With Week 3 officially in the books, there are six teams that haven’t won a single game. The New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, and Minnesota Vikings all have big fat zeros occupying the win column for the NFC. Over in the AFC, we have the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans sitting winless.
The odds to win the division for these hard-luck teams are quite long, with money lines ranging between +850 (Houston Texans) and +5000 (NY Jets). Our sportsbook lists the Super Bowl Odds for the winless bunch as longer still. No team to start 0-3 has won the big game.
NFL Teams That Made the Playoffs After an 0-3 Start
There are six NFL teams since 1980 who have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start:
➽ 1981 New York Jets
➽ 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
➽ 1992 San Diego Chargers
➽ 1995 Detroit Lions
➽ 1998 Buffalo Bills
➽ 2018 Houston Texans
The Houston Texans most recently accomplished this impressive feat, with the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers coming oh-so-close last season. Before the 2018 Texans, 20 years had passed since the Buffalo Bills bucked the odds behind QB Doug Flutie. The 1995 Detroit Lions won their last seven games to finish 10-6 (remember Barry Sanders?). The San Diego Chargers came back from an 0-4 start to finish with a remarkable 11-5 record. Clearly, it can be done, and that’s why we play 16 games.
So, which of 2020’s six struggling squads will ride a newfound hot streak into the postseason? There may actually be two miracle teams in this Covid-crusted NFL season. They’ll face each other this coming week in head-to-head combat.
Four Winless Squads That Are Doomed
We can eliminate the MetLifers from this discussion. The Giants are in a winnable NFC East, but it’s not looking good for the G-men. Injuries, inexperience, and ineptitude will stop NY from striking fear into anyone’s hearts.
The Jets are a mess and are likely in the worst overall position of all the winless teams. The Jets’ schedule is straight brutal, and NY is essentially sending out a B squad every week. Expect Gang Green to earn its first “W” against the equally hapless Denver Broncos on Week 4’s TNF “featured game.” After that breath of false hope, the Jets will only win a handful of games over the rest of the season.
The Denver Broncos were a promising dark-horse team (pun intended) at the start of the year. However, Denver has been decimated by injuries, and it’s unlikely that the Broncos have the personnel to get it done. The Atlanta Falcons? Atlanta is cursed. Imagine a witch doctor wearing a Drew Brees jersey. The Saints’ fanatic cackles, sitting Indian-style on his living-room floor, surrounded by piles of Falcons’ voodoo dolls.
Two Shall Rise from 0-3 and Soar Into Playoffs
The two 0-3 teams that are most likely to reach the playoffs are the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings. Let me tell you why. The 2018 Texans are the most recent team to successfully battle back from these stiff improbabilities. Many of the players from that gritty 2018 team are still playing for Houston. Also, the Texans and Vikings are the only two teams on this list to make the playoffs last season.
Coincidentally, the Vikings are scheduled to travel to Houston — Covid-19 tests results permitting — in Week 4 to play the Texans in a battle of the beaten. Current NFL odds rate the Texans as 3 1/2 -point home favorites, and this is an interesting game to straddle the lines. It’s easy to imagine Houston winning the game (-200 money line), with Minnesota losing by three points or less (+3 1/2 even money).
Houston is the team that’s most likely to rise from the ashes of an 0-3 start to reach the postseason. However, Minnesota might be capable of taking a play out of San Diego’s 1992 playbook. The Vikings could be in position to overcome an 0-4 start to make the playoffs. Minnesota has the talent, and it’s been done once before.
Never in NFL history have two 0-3 teams (or worse) recovered to earn playoff spots in the same season. Perhaps 2020 will provide that type of magic for us. We could all use a dash of hope during these challenging times. Survive and thrive.