to 10-0 start and then watched Washington quarterback Doug Williams throw four touchdown passes and Joe Gibbs’ team score 35 points…in the second quarter.

Since then, the odds of getting to the Super Bowl after winning your first two games have gotten even better. Of the 52 teams to go to the Super Bowl the last 26 seasons (1988-13), 40 have started 2-0, including last season’s participants in the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.

Hey, it’s not like it’s not been done the hard way. It is interesting to note that of the four teams to reach the Super Bowl after opening 0-2, three have come away with the Lombardi Trophy in the 1993 Dallas Cowboys (won Super Bowl XXVIII), the 2001 New England Patriots (won Super Bowl XXXVI) and the 2007 New York Giants (won Super Bowl XLII). The 1996 New England Patriots would lose Super Bowl XXXI.

Forward Spin

So what does this all mean in terms of 2014?

Assuming there will be no tie games this upcoming week, there is the possibility that 13 teams will open the season at 2-0. On Thursday night, the 1-0 Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Baltimore to face the 0-1 Ravens.

Meanwhile, there are three games this Sunday involving a pair of unbeaten teams as the Atlanta Falcons visit the Cincinnati Bengals, the Detroit Lions travel to the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins.

In case you haven’t checked the standings, the other nine teams that won on opening weekend are the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

So when it is all said and done after Monday night’s tilt between the unbeaten Eagles and the 0-1 Indianapolis Colts, we will have our field of 2-0 teams. And barring something that has happened just once in the Super Bowl era, at least one of those clubs will be making reservations for Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

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