Since 2007, only 10 0-2 teams have gone on to make the postseason. Yep: the last 11 years have seen just 9.2% of the 92 teams who’ve started 0-2 play in the post-season. In other terms, 90.8% of teams who start with two losses didn’t make elimination football.
Teams who started 0-2 and made the playoffs since 2007: New York Giants 10-6 2007, San Diego Chargers 8-8 2008, Minnesota Vikings 10-6 2008, Miami Dolphins 2008, Carolina Panthers 12-4 2013, Indianapolis Colts 11-5 2014, Seattle Seahawks 10-6 2015, Houston Texans 9-7 2015, Miami Dolphins 10-6 2016, and New Orleans Saints 11-5 2017.
In this 11-year period, only the Super Bowl-winning 2007 Giants and the banner-raising 2014 Colts started 0-2 and reached a conference title game.
In 2017, Adam Schefter tweeted:
Since NFL went to 12 playoff teams in 1990, only 12 percent of teams to start season 0-2 went on to make playoffs.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 18, 2017
Winning the Super Bowl starting 0-2 is near-exceptional. The rarities are:
- 1993 Dallas signs holdout star Emmitt Smith to a new contract. They repeat as Super Bowl champions.
- 2001 New England has Tom Brady take over as starter, Super Bowl champions.
- 2007 The Giants ride their historic defensive front to a Super Bowl.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Just making the postseason from a 0-2 start is getting tougher from Schefter’s figure harking back to 1990. The chances have gone down from 1990-2017 of 12% to 2007-2017 of 9.2%. With less than a third of the league making the playoffs, the margin for early error is incredibly finite in a 16-game season. What was almost a 1-in-8 figure is now more like 1-in-11 odds.
Last year, the New Orleans Saints were the only 0-2 team out of nine to achieve post-season football. They achieved this via a remarkable 11-3 run. Justis Mosqueda writes well on the 2017 season and the gravity of starting 0-2:
“2017 was basically a microcosm of what 0-2 means in the NFL. Out of a group of about 10 teams, there is going to be one team that everything completely breaks the right way for, allowing them to make the playoffs. Chances are there is another team in the striking range of the postseason, but the unrealistic standard of a 10-4 finish keeps them just out of it. The rest of the group is likely made up of poor teams which would have missed the playoff no matter what their record was the first two weeks of the year.”
Seattle succeeded from this scenario back in 2015, but that season they had a pass rush, an elite defense and enjoyed offensive production which now seems like an offensive anomaly. There’s still a sliver of hope though. The Seahawks’ target should be 10-6, which almost guarantees you playoff entry.
Since 2002 realignment, a record of 10-6 or better would propel you into the playoffs on all but 10 occasions. 95.1% of teams who finished 10-6 or better made the playoffs in these 17 seasons. In contrast, a 9-7 or worse record qualified for the playoffs only 7% of the time.
Teams who missed out despite going 10-6 or better: Miami Dolphins 10-6 2003, Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 2005, Cleveland Browns 10-6 2007, New England Patriots 11-5 2008, New York Giants 10-6 2010, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 2010, Chicago Bears 10-6 2012, Arizona Cardinals 10-6 2013, Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 2014, and New York Jets 10-6 2015.
Teams who somehow made the playoffs despite going 9-7 or worse: 29 New York Jets 9-7 2002, Cleveland Browns 9-7 2002, Seattle Seahawks 9-7 2004, St Louis Rams 8-8 2004, Minnesota Vikings 8-8 2004, Seattle Seahawks 9-7 2006, Dallas Cowboys 9-7 2006, New York Giants 8-8 2006, Kansas City Chiefs 9-7 2006, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7 2007, Washington Redskins 9-7 2007, Arizona Cardinals 9-7 2008, San Diego Chargers 8-8 2008, New York Jets 9-7 2009, Baltimore Ravens 2009, Seattle Seahawks 7-9 2010, New York Giants 2011 9-7, Denver Broncos 8-8 2011, Cincinnati Bengals 9-7 2011, Green Bay Packers 8-7-1 2013, San Diego Chargers 9-7 2013, Carolina Panthers 7-8-1 2014, Washington Redskins 9-7 2015, Houston Texans 9-7 2015, Detroit Lions 9-7 2016, Houston Texans 9-7 2016, Tennessee Titans 9-7 2017, and Buffalo Bills 9-7 2017
So: Seattle faces a steep task of winning 10 of their next 14 games to get to a 95% playoff chance. If they can make the postseason from here, Russell Wilson will likely deserve MVP consideration. Given the putrid, offensive display from the Seahawks, that level of transformation would be remarkable. Seattle will be boosted by returns from injury, not least Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright coming back, but the odds are heavily stacked against them.