Sunday, September 28, 2014

Which 1-2 NFL Teams Have a Hope of Reaching the Playoffs?

Oh the perils of your favorite NFL team getting off to a poor start! For every team savoring in their early good fortune this season, there are equal numbers of team feeling quite the opposite; battered and bruised after several losses and unsure of where to turn for hope in the duration of this season. And while I’d be expecting the worst for any team that has started 0-3 (Oakland RaidersJacksonville Jaguars, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers), for those 1-2 teams there is still a small hope of salvaging this season, but they’ll need to pick up their game in a hurry.

While there are some of the typically poor teams currently sitting at 1-2, there are also several usually strong teams who were even involved in the playoffs last year that have gotten off to bad starts. These surprising poor starters include the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, and the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s nearly half of last season’s playoff teams now suffering below .500!
In my mind these are the teams most likely to rescue their seasons. And history actually beckons warmly for several of them, including the Packers and 49ers, who both started 1-2 last year only to resurrect their hopes and make a strong playoff push.

The key ingredient for such teams is in how they finish the season, not how they’ve started it. Football teams are an organic being, as injuries, player development, and unforeseen future obstacles can alter a team’s shape and style immensely over the course of the year. NFL rosters look very different in September than they do in January and it’s the teams that can handle such change effectively that do well in the later months and typically end up claiming a playoff spot. Unquestionably, a great quarterback can also go a long way to leading a team back from a poor start to a potentially championship-winning season.

Each of the 1-2 teams I mentioned carries great starting quarterbacks (including Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Alex Smith) and this is why they still have hope. Other 1-2 teams that I wouldn’t expect to hear much of a whimper from are the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, and the St. Louis Rams. These teams look to lack any sort of presence on the field and have been pretty marginable for years. Their poor records are due to simple lack of talent.

But for the better teams, they’ve just not clicked into high gear or have been unfortunate in the couple of key plays that can often decide a game one way or the other. Another thing to realize is that 1-2 is just a single game away from 2-1. A play here and there could have made the difference, and I’m sure you’ll find that most fans of 2-1 teams are more than satisfied with their seasons’ beginnings.

As the NFL season wears on, those slight hiccups or mistaken plays will carry less weight as the true contenders of the league emerge and get their needed wins. While I certainly wouldn’t be expecting a Super Bowl following two early losses for teams like the Packers, Chiefs, Colts, 49ers, or Saints, I think it’s far too early to be writing them off as has-beens or incapable of salvaging the season. In many cases they’ve done it before and these specific teams certainly have the talent capable to make a serious run at their respective divisions. But be careful, with their collective poor starts, I would only suspect 2 or 3 of these teams manage to right the ship and make the playoffs this year…

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